In a short essay that appears in the first installment of Monocle‘s Travel Guide series, award-winning English journalist Pete Brown briefly describes the heyday of London’s drinking habit: “London was once the most important brewing city in the world,” he writes. “Two of the greatest ever beer styles, porter and India pale ale (IPA) — were born here. In the 19th century, London’s pubs were the finest drinking establishments on Earth.”
Fast-forward to the present day, and London’s lost its place on the podium, outclassed and overshadowed by the experimental craft culture happening stateside. (Sorry, London.) In 2006, beer here bottomed out, and almost entirely. That was the year Ram Brewery — then Britain’s oldest brewery, first opened in 1576 — closed, leaving just two operating breweries in the capital city. Two. The lowest number in hundreds of years.
Then, slowly, beer came back. Ad-hoc brew operations started popping up around the city. One of the most notable is The Kernel Brewery in Bermondsey, which occupies a warehouse under a railway arch, founded in 2009 by self-taught brewer Evin O’Riordain. His arrival has sparked a chain reaction in the neighborhood. Since then, a number of breweries have followed suit — most notably Partizan, Anspach & Hobday and Brew By Numbers, each bringing a different focus and layer to the growing craft culture.
Today, the cluster of microbreweries here, collectively known to make up “The Bermondsey Beer Mile,” has become a weekend destination for young Londoners, when each of the breweries opens on Saturday (some for just a brief window), allowing visitors to taste what’s fresh and notable. If you’re in town, it’s worth the trip. Not simply because Bermondsey is the best beer crawl in the city, but because it signals what’s coming to the former heavyweight beer capital of the world. Below are the breweries not too miss.
The Kernel Brewery
Address: 01, Spa Business Park, Spa Rd ⇱
Hours: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Beer to Drink: Table Beer
Address: 8 Almond Rd ⇱
Hours: Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Beer to Drink: Pale Ale
Brew by Numbers
Address: 79 Enid St ⇱
Hours: Friday 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Beer to Drink: 01/01 Saison
Quick Trip? Take Some Beer for the Road
Tucked in the middle of the Bermondsey Beer Mile is The Bottle Shop, a retail space selling a vast collection of microbrews from around the world, including the USA, Belgium and, of course, London. If you don’t have all day, but still want to sample Bermondsey’s best, go here. (Open Friday 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.) Learn More
Anspach & Hobday
Address: 118 Druid St ⇱
Hours: Friday 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday 12:30 to 5 p.m.
Beer to Drink: Porter
Southwark Brewing Company
Address: 46 Druid St ⇱
Hours: Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Beer to Drink: Traditional English Ale
Fourpure Brewing Co.
Address: Bermondsey Trading Estate, Rotherhithe New Rd ⇱
Hours: Friday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Beer to Drink: Pilsner