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Best London Pubs for Beer Nerds

I am going to London for four days in early April. I am looking for recommendation for good London pubs. I am a beer nerd so any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thanks

Posted by
1218 posts

What styles of beer do you like Tim? And what constitutes a good pub for you? - post and beam, bangers and mash, darts and dominoes, a throng of Millwall supporters, cockles and mussels, a scrap with a Ray Winstone type at closing time?

Posted by
1175 posts

Hi, I really don't know anything about beer but I do know I took the London walks pub crawl in Hampstead and loved the walk and the three pubs they took us to. You may find that fun and find beer you like. One pub that seems very popular is the Holly Bush and it was very nice. I like the Counting House and there are vidoes on YouTube for free on pubs and beers. SunnyinLondon has some great free videos on pubs to go to. I also went to the Victoria Pub which was very nice and Cross Keys.

Posted by
5843 posts

I would place pubs into a couple of categories.

First would be the historic places, for this, consider the Coach Inns, The George and The Olde Kings Head in Southwark, then Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, one of the oldest pubs in London. From there, you can pick any number of one to two hundred year old places with great character, these can be found on about every other block.

Some of these places you can also place into the category of freehouses, meaning they serve a variety of beers by multiple breweries, or those associated with a Brewery like Fuller's, Samuel Smith's, or Greene King. They Brewery pubs will serve for the most part only beers from those breweries, not to be overlooked, but if you are into variety, then no need to hit multiple Fuller's Pubs.

From there. consider major forms of drinks, from basic mainline lagers, to Microbrews, to traditional British Cask Ales, and worth mentioning, Ciders. All, of the interesting ones are much more available now than 10 years ago and in much more variety. Back then, one could observe that British beer suffered from a bit too much "sameness" and that was restricted to a narrow range of styles and tastes, good, but not spectacular. Now, there is a decent growth in microbrews and a much larger appreciation for cask ales.

If you want a decent array of cask ales and British beers, then hitting any random groups of pubs will yield a nice trip. If you want to push the edges a bit, then consider:

"The Harp" near Covent Garden, always a good selection of Cask Ales, Microbrews, and Ciders. Small but huge following.

"Brew Dog" This brewery has several pubs in London, great beers, known for pushing boundaries, plus they usually have other microbreweries on tap well.

"Temple Brew House" Mostly serve their own, but it is good stuff, plus a great atmosphere

"The Lyric" another great beer bar, as well as the "Old Red Cow" and the "Queens Head"

Posted by
118 posts

I can’t give you any personal recommendations, but my husband and I are interested in this sort of thing too, so I am interested in the replies you get.

So far he has picked out a place called The Black Prince. We are also taking a day trip to Oxford and high on the list is The Eagle and Child.

Our Airbnb is not close to downtown as I understand it and our host has recommended a place called Tamesis Dock.

Posted by
2018 posts

Here are some of our favorites: Blackfriars, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Grenadier, Counting House (already mentioned) and in addition, here's a link I like for suggestions. http://www.fancyapint.com
My husband a beer nerd also!

Posted by
239 posts

For the best quality beers, look at The Good Beer Guide, but some recommendations for the best kept and served English beers (why come all this way to drink anything else?) around central London are any of the Fullers 'ale and pie' houses, but especially the Old Bank of England and The Sanctuary House in either of which you'll get an excellent pint of London Pride (Fullers is the last of London's old brewers); The Kings Arms on Roupel Street; The Speaker on Great Peter Street; and The Queens Arms in Queens Gate Mews. Avoid Weatherspoons and Sam Smiths pubs--the beer is cheap but usually poor. Pubs in central London often have difficulty serving English beers at really top quality because the secondary fermentation, which happens in the pub cellar, takes effort and the sort of time they often don't have, so if you can go out slightly from the centre you'll have a better chance of hitting excellent beer purely chance, but the ones mentioned serve very good stuff.
In the south of England, the beer should be served with the glass full liquid--any head should be above the top of the glass, though a very small amount below that is usually acceptable (more for Guinness). Don't be afraid to ask for it to be topped up if you think it's short.

Posted by
7 posts

Gundersen, I am looking for authentic English cask ales. For the most part I try to drink locally to where I am when overseas. The one exception was when I found Westvletern in Munich. I don't really have a preferred beer style.

Posted by
2023 posts

Our favorites are The George Inn, Old Cheshire Cheese, Lamb and Flag and Grenadier. Near Grenadier is Nag's Head which is small and rather unique.

Posted by
4684 posts

The Euston Tap outside Euston railway station has a very wide range of British and foreign beers.

Posted by
27710 posts

Emma, are you a regular at Zeitgeist? The problem we run into at some of the Munich biergartens is that they make the Schweinshaxe too salty, especially for my wife, and it is a longish way to go for a dinner or lunch under the Chestnut trees. If Zeitgeist made a good Haxe that isn't too salty it might save us a trip. Do you know about the food there or just the liquids?

Posted by
3681 posts

Another vote for the serious and dedicated Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). It grew up about a half-century ago when tiny pubs in the traditional style were being absorbed by the big breweries. It steadfastly promotes such aspects as how the beer is served (either hand-pumped or driven by an electric motor; no gas propulsion.) Chains such as those tied to Fuller's, in part prompted by CAMRA, came to realized the economic value of hand-crafted products and these outfits have also greatly improved the food menus. One of my favorite Fuller pubs, especially for Sunday mid-day meals, is the Hereford Arms, a coupled of blocks from the Gloucester Road Tube stop. http://www.herefordarms.co.uk/

Blackfrier's, mentioned previously, is worth a visit for its unique décor, which helped save it from being plowed under by office tower promoters. https://www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/restaurants/london/theblackfriarblackfriarslondon

Posted by
88 posts

Fuller's does an excellent brewery tour with a tasting session afterwards.
When I went, all the tours were given by CAMRA members and they were quick to recommend pubs.
The brewery is in Chiswick. It is about a ten minute walk from the Turnham Green tube and right on the Thames and Thames walking path. It could also be on the way back from Kew Gardens and Hampden Court. There were also several historic riverside pubs nearby.
The tours were given almost hourly during the week, no week-ends. The tours were about an hour and the tasting lasted a bit longer, but seemed to be at the discretion of the guide.
You can reserve at a discount on their website.

Posted by
27710 posts

I love this thread. Teetotal I may be but I love pubs, and especially when they are historic or just plain beautiful.... or have particular specialities, such as asparagus at the National Trust owned Fleece Inn at the Cross in Bretforton near Evesham next to the Cotswolds (and their regular visits by Morris Men), or the tiles on the walls in The Blackfriar, or the flowers and lights and horses (dray, from time to time) at the Churchill, and so on.

Posted by
3 posts

Can Emma write a review page for all the London pubs she goes to? She's already provided more info than I've found in a few weeks of research.

Posted by
923 posts

Although a Yorkshire Brewery, I'm no fan of Sam Smiths either, but was pleasantly surprised to discover I could get a pint of their Dark Mild in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. I was moved to wonder why so many London pubs served Sam Smiths - I guess it's part of a large conglomerate these days, so is only nominally Yorkshire based.

The Princess Louise in Holborn is definitely worth a visit, if not solely for the ales on offer.

Ian

Posted by
239 posts

Ianandjulie, Sam Smiths is an odd brewery run by decidedly odd people--at one point a few years ago, they decided on a whim to stop selling real ales outside Yorkshire and it took determined efforts by their customers and publicans to change their minds. They have had a big presence in London for as long as I've been drinking in the capital (35 years). I think they expanded here in the 70s as the largest market in the UK. Thier draft beers are pretty poor, but they used to do a fabulous bottled beer called Old Brewery Pale. Sadly, it seems to be no more.

Posted by
1068 posts

Check out CAMRA: www.camra.org.uk/ - the website for the Campaign for Real Ale. They have lots of resources, including pub listings, beer ratings, and lists of events.

And a shout-out for a few random beers I really like:

  • John Smith's (I like the extra smooth - it's on nitrogen gas, like Guinness)
  • Windsor and Eton Breweries Eton Rifles
  • Windsor and Eton Breweries White Riot
Posted by
239 posts

Everyone has their own tastes of course, but avoid anything which purports to be an ale but is gassy--like John Smiths. They are usually terrible beers and represent what CAMRA has fought against for more than 40 years. The situation is made slightly more complicated by the recent arrival of so-called craft beers. These are (in the UK at least) gassed beers served under pressure and chilled. Some of them are not bad--Camden beers for example--others are poor. Their style is rarely English, they are usually heavily influenced by the American craft beer movement and so tend to be heavily hopped. You can get beers from around the UK but ask for London brewers as a start--the bar staff will be happy to help unless they're really busy. As already mentioned, Fullers is the last of London's old breweries. Their best beer is London Pride, which if served well is superb, and their main session beer (meaningyou can drink it for a whole session without too many ill effects) is Chiswick. Youngs was, until a few years ago, London's other brewers but thier beers are now brewed in Bedford. Their session beer is called Youngs Bitter, but is always called Ordinary--because their other main beer is called Special. It was a tradition in London to mix beers, particularly a draft and a bottled beer in the same glass. Until about 30 year ago it was common to hear people order a light and bitter, half a pint of bitter in a pint glass topped up with a bottle ofvlight ale. That's rare now, but you still sometimes get people in Youngs pubs ordering a Ramrod Special, that is half a pint of Special in a pint glass topped up with a bottle of Ramrod Ale. It's really nice. Give it a try if you get the chance, but it has to be a Youngs pub.

Posted by
1068 posts

Pete W - rats! I love John Smith's! Didn't realize it was one of the sorts of beer that CAMRA has been advocating against. Poo!!! That said, I love London Pride and always drink a ton of it (well, not a TON, but you get my drift) in London. :-)

And THAT said... pubs. To answer your actual question, I suggest:

  • The Old Bell Tavern at 95 Fleet Street, a Nicholson's pub. They always have interesting guest ales on the hand pumps, and it's steps from St. Paul's, so perfect for a stop-in if you've just been to the Cathedral. The building was used by Christopher Wren's stone masons - from their website: "The Old Bell Tavern has a long history, having been a licensed tavern for more than 300 years. Built by Sir Christopher Wren, it housed his masons who were rebuilding St Bride's Church after the Great Fire. Originally we could only be reached via an alleyway from Fleet Street and as such we have a long association with printing. One of the first printing presses operated here around 1500."

  • The Lamb and Flag is a Fuller's pub in Covent Garden (33 Rose Street). Dudley Moore used to drink there, apparently. Their pint of Guinness is amazing, and they serve a couple of ciders plus a good and interesting selection of craft lagers and seasonal ales (and London Pride, of course, being a Fuller's pub). It's excellently old and woody inside, as well.

  • New to me this year was the Cow, at 89 Westbourne Park Road in Notting Hill. Their seafood is exceptional! They have a very reasonably priced half dozen oysters + pint of Guinness special that really hits the spot, and are known for their excellent/posh nosh pub menu (and for having famous footballers stop in). I like the warmth and friendliness, and their sausage and mash is amazing. They have a decent selection of beers, as well.

  • The George Inn at 77 Borough High Street serves the Windsor and Eton Breweries beers I mentioned in my first answer. It's a Greene King pub and is SUPER cozy and atmospheric.

  • The Chelsea Pensioner at 358 Fulham Road also has a great rotating beer selection. Can't remember what I had here just 3 weeks ago, but it was good. And the pub is fun - not "ye olde" but modern yet homey.

  • Windsor and Eton selections are also served at the Dean Swift at 10 Gainsford Street. This is known to be a great pub for beer nerds, although full disclosure, I haven't visited yet.

  • Unlike many on this board, I was disappointed in the Olde Cheshire Cheese. They don't serve Guinness, and the bartenders seem a little... snappy, for lack of a better word. They know they're in a heavily touristed joint. It doesn't feel particularly friendly.

Finally... https://www.timeout.com/london/bars-pubs/londons-best-craft-beer-bars-and-pubs