Despite the name, this lovely bar and shop – one of several independent gems in Nunhead – doesn’t look anything like an off-licence. 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 – on our visit, these included two pale ales, namely Buxton Brewery’s sharp, citruous Moor Top, and Northern Monk’s smooth, fruity Monacus. In addition, there’s a 60-strong list of bottled beers, ciders and porters – mostly (but not all) from London brewers, all with clear, succinct tasting notes. These range from familiar names such as Brewdog or Camden Town Hells to properly niche offerings such as By The Horn’s Sour to the People, a burgundy-aged, sour-mash vintage beer, or 750ml bottles of Siren’s blended Ratchet artisan ale.
The husband and wife owners answer questions without patronising, and offer samples without evangelism – don’t expect Camra-style geekiness here. You can enjoy a leisurely pint without engaging with anyone, but if you’re up for some informal nerdiness, they organise regular Meet the Brewer sessions with local beermakers.
The Beer Shop seems happy to be used as an extension of locals’ living rooms, with weekly BYO takeaway nights, where you bring your own food but they supply the beer – a clever flip on the usual approach to BYO. But The Beer Shop also sells everything to take away – even draught beers in two-pint containers. Shop? Bar? Whatever it is, it works.