01/05/2020 Check out some of the best and brightest taprooms of London. Once very simple spaces, have become far more sophisticated and diverse for beer lovers.
London’s craft-beer revolution started just over 10 years’ ago, in Bermondsey. There were breweries in London before then, of course, and some would have considered themselves craft brewers, but it was the example of The Kernel, which brought together American hops and an appreciation for the city’s brewing heritage, that really changed things.
For a number of years, The Kernel opened a taproom space in its brewery on Saturdays, only closing in 2016 when Bermondsey’s Beer Mile became overwhelmingly popular. Now they’re opened a new taproom, a few doors down from the brewery in Spa Terminus, Bermondsey. It’s part of a new breed of London taprooms that don’t just seek to be temporary spaces designed solely for weekend trade.
A number of breweries are raising the taproom standard across the capital, but particularly in East and South London. These are often quite elegant spaces, where money (some of it multinational money) has been spent on fittings and furnishings, so that even those who aren’t super-keen on IPA will feel at home. With the forthcoming opening of Beavertown’s new taproom in Enfield and the transformation of Anspach and Hobday’s former Bermondsey brewery into a permanent taproom space, it’s a movement that is picking up momentum. Here’s five of the most interesting new taprooms in London:
For Music Lovers: Signature Brew
Signature has always been a bit different. Founded in 2011 by pals Tom Bott and Sam McGregor, the aim was to improve the quality of beer available at gig venues - to replace the plastic pint of warm multinational lager with something a bit more interesting. They’ve had some success in that crusade by producing a huge variety of collaboration beers with acts like Mogwai and Alt-J, but even more in making themselves a crucial part of London’s beer scene.
Physically, that means not one but two taprooms: one in Haggerston, in a railway arch next to the Regent’s Canal, and the other at the brewery in Walthamstow. The pair are united by music: the 12 microphone-shaped taps and, of course, regular live music. Fermentation vessels provide the backdrop in Walthamstow; the irresistible curved brick wall and ceiling of the archway, in Haggerston.
For Food Lovers: The Kernel
The Kernel has always been associated with London’s wider food scene. Evin O'Riordain, founder and owner, used to work at Neal’s Yard Dairy, and - in the very early days - The Kernel’s beers were distributed with their cheese deliveries. Now the connection comes with The Kernel’s position in Spa Terminus, where a number of London’s most impressive small food start-ups can be found, from The Little Bread Pedlar to the Butchery.
The bar itself is as stripped-back and simple as the brewery’s iconic brown bottle labels. There’s the same commitment to quality: Mauritz Borg, one of the city’s most knowledgeable beer servers, is manager here, and brown ales, export stouts and the magnificent Bière de Saison series sit alongside pale ales and IPAs.
For Traditionalists: Five Points
Five Points is based in the heart of Hackney, but - for all that borough’s sometimes frantic modern energy - its instincts are classical. Take a look at the beers it makes. There’s Railway Porter, a superb coal-dark, licorice-tinged beer, and Best Bitter, which is made with England’s most resolutely traditional hops: Fuggle, grown deep in the hop county, Kent.
And then there’s the taproom - not an archway, but a beautiful pub. The Pembury Tavern is opposite the brewery, and - with its profusion of tiles, dark wood and hot-red stools - it’s a perfect amalgamation of ancient and modern. Drinking a pint of Five Points Best here is one of London beer’s great experiences.
For Travellers: Fourpure
Fourpure’s founders Dan and Tom Lowe always intended the brewery to be a celebration of travel, so it’s perhaps no surprise that - having sold to multinational Kirin - Dan took that literally, flying away in mid-2019. What they built, though, remains, and the best place to get a feel for it is at the brewery’s impressive ‘Basecamp’ taproom in Bermondsey.
£500,000 was spent on an industrial unit that now boasts 43 taps on a long horseshoe bar, a 10ft ‘departure lounge’ mural painted by artist Mercy Eade and a wide variety of seating, plus food from Hot Dog specialists Oh My Dog!. It’s the perfect place to get away from it all.
For the Independent-Minded: Forest Road
Forest Road’s owner, Pete Brown, a straight-talking Bostonian, is not happy with how multinational money has affected London’s beer scene in recent years, and he’s not afraid to say so. There’s an image of a raised middle finger on the wall at the taproom in E8, which reflects this, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek way.
These are exciting times for Forest Road: Brown has recently bought a brewery in south London, and a brewhouse from one of California’s most iconic modern breweries, Russian River, to go in it. There’s a lot more Forest Road beer in London’s near future, and this is the best place to enjoy it.