To aid the dedicated London-bound beer enthusiast seeking this world-class city’s finest craft beer emporiums, we round up our favorite beer shops peddling proper brews in copious quantities.
Hop Burns & Black
Glenn Williams, who along with Jen Ferguson co-owns this slick shop in Peckham Rye, told us that a commonality between the disparate goods available at Hop Burns & Black — craft beers and ciders, wines, fancy hot sauces, handpicked vinyl — is that they’re all “mood-enhancing things” (and, of course, things the pair enjoy themselves). True enough, and we’d add that the shop itself considerably enhances appearances of the otherwise drab strip mall in which it’s located, about two blocks west of Peckham Rye Park.
There’s ample reason to linger here. Beer is the main attraction and, appropriately, the UK is the focus, with the shelves and a few packed fridges well-stocked with hundreds of bottles and cans from the cream of the country’s craft-brewing crop, including Beavertown, Wild Beer Co, Siren Craft Brew, and Weird Beard Brew Co. There’s a fine choice of beers from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and elsewhere in Europe, as well, as you can see in the online shop.
The impressive hot sauce aisle, tucked away towards the back of the shop, features both locally made and imported products. Most notable might be the range of condiments from Bristol-based GingerBeard’s Preserves, some made in collaboration with local breweries like Moor Beer Company and Bristol Beer Factory. Williams says his is the only London shop stocking GingerBeard.
Interesting beers consistently flow at the flagon station, and it’s worth keeping tabs on HB&B’s events page, too. For instance, extending their love of good beer, good music, and good times, last year HB&B hosted Chilli Karaoke at the pop-up BeerKat pub on Holloway Road during Beavertown Brewery’s run. This writer can’t recall ever having a better night out at the pub (watch closely and you can spot him toughing it out in the video):
Named “Peckham’s Best Shop” in Time Out London’s 2016 Love London Awards, Hop Burns & Black puts a clever spin on the traditional beer shop. The model works well, and we won’t be surprised to see others diversify in similar fashion. Hop Burns & Black, 38 E. Dulwich Rd., 020 7450 0284. Open Monday & Tuesday 2pm – 8pm, Wednesday & Thursday 12pm – 8pm, Friday 12pm – 9pm, Saturday 11am – 9pm, and Sunday 12pm – 6pm.
Mother Kelly’s Bottle Shop
That’s not to say HB&B is the only beer shop in town hawking products other than booze. At Mother Kelly’s Bottle Shop, a classy joint with outlets in Homerton and Stoke Newington, a small library of beer books and a cooler filled with appetizing artisanal cheeses help differentiate it from competitors. The growler stations—six taps in Stoke Newington and eight in Homerton—are two of the biggest in London, and sweet beer dreams are made of the well-chosen bombers filling MK’s front-room racks.
What puts this place over the top, though, is the size of its cold rooms and all the goodies inside of them. All the usual UK suspects are here in abundance, but you’ll also find one of London’s better Dutch sections and plenty of tasty American beers, including a few winners from the increasingly prevalent Founders Brewing, which now has a full-time sales rep based in the city as part of the Michigan brewery’s global expansion. Prices are competitive, and in some cases somewhat lower than peers.
That’s in stark contrast to the eye-popping bottle prices floated at Mother Kelly’s otherwise ace Tap Room in Bethnal Green, where a 330ml bottle of, say, Wild Beer’s BrettBrett Double IPA runs nearly £8 for onsite consumption (blessedly it’s less for takeaway). Fortunately there’s really no need for such tomfoolery with high quality beers flowing from the railway arch bar’s 20 taps.
We love Mother Kelly’s line of charity t-shirts designed by artist Tida Bradshaw, with £3.50 of each sale donated to organizations working with those battling mental health disease, homelessness , and other issues. They’re available at the online shop and all retail outlets. Click here for more information on Mother Kelly’s bottle shops and opening hours.
Clapton Craft NW5 / Caps and Taps
All those lucky Kentish Towners have to be smiling with so much good beer available in the ‘hood from these two wonderful bottle shops, which are separated by a roughly 10-minute walk. They’re clearly competitors (and apologies for lumping you together, folks), but we’re not taking sides—there’s room for them both to thrive and you, dear reader, should find time to visit them both.
A spinoff of the original shop on Lower Clapton Road (in Hackney), Clapton Craft is particularly popular with the area’s commuter set, a mob that goes wild, wild, wild between 5:30pm and 7:30pm and, according to staff, favors the “brand-name” London breweries most: Camden Town Brewery, Beavertown, The Kernel, Brew By Numbers, etc. There’s a lovely assortment of craft brews from elsewhere in Europe, as well, with a particular focus on Belgians, and nine taps of draft beer fill one-liter bottles and growlers. There are now five Clapton Craft branches across London, the latest of which landed in Forest Hill in early 2017.
Just down the road, a short walk from Kentish Town West Overland station, Caps and Taps is another much-welcomed KT tenant that like Clapton Craft NW5 set up shop in mid-2015. Conveniently, most of the beers here are refrigerated; those that aren’t chilled line the back shelves with RateBeer rating tags hung ‘round their necks as proudly as the plaques in your dentist’s office. One-liter growler fills are available, too. This is a good place to hunt for something special. Clapton Craft NW5, 326 Kentish Town Rd., 020 3643 2669. Caps and Taps, 130 Kentish Town Rd. Check sites for opening hours.
Enjoying a leisurely drink on the train is a national pastime in the United Kingdom, so much so that many groceries and other booze peddlers stock brilliant single-use glasses of wine for just that very occasion. If peel-top wines or cruddy macrobeers aren’t your thing, however, make a pit stop at Sourced Market when rolling into or out of St. Pancras International. The place has been so successful that in 2016 they spun off two more locations, in Marylebone and Victoria, both of which sorely needed the type of beer salvation provided here.
One couldn’t ask for a better train-station beer shop than this: expect takeaways from top UK breweries like Wild Beer Co (a favorite of this author), Crate Brewery, The Five Points Brewing Company, and Beavertown, along with a tidy lineup of imports from the good people of Mikkeller, Omnipollo, and others. Pick up a homebrew kit if inspiration strikes from sipping all these beauties, too. Sourced Market, St. Pancras International, 020 7833 9352. Open Monday to Friday 6:30am – 9pm, Saturday 7:30am – 9pm, and Sunday 8:30am – 9pm.
Also Check Out:
+ The Bottle Shop: The Bermondsey branch of this Canterbury import (and online retailer) is particularly bangin’ on Saturdays, when Anspach & Hobday, Fourpure, Brew By Numbers, and other area breweries hold court.
+ Kris Wines: There are some rare, surprising finds hidden in the packed shelves of this remarkable shop. Unfortunately we often see bottles well past their recommended “best by” prime–doublecheck before buying.
+ Ales by Mail and HonestBrew: These are two of our favorite UK’s best online craft beer retailers. Shipping within the country is less than £7 for boxes of up to 24 brews for both companies. The customer service is stellar and we’re fairly certain they’ll deliver to hotels, so plan accordingly.
+ Jack’s: This unsuspecting Stroud Green off-license (178a Stroud Green) stocks a fantastic range of craft brews born around the UK and abroad. I do worry about some of the beers’ exposure to semi-direct sunlight in the window, but no complaints on anything I’ve purchased thus far. Jack’s is quite handy for those in the Upper Holloway / Crouch Hill vicinity.