When a can of Carling isn't going to cut it, seek out one of these specialist shops and take your pick of some of the most exciting beers from microbreweries in the UK, Europe, the US and beyond.
Do you have a favourite shop that sells brilliant beer? Leave a comment below.
134 Upper Richmond Road, London, SW15 2SP (8780 3168/www.thebeerboutique.co.uk).
A dedicated Putney beer shop with a carefully selected range of Trappist, Belgian, fruit and pilsner brews. London ales are well represented – there's Kernel, and Windsor & Eton – and staff will give advice on the optimum glassware to use with different varieties of beer, as well as food matching.
Its website labels it a ‘micro-pub’, but its colourful, light-filled, open-plan front room is probably best described as a drop-in centre for beer-lovers. The tiny back counter dispenses three draught beers and a 60-strong list of bottled beers, ciders and porters – mostly (but not all) from London brewers, all with clear, succinct tasting notes.The Beer Shop also sells everything to take away – even draught beers.Read more
City Beverage Company
303 Old Street, London, EC1V 9lA (020 7729 2111/http://citybeverage.co.uk).
All the beer is found in the fridges in this Hoxton off-licence, which is handily situated for the many BYOB Vietnamese restaurants in Kingsland Road. There are usually a few new Kernel brews, and other English bottles include those from Redchurch Brewery and the once-nearby Pitfield. From overseas, you'll find Little Creatures (we spotted the rarely seen Bright Ale and Pilsner recently) and Flying Dog.
Drink of Fulham
349 Fulham Palace Road, London, SW6 6TB (020 7610 6795/www.drinkoffulham.com).
A truly exceptional range of beers from around the world pack the shelves of this dedicated Fulham beer shop. There are more than 500 examples of British, Belgian, German, American, Antipodean and other world beers available, and stock changes regularly. Staff will happily point you in the direction of new and interesting bottles – Brewdog Bashah double black IPA, for example, or Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.
129 Castlehaven Rd, London, NW1 8SJ (020 7482 6140)
Around 250 bottled ales from around the world, many of them British.
71 Highbury Park, London, N5 1UA (020 7226 1347)
Although primarily a wine shop, this recently extended off-licence also has more than 100 specialist beers from around the world, including Anchor, Coopers, Kernel and Meantime. You can also purchase bottles from its website.
98 Druid Street, London, SE1 2HQ (07757 552636/http://thekernelbrewery.com).
It's not technically a shop, but Kernel's railway arch in Bermondsey remains the best place to find the fruits of brewer Evin O'Riordain's labour. Without a set range of products, his beers change regularly but the range usually includes a powerfully hopped IPA (made with Nelson Sauvin or Galaxy hops, say), and you'll often find imperial stouts, black IPAs and full-bodied pale ales. It's open to the public for sales from 9am-3pm on Saturdays.
394 York Way, London, N7 9LW (020 7607 4871/www.kriswines.com).
An otherwise unremarkable parade of shops in Holloway is actually a magnet for north London beer lovers thanks to this quirky and packed-in little shop. Ales are arranged by country of origin and come from around the world; look out for Odell's 90 /- and 5 Barrel Pale Ale from the US; occasional bottles from Manchester's Marble Brewery or Otley from North Wales also pop up. The full range of Redchurch Brewery beers is available, as is that from the organic Pitfield and Bermondsey's Kernel.
Mr Lawrence Wine Merchant
391 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2PH
An independent Brockley bottle shop with character, Mr Lawrence stocks a small but well-chosen range of beer, mainly real ales from around England and Scotland (St Peter's, Hook Norton, Atlas, Orkney), but with a good few Belgians to boot.
168 Merton High St, London, SW19 1AZ (020 8542 1558)
A Colliers Wood off-licence with a suprisingly good beer selection.
371 Richmond Rd, London, TW1 2EF (020 8892 3710/www.realale.com)
A delightful shop (and website, a particularly good example) which is well stocked with every conceivable type of interesting beer. It's geared up for delivery too (next day, £7.25 for London), if you’re not located near Twickenham.
75 Trafalgar Road, SE10 9TS (020 8858 6363/www.theatreofwine.com); 124 Junction Road, N19 5LB (3490 2147).
Their focus is wine, but these two boutique off-licences carry a range of around 50 hand-picked beers from Britain, Belgium and around the world. It's a good spot to pick up Camden Brewery beers; Meantime and Kernel are also stocked. Phone ahead if there's something specific you're after and staff will ensure it's chilled for your arrival.
Borough Market, London, SE1 1TL (020 7394 8601)
A stall in Borough Market, open market hours only Thursday to Saturay. If you want to try some of the extensive range in situ, its little bar, The Rake, is just at the edge of Borough Market and is open noon-11pm Monday to Friday and 10am-11pm Saturday. The owners have also recently opened Tap East brewpub in Westfield Stratford City.