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 London's best CAMRA-courting boozers.
Do you know of a great real ale pub we've missed? Let us know in the comments form below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Red Lion
The Red Lion has long been an interloper on the Stoke Newington pub scene. Never as feisty as the Auld Shillelagh, as cosy as the Rose & Crown or as beer-savvy as The Jolly Butchers, it had the air of a regional local randomly transplanted into the hipster paradise of Church Street. Which is hardly a bad thing – after all, the pub has always been bustling, affordable and friendly. Following a refit there were fears it might emerge reborn, as when the Defoe down the road became the baffling Stoke Newington Tea House. Fear not – from the blinking slot machines to the rowdy punters, the smiling staff to the faint whiff of a student union bar, The Red Lion is pretty much exactly the same. Albeit with an expanded range of draft ales to please the beardy beer crowd. The other new wrinkle is an in-house pizza kitchen – spectacularly bad timing, given that London’s new favourite bread-slinger, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, just opened across the street. My roast ham, gorgonzola and mushroom creation was hearty if unmemorable, while the accompanying watercress salad was starting to wilt. But the prices are reasonable, and if you’re looking to soak up a long afternoon’s drinking this kind of cheese-slathered stodge will be just the ticket.
Venue says: “Local craft beer, delicious thin-crust pizza and the best in sports TV. Monday to Friday lunchtime: any pizza for just £5, noon-3pm.”