We’ve got Mark Whittaker guiding us around South London breweries in this guest post! Mark is a silver-haired South Londoner and fan of the occasional beer. He writes an infrequent blog about his even less frequent homebrewing over at https://beerfrominthegarage.wordpress.com/. Full disclosure: he also works part-time for London Beer Lab. Find him on Twitter: @Mark__Whittaker
Bored of Bermondsey? Try this alternative South London brewery tour (Warning: it’s a bit longer than a mile so may occasionally involve some transport).
It’s been 2 years now since The Kernel Brewery made the controversial (but some say justified) decision to stop opening its brewery taproom on Saturdays. But, if anything, the famed Bermondsey Beer Mile that it helped start has only grown in popularity. Weekend craft beer pilgrims making the trek between the likes of Brew By Numbers, Fourpure, Southwark, Ansbach & Hobday and Partizan, and also the UBrew and the EeBria taprooms, can regular expect fresh, high quality and often exclusive brews. Opening times have been extended but with success comes crowds. At some taprooms you’ll often have to queue upwards of half an hour to get served on a Saturday afternoon and don’t expect anywhere to sit down. Plus, once you’ve done The Mile a few times, you might want to expand your drinking to some of London’s other 70+ breweries.
Our tour of just some of South London’s finest starts under the shadow of the Crystal Palace Tower. 5 minutes’ walk from Gipsy Hill station (direct trains from London Bridge and Victoria) is the Hamilton Road Industrial Estate, although when you get there the first sign you’ll notice is not for this neighbourhood’s eponymous brewery, but The London Beer Factory.
Founded in early 2014 by brothers Ed and Sim Cotton, The London Beer Factory has always committed to producing beer with character, unique flavours, engaging aromas, brimming with personality and distinctive qualities. With a core range of 5 beers, plus an alternating monthly Pilot Range, they recently launched the UK’s first 360 degree opening cans, and their Beer Cab is a regular feature at many London beer events. Their tap room and bottle shop is open every Saturday, but check the website for current times, plus details of occasional events (including regular live rugby match screenings).
If you walk out of The London Beer Factory and glance left, you will now see the Gipsy Hill Brewing Company, who, in this writer’s opinion, are currently making some of the best beer in London. Going from strength to strength, and with a core range of beers all under 5%, Gipsy Hill focus on beers with big taste that you can still drink by the pint. Their tap room bar is currently closed due to brewery expansion but their bottle shop is open every Saturday, 1pm – 6pm. Check back for details on the reopening in the spring – in the meantime, lots of Gipsy Hill events are happening at their micropub, the Douglas Fir, on the other side of Crystal Palace, but unfortunately, that’s in the wrong direction for this tour.
Next, you’re heading to Herne Hill – either a mile and a half walk, or you can hop on either 3 or 322 bus (check TFL for times and directions) – for Bullfinch Brewery. After originally starting out sharing a Bermondsey railway arch with Mssrs Ansbach & Hobday, the Bullfinch soon flew a few miles south to set up it’s on brewery, with a historic 5 barrel kit originally built by Charles Wells no less. With a tap room in the adjacent arch open Thursday through Friday (4pm – 10pm), Saturday & Sunday (midday – 10pm), there are usually 12 different beers on tap, from the Bullfinch’s core range, some experimental and exclusive brew that you’ll only find here, plus the occasional guest.
Resist the temptation to stay at Bullfinch for the rest of the day and it’s a short hop around the corner to the Canopy Beer Co, tucked in the Bath Factory Estate, one of the most welcoming tap rooms in the city. If it’s sunny, be sure to try the Champion Kolsch or Sunray Pale, otherwise head indoors for a Milkwood Amber or Full Moon Porter. Canopy is open Wednesday through Friday (5-11pm), Saturday (12-11pm) and Sunday (12-10pm).
You have a choice again next for either bus, train or your own two feet to take you the mile to Brixton for, wait for it… Brixton Brewery! Founded in 2013, BB is a family-run, community business with a core range of beers brewed in small batches. The tap room is usually open every Saturday, 12-6pm (but they recommend you check the website or Twitter first), and they also offer tours and tastings (see website for details).
For your final tap room of the day, turn left out of Brixton Brewery and along Brixton Station Road past POP! Brixton and the Brixton branch of the Craft Beer Co. until you hit Brixton Road. Take a left here then right over Brixton Road, through the alley known as Dorrell Place (by the M&S) and onto Nursery Road. Head left and then tucked in behind the railway bridge on your immediate right, you’ll find London Beer Lab at Arch 41.
London Beer Lab has been running beer making workshops and selling homebrew supplies here since 2012. In 2015 they started brewing commercially (under another railway arch off Coldharbour Lane), with plans to expand production in 2017. The Nursery Road taproom is also undergoing something of a revamp, with upwards of 10 beers soon to be on tap from across their range, with a few seasonals and some small batch brews made in the upstairs workshop, plus an extensive bottleshop of beers from around the world. Current opening times are Thursday 5.30pm – 7.30pm, Friday 2pm – 8pm, Saturday 12 – 8pm and Sunday 12 – 7pm.
That concludes our short tour, although the beer doesn’t have to stop there. Within a mile or two of Brixton if you head in a variety of directions there are ever more breweries and taprooms. How about north towards Elephant & Castle for Orbit Beers, or south west to Tooting for By The Horns then Wandsworth Common for Belleville? Or head east to Peckham for Brick Brewery and Bianca Road Brew Co. Or maybe save those for another tour. There are plenty more beer miles in London than just Bermondsey’s!