Obviously, narrowing all the craft breweries in London down to a top five was an almost impossible task and has taken a lot of thought, consideration and, of course, sampling. Also, as the craft brewers of London are in a constant state of experimentation and development, this list will change from year to year, if not week-by-week. So, I’m not saying these are the five best craft beer breweries in London: I’m saying they’re my favourite five craft beer breweries in London, right now.
These breweries were chosen based on a shared passion for two things:
- Greater range of choice for the drinker
- Better tasting beer
Brew By Numbers
Brew by Numbers (or BBNo.) is a craft brewery literally founded on travel. Co-founders Tom and Dave met and bonded while travelling China and South East Asia, as well as on subsequent beer-fuelled tours in the great brewing nations of Europe. With these guys it’s all about flavour, and it’s that – along with their unique styling – that’s established them at the forefront of the London craft beer movement, where, more so than ever before, a huge emphasis is placed on taste.
Each beer is given a four digit number. The first two digits identify the beer style and the last two dictate the current batch. Take for example the “07|02″ – a strawberry and mango variation on their classic witbier. The only problem is they’ve only left themselves with 99 tries to get it right. Not that they seem to be having any trouble so far.
Weird Beard Brew Co.
There’s something dark and sinister about Weird Beard, from their black IPAs to their Black Perle milk stouts, and definitely something inherently rebellious. “No gimmicks, no crap” is their maxim and their refusal to compromise, to be “stereotyped” or typecast by beer style, has led to some exceptional experimental pieces of craft beer. Look out for the Bad Habit collaboration, Rye Smile rye beer, and Sadako – the flagship, indefinable, somewhat-sadomasochistic, Japanese-horror-inspired imperial stout that helped bring them early acclaim.
Meantime Brewing Company
Greenwich, SE10 (Moving soon)
There’s something properly London about Meantime, but most of all I love them for their experimental attitude, and because I love the kinds of beers they make – especially their wheat beers: the aptly named Wheat, their Weizen Double Bock and the Raspberry Wheat – the latter of which absolutely blew me away with its beautiful treacle colour, full fog of raspberry and wheat aromas, and the subsequent hallucinations… Their two-hour brewery tours are cheapest Mondays to Thursdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 12 noon and 2 p.m.
It all started in Leeds as “essentially just a way of having cheap beer around the house”. Now Partizan are dedicated to rare, historical and “lost” beers; beers from different cultures around the world; beers that they can’t find anywhere else. You can visit their brewery bar on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
They make all kinds of beers – many of which are well over the 10% mark – but to my mind where they really shine is in their Belgian dubbels, tripels and quads, as well as their English barley-wine, stout and porter…and no, it’s not just because I love this Leonard Cohen/Joan Baez number:
Siren Craft Brew
Sirens call the unsuspecting London drinker into the depths beyond the M25, to drown in a sea of incredible beer. Okay, so this one’s not technically in London – so sue me! It makes a nice day trip from the capital and their beers are to be found all over the city if you know where to look. I may’ve opened up a can of worms for myself though, as Berkshire alone is home to quite a few of my favourite breweries. (Bingham’s is another good one.)
Best known for their way-outside-the-box collaborations, such as a “smoked chipotle chilli and cherry milk porter” with Arizona Wilderness, “When the Light Gose Out” – a black gose with Stillwater Artisanal – and “Quadrophenia” – a quad with Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery, these wood-obsessed craft brewers have brought the world everything from barley-wines to braggots, Caribbean Chocolate Cake stout to “I Need A Vacation” – a Berliner Weisse infused with papaya, mango and lime. They’ve been voted ‘Best New Brewery in England’ two years running (and second ‘Best Brewery in the World’) by Ratebeer.com users.
Tempted? Go sink a Broken Dream (or even a Shattered Dream) over at their tap-room in Finchampstead.
P.S. Don’t forget Gosnell’s London Mead – that’s something very special too.
P.P.S. It also hasn’t escaped my notice just how many fantastic beers seem to be coming out of the North at the moment – especially Yorkshire, which, to be fair, is massive – so expect a few more posts in this series, focusing on my favourite craft breweries from the North, my native South-east, and, of course, Scotland and Ireland.