The 12 Real-Ale Pubs To Check Out This Weekend

We can safely say that our favourite aspect of London life is the pub culture. We love nothing more than grabbing a pint after work. But, we want more. We're better than subpar brew, and you know it.
So, we're raising the bar with a roundup of the pubs that sell the best ale, north, south, and east of the city. Ahead, the spots where the real-deal beer connoisseurs of London go for a pint of the brown stuff.
01_MaverineCole
Jane Peyton, accredited beer sommelier and founder of the School of Booze
Ye Olde Mitre
“This pub is tucked away in an alley way between Hatton Garden and Ely Place and is hard to find the first time. It is built on land formerly owned by the Bishop of Ely and the pub was used by people who worked in his adjacent London palace. In a glass case inside the pub is the trunk of a cherry tree which legend has it Queen Elizabeth I danced around. There is an extensive weekly changing selection of cask ales from around the country plus classics from Fuller's. There are usually two real ciders, too. Ye Olde Mitre is also famous for its toasties,”
Ye Olde Mitre, 1 Ely Court Ely Place, EC1N 6SJ
The Blackfriar
"The interior is a spectacular showcase for Arts & Crafts architecture — especially the marble-lined and gold-mosaic decorated dining room. There is no other pub in the world that looks like this. The pub was built on the site of a medieval Dominican monastery. Dominican monks wore black robes — hence the name Black Friar. The regularly rotating selection of real ales is excellent with beers from well-known breweries and also tiny breweries, so it’s a good place to go to taste beers that might otherwise be hard to find."
The Blackfriar, 174 Queen Victoria St, EC4V 4EG
The Earl of Essex
“This is a brew pub so they brew their own beer, but they also have a wide range of superb beers and many different styles. It is a good place to go to explore the diversity of beer. They also sell 1/3 pints, which is a great way of tasting a variety of different beers. They have a regular schedule of 'Meet the Brewer' and beer launch evenings which are free to attend. And the fish-finger sandwiches are the best I have ever tasted!”
The Earl of Essex, 25 Danbury St, Islington, London N1 8LE
Photos: Courtesy of Ye Olde Mitre; The Blackfriar; The Earl of Essex
03_MelissaCole_
Melissa Cole, blogger, ‘sommALEier’ and international beer judge
The Bull
“Combining a proper pub atmosphere with great food and a tiny brewery, as well as a fine selection of U.K. and global craft beer the Bull is a proper gem. Run by owner Dan Fox, it has everything you'd expect from the former manager of another London beer institution, the White Horse and then some. The pub is both a community hub and a destination venue for beer lovers and its Wings Wednesday is now legendary, 16 wings for just a £5? I recommend a pint of the pub's own beer with them too.”
The Bull, 13 North Hill, N6 4AB
The Southampton Arms
“Take cash and prepare to adore this place's simplicity. Ale, cider, meat is the pub's mantra and what you see is what you get. Pouring only British beers and ciders, the ciders coming straight from the barrel on the back bar, this place is as tiny as it is quirky. With a small beer garden out the back it's packed in summer, but please be aware, come the terminal hour when it's got to close, they will release the leopard - or so the sign says - I've never hung around long enough to find out, I fear I may look too much like a good meal!”
The Southampton Arms, 139 Highgate Rd, NW5 1LE
Ales & Tails
“With a focus and love of all things British and craft, Ales & Tails is a fairly lonely beacon of a great pub in the middle of a lot of bad wine bars or usual suspects in the area. The staff is fun but ultimately very knowledgeable and the selection of both real ale, there are six handpulls of interesting beers on at all times, keg beers and exciting bottles is enough to keep any thirsty rugby crowd happy. Oh, and did I mention the Sunday lunch the pub does? It's fantastic.”
Ales & Tails, 29-31 York St, Twickenham TW1 3JZ
Photos: Courtesy of The Bull; The Southampton Arms; Ales & Tails
04_JanePeyton
Marverine Cole a.k.a Beer Beauty, beer sommelier, award-winning beer writer and T.V. presenter
The Red Lion
“A mix of pumps (real ale; craft keg, too – delicious) such a chilled atmosphere, excellent staff, family-friendly and terrific food.”
The Red Lion, 640 High Road, E11 3AA
Duke’s Brew & Que
“It’s where mega-cool London micro Beavertown Brewery used to brew (they’ve now moved to a bigger brewery, such is the demand). Duke’s sells Beavertown faves and a few guest ales on its small but perfectly formed bar. Have a beer and eat mammoth beef or pork ribs from the American-style rib shack. Book early to get a seat because most nights it’s packed to the rafters.”
Duke’s Brew & Que, 33 Downham Rd, N1 5AA
The White Horse
“A stunning array of real-ale handpumps to choose from, plus bottle-conditioned world beers too, a cool classy upmarket place to take friends and a pub that respects beer to the maximum!”
The White Horse, 1-3 Parsons Green, SW6 4UL
Photos: Courtesy of The Red Lion; Duke's Brew & Que; The White Horse
02_WillHawkes
Will Hawkes, author of Craft Beer London, a book and app guide to the city's burgeoning beer renaissance
The Southampton Arms
“In terms of beer quality and atmosphere, this is the best of London's new breed of beer shrines.”
The Southampton Arms, 139 Highgate Rd, NW5 1LE
The Royal Oak
“The beer served here is from Harvey's, one of Britain's most respected traditional family brewers. A great place to while away an afternoon.”
The Royal Oak, 44 Tabard St, SE1 4JU
The Catford Bridge Tavern
“Great beer, good food, a bar billiards table. Every neighbourhood should have a pub like the Catford Bridge Tavern.”
The Catford Bridge Tavern, Station Approach, Catford Bridge, SE6 4RE
Photos: Courtesy of The Southampton Arms; The Royal Oak; The Catford Bridge Tavern

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