The Best Craft Breweries in London and Where to Find Their Beer
Long gone are the days of shit lagers occupying every bar font in town, we are now smack bang in the middle of a craft beer revolution where our options to go out and drink trendy, tasty micro brews are so huge we need an article just like this to give us a starting point.
I’ve always found London to be a vast, confusing metropolis when trying to explore an area of culture new to me. Each borough can vary massively and it’s often hard to seek out what you are truly after. Stick to these breweries and drinking spots and you’ll have yourself a rock solid start into London’s craft breweing scene.
Five Points Brewery
Five points was started by, Edward Mason with their first brew getting racked in March of last year. Situated in Hackney, East London, Five Points have since grown exponentially releasing a strong line up of consistent beers with a distribution range reaching all over the country.
The brewery not only take extreme care in their beer but also have a big focus on giving back to the community. They’re a living wage employer, they run an apprenticeship scheme, they source their energy from 100% renewable sources and reinvest 5% of their profits into local charities and community projects.
Their beer is brilliant. Having first been introduced to Five Points last summer they are always a firm favorite when presented in bars local to myself. They produce 3 beers, Five Points Pale (4.4%), Hook Island Red (6%) and Railway Porter (4.8%) of which all are available in cask, keg and bottle offerings. An impressive feat by a brewery of this size.
The pale is a great choice and probably the brew you will see the most in London, however if you spot the Hook Island Red on keg, I cannot recommend it enough. It’s not often you come across a rye ale that’s this well balanced. Let alone a red, rye ale.
Where to Find the Beer
Five Points have a strong presence in their home area of Hackney with permanent lines being available at The Windsor Castle on Lower Clapton Road, The Three Crowns in Stoke Newington and Hand of Glory on Amhurst Road. They are also one of three London brewers featured at Oslo in Hackney Central and can frequently be found at The Cock Tavern on Mare Street, The Crooked Billet in Clapton, The Star of Bethnal Green on Bethnal Green Road, Pub on the Park in London Fields, Sebright Arms off Hackney Road, as well as The Old Blue Last and The Crown & Shuttle in Shoreditch and The Water Poet in Spitalfields.
That’s just East London. In the North, Five Points Pale is available permanently at The Bull & Last in Highgate and The Royal Albert in New Cross. If you fancy some Five Points at home you can pick up bottles from Sourced Market in St. Pancras Station, Bottle Apostle in Victoria Park and Borough Wines in Stoke Newington and on Wilton Way.
Keep an eye on their Twitter feed for news and info on their brand new brewery tours.
The Kernel Brewery
Inspired by owner, Evin O’Riordain’s trip to an American Brewery, he decided to take his home brewing venture to the next level. The Kernel was born. The Brewery is not just one of the most talked about breweries in London, but nation wide. Their success is down to the impeccable quality of brews coming out of the company with nothing leaving the site that is over 8 weeks old in a bid to keep the beer as fresh as possible. A faultless catalog consists of Pale Ales, IPAs as well as old fashioned London Stouts and Porters. The South-East based brewery feature weekly, brewery days titled, ‘Saturdays at the Kernel’ where the premises are open from 9am to 3pm with most of their beer on offer for purchase.
Picture Credit The Evening Brews
The Kernel host a wide variety of brews ranging from wine barrel aged sours to imperial brown stouts. Having won more than their fair share of awards over the past 4 years a great starting point would have to be the 7.3% Export Stout. Based on an original recipe from 1890, the dark, oily concoction boasts a rich, fruity, massive taste to be enjoyed only when the sun has receded fully and the winter weather takes it’s usual horrid turn.
Where to Find the Beer
It’d be hard not to find a bottle of Kernel beer in London. They are absolutely everywhere. A good starting point is their website which lists over 100 locations in the capital where you can enjoy their beer. Stumble across somewhere that looks as if they do at least half decent beer? They’ll probably have it. A solid choice of course would be their ‘Saturdays at the Kernel’ events hosted weekly at, Arch 11 Dockley Road Industrial Estate, London SE16 3SF. More info here.
The following places are pretty much guaranteed to have some Kernel on draught, The Cock Tavern E8, The Fox E8, Stormbird SE5, The Dean Swift SE1, The Old Red Cow EC1, Craft Beer Co (various sites), Holborn Whippet, Euston Tap and Old Fountain EC1.
Partizan Brewery are without a doubt the best looking craft breweries in London. Each label design is illustrated by the highly talented, Alec Doherty resulting in one of the most uniquely branded ranges of beer on the market.
Partizan is fronted by Andy Smith, an avid home brewer from Leeds who since went on to work with Redemption refining his art until he was offered an old brew kit from The Kernel, free of charge to really start to get his brew on. Partizan is situated just a 10 minute walk down the road from The Kernel Brewery in South East London and with both breweries having a close relationship and both having open days on Saturday, where better to start your craft beer tour of the capital?
Partizan are well known for their Saison beer which has been brewed in a variety of styles with lemongrass, orange, coriander and sage being featured of the past. Their pale ale featuring cascade and centinnial hops is a great starting point for someone new to the brewery but my personal favorite has to be the stout. It’s an old school London style stout coming in at 8.2%. It’s like petrol. Rich and warming with a lingering roasty finish, it’s an experience to say the least.
Where to Find the Beer
As with a lot of the other breweries featured here, Partizan run a brewery bar every Saturday which is open from 11am-5pm and is usually ran by Andy himself. All of their latest beers are on offer to buy in bottles as well as artwork by Alec.
If you fancy heading out to a bar for a bit of Partizan you can find them regularly at CASK on Charlwood St, Cafe OTO at Ashwin St and Look Mum, No Hands! on Old St.
Beavertown Brewery was set up by Logan Plant and Byron Knight towards the tail end of 2011 in the kitchen of Duke’s Brew and Que in Hackney. After a few years of brewing in a kitchen opposite two huge BBQ smokers, the team moved out to Fish Island in 2013 to a dedicated brew site with 14 brew spaces averaging 6-8 brews a week. Nice. 2014 brings even more big news for the Beavertown lads as they orchestrate their move from Hackney to their 3rd site in Tottenham Hale boasting an impressive 30 barrel brew kit and a canning line. Very exciting.
Beavertown’s core range consists of 8-Ball (Rye IPA 6.2%), Black Betty (Black IPA 7.4%), Gamma Ray (APA 5.4%), Neck Oil (Black Country Pale Ale 4.3%) and Smog Rocket (Smoked Porter 5.4%).
If I had to go for one out of the core range it would have to be the 8-Ball. Another brilliant London produced rye beer that pushes the limits all the way. Aptly named after the old pool balls that were used to weigh down the hop sack whilst brewing, the 6.2% brew is dark and golden in appearance with a fruity aroma and notes of pine. A must try.
Keep an eye out for Beavertown’s “Alpha” range which utilises their smaller brew equipment to experiment with new ideas and recipes.
Where to Find the Beer
Beavertown are well stocked in bottle shops all over London with some of the highlights being Sourced Market at St Pancras Station, City Beverage Co on Old Street, Hoxton and Unpackaged Store on Richmond Road, Hackney.
To enjoy Beavertown out of the comfort of your own home, the best place to start would have to be their birthplace at Duke’s Brew and Que on Downham Road. Get stuck into some bbq and some beaver. Beard to Tail in Shoreditch, Caravan in Kings Cross and The Black Heart in Camden are all fantastic eateries also featuring Beavertown brews on offer.
Brew Dog Shoreditch, The North Pole Pub on New North Road and the Pembury Tavern are all safe bets too.
What started as an idea over a few pints at the then Hive Bar has since catapulted avid home brewers Jez and Mike to being a prime fixture on the map of London’s best craft breweries. Joined by head brewer Dominic the idea was a simple one, “make beers that we wanted to drink.”
The guys at Brixton Brewery deliver their beers by foot to a range of thirsty bars around the area and although they don’t quite have their own tap room yet, the brewery is open Saturday’s 12-4 or of course by appointment.
Brixton’s core range consists of Windrush Stout (5%), Reliance Pale Ale (4.2%), Effra Ale (4.5%) and their Electric IPA (6.5%). Jez recommends the IPA for anyone new to the brewery, a punchy, tropical number packed with Amarillo hops. If that sounds a bit too fruity for you, the Effra Ale has been flying out. A great session ale with plenty of aroma hops adding to it’s complexity.
Where to Find the Beer
Craft Beer Co. and The Elm Park Tavern are the best starting points for a bit of Brixton in… Brixton. The Craft Beer Co. is just down the road from the brewery itself and coined as the Brixton Tap Room by the brewers themselves. As the brewery are in the process of acquiring more fermenters, expect to see their offerings on a much larger scale on taps around London.
To pick up bottles you can head on over to Brixton Cornercopia, House of Bottles, Market Row Wines or Cannon and Cannon all in Brixton. Sourced Market in St. Pancras, Dvine Cellars in Clapham North, City Beverage Company on Old St. and Kris Wines on York St are also good choices.