There was a time when if you wanted a drink in London, you had just two options: foetid water straight from the Thames, or regular lager. Then the craft beer revolution took hold, and suddenly we were spoilt for delicious choice. London’s dozens of brewers make hundreds of awesome ales, from cab-black stouts to Boris-barnet blondes. So here’s our pick of 30 of the best beers made within the M25 and available in London's best bars and pubs and bottle shops. Happy drinking.
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Saison is a traditional Franco-Belgian farmhouse ale, and this version is freshened rather than sweetened by the lemongrass. Summery all year round!
A king among London’s pales, Gamma Ray is everywhere in this city. It’s easy to see why: it’s quite simply one of the tastiest beers you’ll find. It’s pungent, powerful, super-hoppy and hard to beat.
A thick, ultra-luxurious oyster stout: if you think beer made with oysters is crazy, maybe you’re crazy, because it’s a salty party in your mouth. It’s packed with tons of savoury, creamy flavour.
Proving that craft beer isn’t all about overloading everything with hops, this delicate, biscuity beer sports a delicate aroma, letting the malt base do the talking instead. Listen up!
‘Is Fuller’s a craft brewer?’ you say. They’ve been making beer since 1845, they can call it what they want. This is maybe their finest, a molasses-rich stout so enormous and dark you could get lost in it.
It’s like someone turned a trad German pilsner up to 11: this bad boy has some serious flavour. It’s got all the usual pilsner traits – light, fizzy, easy to drink – but way more intense. That’s a good thing.
It may be the colour of Coca-Cola, but this slightly sweet, seriously malty drop from SE16 is a hell of a lot more complex. Expect contrasting notes of citrus fruit over a toffee-ish base. Yum.
Canopy’s Milkwood is a Belgian amber, meaning the yeastiness makes itself known much more assertively than in similar examples. Think Van Damme, not Poirot. But tasteful.
You might expect this to just be a nice beer to drink all afternoon. But Redemption manages to do the whole low-alcohol thing without compromising on taste: profound and totally delicious.
The powerful whack of alcohol makes this almost double or ‘imperial’ strength, so open and savour. India pale ales were originally brewed for export to the colonies, but this one’s a keeper.
Düsseldorf is home to the dark, malty alt bier (‘old beer’). This London remix has the distinctive stamp of a beer for the working man, so go for it if you toil at a blast furnace, steel mill or similar.
A bone-dry, bitter and spectacularly hoppy mid-strength pale from a brewery that started life in the basement of the Cock Tavern on Mare Street and is going from strength to strength.
All the best bits of a saison are flaunted in this fruitbowl of a beer. It’s wheaty in the top with a gently bitter middle thanks to the experimental new US hop it uses.
Lager can be just as ‘craft’ as IPA or porter; up in Camden Town it’s made better than just about anywhere, with loads and loads of hops to challenge the idea that lager is always dull.
The character of this deliciously different beer comes from smoked malt. Woody, nutty flavours sing loud, making it the ideal partner for a chunk of charred meat.
Unchallenging yet satisfying and refreshing, Yakima Red gets its weighty body (and lovely cherry colour) from crystal malts, and its sparkling, flowery flavour from five American hops.
After an initial whack of sourness, this authentically involving saison seductively reveals a bitter, herby depth. If you ever thought you didn’t like saisons, try this: it’s a real grower.
One sip of this foraged-herb hefeweisse (‘yeast wheat’) and you’re suddenly drinking from a meadow stream. A meadow stream of lemony, cloud-light beer.
Not all pale ales have to smash you over the head with intense hoppiness – that can get boring. This pale keeps things friendly and approachable, and is all the better for it. Plus, it’s made in a shipping container in Dalston. Really.
The darkness of stout can hide a multitude of flavours, and this Brixton brew has the lot: it’s treacly with roasted grains and packed with chocolate and coffee like the world’s most amazing mocha.
Is it the best? If you’re looking for something the colour of burnt caramel and the taste of a Rich Tea to spend a delightful night on the sofa with, then yes, it’s the best. Malty and beautifully brown.
This wheat beer is filtered till it’s so clear you could take a selfie through it. Take a deep sniff of its raspberry aroma before it makes way for a crisp, grassy finish.
Trust The Kernel to take an often offputting term like ‘sour’ and turn it into an explosively flavourful celebration of the endless possibilities of beer. With added damson.
Some craft beers are mouth-assaulting hop bombs that you could only drink one of; Sambrook’s Wandle is an easygoing session ale you can sip all night without getting bored.
One for the lager drinker who wants to dip their toe into the crafty scene but isn’t ready to dive in just yet. It’s brewed like a lager, but extra malts and hops keep things interesting for longer.
There are weekend beers, and there are everyday-treat Holy-Cowbell-type stouts, as familiar, soothing and eagerly anticipated as a cup of tea and something good on telly, but still exciting.
This amber ale doesn’t shout about itself like an IPA, or knock you over like a porter: it just does its thing quietly and confidently. And that thing is to taste really good. Subtle and delicious.
‘Vanilla mild’ is how you’d describe someone you would never want to bang. But this is a beer you could easily spend the night with. Mysterious, toasty, warming.
The Kernel could pretty much fill every page here with its beers, but we chose this one because it’s intense, hoppy, deep like the Thames, and London through-and-through. A real classic.
Japanese yuzu fruit is responsible for the creamy, zesty flavours at the heart of this refreshing IPA. Steady as you go, though – it’s as big on booze as it is a citrussy punch, and it’s easy to drink…
Where to drink London's best craft beer
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