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Brew pubs in London?
August 28, 2007 12:21 AM   Subscribe

Are there any good brew pubs in London?

I've been to a lot of brew pubs (pubs that brew their own beer) in the western US, will be in London for a few days, and want to see what London has to offer. Are there brew pubs in London? If so, which ones are not to be missed? I particularly like stouts and non-hoppy ales (especially Belgian style). If there aren't actual brew pubs, where are the best places to drink the best beers? Bonus points for exceptional fish and chips. (Apologies if there is an inordinate amount of ignorance in this question. I haven't been outside of the Americas since I was 14).
posted by team lowkey to Travel & Transportation around London, England (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've never been to one personally but a quick google search turns up this and this

Personally, I don't think you're going to get good fish and chips in London. For a start, apparently southerners have ketchup with their chips instead of gravy!

But seriously, if you want the best choice of chip shops you need a sea-side town
posted by missmagenta at 1:15 AM on August 28, 2007


Huge Belgian beer selection at the Dovetail.
Great fish and chips at Fish Central.

Missmagenta is being fundamentalist about things. Yes, the fish and chips are best in the north, like the people... but you can get close, in London, if you look hard.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:32 AM on August 28, 2007


I wouldn't think in terms of "brew pubs" for good beer. They're pretty rare in the UK, but there are plenty of pubs selling good quality beer from small or large breweries.

The CAMRA Good Beer Guide book is probably the best guide to finding good beer in pubs.

If you absolutely can't buy it, Beer In The Evening is a reasonable online guide with user reviews.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:51 AM on August 28, 2007


I guess your choice of chip shop depends on whether you're looking for restaurant/pub fish and chips ie. Oven Chips & battered, baked fish with peas, tartar sauce and lemon or whether you want chip shop chips... deep fried and wrapped in newspaper paper.

Any pub that serves food will probably do an ok fish and chips meal.
posted by missmagenta at 1:54 AM on August 28, 2007


Also, if you want fish and chips, you generally get it from a chip shop. There's no particular reason to get it in a pub, though many serve food.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:54 AM on August 28, 2007


The Market Porter is worth a visit, it usually has a good selection of real ales. Don't know about the fish and chips, but if you go during the day on Friday or Saturday you just need to cross the road to Borough Market, one of London's best fresh food markets.
posted by amestoy at 2:03 AM on August 28, 2007


Brew pubs are unusual - avoid Mash, which is a brew pub / bar / restaurant, but is rubbish.

Good cask ale is however relatively easy to find. London pubs often carry Fullers ale, which is consistently pretty good for a commerical product. London Pride is the benchmark, but Discovery is also a pretty fine "summer ale" (basically a very light cask ale, made with light malt and lager hops - Hopback's Summer Lightning is another good one in a similar style).

There is a LOT of Sam Smiths pubs in central london, which only sells their own brands of beer (and spirits; and mixers...) Personally I don't think they're very good and I tend to avoid them wherever possible. YMMV.

If you're looking for a decent pint in a traditional london pub, try the Jerusalem Tavern. The beer is fantastic - the only pub that I know of in London that sells beer from the St Peters brewery in Cambridge. Be warned though - it's tiny. Best to avoid immediate post-work hours (6 - 8), especially on Thursdays and Fridays, where the crowds just spill out on to the street.

Fish and chips really isn't that big a culinary treat IMO. There is nothing terroir-like about it, so you probably get it as good over there as here, and the standard in London as things go isn't particularly amazing (n. yorks is generally held to be better). If you're dead set on trying it, then the Sea Shell on Lisson Grove is often cited as one of the two or three best in London. The Fish! chain of restaurants are generally of decent quality, and do more than just Fish and Chips - nice if you want a mid-priced, but more formal option (Rudland and Stubbs is similar, and could be combined with a trip to the Jerusalem Tavern). At the top end J Sheeky is a very well thought of fish restaurant
posted by bifter at 2:33 AM on August 28, 2007


Just browsing the St Peters website, and noticed that they do a mild ale. Mild is a totally unfashionable style of beer - dark malt, low-ish in alcohol and light on hops - so it sounds like it might suit your preferences pretty well. I doubt that this style of beer ever crossed the pond, so it might be something new for you to try. Personally I really like mild, although it's very rare to find anywhere selling it these days. Can't guarantee that the Jerusalem Tavern will have a cask of it while you're there though.
posted by bifter at 2:40 AM on August 28, 2007


[PS. The Jerusalem Tavern and the Dovetail are about one minute's walk from each other. Time for a pub crawl! - which might also take in The Three Kings on Clerkenwell Close.]
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 4:07 AM on August 28, 2007


When I was a student in London, general opinion held Mickey's Fish and Chips (9 Porchester Rd W2) to be some of the best in the city. (More details here.) Can't say as I sampled many others, seeing as how it was so close, cheap, and tasty...
posted by web-goddess at 4:32 AM on August 28, 2007


beeradvocate (You'll need to create a free account) turns up a half dozen: None of these seem to have exceptionally high ratings on BA.
posted by duckstab at 5:04 AM on August 28, 2007


I've always liked The Porterhouse, and we've even had MeFi meetups there. As for Fish & Chips, they are indeed best enjoyed from a chip shop.
posted by keijo at 5:31 AM on August 28, 2007


The best fish & chips in London (well, in Time Out's opinion anyway)
posted by patricio at 5:41 AM on August 28, 2007


I'll second The Porterhouse. It gets really busy but it's a good place with more good beers than you can imagine. Every time I'm back home in London I end up there at least once...
posted by ob at 5:47 AM on August 28, 2007


What about the brewery tap by the London Pride brewery? Not quite the same, but some top ale.
posted by Abiezer at 5:53 AM on August 28, 2007


That's be Fuller's brewery in Chiswick. Seems they also do a tour.
posted by Abiezer at 5:59 AM on August 28, 2007


Isn't it part of the mystique of beermaking that to get truly good beer, you need good water, as well as all the other bought-in ingredients? London water, while legally drinkable, is not what I (or most people I know) would call good, so you may well be better off buying beer brewed elsewhere.
posted by Lebannen at 6:35 AM on August 28, 2007


Lebannen: Fuller's make a pretty damn fine pint from London water, as did the late lamented Young's (now brewed in Bedford.)

The Porterhouse in Covent Garden is an OK brewpub, if not cheap. The Jerusalem Tavern is a thing of beauty, although St. Peter's beers are never exactly easily quaffable - they make you think. The Windmill in Mill Street does good beer, fantastic pies, and is 30 seconds from my office, so it also gets my seal of approval. However, my vote for the best pint in London is to go to the Star of Belgravia, in the mews behind the German embassy. It serves the best pint of London Pride around, and is one of a handful (2? 3?) of of pubs to have made all 35 editions of the good beer guide.
posted by Jakob at 6:52 AM on August 28, 2007


Every so often in the UK you will find a place which is famous for its fish and chips - normally somewhere at the seaside. Here you can join long queues to get served. In my opinion a long queue for fish and chips is never worth the wait - it is just not possible to make the dish taste that good. Likewise for fish and chips served in a pub.

However if you are keen to try some Belgium beers then the picture changes - Belgium bars would not dream of selling you beer without food and the food - including sea food such as mussels - will often be delicious. In Belgium bars will often have a LONG list of beers on draught (they use smaller keys than in the UK so as to be able to fit them all in the cellar). You might also find this large range in a London based Belgium bar. As with brew pubs the barman will normally recommend particular beers to go with particular food. If you can find them I would recommend you try some of the lambic beers which are pretty much unique to Belgium.
posted by rongorongo at 7:16 AM on August 28, 2007


On the other hand... a queue in your average street corner fish and chip shop can be a good sign, because it shows that they have regular fryings and the chips will be fresh, and won't have been sitting around in a warmer going soggy.

I know little about beer, except CAMRA is your friend, and I know very little about fish and chips in central London, except to repeat what others have said, a plate of fish and chips in a pub is not the same dish as fish and chips wrapped in paper special from a Chip Shop. Treat them differently. The Time Out guide failed to make this distinction. It made me sad.

I can recommend some regular chip shops in Hackney and Walthamstow, but the chances of you ending up this way is slim (unless you are staying with friends, in which case, you probably wouldn't be asking this question...)
posted by Helga-woo at 7:29 AM on August 28, 2007


Oh and Fish and Chips is not, and never will be, a gourmet food. It is well done on a good school report, let's get chips food; or a we've made it all the way to seaside and now it's pouring with rain, let's get chips food; or a we've missed the train and we've got to wait two hours, lets get chips food; or we've just climbed that mountain, let's get chips food. Or just simply, I can't be bothered to cook, let's get chips.

See what I mean?

It's comfort food for the soul.
posted by Helga-woo at 7:35 AM on August 28, 2007


What others have said: brew pubs are rare (the Firkin chain brewed on site, but I'm not even sure if they still exist) but London is well stocked with free houses that buy in cask ales, and tied pubs from smaller craft breweries.

As for St Peter's, if you can head out to the actual brewery, they have a fantastic old dining hall. That's not likely if you're just in London for a few days: it's sufficiently out of the way to need a car.

Chippie over restaurant, though I've yet to find a London chippie that compares to the al fresco experience of a seafront, inky fingers from newspaper wrap.
posted by holgate at 7:51 AM on August 28, 2007


Thanks for the tips. I kind of guessed that brew pubs might not be the way to go in London, but I had to ask. There are lots of brew pubs in the US, especially in the northwest, and I've made it my business to try every one I can. They are usually the only places you can get craft brews on tap, instead of the usual watery pale lagers that they call beer here.

And they all seem to serve fish and chips. I'm usually vegetarian, but I can't resist fish and chips with a good pint at a good pub. It's the only time I eat meat. Since I should try Real British Fish and Chips while I'm there, I figured I might be able to kill two birds with one stone. Maybe we'll end up near a sea-side town at some point and I can compare.

I'm going to try and hit The Dovetail, The Porterhouse, Star of Belgravia, and definitely Jerusalem Tavern (I had forgotten that I have had a bottle of St. Peter's Cream Stout, and absolutely loved it. Sadly, I don't think I can make it out to the brewery). I'll get the beer guide and see if it recommends any others nearby. I may also try to go to the Fuller's brewery, but I'm not sure my traveling companions will be interested. Thanks again, and keep 'em coming!
posted by team lowkey at 12:29 PM on August 28, 2007


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