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 Club Zetter isn’t your usual venue. An attempt to replace fêted noughties restaurant Bistrot Bruno Loubet with something that’s a members-only ‘co-working space’ by day and a smart, design-conscious bar by night, it’s fun enough that you can overlook your party of two doubling the number of patrons (and supplying the only guests not drinking while hunched over a MacBook). The decor’s all maximal, ’60s kitsch – nary a seat not clad in velvet, cutesy electro-swing bubbling from the speakers, orangey mood lighting – like a hotel lobby done up as Austin Powers’ shag pad. The booze is good: small range of craft beers on tap, extensive wine list (including a number on tap). There’s a menu of small plates: think fat pink-black king prawns swimming in a chickpea-studded lake of oily jus, big squishy portion of pulled pork and anisey-red cabbage slaw in a brioche bun. And an unbelievably delicious baked camembert that’s so ripe it’s almost decomposing (in a good way). All in all: a cute, upmarket bar. Or it would be, if it weren’t so dead that you could hear a pin drop. Only one solution, then: go with loads of friends.
Venue says: “Groups of up to 12 can dine at our kitchen table and enjoy three tasty courses for £28.”