As luck would have it, quite a few key sites in the story of ‘the strange rebirth of British beer’ happen to be clustered together in the Southwark area of London, making for a perfect history walk with added boozing.
The walking route we have suggested below will take you past the following locations:
1. Ye Olde Watling — City of London headquarters of the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, now a cosy Nicholson’s chain pub.
2. The Rake — the first really notable ‘craft beer’ bar in London, and still a great place to find good, or at least interesting, beer.
3. Becky’s Dive Bar – perhaps the first really famous ‘beer exhibition’; now one of two pubs calling themselves the Wheatsheaf, in the basement of the old Hop Exchange building. (Beer pretty rotten on our last visit.)
4. The Goose & Firkin — the first of David Bruce’s Firkin pubs which opened in 1979, now a Shepherd Neame pub called the Duke of York.,
5. The Royal Oak — a great pub selling beer from Harvey’s of Lewes, and a good opportunity to understand the conservative approach of family/regional brewers which weathered post-war takeover mania.
6. The Anchor Brewhouse — next to Tower Bridge, this is the site of the first Courage brewery which opened in 1787. Ceased brewing in the nineteen-eighties. A relic of the Big Six era in the heart of London.
7. The Tower Bridge Brewery (1981) — one of the first new London breweries of the ‘real ale revolution’, Simon Hosking’s Tower Bridge Brewery, occupied 218 Tower Bridge road for a short time in 1981. It closed in the same year. Hosking was a founder member of SIBA.
8. The Draft House — a good place to conclude this walk: one of the many new generation ‘craft beer’ focused pubs which followed in the wake of the Rake. We’ve never been, but we hear the beer is good. (UPDATE: see comments below — some people don’t rate the Draft House and suggest similar, better pubs nearby.)
OPTIONAL: we’ve also marked on the map The Hole in the Wall at Waterloo (an early cult CAMRA pub); the historic George Inn; the location of the Kernel Brewery (added in an update); and the site of the Barclay Perkins brewery on Park Street.
View Brew Britannia: the strange rebirth of British beer pub crawl in a larger map
Note: we’ve never had any trouble in Southwark, but, as ever, be aware of your surroundings when walking in parts of London you don’t know, especially after dark.