Craft beer – interesting, progressive beers made by small-scale breweries, and distinct from real ale – is often explosively hoppy and quite unlike traditional British beer. An increasing number of London bars and pubs are specialising in them. Here's our pick. Do you have a favourite bar that serves brilliant craft beer? Let us know about it – leave a comment below.
Reviews by David Clack, Euan Ferguson, Eddy Frankel, Ashleigh Arnott, Alex Plim, Andy Hill and Ananda Pellerin.
Craft beer in central London
A quick taster Smart, stylish and moody, with loads of London pride (not on tap, thankfully).
Make mine… There’s usually something from west London experimentalists Weird Beard on tap – fans of bold flavours and high ABVs should start here.
When to visit Depends how fond you are of bankers. It’s closed at the weekend, so aim for pre-5pm if you’ve ever been on an anti-austerity march.
A quick taster Flagship London bar from the world-conquering Scottish brewery.
Make mine... You'd be mad to miss out on the full range of Brewdog's amazing beers; a post-work Punk IPA will never have tasted fresher.
When to visit You know those nights out in Soho when you can never find a bar big enough or cool enough or cheap enough to fit the bill? Then.
A quick taster No great looker, but a craft beer oasis in Pimlico nonetheless.
Make mine… Something rare from a little-seen Belgian brewery like Fantôme or Brasserie La Senne.
When to visit Do you ever find yourself adrift in Pimlico? Probably not: go there especially.
A quick taster Craft Beer Co bars are the city’s superlative craft beer destinations, and this is the original branch.
Make mine… Shut your eyes and point somewhere, drink what you’re given. It’s all amazing.
When to visit At the finishing line of a craft beer nerdathon. No one in London knows craft beer better.
A quick taster Popular Exmouth Market boozer that’s always buzzing but never rammed.
Make mine… Bermondsey brewery Anspach & Hobday’s often on the taps. Look out for the incredible Smoked Brown.
When to visit It’s one of those time-honoured pubs that seems to fit every occasion: contemplative solo pint, birthday party, quiet-meal-for-two treat.
A quick taster Right in the centre of central London, a bar that puts beer before all.
Make mine… The focus is on real ales from British breweries, all kept exceptionally well.
When to visit One of those occasions you inexplicably find yourself in Trafalgar Square on a Saturday…
A quick taster Intimately close-quarters and no-nonsense drinking.
Make mine… Go for anything from Siren if it’s on, one of the UK’s best breweries.
When to visit After work to soak up the post-office vibes. It’s *way* better than the chains in this area.
A quick taster A surprisingly pleasant boozer at the foot of Tourist Mount Purgatory.
Make mine… Ignore the tourists baffled by the huge selection and go straight for a London brew.
When to visit Pre-theatre, post-shopping, or for some uncomplicated pub grub.
A quick taster A gastropub that puts the focus on the brews.
Make mine… Choose something from the ‘brewery of the month’.
When to visit When you're looking for top quality grub to go with top quality beer.
Craft beer in north London
A quick taster A proper steeped-in-tradition boozer that nails the modern touches; expect street food, buzzed-about brews and regular beer-centric events.
Make mine… Local brewery Hammerton’s N1 session pale is a staple on keg – the perfect weeknight pint.
When to visit For the annual ‘swearing on the horns’ party, a debauched celebration that dates back centuries.
A quick taster Superb pub with handsome Georgian features and always-amazing beer.
Make mine… Turn from the bar to peruse the big, bold beer list, and take your pick.
When to visit On an Islington night out, when you’re fed up of Upper Street.
A quick taster All the class of Islington without the crowds.
Make mine… Whichever the board tells you is most local.
When to visit When you want the sort of lunch that wouldn’t be seen dead in a gastropub.
A quick taster Big, bustling and busy main-road boozer.
Make mine… We’ve often seen Siren’s soothing Undercurrent oatmeal pale ale on handpull.
When to visit Before a meal with pals in one of Stokey’s great restaurants.
A quick taster Friendly neighbourhood pub with distractions aplenty.
Make mine... Look out for the Hammerton N7, brewed just a mile away in Barnsbury.
When to visit The Rose & Crown’s peaceful by day and lively by night. Choose accordingly.
A quick taster A contender for the best pub in London: old-fashioned atmosphere, bang-up-to-date beers from independent UK breweries.
Make mine... A Magic Rock from the handpull – they’re rarely better.
When to visit When you’ve had enough of the modern world.
A quick taster A neighbourhood pub that makes buying a house in the area worthwhile (dream on!).
Make mine… A big blackboard lists what’s on the 20 taps: it’s often hard to look past the Five Points Pale Ale, though, which is always on.
When to visit If you’re not lucky enough to live nearby, seek it out if you’re in Stokey.
A quick taster Well-appointed, well-located bar offering a slicker way to do beer.
Make mine… Don’t baulk at the prices; those strong kegs are all well-chosen, so splash out on a half. Ours was the Left Hand Twin Sisters Imperial IPA at a hefty 9.6 percent.
When to visit When you’re with a big group and need a place where noise isn’t frowned upon.
Craft beer in east London
A quick taster A Hackney pub for all seasons, with a wood-burner inside and a proper beer garden out back.
Make mine… The best stuff is in the fridge; try Yeastie Boys’ Gunnamatta Early Grey IPA or something from Danish experimentalists To Øl.
When to visit When the sun’s out and you can’t deal with the barbecue smoke on London Fields.
A quick taster Trad-styled boozer with a consistently impressive tap line-up, great pork pies and a brewery in the basement.
Make mine… It only ever seems to be on cask, but try something from Maregade, the pub’s own microbrewery.
When to visit The pub regularly gives the bar over to a guest brewery for a tap takeover, which – brilliantly – usually comes with a side of cheese.
A quick taster Laid back, packed at weekends.
Make mine... Camden Ink Stout: the thinking drinker’s Guinness.
When to visit Weekend daytimes or weekday evenings for a chilled session with your pals.
A quick taster Subtly modern reboot of a good old-fashioned East-End boozer.
Make mine… Pressure Drop brews about half a mile away: reduce your beer miles and order local.
When to visit When you need a reminder that not all pub refurbs are posh and exclusive.
A quick taster A backstreet pub with a surprisingly esoteric selection of beer.
Make mine... There are often rare Belgian brews from independent breweries on offer.
When to visit On a craft beer pilgrimage.
A quick taster A cool, modern-looking canalside pub from Hackney brewery Five Points and street-food dudes Capish?.
Make mine… Five Points’ brews are the best value, starting at £4.50 a pint. Start with the sweet, spicy and powerful Hook Island Red.
When to visit When you’re good and hungry – the Italian-American food is fantastic and filling.
A quick taster Maybe the best craft beer bar in London: there’s always an incredible selection.
Make mine... Look out for exclusive brews on tap from Mikkeller, the sought-after Danish brewer.
When to visit Bethnal Green is fast becoming the craft beer nexus of London: stop off here on a tour taking in the Redchurch Brewery taproom and the King's Arms.
A quick taster A family-owned escape from the hipster nexus of Old Street.
Make mine... This is a place where you consistently find Kernel pale ales on draught.
When to visit On a Shoreditch night out when you want something more authentic.
A quick taste A lively bar straddling the City and Shoreditch, with strong food and some of the best-stocked fridges in London.
Make mine... Something punchy from Swedish brewer Omnipollo, which is well represented. The Zodiak IPA is a perfect take on the style.
When to visit When you’re overdue a good long session. There are over 100 beers to choose from, plus a separate cocktail bar in the basement.
A quick taster Authentic East End pub, thoroughly modern beer.
Make mine… A Redchurch Bethnal Pale Ale: as local as it gets.
When to visit Straight after work so you can nab a table. Otherwise it’s standing room only.
Craft beer in south London
A quick taster Casual, convivial and warmer than a hug from Chewbacca.
Make mine… If it’s value for money you seek, whatever’s strongest – the three cask offerings are always £3.50, regardless of ABV.
When to visit Ideally during one of the monthly ‘meet the brewer’ events, (free, but you need to book) which involve borderline suspicious quantities of free beer.
A quick taster A well-stocked bar whose parent brewery recently went under, freeing up tap space for a more exciting line-up of beers.
Make mine… Fourpure’s beers are everywhere these days, but its more adventurous brews are well worth trying, and many of them end up here.
When to go When in the company of true craft nerds – they’ll dig that you get to choose your own glassware.
A quick taster A cosy old boozer that’s recently amped up its beer offering following a change of ownership.
Make mine… The tap offering is constantly changing, but there’s often something on from big-deal Sussex brewer Burning Sky. Don’t think twice.
When to visit There’s traditional Irish music sessions most Thursdays. Head down to soak up new-age brews and old-school tunes.
A quick taster A cosy South Bank pub that’ll make you feel like a local.
Make mine… the Swift's own light and easy Belgian pilsner.
When to visit When you need to escape from the South Bank tourist crowds.
A quick taster Barbecued meat is top of the agenda at this spacious Dulwich pub, with a fine roster of local and international brews close behind.
Make mine… Bottles from nearby Brick Brewery are often in the fridge – a crisp, malt-heavy Archway Steam will pair nicely with that pulled-pork bun.
When to visit For a weekend pig-out with pals, or for the generous weekday happy hour – £1 off all keg pints, 5pm–7pm.
A quick taster A pint-sized south London local that’s far too easy to settle into.
Make mine… It’d be rude not to try one of the Late Knights brews.
When to visit It’s a welcoming spot no matter the time of day – settle in on a sunny afternoon and stay there until dark.
A quick taster A pocket-sized pub from the people behind the Bermondsey Arts Club.
Make mine… If you’re into hop-forward American styles, try something pale and strong from Fourpure.
When to visit During the week, when the nearby Bermondsey Beer Mile taprooms are closed, so you can enjoy a mini-tour without leaving your seat.
A quick taster A tiny boozer that’s all about the beer.
Make mine… The selection changes all the time – ask the knowledgeable bar staff for a recommendation.
When to visit When you need something to wash down an artisan pork pie from the market.
A quick taster No chalkboard witticisms, no pulled pork and no card payments – the absence of hipster affectations here is oddly refreshing.
Make mine... If it’s on, make a beeline for anything from pioneering Stockholm brewery Omnipollo. The Zodiak IPA in particular is uncommonly crisp and flavoursome.
When to visit The selection of nearby food options is close to overwhelming, making this the ideal spot for pre- and/or post-dinner drinking.
Craft beer in west London
A quick taster In an area not well served by good pubs, this is a beacon of craft happiness.
Make mine… Anything own-made by Brewdog is brill: we love the Libertine black IPA.
When to visit NOT before a gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire: you’ll probably get so carried away with the beers you’ll miss the show.
A quick taster All branches of this London mini chain are beacons of good beer and solid pub food; this one is welcome because there’s not much else to recommend round here.
Make mine... There’s a daily cask for £2.75 a pint – can’t argue with that.
When to visit It’s always lively during sporting events, especially rugby.
A quick taster A posher-than-average gastropub with an on-site brewery.
Make mine… Something from Long Arm Brewing Co., which lives on the premises. The smoky Shadow Wolf stout is ideal for fireside drinking.
When to visit When you’ve earned a fancy meal out, but can’t be doing with any of that wine nonsense.
A quick taster An East End-styled bar out west, serving wood-fired pizzas and beer from a London-centric tap list.
Make mine… Whatever’s on the regularly changing guest tap if you’re feeling adventurous, classics from Beavertown and Fourpure if you’re not.
When to visit At the weekend – as part of the new Paddington Basin development, it’s a little deserted during the week.
A quick taster The only all-Italian craft beer bar in London.
Make mine... Italy has a really strong craft beer scene, little-known-about here – try something from the pioneering Baladin or Del Ducato.
When to visit To remind yourself that craft beer is truly borderless.
A quick taster The standout beer pub in west London.
Make mine… Harvey’s Sussex Best is hard to beat.
When to visit During one of the regular beer festivals – American, Old Ales, European, for example.
Find London's best stouts
Put down that pale ale and let go of the lager – summer is over, which means it’s time to seek comfort in smooth, roasty, rich brews big on chocolate, coffee and – naturally – booze. That’s right, it’s time to get stuck into some stout (and porter, which, though the debate rages among beer nerds, is commonly considered to be basically the same thing). Here are eight London-brewed dark beers we rank among the very best.
This traditional boozer on Hart Street, close to Fenchurch Street, looks like it's fighting a one-pub battle against the City, its characterful sliver of a facade squeezed but resolute between two modern buildings. The decor inside sticks to the outside's traditional look. True to the feel of the place, it's mostly about the booze, with beer a particular focus. Expect a regularly changing list of cask ales, with more by the bottle. A short wine list includes bottles from France, Chile, Italy, Australia, South Africa and Argentina, with most available by the glass. The main food menu draws influence from across the globe too, with dishes ranging from Welsh rarebit and ham, egg and chips to shredded duck wraps, vegetable spring rolls and chilli con carne. A range of burgers do brisk business, with beef alongside lamb, cajun chicken, cod and a veggie option made with chickpeas, mixed beans, aubergine and couscous.
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