They say…

Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor

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London’s Top 25 Places to Drink Beer: One year on

The CAMRA Guide to ’s Best Beer, and Bars (2011)

When my book The CAMRA Guide to London’s Best Beer, Pubs and Bars was published a year ago in July 2011, London’s specialist beer scene was in its healthiest state for years, and the expansion hasn’t stopped since. And with so many more great places to drink, the Top 25 seems in need of a refresh.

Craft Beer Co

So here’s my updated list showcasing pubs and bars that should be regarded as essential calls for anyone on a beer odyssey in London. Most are independent specialist pubs and bars offering a notably wide range of unusual beers; a few are exceptional brewery and chain pubs. I’ve cheated a little in excising the specialist shops that appeared in the original list, and giving them a Top 5 of their own.

Note the list is in alphabetical order, not order of merit.

Asterisks indicate the new entries, most of which have opened since the book went to press. A couple were in the book but not in the original Top 25. I’ve had to drop some venues from the list – not because they have fallen in quality individually, but to make space for others I now consider more deserving of a place.

The list represents a personal choice and wasn’t drawn up according to any formal scoring or assessment, but I feel confident that in visiting all these pubs and bars in turn you’d be treating yourself to a beer experience few other cities in the world could rival. If you choose to test this suggestion, please bear in mind the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines on alcohol consumption and ensure you build in some alcohol-free days.

If you have you have any comments, objections or suggestions of other pubs that should have been there, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

The list is included in the July 2012 ‘Games Time’ PDF update of the guide on my London page.

Outstanding Offies

The Kernel.

  • Beer Boutique* SW15
    Putney, www.thebeerboutique.co.uk
    Raising beer retailing to a stylish new level with well chosen beers.
  • Dr.Ink* SW6
    Fulham and Hammersmith (p224), www.drinkoffulham.com
    Indian spices and snacks alongside an extensive and well priced beer range
  • Kernel Brewery* SE16
    Bermondsey, thekernelbrewery.com
    Open only on Saturdays and stocks only own beer – but what beer!
  • Kris Wines N7
    Kentish Town and Tufnell Park (p155), www.kriswines.com
    750 specialist bottles, including many rarities, sourced by persistent beer hunter.
  • Utobeer SE1
    Borough (p62), www.utobeer.co.uk
    Shop with more than 700 international beers in Borough Market’s gourmet haven.


26 comments to London’s Top 25 Places to Drink Beer: One year on

  • Martin

    Glad to see my well tested favourites are still here.
    As a Real Ale supporter won’t ever agree with the ” Scottish” brewery outlet being included when no cask ale
    .

  • Paul Hadfield

    Great list that will inspire my London nights out for a while to come.
    I wanted to mention another fantastic offie- The Bitter End in Bromley. Tons of bottled ales and 4 or so casks for take-out in your own plastic container.

  • Des

    Martin — thanks for comment. As a real ale supporter you might recognise said Scottish brewery outlet does plenty of real ale according to CAMRA’s definition, it’s just that it’s in a bottle! Also no faulting the place for the friendliness, enthusiasm and knowledge of the staff in promoting great beer.

  • Des

    Good to hear that Paul and thanks for comment. I know the Bitter End — it’s actually in the book, but didn’t quite make the Top 25 list.

  • Adrian

    Great list that is about right – guess you might change it slightly depending on which area of London is yours. Living in the south west, I would big up another beer off licence, Real Ale.Com at 371 Richmond Road St Margarets. It’s a short walk across the Thames over Richmond Bridge. I realise it’s not inner London but it has a wide selection of bottles that’s about to get even bigger as extra shelving primarily for UK brews is being squeezed in in the next few weeks! Cask takeaways ( likes of Dark Star, Windsor+Eton ) are good value – especially as they’re usually only around £2.40 a pint with 4 pints for the price of 3. Often cheaper than other beer specialists I could name / that are already on your list!

  • Des

    Thanks for comment Adrian. Doesn’t have to be inner London — the Sussex Arms is in there. I did in fact consider realale.com — I do know the place, but it’s amazing how quickly the list filled up. I’ll check it out again if it’s expanding. I like the fact that it focuses on UK beer.

  • I’d not heard of Dukes Brew and Que, so it’s a shame their website is all about food and doesn’t mention ber at all. Should we even bother with a pub that doesn’t care even that much about its beer ? Shome mishtake shurely

  • Des

    That is strange, because the beer is brilliant. I see there’s lots about it on the separate brewery website http://www.beavertownbrewery.com/ — will add that link too.

  • Just a quick question: Are the pubs listed because of unique beers they may offer, is it down to the atmosphere and friendliness of the pub or is it a bit of both? Obviously If they all sold a popular beer such as Fosters then it can not be down to their beer, lol.

  • Des

    Helen — I’ve taken this up with Byron at Duke’s and Beavertown Brewery, who tells me they certainly don’t intend to send out the message they don’t care about their beer. He tells me this was an oversight. The website is in the process of being rebuilt and he promises he will place something temporary on the current site to reflect the venue’s interest in good beer. Thanks for raising the issue.

  • Des

    It’s mainly down to the range, quality and interest of the beer on offer, though I’ve also taken the atmosphere and friendliness into account. I didn’t want to compile a list that solely consisted of geek friendly places selling expensive obscurities. Actually to my mind it doesn’t count against a venue if it also sells mainstream brands as well as craft beer, as most pubs set out to serve a broad audience and don’t want to disappoint potential customers, but a few of the places listed do in fact avoid mainstream brands entirely and offer craft brewed products as alternatives to industrial lager and stout.

  • Murray

    I’m local, so biased, but I think the Snooty Fox in Canonbury should be in the top 25. There’s always a local beer, one regular (generally Tribute but one of the best I’ve had anywhere), and a couple of other ales that are well served and often ones I’ve never had before. Plus there’s normally one or two real ciders available too. And the food there is pretty damn good to boot.

  • Murray

    Regarding Dukes Brew and Que, I was in there a couple of weeks ago for the first time and I understand why they don’t emphasise the beer too much. It is not a pub. It is primarily a place for eating (the ribs were great) with a very small bar area. My friend and I were lucky to get the last available table so that we could sit and eat. Customers were arriving after us and then leaving due to all the seating/tables being taken. The ales were excellent, though – Magic Rock as good as I’ve had anywhere, their Beavertown was amazingly good and the Dark Star as good as I’ve had it at the Evening Star in Brighton. But the profit is probably in the food and that’s what the place is aiming for – eating and drinking, not people who just want a pint or two without food.

  • Des

    Thanks for this, Murray. As Byron told me when I followed up this point with him, it’s an oversight that they’re not currently promoting the beer on the website and is set to change. I get the impression that they’re quite proud of their beer and as you say the quality and choice is very good, thus its listing above. It is indeed predominantly an eating place — but last time I visited they insisted people who just want a drink are always welcome, and they always keep space by the bar area, plus a couple of small tables nearby, free for precisely that purpose.

    I do like the Snooty Fox — apart from anything else they ask me to DJ there from time to time — and they are listed in my book but the regular beer range is probably just a bit too limited for the Top 25. As it’s an Enterprise lease I think there are certain limitations with what they can do there.

  • Murray

    The beer range is limited? Maybe compared to the Jolly Butchers (although they do seem to have the same ones on over and over and over again). But for a tied pub they do exceptionall well, very often having ales on that I’ve never seen before. And the quality is top notch. I am very glad to have it as my local. I’ll keep an eye out for when you’re DJing there again.

  • Des

    Compared to pretty much all the pubs on the Top 25 list! I’m primarily looking at variety of beer choice for this list, including bottled and “craft” keg beers as well as cask. It’s not a criticism of the Snooty Fox to say they don’t fit the criteria — as you say it’s an excellent pub in all sorts of other ways and there are reasons why it doesn’t have a particularly broad choice. But if I was recommending 25 places in London that someone who is seriously interested in beer must visit, I don’t think I could justify sending them to SF rather than to, say, the Red Lion in Leytonstone, or even the Dog and Bell in Deptford which although it only has five cask beers also has a fridge full of Belgian classics as well as being a rather wonderful pub.

  • […] Und dann gibt es da noch die CAMRA London, also die „Campaign For Real Ale“, welche sich bereits seit Jahren erfolgreich für die Etablierung der Bierkultur einsetzt und bereits viel erreicht hat. Auf deren Webseite findet ihr alle möglichen Tipps rund um euren Aufenthalt in der britischen Hauptstadt und vieles weitere mehr, was mit echtem und fantastischem Bier zu tun hat. Im letzten Jahre veröffentlichte der Verein das Buch „London`s Best Beer Pubs & Cafes“, welches neben den üblichen Reiseführer in keinem Gepäck fehlen darf. Da sich die Bierszene in London stetig verändert, wurde nun ein kleines Update rausgebracht und eine neue Top 25 Liste erstellt, die ihr hier abrufen könnt: desdemoor.co.uk […]

  • […] Eine übersichtliche und überarbeitete Top 25 Liste der besten Plätze, um in London Bier zu trinken findet man auf dieser Homepage. […]

  • Kiernan

    One outstanding offie not on the list is Jack’s Off Licence on Stroud Green Rd (Finsbury Park). A huge selection of real ales and craft beers from around the UK and the world. The owner, Ravi, will get stock in if you request it. He also often goes on beer-buying missions to Belgium. All the trappist beers are there, well apart from Westvleteren. There is also a great selection of wines including NZ wines you don’t normally see in the UK, and spirits including Japanese whiskeys. Check it out!

  • Tom

    Great list Des, and fabulous website. On retailers, have to support adding Real Ale in Richmond. I’d put it at number three in London behind Kris’ Wines and DrInk. Also recommend Nelson Wines 168A Merton High Street, Colliers Wood – though opening hours tend to be erratic.

    There are also more wine shops developing good beer selections: Highbury Vintners and Theatre of Wine (Greenwich and Tufnell Park – stock Magic Rock) I’d recommend.

    Tom

  • Aster

    Massive change in London craft beer drinking in the last 2 years. Some worrying signs with pubs that have far too many beers on and hipster bar staff who only have taste for really hoppy beers. Then there are places like the Holborn Whippet, not caught up in the trendy game or one upmansship. Great all round though. Shame to see Mason’s go out of business.

  • Neil

    Another +1 for Real Ale in Richmond

  • Theres a great bar in black Heath called zero degrees. Think they brew most of there beers in-house. The mango wheat ale is good 🙂

  • Des

    Yes, it’s listed in the first edition of the book and will likely be in the next, but it doesn’t quite make London’s Top 25 in my view.

  • Great list, might have to do a ‘beer tour of London’ or something!

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