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Best craft beer bars, pubs, and taprooms in London

The Best Places to Drink (Craft) Beer in London

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London has it all, when it comes to beer: The old-worldliness of British bitter, German lager, Nordic mead, and of course the voguish, relentless wave of North American-style pale ales in all corners of the city. Right now, there are few better places on Earth for draining a pint (or, in some cases, a dainty third of one) than the UK’s capital. A spree might involve a snug Edwardian tavern with leathery old chairs and hand pumps. Or it might be a brewery taproom, all industrial pipes and concrete. Or even a carpark that shares its space with a tile wholesaler and Screwfix. The point is: where there’s good beer, people will come. Here are 19 places in London to drink great beer today.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Beavertown Brewery

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One of London’s favourite craft breweries is, at the weekend, also one of London’s busiest. Possibly because the tap room’s only open six hours a week, and as well as being the cheapest venue to find a pint of Neck Oil, Gamma Ray or Lupuloid, is the best place to drink Beavertown one-offs and seasonals, such as their DIPA collaboration with Lervig, at £2.50 a half.

Jonathan Fisher

Wild Card Tap Bar

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Walthamstow’s Wild Card do easily one of the best IPAs in the capital, and on (almost) any given Saturday, this amber spicy caramel number is right here, flowing from the taps. Bear in mind this is no massive operation, so quantity isn’t oceanic, but there’s a certain consistency that resonates throughout their five core beers.

The Duke's Head

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The Duke’s Head in Highgate has a solid reputation for hosting street-food residencies, but it’s worth visiting for the beer, as much as who’s in the kitchen. The bar has 20 lines, all from homegrown British brewers, with a cask-keg balance (10 a piece) that’ll keep both real ale lovers and West Coast hop hunters happy.

Hugh Thomas

The Cock Tavern

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The Cock Tavern doesn’t just serve beer — it lives and breathes it. Local brewery Howling Hops started life in the pub’s basement, and a fair few homebrewers have been known to make use of the space, too. Other than that, there’s nothing complicated about it: The Cock is simply a good pub with good beer.

Ewan Munro

Beer Merchants Tap

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Beer Merchants have distributed on behalf of European breweries ­— Belgian ones especially ­— for the past 30 years. That history has culminated in a substantial taproom around the corner from Hackney Wick Overground station, from where beers that are a challenge to find on draught elsewhere are being poured: Cantillon, De Dolle, De La Senne, to name but a few. Hundreds of others stock the fridges, while the taproom will soon have its own “blendery” — the first of its kind in Britain.

Beer Merchants Tap [Official Photo]

Howling Hops Brewery and Tank Bar

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From the line of massive steel tanks behind Howling Hops’ Hackney Wick bar, beers (both the brewery’s core and seasonal) are served unpasteurised straight from tank to tankard without touching a keg, can, or bottle on the way. Clearly, visitors don’t hold back — in the late evenings, the taproom erupts into a disco of sorts, with limb-throwing patrons all too willing to get involved. Until nightclubs start serving their own lemon goses and US-hopped pale ales, this is the next best thing.

Earl of Essex

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Sour power rules at the Earl of Essex. In a world where aged, tart and spontaneously fermented beers — like your lambics and gueuze — are rare, this Angel pub has them in abundance. As such, the Earl of Essex befits, but doesn’t feel exclusive to, the more adventurous drinker.

The Three Johns

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Angel’s nightlife is a heavy hitter, and the Three Johns is a big reason why. It’s open until 1am at the weekend, and that means the pub’s as loud as it is impenetrable on a Friday night, so if you’re hoping to enjoy a quiet pint of Warpigs’ IPA or Anspach & Hobday’s New World Gose, best visit when the rest of N1 isn’t.

Mother Kelly's Bottle Shop and Tap Room

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Mother Kelly’s wall of fridges is a beautiful thing. Six of them, shoulder to shoulder, shelves full of anything from Amundsen to Wild Beer Co. Pair that with 23 taps on constant rotation, and it’s fair to say this tap room has one of the most extensive beer ranges in London.

The Old Fountain

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This two-time CAMRA award-winner just outside Old Street Tube features a list of 20-odd keg and cask beers from some of the best brewers in the country. Dark Star, Tiny Rebel, Siren, Kernel and Redemption are often well-represented on the bar top.

The Euston Tap

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Standing so close to the station, the Euston Tap has blessed many a waiting commuter with some of the world’s best in modern beer. Until recently, the premises was split between the Euston Tap and, on the opposite side of the road, the Cider Tap. But the Cider Tap has been rehashed as the “East Lodge”, bringing to the table an extra 20 draught beer lines, in addition to the West Lodge’s 28. Spoilt for choice, much?

Adam Bruderer

The Harp

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Hanging baskets, leadlight windows and a collage of pump clips adorn this West End Fuller’s pub. Yes, it’s traditional, indeed iconic, through and through. And, with ten hand-drawn beers on tap, is certainly one of the best places to take your favourite cask ale fan.

Hugh Thomas

The Rake

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Ten years ago, owners of the Rake were told the pub wouldn’t last its first Christmas. Now, it’s easily one of the top drinking holes in the London Bridge area, with ten beers on draught, and 130 bottles and cans in the fridge. The shoebox-sized bar has recently been renovated, though its trademark wall of visiting brewers’ signatures has persisted.

Brew by Numbers

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Tiptoe up to anyone who knows the UK beer scene, ask for their top four London breweries, and BBNo is more than likely to be up there. Much of the brewery’s philosophy is about exploring traditional Belgian brews, like saisons, tripels and blondes, though their fresh and juicy IPAs and pale ales seem to prove more popular at their tap room.

Fourpure Brewing Co. Tap Room

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Fourpure’s location at the back of a fairly unlovely trading estate would be — otherwise — the last place you’d choose to spend a Saturday afternoon. However, read the tap list on the monitor behind the bar, and you’ll know you’re in the right place. The bar carries 16 lines, dispensing the brewery’s core range, many more of their somewhat leftfield beers, and the odd guest draught.

The Greenwich Union

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This is a Meantime pub so, as you’d expect, the brewery’s frontline beers are on most of the taps. But once you get chatting to the staff, they’re more interested in finding something you’d like, Meantime or not. Indeed, the pub’s beer menu is a welcome distraction from London’s usual: five pages’ worth of Trappists, wheat and abbey beers, plus a fridge full of lambic and gueuze.

Stormbird

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No one quite knows how it’s done, but Camberwell pub Stormbird manages to serve up quality pints of cask beer — we’re talking Dark Star, Marble Brewery, Five Points et al — for £3 a go. Their 16 draft lines are well priced too — sometimes under a fiver.

Hop Burns & Black

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Granted, there are pubs with more room to manoeuvre than beer shop and “tasting room” HB&B. But then, not many pubs offer the kinds of nectar every beer hound wants to get her sticky paws on. Beers such as Cloudwater’s DIPL, Gypsy Hill and DEYA’s Ramblers, and the very small batch Mill’s Brewing & Oliver’s Cider Foxbic.

Ghost Whale

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For a bottle shop barely a year young, Brixton-based Ghost Whale has a remarkable roster fresh-off-the-canning-line beer from around the world, including barleywines from Oklahoma aged in cognac barrels, to pink peppercorn and raspberry sours from Somerset. Much thought has been spared for the drinker, as on the website the operators painstakingly maintain a full rundown of the constantly rotating 416 (as it currently stands) beers on the shelves.

Ghost Whale [Official Photo]

Beavertown Brewery

Jonathan Fisher

One of London’s favourite craft breweries is, at the weekend, also one of London’s busiest. Possibly because the tap room’s only open six hours a week, and as well as being the cheapest venue to find a pint of Neck Oil, Gamma Ray or Lupuloid, is the best place to drink Beavertown one-offs and seasonals, such as their DIPA collaboration with Lervig, at £2.50 a half.

Jonathan Fisher

Wild Card Tap Bar

Walthamstow’s Wild Card do easily one of the best IPAs in the capital, and on (almost) any given Saturday, this amber spicy caramel number is right here, flowing from the taps. Bear in mind this is no massive operation, so quantity isn’t oceanic, but there’s a certain consistency that resonates throughout their five core beers.

The Duke's Head

Hugh Thomas

The Duke’s Head in Highgate has a solid reputation for hosting street-food residencies, but it’s worth visiting for the beer, as much as who’s in the kitchen. The bar has 20 lines, all from homegrown British brewers, with a cask-keg balance (10 a piece) that’ll keep both real ale lovers and West Coast hop hunters happy.

Hugh Thomas

The Cock Tavern

Ewan Munro

The Cock Tavern doesn’t just serve beer — it lives and breathes it. Local brewery Howling Hops started life in the pub’s basement, and a fair few homebrewers have been known to make use of the space, too. Other than that, there’s nothing complicated about it: The Cock is simply a good pub with good beer.

Ewan Munro

Beer Merchants Tap

Beer Merchants Tap [Official Photo]

Beer Merchants have distributed on behalf of European breweries ­— Belgian ones especially ­— for the past 30 years. That history has culminated in a substantial taproom around the corner from Hackney Wick Overground station, from where beers that are a challenge to find on draught elsewhere are being poured: Cantillon, De Dolle, De La Senne, to name but a few. Hundreds of others stock the fridges, while the taproom will soon have its own “blendery” — the first of its kind in Britain.

Beer Merchants Tap [Official Photo]

Howling Hops Brewery and Tank Bar

From the line of massive steel tanks behind Howling Hops’ Hackney Wick bar, beers (both the brewery’s core and seasonal) are served unpasteurised straight from tank to tankard without touching a keg, can, or bottle on the way. Clearly, visitors don’t hold back — in the late evenings, the taproom erupts into a disco of sorts, with limb-throwing patrons all too willing to get involved. Until nightclubs start serving their own lemon goses and US-hopped pale ales, this is the next best thing.

Earl of Essex

Sour power rules at the Earl of Essex. In a world where aged, tart and spontaneously fermented beers — like your lambics and gueuze — are rare, this Angel pub has them in abundance. As such, the Earl of Essex befits, but doesn’t feel exclusive to, the more adventurous drinker.

The Three Johns

Angel’s nightlife is a heavy hitter, and the Three Johns is a big reason why. It’s open until 1am at the weekend, and that means the pub’s as loud as it is impenetrable on a Friday night, so if you’re hoping to enjoy a quiet pint of Warpigs’ IPA or Anspach & Hobday’s New World Gose, best visit when the rest of N1 isn’t.

Mother Kelly's Bottle Shop and Tap Room

Mother Kelly’s wall of fridges is a beautiful thing. Six of them, shoulder to shoulder, shelves full of anything from Amundsen to Wild Beer Co. Pair that with 23 taps on constant rotation, and it’s fair to say this tap room has one of the most extensive beer ranges in London.

The Old Fountain

This two-time CAMRA award-winner just outside Old Street Tube features a list of 20-odd keg and cask beers from some of the best brewers in the country. Dark Star, Tiny Rebel, Siren, Kernel and Redemption are often well-represented on the bar top.

The Euston Tap

Adam Bruderer

Standing so close to the station, the Euston Tap has blessed many a waiting commuter with some of the world’s best in modern beer. Until recently, the premises was split between the Euston Tap and, on the opposite side of the road, the Cider Tap. But the Cider Tap has been rehashed as the “East Lodge”, bringing to the table an extra 20 draught beer lines, in addition to the West Lodge’s 28. Spoilt for choice, much?

Adam Bruderer

The Harp

Hugh Thomas

Hanging baskets, leadlight windows and a collage of pump clips adorn this West End Fuller’s pub. Yes, it’s traditional, indeed iconic, through and through. And, with ten hand-drawn beers on tap, is certainly one of the best places to take your favourite cask ale fan.

Hugh Thomas

The Rake

Ten years ago, owners of the Rake were told the pub wouldn’t last its first Christmas. Now, it’s easily one of the top drinking holes in the London Bridge area, with ten beers on draught, and 130 bottles and cans in the fridge. The shoebox-sized bar has recently been renovated, though its trademark wall of visiting brewers’ signatures has persisted.