Looking to get another London pub crawl under your belt? How about visiting some of south London's finest drinking establishments — between Wimbledon and Beckenham — by tram?
Tram fares — like bus fares — have a daily cap set at £4.95 for adults, so you needn't worry about racking up a huge travel bill.
You can do as much or as little of this crawl as you like in one day (and, of course, you can do it back-to-front). Just don't overdo it on the adult beverages.
Wimbledon: take your pick
You've frankly got a slew of quality drinking options at Wimbledon, depending how far you're willing to deviate from the station. Close at hand, take your pick from a bevvy of beverage outlets, including pub-restaurant the Old Frizzle, and the Alexandra (two mins from the station, and famed for its annual free Christmas dinners). We do, however, have a handful of pub grandees, if you're willing to walk just over 20 minutes. The first is the Sultan, an unfussy carpets n' board games real ale pub, run by Hopback Brewery, and pouring the likes of Summer Lightning and Crop Circle. Or, you could make your way through Wimbledon Village to the edge of the common, where two worthy boozers are cosied up together: the Crooked Billet and the Hand in Hand. Both are smashing, although neither have beer to match the Sultan.
Morden Road: The William Morris
If you've not been to Merton Abbey Mills before now, you really should. The pretty little enclave of old mill buildings on the Wandle paint a pretty picture — and the windows and terraces of the William Morris pub (so named because the hirsute Pre-Raphaelite based his textile design and printing company here) provide a sylvan outlook over the river. The beer selection is admittedly lacklustre, but this is one of those 'location, location, location' boozers — and still arguably worth the 12-minute stroll from Morden Road tram stop.
Mitcham Junction: Drop Project taproom
While the Bermondsey beer mile has become the beer nerd's equivalent of doing the sights around Westminster, Drop Project quietly gets on with its business of making some of London's finest beers in the quietude of a Mitcham industrial estate. The taproom usually only opens on the first weekend of every month, lending it an extra mythical quality, although there are exceptions — for instance, they open more regularly while the Six Nations is on. Fit your tram crawl around this if you can (it's about 10 mins walk from Mitcham Junction tram stop). Otherwise, come on a separate occasion, and while away the afternoon sipping from eight lines of fresh IPAs, pales ales and stouts, while feasting on banging eats from Dragon Flame BBQ. Marvellous.
Therapia Lane: Signal Brewery & Taproom
You could technically jump off at Ampere Way for a cheeky Öl Mörk Lager at IKEA, but seeing as this is supposed to be a day of leisure, maybe swerve the Swedish Divorce Maze and alight at the next stop down the line, Therapia Lane. A very short walk gets you to Signal Brewery, where the taproom is open on Fridays and Saturdays from April-Sept, and for occasional events (e.g. Six Nations) over the winter. Anspach & Hobday of London Black fame brew next door, although their Croydon taproom doesn't seem to be open right now, which is a shame.
Reeves Corner/Church Street/George Street: take your pick
This is where things get interesting, both pub and tram-wise. The route here comes to a loop; if you're coming from Wimbledon, you'll hit Reeves Corner, before going through Centrale, West Croydon, Wellesley Road, and East Croydon. If you're coming in the other direction, you'll head from East Croydon down to George Street, then Church Street, before linking back up at Wandle Park.
Whether you're at Reeves Corner, Church Street or George Street, however, you're really in the thick of the liquid action: among the pubs within easy walking distance are the Dog & Bull (Croydon's oldest boozer, with glorious stained glass windows); the Ship (the kind of place where you drink rum & cokes and listen to Metallica), and newish kid on the block Riff Raffs (where funk, soul and craft pilsner collide).
For our money, two pubs in central Croydon are head and shoulders above the competition: Art & Craft in Surrey Street is a fine little purveyor of craft brews (think Bianca Road, Hand Brew, Howling Hops) which you can enjoy surrounded by artworks, including a Banksy disco ball riot helmet. In recent times, they've introduced a 'no tasters' rule which seems stingy, but anyway. One place they'll pour you a taster no trouble is the Green Dragon (about one-minute walk from Art & Craft) — a simply marvellous establishment offering superb cask and craft beer, a 'ginventory' (basically loads of gins), pool table, book nooks, big screen sports, poker nights... even a PlayStation that's always plugged in. If that all sounds overwhelming, the setup just works. The only let down here is the food; get your soakage in the way of Surrey Street street eats.
Centrale: Matthews Yard
Right, let's get back on track. After Reeves Corner, the next stop is Centrale, a couple of minutes away from Matthews Yard. This isn't a pub so much as a funky bar/arts space, festooned with artworks by local artists. Aside from the coffee and vegan plates, they pour a handful of good beers on tap (including some from Signal), and the cocktail game is strong, featuring Japanese slippers, espresso martinis and the like. Events include comedy and life drawing, so this could easily turn into a night out.
East Croydon: Oval Tavern
The loop joins up again at East Croydon, making your tram crawl (and this article) a lot simpler. Arriving in the heart of Croydon, you could stop to throw your beer in the air at Boxpark (and given the quality of the lager here, that might not be a bad idea). Instead, we'd recommend you hop off at East Croydon, and make your way down the residential backstreets, to the Oval Tavern. This low timber ceiling inn gives off countryside pub vibes, an image furthered by the pints of Tribute and plates of comfort food. They also have their own beers, crafted by local brewery, Cronx — some of which are made with hops from the Oval's beer garden (it's a great, spacious garden too). Regular drag, blues and comedy evenings mean it'd be easy to wind up your tram crawl here, and frankly we wouldn't blame you.
Gravel Hill: Golden Ark
Soon after you're back on the tram at East Croydon, your pub crawl comes to another (literal) fork in the road rails. Here is the opportunity to branch off towards New Addington; as far as we know there are no especially worthy pubs here (New Addingtonites are welcome to write in and set the record straight on that one.) However, if you alight at the Gravel Hill tram stop, you'll find yourself 25 minutes' walk from Selsdon's Golden Ark. This is admittedly a schlep, but we just thought you should know that the Ark is a magnificent shopfront-turned-micropub, where they'll pour you everything from a pint of local Titsey pale to a trendy chocolate orange stout. The beer can/bottle selection is awesome, and good cider, gin and single malt options are on the cards too. They even have a cocktail menu FFS. Oh, and the dried snack selection is god tier.
Addiscombe: Claret & Ale
While you may or may not decide to call in at the Ark, stopping at Addiscombe is a no-brainer. From the tram stop here, it's less than a minute to the hustle and bustle of Claret & Ale. Ignore the 'generic old man pub' exterior; this is a delight of a boozer, pouring well-kept cask beers that eschew the usual suspects (think Surrey Hills, Otter, Palmers). It can be clamorous (and a tad clammy) but if you appreciate a no-nonsense pub with 'proper local' vibes, Claret & Ale is it. As for the claret, we've never ordered one, though you'd assume they serve it.
Harrington Road: Craft Beer Cabin
Definitive proof that good things come in small packages, you'd struggle to pack a cosy convention of beer nerds into Craft Beer Cabin. (The opening times are also shrunk-down; they shut shop by 10pm — sometimes earlier.) It's worth holding your breath and squeezing in, though, because this South Norwood gem offers an ever-rotating selection of kegged craft beers (plus a small library of cans) that's enough to excite the most jaded Untappd user. Tap takeovers come from some of the best in the biz (think Beak, Cloudwater, DEYA), and the wine selection is no afterthought either. The bad news? Although Craft Beer Cabin is round the corner from South Norwood train station, the nearest tram stop is Harrington Road — and that's a 20-minute walk. Consider it though, or write it on your beer bucket list for another time, and underline it 25 times.
Beckenham Road: Three Hounds or Br3wery
At the end (or the start) of the line, you've got a couple of doozies to choose from. Three mins from Beckenham Road you've the Three Hounds Beer Co; it's a micropub/cafe/bottleshop/mini arts centre mashup where the beer is always exciting (sours to stouts to saisons, and their own experimental beer too). There's a good selection of wine and spirits, the bar staff are lovely, and they often put on comedy and music events downstairs.
Br3wery (it's a play on the postcode, and to this day we've no idea how to pronounce it) is just one minute from Beckenham Road, and is just as good. A miniature brewery, this place churns out a superb selection of craft beers, including a mango sour to die for. Eschewing the industrial estate vibes of Signal and Drop Project, Br3wery is slap bang on the high street, and perfect for people watching, especially in the warmer months.
We've only included pubs we've been to along the route. Think we've missed out any exceptional pubs/taprooms near a tram stop? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll consider adding it.