The Craft Beer Company specialises in the more offbeat offerings from small, unusual, mostly British breweries. There are more than 1,000 breweries across the UK – the highest number since the early 1970s, according to the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra). In the last year, 158 have opened – most of these small, craft breweries creating thrilling and diverse beers bursting with aroma and flavour, some of them surprising and intoxicating in equal measure.
This second branch of the Craft Beer Company is on a busy street market next to Brixton rail station, facing the Brixton Recreation Centre. Its neighbours include a pawnbroker, a Caribbean fast food van and some cafés populated only by locals. It’s a small bar, not very pub-like, with plate glass windows making this slightly gentrified corner site highly visible from the market. The high stools perch at small tables. If you prefer a bit more privacy, there’s space on the first floor.
It’s the beers that make this a destination. There are up to ten lesser-known ales on tap, another 20 on keg, and scores more by the bottle. Start off on something easy-drinking such as a Dark Star Hophead from West Sussex, a golden ale (3.8 percent abv) with a hoppy haybale and elderflower aroma; then maybe graduate to The Chief IPA, a US-style India pale ale from the Ilkley Brewery in Yorkshire. The Chief is double-hopped, weighs in at 7 percent abv, and is dense with hints of treacle on the nose. The beers on tap are priced by strength: £3.40 a pint for up to 3.9 percent abv, up to £6 a pint for a hangover-inducing 8 percent (order a half!).
There’s no hot food. Pork pie £4.95; scotch egg £3.50. You don’t come here to eat.
The regulars are hopheads, work dodgers and plenty of ale enthusiasts – some even clean shaven – who have made a special pilgrimage.