Ten years ago, with the range of beers they offer today, the Red Lion in Leytonstone or the Bull in Highgate would have been among the best pubs in London. Now, while certainly way better than run-of-the-mill, they merely count as friendly neighbourhood craft beer bars.
That’s right: every neighbourhood in London now seems to have a craft beer bar and many (like the Bull) are also brewing. Everywhere you look, there are enamel signs advertising Orval and glowing neon Brooklyn Brewery logos. These days, you’re never more than a bus ride from a pint of Dark Star or a Camden Helles.
These kinds of places seem (thank God) to be replacing the kind of ‘style bars’ or ersatz ‘gastropubs’ which were everywhere until recently and which had snobbery without the saving grace of exciting beer. They were the kinds of places where you would be charged a fiver for a pint of stale Erdinger wheat beer or four quid for a pint of UK-brewed San Miguel; now, for that money, you get beers that are (arguably) worth the asking price.
There’s more detail on each of these pubs to follow in subsequent posts. Suffice to say we liked them all the more for their localness: drinking in them didn’t feel like a trip to Beerworld, Britain’s newest theme park.