Beer drinkers in London are living in a golden age of plenty.
I've been privileged to chronicle that growth in my guidebook London's Best Beer, Pubs and Bars, first published in 2011 when there were only 13 breweries to write about.
By the third edition, published November 2021, there are 136 breweries.
Here are six great examples of independent breweries new to that third edition, each one well worth getting to know. I've stuck to freestanding breweries with taprooms, rather than brewpubs or the new crop of very small home-based commercial producers supplying very local outlets (although some of these are achieving great things too).
1. Beerblefish Brewing Co, Walthamstow
Recently relocated to London's new 'beer mile' north of Blackhorse Road station, this ethically-conscious business first used its own kit in 2016 on an Edmonton industrial estate after starting as a cuckoo at now-defunct Bermondsey communal brewery UBREW. Beerblefish's brews are often inspired by heritage recipes, and unlike many other newer London arrivals, much of it goes into cask. There's plenty of contemporary inventiveness and flair on show too. Look out for Victorian-inspired English IPAs and strong milds, often made using a well-judged dose of 'wild' yeast, decent cask bitters and wildcards like a viking ale made with heather and juniper. It's next door to Exale, which narrowly missed this list and is also highly recommended.
Beerblefish, Unit 2A-4 Uplands Business Park, Walthamstow
2. Bohem Brewery, Tottenham (taproom in Bounds Green)
The growth of craft lager is one of the most pleasing recent developments in UK brewing, and London is doing its bit to challenge the views of British drinkers who still think of this much-misunderstood family of beers in terms of the big industrial brands. Bohem is the London standout, unsurprisingly, as it's run by Czechs and is correctly equipped with horizontal lagering tanks where the beer is kept at cold temperatures for weeks to smooth out the flavour. Of course, it makes pilsner-style golden lagers, and very well, but look out too for the darker versions, familiar in countries like Germany and the Czech Republic, but often surprising to UK drinkers: luscious amber-coloured Sparta is a standout. The taproom in Bounds Green is a delightful place that provides proper Czech-style pours.
Bohem Tap Room, 120A Myddleton Road, Bounds Green
3. Boxcar Brewery, Bethnal Green
Sam Dickison established his reputation at several other London breweries before setting up his own project in 2017, initially on a small scale in Homerton but relocating to a bigger site with a relaxing taproom in Bethnal Green railway arches two years later. Many of the beers at Boxcar are keenly contemporary hop-forward brews: well-made pale ales, IPAs and hazy-juicies with changing varietals, and numerous one-off collaborations. But Sam keeps one foot in tradition: his exemplary dark mild has become a flagship beer and is attracting new audiences to a style once considered irredeemably tarnished with a 'cloth cap' image. One of those rare breweries where I've enjoyed everything I've tried.
Boxcar Brewery, Bethnal Green, Unit 1 Birkbeck Street, Bethnal Green
4. ORA Brewing, Tottenham
Another culture-crossing venture, Ora brings Italian craft beer style to London. It was founded in Modena, Emilia-Romagna, though many of the early recipes were developed at UBREW in Bermondsey before the current permanent site opened in 2019, taking over the plant of another Italian brewer who had to return home. Perhaps Ora's best-known beer is Limoncello, an IPA flavoured with Sorrento lemons, and there's a more conventional but very good modern pale ale too. But I love the milk stout with balsamic vinegar, a lusciously complex glassful that reaches back to the Modena roots. The taproom is conveniently placed on the stroll between Redemption (limited openings) and Pressure Drop.
Ora Brewing, Unit 16a, Rosebery Industrial Park, Tottenham
5. Spartan Brewery, Bermondsey
London's original brewery mile continues to excel, including the often-overlooked outfits in the further reaches past the Bermondsey Blue. When Partizan relocated to much bigger arches nearby in 2018, Spartan (yet another UBREW alumnus), took on its original Almond Street arch. This is another of those rare young breweries with one eye on tradition: lots of the beer is in cask, including best bitters, milds and porters, though with double-dry-hopped keg pales present and correct. The focus is on English ingredients, including a remarkable green hop pale sold during the harvest season. The taproom is only open on Saturdays but we can forgive them that as Mike and Colin, who run the whole business, somehow manage to hold down full time jobs elsewhere.
6. The Outpost - Three Hills, Bermondsey
Next door to Spartan, Three Hills is very different in style but equally noteworthy. Founder Andrew Catherall first brewed professionally in China (thus the Chinese characters on the brewery logo), then set up a small farm brewery in rural Northamptonshire. In 2020, when another very good brewery, Affinity, relocated to a Brixton pub cellar, he acquired a London presence by taking on their site and kit. I'm not the world's greatest fan of modern patisserie-aping 'pastry' stouts, but I loved Andrew's salted caramel and Islay whisky entries in his БПАВК series. The highlight, though, is The Outpost's exclusive mixed fermentation tank saison: lightly sour but rich, complex, spicy and profoundly refreshing. Enjoy it in the taproom's mezzanine lounge with its array of three pianos, one of them converted to a working tap mount.
The Outpost - Three Hills, 7 Almond Road, Bermondsey
Des de Moor is an award-winning beer writer, a brewery and beer tour guide and tutored tasting host, and an Accredited Beer Sommelier. The third edition of London's Best Beer, Pubs and Bars is available from CAMRA Books and the usual outlets, RRP £16.99. It profiles all the London breweries, detailed reviews of 180+ non-brewing beer outlets, beer style notes and recommendations, brewery heritage features and more.