When visitors to the UK ask us where to go in London for a pint, our default answer for a while has been “Manchester, York, Leeds, Sheffield…” but things are looking up and we think the time has come for us to put that advice to bed. London is no longer a beer desert.
Back in 2007, around the time this blog started, we were chatting over a pint (as per) and bemoaning the lack of breweries in London. Back then, Young’s having just evacuated the city, there were only two: Fuller’s and Meantime.
More beer geek pubs and bars
When The Pembury Tavern reopened in Hackney in 2006, a short train or bus ride from Walthamstow, we were ecstatic. It had multiple guest ales and a range of bottled beer from Belgium and Germany — what a find!
Now, although we still have a soft spot for the old place, it’s been overtaken, as places like the Rake, Cask, The Craft Beer Company, the Euston Tap, Mason and Taylor and Tap East open at a rate we can’t keep up with on our rare visits from Cornwall to the big city.
Good beer in ordinary local pubs
In 2006, our local in Walthamstow, the Nags Head, had (as far as we can recall) two cask ales which were not always in good condition. Even so, it was the best pub around by far.
On our most recent visit, a couple of weeks ago, the number of pumps had reached six, all in perfect condition, and Chimay had popped up in the fridge. This is an average pub, not a beer geek destination. And, what’s more, within a ten minute walk, there are now several other pubs offering a decent selection of interesting beer — namely the Rose and Crown on Hoe Street and the William IV in Leyton.
Pubs with thoughtful landlords and decent beer are beginning to become almost commonplace. The best ones seem to be thriving, too, despite the economy.
Appreciation of London’s brewing heritage
In 2006, Meantime (with dodgy IPA and porter histories for reference) were ploughing a lonely furrow in honouring London’s brewing tradition with attempts at historical recipes. Yes, Pitfield were doing something similar, but reclusively.
Now, Fuller’s are brewing an excellent IPA; a fantastic porter; and rummaging in their archives for old recipes to bring back to life. The ubiquitous Truman’s brand has been revived (we’ll see how that works out). And, finally, from Bedfordshire comes the news that Courage Imperial Stout is also to reappear on our shelves. UPDATE: and Kernel, of course, whose range of historically inspired brews is wowing the blogoshire.
So, things are looking up for London.