Join Des's great London beer trek
Added: Sunday, November 21st 2021
London’s Best Beer, Pubs and Bars. Des de Moor (CAMRA Books, £16.99)
I don’t know if Des de Moor owns a pedometer but it would be interesting to know just how many miles he clocked up padding round this vast metropolis to present us with the best drinking places and breweries.
The third edition of the guide is remarkable in many ways. Not only is it a labour of love but it charts the remarkable renaissance of brewing in London. The capital is once again a major brewing city. Des notes that his first edition in 2011 listed 14 breweries. You can now add a “nought” to that number, with 140 breweries spreading pleasure from Heathrow in the west to Walthamstow in the east.
Publication of the new edition is timely as it chimes with the return of brewing to the Ram site in Wandsworth. The Ram was home to the much-loved and much-missed Young’s Brewery where the family pulled down the shutters in 2006.
Des has packed his guide with a series of vignettes about brewing history in London, including the rise and fall of brewing in my old patch of East London.
Far and away, the most interesting is the history of brewing at the Ram site. When Young’s closed, John Hatch, a brewery employee, opened a tiny nano brewery on the site in order that it could maintain its role as the oldest continuous brewing site in London.
Duncan Sambrook has moved his brewing operation from Battersea to the Ram and the borough of Wandsworth once more has a proud commercial brewery at its heart.
The guide is meticulous in the extreme. Des breaks it down into the four geographical regions of London and then takes us on a dizzying tour of the best pubs and bars. Each entry has a potted history of the pub as well as the beers served and, where appropriate, the food on offer.
While cask beer takes pride of place, Des is aware of contemporary demands and lists craft keg ales and lagers. This means there’s room for the Bohem Brewery in Tottenham where a group of ex-pat Czechs brew lagers of the highest quality and serve them in a bar where customers are introduced to the “Bohemian pour”.
The Czech method of dispense is also on show in Pivo in Old Street, North London, where it’s explained that serving with a deep head of foam traps CO2 and leaves the beer below crystal clear and mercifully devoid of fizz.
There’s far more than just pubs in the guide. Des has visited breweries and brew pubs to describe brewing practices and the malts and hops used. The plants include mighty Fuller’s in Chiswick and the fast-growing Beavertown and Camden, all owned or part-owned by global brewers.
Des also takes readers on a tour of the key areas of south and north London where Bermondsey and Hackney have a profusion of craft breweries producing beers in a dazzling array of styles.
The guide will encourage you to tie on your drinking boots and follow in his footsteps. I have already made the trip by train and bus to sample the range in the Black Dog in Brentford and there are further visits in the planning stage.
This is a treasure trove of a guide and one that will no doubt be updated as beer and brewing continue to burgeon in the capital. And Des promises that the next edition will include the beautifully restored Boleyn Tavern on Barking Road E6 where I can sample fine beers and relive the mixed fortunes at the old West Ham United ground at Upton Park next door.