Beer Guide London Visits 17 – Central London
Much as I love exploring all areas of London, and enjoy using public transport to get around, there are times when it is nice just to be able wander a short distance from place to place. Obviously this includes the “Beer Miles,” but they don’t give much variety of scenery. Central London on the other hand ticks all of the boxes, plenty of bars, short, walkable distances, and lots to see en route. I suspect, too, that the Central London pubs are what a lot of Guide users visit the most on short trips in to the Capital.
I began my day a couple of minutes walk from Piccadilly Circus in the labyrinthine back streets of theatreland at the Lyric. This is another pub in the Big Smoke family and has the usual good range of cask and keg beers, both their own and guests. It’s also what most foreign tourists would expect a British pub to be like, wooden floorboards, cask ale, cosy and friendly. Despite it’s location I have never found it overly busy, but I suspect that as the theatre goers start to appear then it may start to fill up, but I think it is safe to label this one a “hidden gem.”
A short walk along Shaftesbury Avenue to the edge of Chinatown brings you to De Hems and it’s impressive frontage. As the name hints this large bar specialises in beers from The Netherlands and Belgium. The quality dropped off for a while but it is now very much back on top form with a great selection of Benelux beers, both on draft and bottles, and the rotating guest beers always make it worth your while paying a visit. Given it’s location it is often very busy but it is the kind of place where strangers happily share the large tables with each other.
I continued eastwards towards the Covent Garden area and stop three, BrewDog Seven Dials. This impressive wedge shaped building stands on one of the corners that surround the Seven Dials monument. From the compact entrance area the bar opens out to reveal plenty of seats on multiple levels. As you would expect it serves up the usual range of both BrewDog beers and interesting guests.
It’s a short walk from here to the Harp, which is one of the London pub scene’s institutions. Run by the same family for a very long time there were real concerns amongst London’s drinkers when it was announced that it had been bought by Fuller’s. Thankfully, with the exception of the addition of some of the Fuller’s range, this cosy pub, a stones throw from Trafalgar Square, has remained the same classic boozer it has always been. There is always a good mix of tourists, commuters and locals, and the ever changing beer range means you always find something of interest to try.
A few minutes along the road and you get to Porterhouse, the London branch of the Dublin brewpub chain. No brewing takes place here, all of the beers are shipped over from Ireland, but the full range is usually available. There are two bar areas, the one ahead of you as you enter and a further selection on the bar behind this one, be sure to check both as different beers are available. This is a huge, rambling building with multiple floors and plenty of seating, but even so it is often hard to find an available table as it is so popular. Definitely worth a visit to pick up beers you won’t normally see outside of Dublin.
My next stop was a pleasant stroll along the Strand, Temple Brew House. This basement brewpub had been closed for a long time during Covid but I’d heard a rumour that it had just reopened so it made sense, as I was in the area, to go and see if this was indeed the case. It certainly was open, but the brewery was not yet back up and running, instead they had a number of beers brewed at their sister location in Cambridge alongside a slightly reduced number of guest beers. This was understandable for a newly reopened bar that was just getting itself back on it’s feet. I will revisit again at some point to see if the brewery has recommenced.
Back in to Covent Garden and a visit to one of my favourite London bars, the Lowlander. It was here that I had my initial introduction in to the wonderful world of Belgian beer, and even though these beers are more widely available now, and I have had many trips to Belgium itself, it is still always good to take a visit to where it began for me. There is always a good solid line up of draft beers and bottles, but it is always worth asking the knowledgeable staff if they have anything special available as they often have small quantities of more unusual beers that don’t make it on to the main menus. Once they know you are interested they will happily chat and share information with you. And don’t forget the Belgian bar snacks whilst you are here!
Carry on along Drury Lane and you get to Craft Beer Co Covent Garden. There is an impressive 30 beers on tap, both cask and keg. I have heard some people complaining that their pricing is towards the higher end and although I’m not very good at keeping track of price comparisons I know that I am always impressed when, if you order a particularly expensive beer, the staff in all branches make a point of mentioning this before starting to serve, giving you the chance for a fully informed decision. The seating area around the bar is quite cramped but there is a large seating area downstairs, although the acoustics can make this quite noisy when it is very busy.
It was one of the longest walks of the day to get to stop nine, BrewDog Soho. This is one of the smaller branches, but it does have additional seating downstairs. There is a choice of c20 beers on tap here, with the usual mix of their own beers and guests. This is a nice cosy venue to enjoy a quiet drink in what is quite a busy area, and an area that doesn’t offer many choices for good beer, making this a godsend.
I continued westwards through the busy West End crowds to my final stop of the day, German Kraft @ Metropolitano Mayfair. This is the second MM following on from the one in Elephant & Castle, but whereas that is a large sprawling affair this is more compact, being housed in a deconsecrated church. As can be seen from the picture the building’s former use gives rise to an impressive interior. There is brewing kit at this branch of German Kraft but it was out of use on this visit, I have heard, though, in the last week that brewing has now recommenced. Instead the beers came from the original brewery plus a couple of guests. And so after a day in Central London “worshipping” all things beer the day ended, appropriately, in a place that had formally seen another kind of worship.