While there's certainly no shortage of apps for finding pubs and bars in London, very few of them are particularly focused on the type or quality of beer available. (CaskFinder, which we reviewed in our Booze, Coffee and Cigars app roundup a couple of months ago, has a stab, but it's still quite wide in focus.) So we were interested to hear about the Craft Beer London iPhone app, which is exclusively concerned with 'craft beer' establishments in the capital, as curated by Will Hawkes, London-based beer blogger for the Independent.
First things first, what defines 'craft beer' for the purposes of this app? We put this question to Will, who explained that he considers 'craft beer' to be “brewed for flavour, using the best ingredients; respecting tradition but not necessarily restricted by it". This is not precisely the definition that we would apply to the 'craft beer' label (we feel that the term strongly implies beer from an independent brewer, produced on a small scale), but either way it's a fine quality standard to set.
As a result of this specific remit, Craft Beer London contains fewer pubs and bars than most other beer-finder apps. Nonetheless, we noted that the vast majority of pubs in our London Beer Quest series are included in the app, as well as many many more establishments with similarly laudable beery credentials around London (more than 100 pubs, a dozen or so good beer shops, and pretty much every London-based brewery). This inevitably means that this app is much more suited to lovers of good beer than it is to those simply looking for the nearest watering hole.
The user interface is, as you would expect, most useful in its map-based mode, with different icons denoting pubs, breweries and shops. Each pub is accompanied by a photo, a rating, and a short description, complete with contact details and notes on atmosphere, drink recommendations and food availability. Breweries are annotated to indicate whether or not they have an accompanying 'brewpub' – a nice detail.
The descriptions are penned by Will himself and are mostly informed and well-written. The pubs' ratings are also based on Will's own subjective assessment – initially quite surprising in some places, especially where some pubs that often attract high accolades are awarded a mere three stars (out of a maximum of five). However it's worth realising that these ratings are all relative, and Will asserts that he hasn't included any 'bad' pubs, so even two-star venues (the lowest rating at the moment, it seems) are probably better than many 'average' London pubs.
The app also features a nascent 'news' section, and ties into a forthcoming book that will focus more closely on a smaller number of London pubs and breweries, with a promised foreword by Kernel Brewery's Evin O'Riordain.
Priced at £1.99 (and currently available for iPhone only), the Craft Beer London app is not quite the cheapest pub-finder around, but the quality of the content is considerably better than many other apps of this type. For those interested in an app that is solely concerned with where to get great beer in London, it's a decent purchase.
See other London-themed apps here.
Like beer? Get the Londonist Book Of London Pub Crawls for less than the price of a pint.