Get us in your inbox

best craft beer bars in london, holborn whippet
© Ming Tang-Evans

25 reasons London is the beer capital of the world

Written by
Euan Ferguson

Decline the wine, bin the gin: the capital is now the very best place in the world to be drinking beer, and we've got 25 reasons to prove it.

1. This is a golden age of beer

Ten years ago, London beer meant a pint of Pride and not much else. We were a city in love with pallid Continental lager. We had lost our identity! But in 2015, you probably have a favourite brewery, a favourite pale ale and a favourite place to drink it. Every week, someone chucks in their dull job and says, 'I want to be a brewer.' Every week, a pub realises that Carling Extra Cold leaves us cold - we just want something made in Hackney or Penge or Wimbledon. We really, really love London beer.

2. And it really is bloody delicious!

None of this cheerleading would matter if everything tasted a bit meh. But have you tried The Kernel's incredible Double Mosaic IPA? Or Weird Beard's Tsujigiri, infused with Asian yuzu citrus? Frankly, we're embarrassed to have ever allowed the likes of Budweiser to pass our lips.

3. London has been swimming in the stuff for centuries

In the thirteenth century, monks at St Paul's brewed 67,814 gallons of beer a year to be lapped up by thirsty Londoners. Henry VIII's Hampton Court entourage necked 13,000 pints every day. Many styles we love originated here - porter kept our city's 'hardworking people' working hard in the 1700s, IPA was brewed to be shipped to the colonies. You're welcome, world.

4. In fact, the PM's pad used to be a brewery

The earliest known building on the site of 10 Downing Street was a brewery. Curious, as most subsequent inhabitants would struggle to organise a piss-up in one.

5. We now have more breweries than New York

At time of going to press there were over 80 breweries here, although a couple more have probably opened in the last week.

6. More craft beer bars than Berlin

Step into any of the places in our awesome 50 Best Craft Beer Bars in London and you'll be faced with a selection of incredible beers from all over the world. Top of the pile is Mother Kelly's, in Bethnal Green, which packs enthusiastic beer fans into its repurposed railway arch nightly; we also have city-conquering mini-chains like Craft Beer Co or Draft House, meaning you're never far from a London-brewed beer. Not so hip now, Berlin, are you?

7. And more enthusiastic drinkers than anywhere at all

Got a new job? Congratulate yourself with a pint! Just been sacked? A couple of pints are essential. Getting married? Let's go to the pub! Divorce come through? That calls for a celebration. With an audience like this, how can London breweries really fail?

8. Plus, our pubs are the envy of the world

Vienna has cafés, Moscow has saunas, we have pubs. Frankly, we're more than happy with this arrangement.

9. We make the best-looking beers

London's craft brewers understand that taste begins with the eyes: our label design is seriously creative, from the skull-and-spaceman stylings of Beavertown to the minimal type of Five Points or the Technicolor collages of Partizan. They're almost too good to open...

10. Made with ingredients from just down the road

Our wet summer may have put a dampener on your beer garden sessions, but it was party time for the hops growing wild in the city's parks and gardens. Most are harvested and chucked into batches of truly local booze (by the likes of Herne Hill's Canopy). Compensation for when Mother Nature widdled on your disposable barbecue back in July.

11. By folk who care

Kennington brewery Two Fingers gives its profits to Prostate Cancer UK; Peckham's Brick Brewery has just launched Coal Line porter, brewed to support a project to turn a disused stretch of railway into a green space for the community. Both good reasons for getting another round in.

12. As we care for them in return

Beer-loving Londoners have been generous to Camden Town Brewery, which just raised £2.8m in crowdfunding to build new premises in Enfield and keep London lubricated with lots of the lovely lager it's famous for. That's putting your money where your mouth is.

13. Our beer is London through-and-through

London beers have changed a lot in the past century, but so has London. Had Brixton Brewery existed 100 years ago, its beers would be a lot blander: it uses produce brought to the area by immigrant communities, its labels are inspired by the African fabrics that sashay through SW2. And you wouldn't have been able to tweet a picture of your pint 100 years ago, either. Nightmare.

14. It's for everyone, with or without a beard

Girls appreciate a complex brew just as much as boys, and it's not just chaps in charge of the tanks, either; Jenn Merrick is Beavertown's head brewer, and several breweries count women on staff, including Jaega Wise at Wild Card. We look forward to the day when anyone can order the 9 percent stout and not one eyebrow will be raised. 

15. Whether you're flush or skint

Beavertown's Heavy Water imperial stout with cherries and sea salt: £11 a bottle. Camden Town's perfect Hells Lager: £2 a can. Great beer: London's true democratic gift to the world!

16. We don't have to travel far for beer perfection

'We stock loads of exciting beers from the USA, Australia, Scandinavia...' says Will Jack of bottle shop Clapton Craft, 'but what people ask for most is beer made in their borough.' Unless you live in Havering or Hillingdon, which don't yet have breweries, there's no excuse for not drinking local. (Anyone in Havering or Hillingdon spot an opportunity there?)

17. We can fill our fridges with it

You know that guy who turns up to the party with a six-pack of Red Stripe then gets stuck into everyone elseís premium booze? Don't be that guy. Visit one of London's many craft beer shops to pick up a 'growler' (a big refillable bottle), then be the toast of the party.

18. It's made in our own homes

In recent times, homebrew shops like Bottledog and Home Brew Depot have sprung up around the city. Like knitting and crazy golf, homebrewing in London is now officially cool.

19. Or in a home from home

Ubrew in Bermondsey is an open brewery where hundreds of members get access to professional brewing kits, top ingredients and a load of nerdy expertise (and look out for two new sites opening next year). You'll soon be producing a stash of pub-grade booze at a cost of around 50p per bottle. Maybe even sooner, if you stay away from the in-house bar, which is easier said than done.

20. Forget Oktoberfest: here it's Febfest, Mayfest, Junefest...

There were more than 20 beer festivals in London in 2015, and we reckon next year will be even bigger. One thing to remember, though: always order halves. No one wants to make a tit of themselves in front of a hallful of studiously sipping craft beer fans.

 21. We can drink wherever the hell we like

Summer is brilliant for the bank balance: as soon as the sun starts to show its little face, it's street drinking time. Try this in Manchester and things will turn unpleasant when the long arm of the law confiscates that lovely craftie. But it's not illegal in most of our city, so make the most of it: there's not much better than grabbing a couple of cans, sitting on a stoop and trying to work on your suntan.

22. Even on a West End pavement

How many other cities let their beer fans crowd the pavements outside pubs every evening, forcing tourists into the path of wayward rickshaws? Enjoy every alfresco sip, London.

23. Beer is built into our city

In case you hadn't noticed, we're not short on railway arches in London. Loads of breweries make beer with the sound of trains overhead, from Brixton to Bethnal Green. And despite the race to turn every square inch of the city into luxury apartments, there's still space for expansion. Believe in beer!

24. It goes right to the top

'I love pubs,' our fair mayor Boris Johnson told Time Out earlier this year, going on to call them 'one of my great pleasures in life'. On this occasion, we're forced to agree with him.

25. So this story is only going to get better

We imagine soon we'll be celebrating London's 150 breweries, and the idea of drinking something produced in a factory beyond the M25 will seem absurd. London's future is amber, black, pale and blonde, and we can't wait to try every drop of it.

By Euan Ferguson, David Clack, Eddy Frankel, Ashleigh Arnott and Andy Hill.

Drink deep of these:

London's 50 best craft beer bars
30 best beers brewed right here in London
London's best craft beer shops
➤ Offer! Order a Time Out Editors' Pick craft beer box from Honest Brew

Popular on Time Out

    You may also like
    You may also like