Bermondsey is arguably London’s best hub for food and drink. And for beer drinkers it is best known for its mile-long stretch of independent breweries. Our resident beer lover – Cillian Davis – recommends his favourite tipples and tells us how to get the most out of a night (or day) on the famous Bermondsey beer mile.
Farmdrop has always tried to showcase the best that locally and sustainably produced food and drink can offer. Given that London breweries are at the top of their game, it is so important that we showcase the fantastic, independent breweries down in Bermondsey.
Where better to start than Affinity Brewing? Located on Almond Road a stone’s throw from Partizan, these guys are great at jazzing up traditional styles. I couldn’t look beyond having a third of both the table beer, Strong and Table and a very special raspberry and lime sour, Pisci. Annoyingly, there were only light beers on show with my usual favourite, Toowoomba – a coconut and raspberry stout not on the menu. Not only are Affinity killing it when it comes to brewing, they’ve also got one of my favourite spaces on the entire mile. A low maintenance, industrial working brewery setting is what you can expect, but it’s so much more than that. It features a lovely communal-feeling outdoor space (which, for the record, is a lot nicer in the summer months) that is paired with a homely upstairs area. In short, a great place to enjoy some of the best beers this side of Bermondsey – and they had Tayto crisps.
However, the Bermondsey Beer Mile is not an occasion where you can rest on your laurels.. And after a brisk 15 minute walk (time flies when you’ve had two one-thirds of great beer), I found myself at my second location of the evening, Brew by Numbers. With two spaces on the mile, BBNO are bringing great beer to a wider audience especially given the brilliance of their beer numbering system, which means beer drinkers can pick a style and experience hop/malt changes along the way and options can range from cider to a rotating cask tap option. Here, and in the spirit of the evening, I went with 19 | Gose (Guava and Dragonfruit). Some purists might be looking at me – and saying – sours in January? But hear me out, great produce is about enjoying yourself – and as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing funner than a Leipziger Gose (a beer that is traditionally soured by mixed fermentation and generally contains loads of salt and coriander seed). This one was nice and sour with very slight effervescence. And needless to say, I also sampled their 09| an 8.2% Amarillo-hopped Brown Ale. Perfect for a mid-Winter drink and easily paired with anything hearty from the food truck outside the tasting room. But, you don’t have to be confined by my strange tastes – and we currently stock their Session IPA – a classic from the brewery.
There’s no rest for the wicked, or rather the slightly tipsy, so onwards to the Cloudwater tap room just two units away. While Cloudwater isn’t a Bermondsey-based brewery per se, their tap room is a must-see on the mile. Manchester-based – these guys are the pre-eminent British craft brewery. Innovative and collaborative, they are always looking to improve and their list of beers is arguably the most extensive on the Mile – and the simplicity of their price listing deserves a shout-out. All drinks are £4, but tend to be varying in size – I wouldn’t exactly advise quaffing a whole pint of their 10% imperial stout, Love in the Dark even though it is beautiful. Obviously, I had to go for a sour and What are Frogs is a great introduction to the style, but they do all sorts – and they have an extensive list of guests from great breweries like Duration and Track. And where better to enjoy a sour beer in the winter than in the lively brightness of this tapestry-adorned tap room. And luckily for you, you can sample their brilliant Hoppy Little Lager with your next Farmdrop shop.
The final location I went to was Anspach and Hobday. Another working brewery and a long-time friend of Farmdrop. These guys specialise in classic styles, done well – and you can sample their Pale Ale, IPA, or Cream Ale with your next Farmdrop shop. This trip wasn’t a disappointment. Breaking the trend of the evening, I got out of my comfort zone and ordered a smoked brown ale. I wasn’t disappointed, especially given the lovely working brewery setting. Not only was the beer great – smoky flavours really softened the blow of the chilly, albeit three minute, walk from Cloudwater. But the beer, weirdly, wasn’t the star of the show. This portion of the mile was all about the glassware – a one-third glass to die for. Other than the dogs on show in Bermondsey, the cutest thing I saw that evening. And that’s before you consider what it was carrying: 189ml of smoky, warm-flavoured beautiful-ness. Kudos to A+H’s merch team – this glassware hasn’t gone unnoticed.
However, before this article becomes a treatise on the merits of solid glassware, I had to call it a day, but I leave you with this. My top three tips for the Bermondsey Beer Mile:
(i) Drink Thirds: Not only do you get to try more things, you won’t peak too soon and will be able to see more breweries.
(ii) Be Adventurous: Some of these breweries are doing crazy things and their appeal lies in their originality. Sample stuff you wouldn’t necessarily get in your local pub – you might even fall in love or return to Lager, but the beauty is in having the option.
(iii) Ask Questions: Given the DIY nature of this industry, you’re more than likely to come into contact with a brewer serving your beer. Always wondered what’s the difference between a lager and an ale – ask!
Special Mentions go to KERNEL and PARTIZAN, which I didn’t have time to visit. I love their beers and they’re available here: https://www.farmdrop.com/london/drinks/beer/beer