Five of the best: London bottle shops13 Mar 2015
Until recently, it was bafflingly difficult to buy good beer to drink at home in London. Apart from a few standout places - like Borough Market’s Utobeer, for example - your best bet was one of the supermarkets, and even then the choice was fairly limited: family-brewer brown-bitter number one, or family-brewer brown-bitter number two?
Much has changed in the last few years, but one of the most dramatic shifts has been the rise of craft-beer-focused off-licenses. There are now dozens across the city, with Oddbins having just opened its first beer-only outlet in leafy Blackheath (look out for the review on Craft Beer London soon). But which are the best places to get good beer? Here are five of our favourites (in alphabetical order).
The first off-license from Britain’s most talked-about craft brewery, BrewDog, is predictably diverse in its offer, boasting beers from near and far: you’ll find Britain’s best plus plenty of the most talked-about breweries from overseas. Brewdog’s pulling power means they get plenty of excellent, rare American beer and there are regular tastings, too; coming up on the 19th of this month is a tasting of American rarities.
This place might only be open on Saturdays, but what it lacks in convenience it makes up for in other ways. The Bottle Shop’s top man Andrew is almost maniacal in his commitment to quality, preaching the virtues of a cold-chain delivery process to anyone prepared to listen. If you’re buying American beer with lots of hops in it, and you want it to taste as the brewers intended, this is where to do it. And if you’re visiting Canterbury, check out their original shop inside the Goods Shed, the Kentish answer to Borough Market.
Run by a pair of genial New Zealanders, this place combines the easy conviviality of their native land with the buzz and energy of London’s burgeoning brewing scene. The range here is excellent (we were delighted to find Mahrs of Bamberg, for example, on our first trip) and there’s also beer on draught, which can be taken home in a growler. Which leads us on to…
Run by a pair of genial New Zealanders (there’s a theme emerging here), this little East Dulwich shop combines great beer with hot sauce and vinyl, hence the name. If you’re looking for Kiwi beers, this is the place to come - and there’s also beer on draught, which can be taken home in a flagon. Putting Dungeons and Dragons-related concerns to one side, we think that’s a better name than growler. What do you think?
Unlike all the others on this list, this unassuming shop pre-dates the recent beer-mania and is all the more remarkable for that fact. This is an Aladdin's Cave of a place, with beers you won’t find anywhere else in London tucked away in a hidden corner. There are apparently 250 Belgian beers stocked here and, despite its diminutive size, that’s easy to believe. A must-visit for any serious London beer lover.
There are, of course, other excellent places to buy beer (if this has been a list of combined bottle shops/bars, for example, Mother Kelly’s would have been a shoo-in; apologies also to Real Ale, Utobeer & Drink of Fulham, among others). Which are your favourites? Who did we miss out? Tell us on twitter @Craftbeerlondon.