Southwark Pub Walk: a potted history

The Anchor Brewhouse, Tower Bridge, London.

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.

UPDATE 20/09/2014: It had­n’t occured to us back in Decem­ber last year, but under­tak­ing this crawl while read­ing Brew Bri­tan­nia would be a good way to spend an after­noon. We’ve added notes on which chap­ters in the book ref­er­ence which pubs.

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. (Chap­ter 1)

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. (Chap­ter 12)

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.) (Chap­ter 5)

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. (Chap­ter 7)

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. (Chap­ter 2; and espe­cial­ly the Epi­logue!)

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.)

OPTIONALwe’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.

UPDATE 04/07/2014: see also our failed attempt at the Bermond­sey Beer Mile which led us on a crawl of pubs around Tow­er Bridge.

13 thoughts on “Southwark Pub Walk: a potted history”

  1. Also, your route past the end of Druid street could include a men­tion of Ker­nel and the clus­ter of New Lon­don Brew­ers, although get­ting to there whilst they were still open on this route would be a stretch 😉

    Sec­ond­ed on Dean Swift over Draft House as pubs, but think DH as a “chain” are inter­est­ing…

      1. If you are adding brew­eries, Brew by Num­bers are even clos­er to Tow­er Bridge than the Ker­nel, and their beer is stun­ning. Their brew­ery tap opens lat­er than the Ker­nel as well. Par­ti­zan fur­ther east again. It is now the­o­ret­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble to do a brew­ery tap crawl from Tow­er Bridge to Green­wich, and nev­er be more than 5 minute brisk walk from the next tap.

  2. If you fin­ish north of the riv­er, the Pelt Trad­er in Can­non Street is an excel­lent exam­ple of a mod­ern craft beer bar – good piz­za rtoo if you’re peck­ish after your stroll. I’ve tried to like the Draft House in Seething Lane, I real­ly have, but on all three occa­sions I’ve been the cask has been served freez­ing cold, and then when its warmed up a bit revealed itself to be severe­ly lack­ing in con­di­tion or vine­gary. To be fair, they’ve swapped them each time but they should­n’t have been on sale in that con­di­tion in the first place. A shame because the city could real­ly do with a few more good places for beer.

    1. I can con­firm the Draft House in Seething Lane is serv­ing beer in pret­ty good for Lon­don con­di­tion at sen­si­ble (not freez­ing) tem­per­a­tures. Prob­a­bly about 13C. I think there is a lack of selec­tive­ness in the beers that may seem to some to be cel­lar flaws which aren’t. . In oth­er words,bad beers. See my blog soon.

      As for Tow­er Bridge, I have yet to pluck up the courage as cask has been atro­cious in the past. I will soon though as.I’m hop­ing Char­lie has sort­ed it out by now.

      Your tour has a spe­cif­ic point of course, but you’d need a good drink after some of the pubs!

  3. No men­tion of The Mar­ket Porter ?
    I know it’s not to every­one’s taste but they’ve been offer­ing a wide vari­ety of real ales long before it became trendy to do so in South­wark.

    1. It does­n’t real­ly fit into the theme of the crawl – it came along too late to be part of the ‘real ale rev­o­lu­tion’, and isn’t oth­er­wise his­tor­i­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant.

      If this was a straight up guide to where to drink in South­wark, we’d have men­tioned it, though.

    1. Will add that and the Anchor Tap as ‘option­als’. (And a ‘gold­en age of British brew­ing’ walk­ing map (or app?) might not be a bad idea.)

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