The pub scene is thriving in London right now, but with such a proliferation of new craft bars, gastro ventures and costly refurbishments, how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
Well, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten real ale pubs in London to help you navigate the mire. To be clear, we’re not talking about brewery-owned gems or the many bars masquerading as real ale pubs. We’re talking about independent tap rooms with a no-frills focus on serving a good variety of quality ale. Log fires and beer menus.
If you end up in a pub full of overweight bearded men wearing braces and belching freely, that means you’ve found the right place.
The Market Porter
The Market Porter embodies the spirit of Borough Market and historic London in a way that few other pubs can. So much so that the pub featured as the ‘Third Hand Book Emporium’ in ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ and was situated next to ‘The Leaky Cauldron’. The beer choice is vast, varied and well considered, with a compelling chalk board of ales from around the country to enjoy.
The Sussex Arms is a year-round real ale festival. A stone’s throw away from Twickenham Green the pub has log fires for the winter and an ample beer garden for the summer months. As well as serving in excess of 15 real ales on tap, there is also a splendid food menu for bar snacks and more substantial meals as well as a traditional chippy across the road.
Housed in one of two Grade II-listed mausoleums at the entrance to London Euston station, the Tap is a condensed beer emporium with 27 lines of draught beer available from all over the World. 19 of these lines are kegged beers and eight are lines for cask ales with a significant bottle offering to boot. Across the road The Cider House completes the Victorian gatehouse duo with eight keg ciders on draught and a large selection of bottled cider.
With 18 handpulls full of lovely ale and cider and a fridge full of lovely meat, the Southampton Arms is a dream for the real ale aficionado. The pub is one of (perhaps the) only dedicated ale and cider house in London to sell only beers and ciders from small independent breweries in the UK, so if you fancy something new this is certainly worth checking out.
The Harp is the most central and perhaps the most touristy of the pubs listed, but retains its charm with tap handles plastered across the roof of the bar and a choice of 10 hand-pumps ales on offer. There’s no TV, no jukebox, no pretence – just great beer and good old conversation.
The Taproom is all about the beer. With no affiliation or ties to any breweries, they stock a wide sample of ales from around the country and the rest of the World. Eight gravity, four hand pulls, seven keg lines and over 50 bottle beers should keep you well watered, and if you find yourself feeling a bit peckish they serve pizzas made to order.
Moments away from London Euston Station Bree Louise is another year-round beer festival offering 17 ales at any time, six on the pump and 11 on gravity dispense. North London CAMRA’s Pub of the Year in 2009 and 2010 the pub houses over 100 International Whiskies and 30 Tequilas to complement its beer selection, as well as serving award winning homemade pies.
Founded in 2009 with the intention of bringing together the best breweries from UK and beyond, CASK combines a good ale selection with a comfortable and inviting environment. The bottom line is that any pub that has a ‘please ask for a beer menu’ sign above the bar is worth visiting. Fact.
Reasonable priced, accessible and spacious, the Priory Arms is a great beer pub that is well regarded for its varied British cask ales, exciting world beers and hearty food. With theatre/performance space upstairs there’s also plenty of entertainment.
If you don’t mind being within earshot of disgruntled old-school Guardian hacks and other media types then the Betsey Trotwood is certainly a pub worth visiting. Built over London’s first Tube line there’s a wide selection of ales and home-made comfort food as well as a good bit of live music and poetry.