The Beer Garden is a wonderful thing – a place to enjoy two things the UK’s capital can do well: beer and sun. Farmdrop’s resident beer expert Cillian Davis looks at the best beer gardens all over South London to enjoy a pint, or something more adventurous, in the sun.
Most people’s traditional idea of the Beer Garden (or Biergarten to our Germanic cousins) generally brings ideas of horse-chestnut trees, communal benches, and frothy steins of helles. However, even before these strange times, space has always been at a premium in London, so the recreation of the Bavarian Biergarten here was near-on impossible.
But Londoners need somewhere to drink outside when it’s sunny or when we need to social-distance, so the capital’s publicans have had to be more innovative, albeit far less traditional, than their Bavarian counterparts. Saying that, beer culture across the world relies heavily on the Southern German State for inspiration.
Canopy Beer Company
I’ve loved Canopy’s offerings ever since I first saw Sunray (their pale ale) in its colourful can, and that was before I even tasted it. To this day, this is all I ever drink here and at a very sessionable 4.2%, it’s the perfect thirst quencher on a hot day. However, this article is supposed to be about beer gardens, so before I start going on further about the benefits of low ABV beer, let’s talk about the space.
Based in a commercial area under a railway archway, so far so Craft Brewery, but this place offers something that the vast majority of the Bermondsey breweries can only dream of: outside space. Yes – it is scrappy and industrial, but there is nowhere better to get top quality, local and impressively fresh beer in the area. This is this place’s beauty and why it’s a great place to enjoy some of South London’s best craft beer.
Also, in a nod to our German cousins, Canopy has a great, though optimistically named, Champion Koelsch on tap all-year round and currently also has a great radler, Paradisi on tap. Known as a shandy to English beer purists, a radler is a taste of German beer culture in a pint glass. Originally formulated for cyclists afraid of being a bit sozzled for their trip home, the radler is the ultimate thirst quencher and perfect if we have a bit more sun this summer.
And here, there’s always the option of purchasing a couple of cans, to go and enjoy in Brockwell Park – which is just a stone’s throw away.
Some may say I’m lazy by recommending a pub, which is only a four minute walk away from Canopy – and to be quite honest, they are probably correct, but this pub has a gem of a beer garden. With its outside bar, it is perfect for those of us, who are particularly worried about social distancing. However, given my own laziness – I actually tend to make use of the table service available.
Making use of a lot of space for a Zone 3 location, the garden is impressively open and has been separated into booths, so that bubbles can be kept intact and the garden is fully sheltered. This serves as the perfect antidote to the capital’s famously temperamental weather. Indeed, you’ll be able to enjoy your pint whatever the weather.
And there’s loads of choice here. What with there being an extensive wine list alongside an apparently changing craft beer list, which included some of my favourites. Canopy’s tropical and heavily-hopped, Brockwell IPA and Mondo’s aptly named, Dennis Hopp’r. Given that this is also a Fuller’s pub, be sure to have a go on their Extra Special Bitter.
Herne Hill’s Half Moon allows you to enjoy great local beer in a spacious environment, perfectly designed for the current situation. Defo give it a go.
The next recommendation was not just added, to prove that I could escape that much-praised area of South London: Herne Hill. Onto Bermondsey Street it is – and where better in the area to have a pint in the sun than the Woolpack’s garden?
The astroturfed garden might make the average person pine for the days of being able to play an impromptu, unrestricted game of five-a-side, but it’s also a great to enjoy an al-fresco pint. With an abundance of space, social distancing is no issue here, and the park benches’ aesthetic may bring happy memories of park drinking during lockdown. Indeed, the benches are built for communal drinking and in-keeping with the German logic of communal beer gardens. Alas, times are different now, but we will hopefully be drinking cheek by jowl before too long.
When in Bermondsey, you have to remember you in the traditional heart of London’s craft beer scene – so it’s sort of sacrilegious to drink anything other than a pint. However, be rest assured that they also have a rather extensive wine list for the oenophiles among us.
However, when in this area – you might as well visit some breweries and luckily for you, someone wrote an extensive review of the Bermondsey beer mile. What a gem they must be.
For a very different experience, look no further than New Cross’ family-run Skehan’s. Pretty unassuming inside and out, this place does a great pint of Doombar – and has a pool table and a dart board for when the weather gets too much (which is all too often in this all too unreliable city).
However, this is supposed to be about beer gardens and this place doesn’t disappoint. A multi-levelled affair which takes the garden element of a beer garden and runs amok with it. Hardly what you’d expect from a little Irish pub. While not decorated with the horse-chestnut trees of Bayern, Skehan’s is bedecked with bushes, flowers and trees – and provides what I can honestly say is the perfect environment to enjoy the great Thai food available from Chai’s Garden Restaurant. Farmdrop Digital Content Creator and Skehan’s regular, Louis, reckons the drunken chicken is your best bet after having a few, I couldn’t possibly comment.
At the end of the day, though, this is a real hidden gem of South London – and the garden is best enjoyed with an ice cold lager, in the mid-afternoon, newspaper in tow.
I’ll be perfectly honest – I’m a North Londoner born and bred – and am always reluctant to extol the virtues of any other part of London. However, I have to admit that, while I will never be a full convert given my loyalties, the South of the city’s pubs definitely have a lot to offer in terms of both great beer and great gardens, from Herne Hill all the way to New Cross. Yes – I’ll never be a South Londoner, but for an al fresco pint – it’ll more than do!