Author: Jaine Organ
Pictures: Jaine Organ, PrintsByPablo at Etsy UK
There has always been a north London, south London rivalry. North Londoners calling the south ‘a cultural wasteland with no public transport’. South Londoners firing back with ‘Islington intellectuals‘, and ‘there’s one tube station in the whole of Hackney’. It has been said, back in the day, black cabs refused fares south of the river.
The Southbank however has seen a transformation since Tate Modern opened in the old Bankside Power Station; with independent art galleries such as White Cube popping up and the increasing popularity of Borough market as a foodie destination.
Bermondsey beer mile
Originally a loose collection of six south-east London independent brewers housed in railway arches under London’s overground. A food and drinks blogger coined the phrase ‘Bermondsey beer mile’ and interest exploded. It has expanded to a mile and a half stretch of breweries, taprooms, barrel stores all jostling for space with independent food producers and importers and close to Maltby Street market, a smaller version of Borough market.
Well and truly on the tourist map and with too many taprooms to mention, we took a tour round a few:
One of the original six, Brew by Numbers, with its distinctive monochrome branding and taproom arches softened by wooden panelling. Chilled bar staff, calmly offering tasters despite being full to the rafters by 7pm on a Saturday night. The 05 IPA is always a crowd-pleaser.
Anspach and Hobday
Another of the original six and currently through crowdfunding to increase production and expand the popular taproom. Try the cask London ESB 5.5% ABV, a glassful of malty sweetness.
Respected Bristol-based brewery that opened in the area a year ago. Mixed crowd, relaxed vibe. Amazing cheese.
The most recent addition. A brewery from Manchester in the north of England, so confident it does not need a sign outside the entrance. Sparse but design-led interior and a younger crowd; be prepared to queue.
The north-east borough of Hackney has also seen an increase in beer venues with three just a few minutes’ walk from Hackney Wick overground station.
From a site under The Cock Tavern pub in Hackney’s Mare Street to ‘The UK’s first dedicated tank bar’. A wall of shiny silver vats each with a number and a description chalked up on the board. Industrial style premises, communal tables and benches but with a great vibe and the fresh-from-source beer is unbeatable. Tropical Deluxe Pale Ale 3.8% ABV is one of the best sellers.
A stone’s throw away in The White Building, and with a prime spot opening out onto the River Lea. Serves own beers plus a range of guest beers and made on the premises stone-baked pizza. Go for Sunday lunch and watch the procession of kayakers, graffiti artists, joggers, cyclists and dog walkers pass by.
Beer Merchants Tap
Celebrating the first year as a taproom extension from an established bottle shop, it has a large selection of imported bottle beers and a small courtyard outside with Harley Dogs flipping spectacularly-sized burgers.
So north and south London divide? Not these days; just a friendly rivalry, great vibe and great beer both sides of the Thames. If you are a beer lover, check them all out but not in one hit. Choose a few breweries you are interested in, stay in that area, maybe throw in a wild card, take your time and savour. You can always return.