London's best real ale pubs

Bitters, milds, stouts and porters – cask-conditioned beer is a great London tradition

Bar trends come and go, but old-fashioned cask-conditioned beer is on the up. There are many great pubs in London that prize cellarcraft, offer a homely atmosphere and serve a great pint – here's our pick of them.

By Euan Ferguson

Do you know of a great real ale pub we've missed? Let us know in the comments form below.

  • Carpenter's Arms

    Rating: 5/5 73 Cheshire Street, London, E2 6EG

    A lovely boozer off Brick Lane which has benefitted from a sympathetic refurbishment. Tap talent includes four Dorothy Goodbody ales from Hereford’s Wye Valley Brewery and a pair of Adnams bitters on draught.

  • Jerusalem Tavern

    Rating: 5/5 55 Britton Street, London, EC1M 5UQ

    A clever pastiche of an eighteenth-century ale house which serves Suffolk’s St Peter’s brews – including mild, best and bitter – to discerning local architects, designers and other well-informed folk.

  • Pineapple

    Rating: 5/5 51 Leverton Street, London, NW5 2NX

    Tucked away in a maze of backstreet terraces, this justifiably popular pub sits conveniently out of earshot of the Kentish Town bustle. It remains a freehouse, and owners keep things interesting with a progressive attitude towards beer choice. Of the five real ales, there's always Bass, but other options might include the likes of Monmouthshire's Kingstone, Somerset's Cottage or, closer to home, Redemption from Tottenham.

  • Royal Oak

    Rating: 5/5 44 Tabard Street, London, SE1 4JU

    The only London pub owned by the estimable Lewes brewer Harveys, this traditional Victorian corner tavern draws beer fanatics, and with good reason: the ales here, from year-round fixtures such as Sussex Mild to seasonals including Old Ale, are always in perfect condition.

  • Southampton Arms

    Rating: 5/5 139 Highgate Road, London, NW5 1LE

    This quite wonderful independent taproom keeps the decor austere and the fonts flowing with interesting beer. It's usually every two or three days that the bar welcomes a new obscure ale from a small British brewery, but a busy Saturday might see casks from small independent breweries such as Marble, Thornbridge and Dark Star run out in 'a couple of hours', according to the barman.

  • Wenlock Arms

    Rating: 5/5 26 Wenlock Road, London, N1 7TA

    A proper local in every sense of the word and one of the dying breed of London pubs not to serve food, the Wenlock Arms is dedicated to its loyal customers and the dispensing of tip-top ales from its cramped bar. The pub itself is humbly unfancified, but its unpretentious atmosphere and brilliant beer make it one of the most recommended pubs in London.

  • The White Horse

    Rating: 5/5 1-3 Parsons Green, London, SW6 4UL

    A remarkable selection of ales and lagers, with 80 bottled beauties on offer and at least a dozen on draught. You might see traditional bitters by the likes of Harveys, or mild from Moorhouse in Burnley, but modern styles such as hoppy IPAs from Oakhams feature too. One of the most comprehensively stocked and well-run beer pubs in London.

  • Antelope

    Rating: 4/5 76 Mitcham Road, London, SW17 9NG

    Many fine Victorian features have been retained in the refit of this grand Tooting pub, and although it's now about food as much as beer, drinkers won't leave disappointed. There are six real ales on tap, and a couple of Adnam's are semi-permanent, you might also see brews from Purity, Brewdog and Truman's.

  • Euston Tap

    Rating: 4/5 West Lodge, 190 Euston Rd, London, NW1 2EF

    A railway pub you don't need to be travelling on a train to stop in at, and the only thing that brightens up the environs of London's most unlovely station. Real ales change regularly and are sourced from some of Britain's most interesting breweries, including Thornbridge, Magic Rock and Bristol.

  • Junction Tavern

    Rating: 4/5 101 Fortess Road, London, NW5 1AG

    Kentish Town's something of a real ale hotspot, and this friendly and warm gastropub plays no small part in that. Of the five changing ales on pump, you might see beers from Twickenham, Caledonian, Sambrooks, Marlow and Nethergate. Regular festivals keep the offering lively.

  • Priory Arms

    Rating: 4/5 83 Lansdowne Way, London, SW8 2PB

    Hog's Back, Sambrook's and Twickenham are breweries whose output pours regularly from the five pumps in this Stockwell real-ale pub; the dedicated crowd recognises the commitment to quality.

  • Rake

    Rating: 4/5 14 Winchester Walk, London, SE1 9AG

    Beer importer and Borough Market stall Utobeer runs this modest wooden shed with a range of beers that would put a Belgian bar to shame. Many interesting craft beers are sold by the keg, but real ales are certainly not neglected either.

  • Bull

    Rating: 3/5 13 North Hill, London, N6 4AB

    As well as the pub's own beers (brewed in a set-up that spans the kitchen and the cellar), there are five hand-pulled real ales on offer in this historic Highgate pub. Food is undoubtedly a big part of the offer, but manager Dan Fox (previously of the esteemed White Horse in Parson's Green) ensures ales are very much to the fore. An interesting range of beers from small British microbreweries usually grace the taps.

  • Duke of Cambridge

    Rating: 3/5 30 St Peter's Street, London, N1 8JT

    This backstreet Islington gastropub stands out due to its die-hard and long-running commitment to organic. The ale offer is equally worthy, so there will be a changing roster that includes St Peter's and Pitfield. It's also a very friendly place, with drinkers made as welcome as diners.

  • Harp

    Rating: 3/5 47 Chandos Place, London, WC2N 4HS

    Where once fine and varied sausages were the main selling points of this well-hidden Irish pub near Charing Cross post office, now it's sought-after ales. The board outside details the current selection, while around a bar counter eminently suited to being propped up, obscure beer mats tell of ales from yesteryear. Camra awards attest to staff's dedication to cellarcraft; traditional pint-suppers and forward-thinking beer lovers alike will be delighted by the eight regularly changing ales on offer.


Users say

26 comments
Charlotte F
Charlotte F

The Sussex Arms on Twickenham Green is the best real ale pub in London - the awards prove it!

Andrew B
Andrew B

The Royal Oak is no longer the only London pub owned by Harveys. They now have a second pub in Wandsworth.

c lloyd
c lloyd

very informtive, easy to read

Mat
Mat

So nothing south of the river then? How myopic!

Tim
Tim

The Somers Town Coffee House between Euston & St Pancras stations is now worthy of this pick list? 10 real ales on tap from just one 18 months ago, craft cider on tap, served in straights or jugs, a fine selection to be thankful of...

Sush
Sush

Grape and Grain at Crystal Palace. Sunday trad jazz to top up the best ale I've had in London.

Tony
Tony

The Lamb Tavern and Old Toms Bar in Leadenhall market. EC3. Serves Great Ale and Great British food alongside. Old toms is a fantastic quirky bar with great ale and meat and cheese boards. everything you would want from a Traditional British pub. this place is definitely worth a visit!!!

Jo heart
Jo heart

The Crutched Friar Fenchurch is worth a visit...great range of well looked after cask ales

Glen
Glen

The Defectors Weld in W12. Great selection of real ales and 6 taps to choose from! From Sambrooks, to Adnams to Trumans brewery!

tony
tony

which of these does the best food?

Oona Patterson
Oona Patterson

The Mahogany Bar at Wilton's Music Hall, review it!

Jeremy
Jeremy

Can we have maps for these things?? Like the pubs and restaurants?? I have no idea where half these places are and don't have an hour to spend researching. Thanks

Rachel
Rachel

The Dog and Bell in Deptford is a fantastic pub. Its not fancy but it always has three guest ales on offer along with the classics like London Pride and ESB. They take really good care of the beers and I don't think I've ever had a bad pint there.

Emma
Emma

What about The Pakenham!!!

Frank Franklin
Frank Franklin

..... and The Uxbridge Arms, Notting Hill Gate is a must .....

Frank Franklin
Frank Franklin

The Duchess of Cambridge, Stamford Brook must be a contender .......

Chris
Chris

What about the Bree Louise. Always a great selection of fine ales and crazy ciders.

Devizes Don
Devizes Don

The Harp is a great pub. But 'Irish'?

Nuno
Nuno

ale!ale!

Jack Simpson
Jack Simpson

Ah shame of shames - poor grammar but the comment stands.

Jack Simpson
Jack Simpson

You're picture for the feature is of The Jolly Butchers in Stoke Newington but it doesn't seem to make your list...it's a lovely pub with great Ales.

HayleyUnlikely
HayleyUnlikely

The Dean Swift, Lafone Street SE1 (sister pub of The Old Red Cow), also The Draft House, Tower Bridge Road SE1 (not cheap but extraordinary range).

John McCormack
John McCormack

It's not a pub as such, but the Leyton Orient Supporters' Club is without doubt one of the best purveyors of fine real ales in the land - no kidding...

Paul
Paul

Also very worthy of inclusion: Craft Beer Co, Leather Lane EC1 Cask, Charlwood Street SW1 Market Porter, Stoney Street SE1 Old Fountain, Baldwin Street EC1 Crosse Keys, Gracechurch Street EC3 Bree Louise, Cobourg Street NW1 Wenlock Arms, Wenlock Road N1 Harder to know which one to leave out! Certainly much better choice these days.