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 craft beers made in London breweries or for 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.
Best beer shops in central London
The Scottish brewery Brewdog is intent on taking over the world with its flavoursome craft beers and ever-increasing chain of bars; this was its first dedicated bottle shop, and as well as its own beers it stocks a mighty selection from around the world, as well as books and homebrew supplies. Look out for tutored tasting events.
As backward as it may seem, there’s a noticeable dearth of quality craft beer in central London, especially when it comes to take-outs. This makes the presence of this pocket-sized bar and bottleshop, just off Haymarket, all the more surprising. Ideal for stocking up before a picnic in a nearby Royal Parks.
Best beer shops in north London
When the original Clapton Craft (the one that’s actually in Clapton) opened back in 2014, it was clear they’d got the formula right. Unsurprisingly, then, expansion didn’t take long: there are now four locations in north London (with a south-London outpost due soon), all offering the same setup of well-curated beers from around the world, plus accessible brews for growler-fill.
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.
Best beer shops in east London
The best bottle shop in London? It’s a strong contender. As well as the original in Clapton, as of 2015 there’s a handsome, brand-new branch in Kentish Town, which has ten taps of draught beer to take away in refillable 1 litre bottles and growlers as well as shelves of brilliant beer. Staff are genial and really know their stuff.
When one of your neighbours is a cereal café, doing the basic bottleshop thing isn’t going to cut it. As well as running regular tasting events, Kill the Cat has also devised an appropriately novel way of displaying its stock, breaking it up into three sections that range from familiar and accessible (Beavertown’s Gamma Ray et al) to the potent and bonkers (imperial stouts from the likes of Swedish brewer Omnipollo).
Best beer shops in south London
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.
ts 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.
The well-travelled owners behind this Brixton-based beer emporium have curated a broad and diverse range of brews, which includes lesser-seen styles from around the world. As well as shelves heaving with bottles and cans, there are four taps pouring beer to drink in or take away. The addition of a beer garden is due in spring 2017.
Opened within weeks of fellow Brockley bottleshop Waterintobeer, this smaller shop is, by chance or otherwise, a very different operation. There’s beer on tap, for a start, which you’re welcome to taste before taking home by the growlerful. A lineup of wine and spirits completes a varied offering.
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.
If the dizzying possibilities of craft beer have got you itching to brew yourself, make tracks for this Brockley bottleshop. As well as a better-than-solid range of bottles and cans (with a noticeable emphasis on northern UK brewers), it also stocks brewing equipment and ingredients. There’s also a small seating area where you can sit with a brew and plan your craft beer empire.
Best beer shops in west London
Beer + Burger
No prizes for guessing what’s on the menu at this bar-slash-bottleshop. With over 300 beers in the five metres' worth of fridges, picking a few to take home could take time. Our advice? Mull it over at the bar, where you can tuck into juicy-looking burgers and 20 further taps of hop-laden loveliness.
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.
Find places to drink craft beer
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.
Voltaire Cocktails & Champagne Bar
What used to be a prison has been converted into a Champagne and cigar bar at the edge of the City. It's an ideal spot for post-work drinks – the private VIP vault areas can be reserved for groups while the bar offerings run from cocktails, starting at £9, to a range of Champagne, from £11 for a glass to £1,200 for a Cuvée Louise Brut 1990 Jeroboam. The food menu includes club sandwiches, somerset brie with spicey orange marmalade or Indian aloo tikki with mint and cucumber yogurt.
Venue says: “Mondays 50% off wines. Tuesdays 50% off cocktails. Wednesdays free food with drinks orders. Plus happy hour from 5-8pm every day!”