A guide on where to find the best cider in London. If you're looking for the likes of Strongbow or Kopparberg, you'll need to search elsewhere. Deep inside your soul, probably.
London may not be abundant with orchards, but there are a handful of specialists in the business of conjuring apples into the magic juice. Hawkes Cider — based in Forest Gate — got going in 2012 "with a saucepan of ginger, some green bottles and a lot of hope." They've done well since then, collecting organically-grown apples from Londoners, and exchanging them for cider. You'll find Hawkes's medium dry cider (made with champagne yeast) in reputable fridges across the capital, but the best place to taste it is in their Winchelsea Road taproom. They've got fresh pizza, and do mulled cider when it's chilly.
Another cider company who've cottoned onto the whole apples-for-cider gig are London Glider Cider. Their apple-y nectar is sourced "from the orchards of suburbia" — using everything from dessert apples to crab apples to cookers. Available in dry and medium dry, this stuff is crisp, clean and zesty. You'll find it at some of the pubs/festivals mentioned below, and can buy bottles from the website.
A stone's throw from Euston station is the Bree Louise, a wonderfully boisterous pub. Aside from its gallons of beer on gravity, they have up to 11 cask and box ciders (scrumpy, blackberry infusions, perry) at any one time. It's well-priced too, starting well under £4 a pint. Over by Trafalgar Square, The Harp earned itself the title of London Cider Pub of the Year 2011; it continues to sate cider-craving palates with boxed offerings (sometimes London Glider Cider). Even better, The Green Man near Goodge Street has no fewer than nine cider taps (always Westons, but plenty of other brands too). Try them all at your own risk. For an altogether continental cider experience, purchase a bottle of dry Breton cider from the French House in Soho.
The Southampton Arms in Gospel Oak has almost as many hand-pulled ciders as it does beers (around six to eight at any one time). At Stoke Newington's The Jolly Butchers, it's a similar happy story, with cider and perry always on tap (use it to wash down their excellent roast pork). The Flask in Highgate usually has one or two tasty draught ciders on, and we also recommend The Bohemia in North Finchley (they throw the odd cider festival too).
The Miller is one of the best pubs around London Bridge full stop. It's got four rotating ciders on pump (Gwynt Y Ddraig, Burrow Hill, Newton Court, Crossman's and tons more) and a fridge stocked with bottles. Also look out for its cider festival in the summer; last time, there were over 100 ciders, for as little as £3 a pint. Nunhead boutique Beer Shop also does a decent line in boxed cider; two takeaway pints are a snip at £7. A choice of three real ciders awaits you at the superlative Hope in Carshalton and Brixton's Crown & Anchor (sister of The Jolly Butchers) is worth a look-in too; Thistly Cross and Sandford Orchards is often on tap, along with some stonking scrumpys.
Accompany your salty pub snacks at no-nonsense Hoxton boozer the Wenlock Arms with one of seven ciders (Celtic Marches, Cheddar Valley, Worley's, Oliver's to name a few) on draft. Howl at the Moon — also in Hoxton — has lashings of fermented apple, both in boxes and kegged. Meanwhile, "like the Wickerman sacrificing Bill Oddie to the gods of Countryfile," Hand of Glory, close to Hackney Downs, is a decidedly folksy boozer, with an apt range of headache-inducing ciders. And Williams Ale and Cider House, not far from Liverpool Street, usually has five ciders on tap.
West London certainly doesn't have as much love for real cider as the West Country. We do, however, whole-heartedly suggest you call in at the Express Tavern in Kew, which has cider issuing forth from five taps. That'll keep you entertained until your train arrives.
And not forgetting...
We've got nothing against a well-kept Wetherspoon, especially as they often stock boxes and boxes of strong, flat cider in the fridge. That indomitable classic Old Rosie is almost always available, and at certain times of the year, the chain goes flat-out with a cider festival (we've found potent pints at these as cheap as £2.20, depending how far from the centre you venture).
Most beer festivals now come armed with a heady cider list, particularly anything Camra lays on. Of particular note are: London Drinker Beer & Cider Festival (March), The Miller's CiderDog festival (July), the Great British Beer Festival (August) and The Pig's Ear Beer & Cider Festival (December).
To search for pubs with everything from rooftop gardens to dart boards to pub quizzes, check out our pub database.