Craft Beer Pub Rant

June 11, 2013

This has been er, brewing, for a while.

Firstly I must say that I genuinely love beer, and I’m very happy that we’ve finally embraced the fact it isn’t all about the likes of Stella, Carling or worst of all, Heineken. No, Peroni. That tastes like BO. There are some fantastic beers out there, made with love and care; from light, citrussy pale ales to stormy, thick, chocolate hinted stouts. I love many of them, truly, but also, there are problems. Big problems.

What is it, exactly, that brewers seem to be doing now, making their beers hoppier and hoppier and goddamit, even hoppier? It’s just not pleasant. Okay, so we want to taste the hops, that’s the point and that’s the beauty of this ‘beer revolution’ as I’ve heard it called but seriously, know when to stop. The super hoppy beers have no subtleties of flavour, no complexity left, but most importantly, they’re just not nice to drink. They’re too bitter. They’re unbalanced. They lack skill in the making. It makes me angry. I’d almost rather have a pint of Stella. Almost.

And the craft beer pubs! Holy shit. This is where my spleen really starts pumping out its juices. Bitter, angry juices like the beers many of them serve. These pubs should be wonderful havens, oases in the world of dirty lines, dirtier glass washers and fruit machines blinking in the background. Instead, some tool has started the trend of making them the most impossibly uncomfortable places to have a drink. Let’s start with the seating. The Craft Beer Co. in Brixton sports a fine example here – what were they thinking? Instead of seats that actually encourage a person to get comfortable, enjoy their drink and – god forbid – actually want to STAY in the pub, they have decided to make them look like instruments of torture and – surprise – they feel like them too. The seats are hard little stools, at silly heights, with er, bike pedals to rest your feet on.  I’ve always wanted to feel like I’m on a bike while I’m having a quiet pint. No really. And just before you start thinking it might actually be fun to have a little pedal while you sup, you can forget it, because THEY DON’T EVEN GO ROUND. You’ll just have to lean on the cold metal table instead, the one with a big old crank on the side which lets you adjust the height in between knocking your knees against it, arse slowly going numb.

Annoyingly I couldn’t find a pic of the bike pedal thingies, they’re downstairs. 

Then there’s the acoustics. A total lack of soft furnishings is the problem. I expect the designers think this makes the pub look cool, because we need to make drinking beer cool, right? It’s not just for beardy CAMRA members; old timers with old attitudes. Well here’s the wake up call, people – beer already IS fucking cool. Get over it! Stop trying so hard! Make a pub we can sit in and actually hear the people we are trying to socialise with! The upstairs area in Craft is practically unusable once it has more than 5 people in it. Their perfectly normal levels of chatter are just a cacophony; a wall of sound flying up around the filament bulbs hanging in cages.

This is not a gender issue, either, so don’t even bother going down that road. I know as many women as men who enjoy good beer and I see as many in craft beer pubs. I hear as many men complaining about these ridiculous trends.

The bottom line is, just let us all enjoy (most of) the drinks that people have (mostly) lovingly made. There’s no need to keep so many on, either. How will I believe those beers are kept and served properly when there’s so many of them? A small, well chosen, changing selection is more appealing, at least to me, anyway. Maybe I’m alone on that point.

What does everyone else think? Am I being cranky? I know one thing for sure, the person who designs a comfortable, useable, actually pleasant craft beer pub is going to be raking it in. Speaking of which, The Rake in Borough Market is fine, although I can’t be arsed going there because it can only fit about 5 people. I really don’t want to single out Craft here either, they have some great beers, and I do drink there, but they provide a very good example of what I’m talking about. The only place I’ve found that’s been in any way nice has been in Manchester. Come on London, pull your socks up.


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  • Reply Nemi June 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Sounds like you went to a rather strange place indeed! I hope this doesn’t jade your view on the new breed of pubs out there, or the older more established ones.

    The Rake and Market Porter in Borough Market are good examples of old pubs with good craft beers from around the UK (and beyond).

    The Hare and Billet and The Lord Northbrook in SE3 and SE12 are new kids on the block with the aim of a proper pub selling proper beer. In fact you can’t get Stella at the H&B.

    But I do get that the word “craft” like “vinatage” and “artisan” are being over used. Vintage chedder?! Sorry is it from the 1940s?!

    – sorry if the pubs I have mentioned are already known to you 🙂

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Ha ha ha ha the cheddar comment made me laugh. The only one I am familiar with there is The Rake, so thanks!

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      Oh and The Market Porter, crikey I’ve spent some time in there. Yes I mean the new breed of craft beer pubs.

  • Reply Food Urchin June 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    The hoppier and hoppier beer thing was explained to me just recently. Insofar that there really is no turning back because more and more people are becoming accustomed to the flavour. Just as our tastebuds are maturing and changing to meet the quirks of all these new ‘craft’ beers that are emerging, anything that isn’t bitter and hoppy will soon be rejected. Apparently it’s a bit like that thing with chilli where over time, the more you eat, the hotter you can stand and anything less from there onwards becomes a damp squib.

    Naturally, I sort of believe that this line of thinking is a load of bollocks.

    Especially since skolling a few bottles of Peroni last Friday. Which really does taste of BO but hey, it’s all we had in the fridge at work.

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Oh REALLY! Interesting, and also sense-making. Danny is Peroni is all that’s on offer then obviously Peroni is going to get drunk.

  • Reply Sarah June 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    If you make it up to Hackney, the Cock Tavern on Mare Street does really good craft beer (and cider) in a big,comfortable space where you can hear yourself think.

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Aha! A second recommendation for that place.

  • Reply Nemi June 11, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Well if you ever find yourself in the wilds of SE3 or SE12 (only a mile down the road from each other) then try the pubs I mentioned. They are pub pubs, but with much better beer.

    But the both accept table bookings for their resturant bits :O

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      Ah well, we can’t have everything eh.

  • Reply Andy K June 11, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    My pet peeve is imported craft beer from the US / Australia / whatever. You end up losing a lot of the character, presumably in the multi-week shipping process and it seems to all end up quite sweet and malty and a bit disgusting. And it costs double. Bah. Just stick to UK beer.

    I kinda agree on the hope – you really want something more balanced like the Kernel seem to get right most of the time. Or switch to stuff with a bit more character – like I had a great Moncada Amber the other day and am getting more and more into stout / porter / mild.

    The good thing about craft beer is – like All Bar One in the mid-1990s – the trend-setters are dragging up the standards of loads of other places. But if you want the original awesome beer pub, head to the Old FOuntain near Old Street. And loads of other places that aren’t billed as specialist craft venues are doing good beer these days too e.g. the Sebright Arms or the Black Heart or Duke’s or the Fox in Dalston or the Lyric and Harp in town… I think it’s a great time to be drinking beer myself!

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 3:25 pm

      That’s a great point about the likes of All Bar One. I agree it is a great time to be drinking beer, maybe we’re just settling down.

  • Reply Andy K June 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    “hops” not “hope”!

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      Don’t worry I knew what you meant!

  • Reply Andy K June 11, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    And another thing… (I clearly have too much time on my hands)…

    Your point is a bit like the “gastropubs – good or bad?” debate. Which is just silly. Some do good food, some don’t, some are really just pubs that do good pork pies, some sell Monster Munch. Stop lumping stuff together! Hopefully, when standards move up on average everywhere, the real debate should be “do they do good food?” (or beer or whatever) rather than “this arbitrary category of venue – is it any good?”

    Rant over. Might go and do some work now I guess.

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      Perhaps I should be more specific with my titling ‘here’s a rant about a very specific type/style of craft beer pubs which I hate’.

      Not as snappy.

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Also, that’s very unfair to say I’m lumping all places together, when you know very well that’s not what I’m saying at all.

  • Reply Kerry June 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    The Craft Beer Co in Angel is great – it has CARPETS(!!!), comfy chairs and gorgeous tiles in the ladies’ loos. I don’t know how the company managed it considering the design disasters that are its Farringdon and (apparently) Brixton branches, but it’s really lovely there.

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Yes! I have been there and it is significantly nicer.

  • Reply Ewan June 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    For what it’s worth, I agree with you regarding these pubs which are just unpleasant loud echoey spaces with all hard surfaces, which more and more seems to be the done thing design-wise. I’ve not spent much time at CBC Brixton but I recognise what you mean, and as it happens their one in Angel is pleasant because it is, first and foremost, an actual pub. I am also in the same camp as you with regards to hoppy beers, so I tend to avoid IPAs and pale ales these days…

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      I just realised I replied saying I’d been to the one in Angel and I was thinking of a different place entirely. I must check it out next time I’m up there. Yeah it’s a shame that we have to avoid…

  • Reply CarsmileSteve June 11, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Those of us here at the Campaign For Real Pub Carpets fully support your comments.

    Craft N1 is currently my favourite pub in London just because of the carpet. 3 Compasses in Dalston has some half-decent beer (although is a little too hipstery, our party were the 4 oldest people in the pub by a distance on our visit and none of us are even 40) and a lovely carpet. The Railway the other side of dalston has seating covered in LU moquette which absorbs noise beautifully, even if they do have wooden floors…

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 4:08 pm

      Excellent, thanks for the recommendations! I don’t have anything against wooden floors by the way, it’s just the combination with everything else. That said, the Campaign For Real Pub Carpets sounds like a very worthy cause…

  • Reply Andy K June 11, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    sorry – wasn’t having a go at you really. this is one of the few blogs where i really do read and enjoy everything…


    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Oh gawd no worries, honestly. I’m not in the least bit offended. I was kind of being serious about being more specific with the title!

  • Reply Martha June 11, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    As far as I’m concerned, a pub has to have comfy seating, end of…

    The best BEER pub in my ‘hood is the Bricklayers Arms in Putney. Not necessarily the place I spend the most time, as other places have more armchairs and longer menus, but it’s famous for its range of beers, and I can barely get my Dad out of there when the folks visit!

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Putney! These far flung places! 😉

  • Reply Martha June 11, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Oi! Putney is the centre of the [/my] universe! 😉

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      Tee hee. I pull your leg. I’ve actually been and everything!

  • Reply donald June 11, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Right, I’m going to make like Martin Luther and nail 9.5 theses on Stormbird’s door… what should we start with?

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      I really do not know how to respond to that.

  • Reply Pubsnob June 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    Every single pub mentioned in this post and its comments( as well as almost every other pub in town) is severely deficient in multiple ways….except one. There is only one PERFECT pub in London. Could those who know please stop mentioning it. I really don’t want it to be ruined like all the other good things in this massively overpopulated city. That is all.

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      ha ha ha ha. yes you have a fair point…

  • Reply Pete June 11, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    While I don’t agree with the “too hoppy” opening, I agree 100% about the lousy seating and more importantly terrible accoustics in numeous “cool” bars.

    Yes, I want a pub to have a decent range of great beer, but if it’s an unpleasant environment I may as well just buy a four-pack of Carling and stay at home.

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      The only person to disagree thus far! Which is obviously fair enough. What about the complaints from brewers etc though? That it’s not properly made beer? And what about balance?

  • Reply donald June 11, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Pubsnob, if you’d kindly let me know where this perfect pub is, I’ll nip in for a swift half and quit my whinging.

  • Reply donald June 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    sorry, it’s just been pointed out to me that I’m a bit fucking dense and have already expressed a desire to visit said pub..

  • Reply Paul June 11, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Ditto Kerry and Carsmile the Craft in N1 is lovely! Soft seats; pictures of Churchill. Excellent smoking area outside. A great place to have a pint and chat.

    The worst place to have a drink in London is the bar in Drink, Shop, Do near Kings Cross. The acoustics make me want to cry; walk in and you are deafened by a sea of wankers chatting rubbish. Ridic smoking policy as well only allowing 6 out at a time added to stuck up shop girls who tell you off for queueing to get outside to smoke means you have an awful time…

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      Well that sounds bloody lovely. I shall avoid like the plague.

  • Reply jez June 11, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Totes agree about Craft Beer Co Brixton, used to be much better when it was Hive bar before they made it a pared down Cathedral to craft beer. Try Crown and Anchor up the road, better/different craft beers and hugely better environment imho. Re. Hops its an arms race at the mo but plenty of craft brewers are producing the beers u desire.

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 7:25 pm

      Ooh yes, very hard to get into Crown and Anchor on a weekend though isn’t it. If it’s the place I’m thinking of anyway. It is a little under the ‘Clapham influence?’

  • Reply Paul June 11, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Also the perfect pub is clearly the Fox and Anchor in Farringdon. That is all!

  • Reply Hugh June 11, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Euston tap is another prime example. Great beer, no where to sit and some of the worst toilets in London.

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 7:25 pm

      I’ve never used the loo there! I’ve only been once and about five years ago. I’m not sure there’s anything really good about Euston. WHY don’t they do something about that station?!

  • Reply Eileen June 11, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Oh boy. I definitely hear you on the hops issue! Here it seems like half the craft beers are some stripe of IPA, and it’s gotten so old & SO boring. I’m not really one to go out for drinks–mostly because the few we have in walking distance are chain-y sports bars–but the few beergardens around are a nice safe haven, with good beer to boot!

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 7:26 pm

      It’s a shame because some hoppy beers are enjoyable but there’s no balance. It’s like they just don’t understand flavour at all.

  • Reply donald June 11, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Crown and Anchor is the place you’re thinking about, always packed, annoying seating designed to persuade you to eat rather than settle in to drink and very Clapham and East Dulwich in tone..

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      I thought so…

  • Reply Richard Dixon (@drdickdixon) June 11, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Hello Helen – I have a feeling I’ve mentioned it on twotter before to you so apologies for repeating myself but the Hare and Billet in Blackheath is a normal (formerly Greene King chain pub) that hasn’t been too hipsterfied much.

    It has plenty of normal pub seats and wooden tables (and a standing area in the pub) and about 20 pumps and taps with goddammit more shitting beers changing that I’m able to keep pace with, which is great and frustrating in equal measure. It also does food of the Anchor and Hope/Canton Arms ilk. Bottoms up!

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      Fabulous, thank you! The food sounds very tempting too…

  • Reply John Gionleka June 11, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Cor blimey, this is what you call a full house. What’s a man gotta do to get served around here? Beer hey, who would have thought?

    • Reply Helen June 11, 2013 at 10:19 pm

      John, are you trying to sound cockney?!

  • Reply Curmudgeon June 11, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    Couldn’t agree more – something I’ve blogged about in the past. It now seems absolutely unfashionable for pubs actually to be cosy and comfortable.

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 8:34 am

      Aha! Not the only one then! Well that’s a relief…I don’t follow beer blogs in general so i didn’t realise. I am relieved.

  • Reply siepert June 11, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Re: Hoppiness. I learned recently that hops are the one ingredient that you can add late in the process and that will mask potentially unpleasant flavours in your beer.
    I’m sure it isn’t 100% coincidental that a wave of new, enthusiastic yet inexperienced brewers comes onto the scene and brings with it truckloads of very hoppy beers.

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 8:34 am

      That would not surprise me in the slightest – about the hops covering up faults I mean. Now you mention it I think I’ve heard that too.

  • Reply Stephen June 12, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Well said Helen, I reckon that the same thing applies to much of the “nouveau” thing…

    I read about a bloke in Brick Lane who had perfected the art of making pizza without using yeast (or without developing his own natural yeast… i.e. sourdough), his establishment was recommended by a friend who roasts coffee (exceptionally well), and also now makes what is probably the best espresso machine on the market, in terms of build quality, approach to espresso (lever fanatic), and value for money… In other words, I respect his opinions.

    When I found the place, it was arranged with a couple of benches and long tables, actually in the kitchen… veery trendy! And then I looked at the menu… £16 quid for a Margherita, in uncomfortable overheated (even in a London summer) surroundings and made with a “crispy” base… So trendy it hurts!

    I have to admit that I didn’t even bother to stay and try one… They might well be tasty!

    In fact I was so wound up by the whole Brick Lane “experience”, that I carried on walking and eventually (in desperation) bought a sandwich in a Pret near Grays Inn, which I ate in a park.

    A week later, I read your report on the pizzas of St. Reatham, and I went there straight away… A proper pizza for £6.50.. I still spent £20 in there, I bought a Caprese Salad, and a loaf of sourdough to take home… Oh and I also had a peroni…:) Really good stuff, made and served by young ambitious blokes (from Napoli no less!)… more interested in quality of food and service, than being “right on”.

    This week, I went for one of my walks… I was thinking of getting myself a modern “artisan” coffee… Again the same experience… blokes with trendy beards (frequently antipodean accents) and really uncomfortable stools, with boxes for tables and the like… (BTW chaps, when you order an espresso, you shouldn’t need to have to ask for a glass of cold water, it should just be there on the tray!)

    I dismissed every single one of them, and eventually stumbled on a place near Oxford Street called the Newman Arms (I think)… (anyway, near the PO sorting office). A small sign advertising meat pies and puddings encouraged me to go inside… Where I ordered a pint of Harvey’s Sussex, they also had Pride and Timothy Taylor… (They even had “wife beater”!)

    I ordered an S&K pudding, and it came with mash, carrots, cabbage and some of that floral stuff (cauliflower and calabrese), and a lovely herby gravy, and the whole experience was delightful and er “ordinary”, a place I will almost certainly go back to…

    London is still there in some places!

    I had to wait until I got home to make myself an exceptional coffee on my amazing Londinium espresso machine.

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 8:32 am

      16 quid for a margherita!!! That is outrageous! You should have checked out Beigel Bake for a salt beef and nose clearing mustard bagel 😉 Agree though, in general, the area is unbearable now.

  • Reply John Gionleka June 12, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Moi? No way. Surprised by the sheer scale of contributions.

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 8:30 am

      Ha ha yeah I know…so am I!

  • Reply Zatytom June 12, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I am a massive beer fan and love the craft pubs. The one in Brixton is definitely aiming for the young people trendy thing, and when busy is a bit jarringly loud.

    You should maybe try the Islington one, which is much more of a normal pub, but with the Craft beer offer. The first Craft, in Farringdon, has soft furnishings and a generally quiet and comfortable upstairs, and their original pub, the Cask in Victoria, is also worth a visit.

    Regarding having masses and masses of beers on, the Craft group are definitely at the far end of that spectrum and I think that there is a place for that in London, and I’ve only once had beer past its best at one of their pubs (which was instantly and very apologetically replaced.)

    If you want a pub doing a less vast, but well-chosen and interestingly rotating range of beer, there are now many more places than there once were. The Priory Arms in Stockwell has a good range of European beers as well as a good rotation of British draft. The Hope in Carshalton is a proper local boozer that manages to have one of the most consistently exciting beer selections of anywhere.

    I think you now can, at least in London, drink amazing beer in pretty much any ambience you choose! Craft Brixton may well not be for you, but somewhere will!

    (Regarding the trend towards hoppiness, the bar staff at the places I’ve mentioned have always been great at suggesting things towards any tastes you require, so whilst the default for ‘craft’ beer might be pale hop soup, the spectrum is infinitely more vast than this, and places that know their arse from their elbow should be able to recommend.

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 9:26 am

      brilliant, thank you. It’s been worth writing this rant just to get all the brilliant recommendations. Not being a ‘beer person’ as such, as in not being an expert, I just don’t know where the good places are. I will definitely check out the one in Stockwell, thank you.

  • Reply Bob June 12, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Euston tap is terrible, the staff don’t know whats going on and its very difficult to see what they have on. The gents toilets are very strange too (not in a good way).

    The Dean Swift near tower bridge is a real hidden gem. Great selection of beers both on draft and on bottle and the staff seem to know about the beer. Had a great beer by Magic Rock there. Hopefully the padded seats will put a smile on your face if the beer doesn’t.

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 9:38 am

      ooh I’ve never heard of the Dean Swift! Nice one.

  • Reply Catherine June 12, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Doesn’t Meantime have a few pubs in the Greenwich area? They sell beer at the South Bank Food Market on Fridays, Saturday and Sunday, at least they did the last time I went there.

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 10:16 am

      meantime is okay, you can buy it in a lot of pubs now, not just ‘craft beer pubs’. I have it if there’s nothing else but I don’t find it particularly exciting. I’ve not been to one of their pubs so I don’t know if they sell beers other than their own.

  • Reply Stephen June 12, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Oh yeah, beigels…!

    We used to go there in the 1970’s at 3am when on the night shift in a computer room in Finsbury circus…

    “Roll patrol”… Either there, or “Kossoffs” doughnuts mmm.

    Real London, again.

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 10:23 am

      Exactly! It’s such a great place. The chewiness of those bagels…I dream about them.

  • Reply sarah June 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    the craft beer app (on ios and android) is a great guide to london’s great craft beer pubs. i’d recommend the catford bridge tavern and the old coffee house (brodies beers)

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      Another for the catford bridge tavern!

  • Reply Gemma June 12, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Couldn’t agree more about the over-hopping of beers. I’m a CAMRA member and it seems to be taking hold there too (I was at a beer festival and ordered what I know to be a nice session bitter and was told it was a “tasteless wonder”. I’ll keep my tastebuds, thanks).

    I think the person who mentioned chilli bores above was probably onto something. I appreciate that I’m probably not the target market for craft beer pubs, but give me a squashy armchair and a pint of mild any day (vastly underrated, mild).

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm

      Yeah I can’t help but wonder whether taste buds have just been numbed.

  • Reply Timbuc June 12, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Hi, please can you enlighten us as to the pub in Manchester that was decent? Thanks

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      Yeah it was called um Port Street Beer House. Looking back it does have some similarities in the decor. It did have some proper tables and chairs though – I even sat at one of them.

  • Reply Dan June 12, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Try Beer Rebellion in Gipsy Hill, they haven’t made any effort to make it seem cool, in fact they haven’t changed a single thing from the ex-bistro they took over. But they do have damn good beer.

    As for hoppy beers, I find it’s like chilli: the more hoppy beer I drink, the hoppier I want my beer to be.

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      ooh another South London rec – thanks!

  • Reply Owen June 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    There are plenty of nice craft beer pubs around Islington/Hoxton – Earl of Essex, Howl at the Moon, The North Pole, The Fox. And more traditional places that serve plenty of craft beer – The Wenlock Arms, The Old Fountain
    and the Charles Lamb. Craft Beer Islington is pretty great too, but I have to agree that the Brixton branch is very weird.

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Great, thanks for the tips. Yes everyone says the Islington one is much better. Maybe they were trying to be all ‘edgy’ for the Brixton crowd?

  • Reply Russ June 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    Great blog, great comments. Glad to hear the Dean Swift is good, have been trying to get to their other one in Smithfield called the Old Red Cow which looks just as good so add that to the list 🙂

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 2:04 pm

      Thank you! And I agree about the comments, what a fantastic bunch.

  • Reply Sage June 12, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Haha! Agree completely with the Hoppiness business. You should see how far it’s gone on the west coast of the US where “west coast” pale ales try to outdo each other for mouth-drying, neck-tingling skunkiness.
    Oooh and if it hasn’t been mentioned: The Cock Tavern just south of Hackney Central og station is good for ale and cider and sittable chairs… Oh and handlebar moustaches.

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 2:50 pm

      Oh blimey I can imagine. It needs to be nipped in the bud here immediately.

  • Reply Jim June 12, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Helen,

    Did you know that there’s a microbrewery opening in Peckham next month? I for one am looking forward to trying it out.


    (I’m not affiliated in any way, other than living very near by!)

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      I had heard rumours! Wasn’t it supposed to open ages ago? Anyway I am very excited…and thanks for the link.

  • Reply Becca June 12, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    I can second the recommendation for The Priory Arms in Stockwell! I’ll be very sad to leave it as my local at the end of the month. Food isn’t amazing, but I believe they have a new chef so maybe improvements are on the cards?

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 3:20 pm

      Aww it’s sad to leave a good local behind. You will have the joy of finding a new one though!

  • Reply Ben June 12, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    Bit OTT i think.

    CBC Brixton is a very small place and they have gone for a modern look, but if you had been to the CBC Islington, you would see the complete opposite ( as mentioned already, really Traditional feel and very homely) , as can be said for the original CBC in Clerkenwell and the really lovely CBC in Brighton.

    As also mentioned The Cask in Pimlico is very unlike Brixton Craft as well.

    I can see why they have gone more urban in Brixton and traditional would not fit the area, the suggestion that Crown and Anchor is comfy is slightly wide of the mark, they have gone for a pretty modern look with hard furniture as well.

    I think the Craft should be applauded for given each of there pubs its own identity and they would seem to agree with you about the need for warm homely pubs as the Islington pub opened most recently is really old school and comfy.

    • Reply Helen June 12, 2013 at 8:00 pm

      Hi Ben. I’ve said this already, but I’m not singling out Craft. I said that it was a good example of a style of craft beer pubs that I do not like. It was not a criticism of the entire chain. If you look at the last paragraph…the Brixton branch merely represents perfectly the new wave.

  • Reply Ben June 13, 2013 at 2:46 am

    Hi Helen,

    It would seem you have singled out craft unfairly in my opinion as they have 4 pubs plus The Cask and only one of the five is in the style you discuss. Thats 20%. I dont know if thats a trend, maybe you have not visited the CBC Clerkenwell,Islington or Brighton, but none of those three are in any way the same style as Brixton – Complete opposite in fact.

    Everyone is entitled to an Opinion, but you don’t provide any evidence in your blog to say there is a trend of the sort you mention.

    You also mention the fact there is too big a selection, having drank in all the CBC places and never had a bad beer i think this is not a fair point, though i agree this can be the case in other places. Though if your point is you simply dont like a wide choice, thats your perogative of course.

    Perhaps you could visit Islington CBC and then write a piece which is slightly more even handed.

    I should say that Brixton is not exactly to my taste either but i just think you have been rather harsh.

    • Reply Helen June 13, 2013 at 8:30 am


      I didn’t say I have visited every craft beer pub in order to write this post. I have said, repeatedly now, that I used that pub AS AN EXAMPLE of a new wave of craft beer pubs which I do not enjoy. That is it. Simple!

  • Reply donald June 13, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Hi Ben, do you not think that based on Helen’s responses to the comments she likes craft beer and was merely having a mini (and quite light hearted) rant about a couple of aspects of some of the craft beer scene as opposed to the more traditional pub world.
    You’re obviously a huge fan of CBC and know all of their branches very well, Helen’s obviously only been to the Brixton one (as have I, I used to live there and not Islington, the Brighton one opened after I left), the beers are great, the choice is enormous, it brings to mind places with huge wine lists (I’m an ex sommelier) I find it a little OTT but I still go there to drink.

  • Reply Dan June 13, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Totally agree!

    The same goes for this place too…

    @taproomn1 (twitter)

    great beers, CRAP seating

    • Reply Helen June 13, 2013 at 11:05 am

      Never heard of them! Same ilk though I’m guessing…

  • Reply Dan June 13, 2013 at 11:10 am

    It was a ‘Pop-up’ at Xmas and now fully opened. It was a brick shell where they ripped out a shop fit, which made it quite a cool use of space for a month, but now its just a joke..

    • Reply Helen June 13, 2013 at 11:17 am

      Ahhh I see…

  • Reply Lizzie June 13, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    As you well know, I’m not a beer fan at all and I think it’s too much craft beer that put me off. SO HOPPY. Bleugh.

    • Reply Helen June 13, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      If you don’t like beer then it’s erm yeah, possibly the worst thing ever. Feel glad you don’t have to go to Craft Brixton hey.

  • Reply Bill March 25, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Fell out of love with craft beer in the US last year. So many and such little differential in taste! Lots of cool names and exorbitant prices in the main. It seems ‘Bitter’ means just that now. The last straw was in a bar in Boston where they had over 50 beers (the most expensive being over $50 a bottle!) and I was offered a taster of foaming orange sludge… I declined. I don’t think its as a result of the multi-week shipping – its just that search for the ‘raw’ hoppyness I think. I quite agree on the comments re. barren bars – “It’ll be nice when its finished” – Most ar eOK on a sunny day, but on a cold British winter evening it not what you need.

    • Reply Helen Graves March 25, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      I remember doing a beer tasting in San Diego and none of the beers had percentage info, so we ended up absolutely shitfaced. Anyway, I agree with everything you say! “It’ll be nice when it’s finished” indeed.

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