London's best taprooms
3 April 2017, By Jonny Garrett
One of the best things about having over 80 craft breweries in London is that, with a few exceptions, it means we have about 80 extra bars too, as most of them open their doors at peak times to allow avid drinkers a look at the kit and a few beers from the source. It's not just a cash or publicity stunt either. Drinking fresh beer is just about the easiest way to guarantee a good pint, and drinking right at the source pretty much guarantees it. In some cases the beer literally travels metres from tank to tap, reducing the chance of it being oxidised, light stuck or subjected to hot temperatures – all enemies of delicious beer.
So if you love a beer and want to taste it as the brewer intended, or want to see where your favourite brews are made, taprooms are a fantastic way to do so – all while supporting the brewery and getting the best quality beer possible. There are our London favourites, but there are dozens more – honourable shout outs go to Kernel and Weird Beard when they open, the entire Bermondsey Beer Mile, and Gipsy Hill in the summer.
Go for quiet days and loud nights, great fresh beer and food.
Claiming to be the UK’s first tank Bar, Howling Hops is unlike any other tap room in London. The brewery itself is tucked around the corner on the way to the loos, hidden by a wall of floor-to-ceiling tanks from which the bar staff pour the beer. Each tank is filled straight from the brewery with beers produced just metres away. The benefit of this over kegging or casking is that the liquid is never exposed to light or oxygen, which can taint the beer. As a result, it’s as fresh tasting and pure as it can be – and you really taste the difference.
Tanks aside, the beer being brewed at Howling Hops is some of the best in London. It has come a long way since its days as a dingy homebrew kit in the basement of Hackney’s Cock Tavern. Their pales punch well above their weight, while their hop-rotating IPA is a heavyweight West Coaster. They also brew plenty of delicious experimentals, from their Double Chocolate Coffee Toffee Vanilla Milk Porter to their cheek puckering Cherry Gose.
As a space for drinking it doesn’t get much better. Arrive early and you’re guaranteed a seat at the long picnic tables that line the way to the bar. Hold on to it til evening and the DJ strikes up to start the party. There’s delicious barbecue food served from a hatch and a second bar serving things called “cocktails” (no idea either).
Brew By Numbers
Great for people watching tasting some of the UK’s most exciting styles
By far the smallest tap, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in atmosphere. True, towards to the end of the day the Bermondsey Beer Mile spots can look as much like a warzone as they do a taproom but an early seat at Brew By Numbers means access to some of the best East Coast inspired pale ales and IPAs in the country – soft, fruity, hazy – as well as some mixed ferments and delicious Belgian style beers too. As a midway point on the mile it’s great for people watching, as the drinkers are just getting into their stride. We’ve heard all kinds of sordid tales (our favourite being the stag who was chained to a dwarf – both were thrown out) but sat safely at a table with a beer, it makes for very entertaining viewing.
Made for lazy Saturdays of beer drinking and pizza eating right by the water.
Crate lost its way for a little while but it is well and truly flying again. It was one of the first taprooms in London, opening its doors just in time for the Olympics over the canal in Stratford. From the word go, their crispy pizzas and hop-forward cask and keg beer sold out on a daily basis. For the first few days, the amount of pizza they had to cook doubled each time they opened.
The pizza has always been great but for a few years the beer suffered. The quality dipped, some got contracted out, and many of the beer lovers either went elsewhere to started buying the (admittedly excellent) beers from other breweries on offer. But the addition of some new, excitable brewers has changed everything. Their single hop pales are now absolute juice bombs, and they even have a mixed fermentation project going.
As a place to drink it’s amazing on a summer day if you can get a seat by the canal, but it can get very busy indeed. It’s worth waiting and hovering though because once you’re settled in it’s very difficult to leave.
Buzzing but relaxed with some of the best beers in the UK, as fresh as they’ll ever be.
Despite its size and professionalism, Beavertown still has one of the most chaotic and fun taprooms. You can still sit among the fermenters while you sip your beers – a call back to the halcyon days when visiting a brewery tap meant flouting all the health and safety rules. They also have plenty of outside space so when the sun comes out, people sprawl across the estate in search of rays.
Obviously some of the beers are second to none in the UK, and there is always some awesome street food on hand for those that decide they need to re-line their stomachs. The fridges are also lined with plenty of rarities to take home and the merch stand could relieve you of a few bob too.