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Friday, 30 October 2015

London's Bottle Shop Bars

Another collaborative post with Jezza from www.beerguideldn.com (@BeerGuideLondon). He is one of a select group of London heroes that keep me in the know in their respective fields, and his guide to pubs and breweries in London is second-to-none. Most of the words are from Jezza and most of the photos are from me.

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Visiting New York a few years ago I - and other beer tourists - noticed a sudden proliferation of a new type of beer place. These are essentially beer shops which allow customers to choose any bottle from the shelves and drink it on site. Later versions often included a bespoke bar offering draft beers, which doubled up as a growler filling station for off sales. In short, they were a perfect illustration of what I will call - for the purposes of this article - 'bottle shop bars': a combination of a bottle shop and a bar.

Like most good American ideas it didn't take long for this concept to reach the UK, and in London we now have a number of rather excellent establishments offering variations on this basic concept. The most fully developed example is probably Mother Kelly's in Bethnal Green, but this is definitely more of a fully fledged bar with a bottle shop rather than bottle shop with a bar. Visit and you'll see what I mean.


At the other end of the scale - bottle shops with on site drinking possibilities - here are some of London's best:

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We Brought Beer - 28 Hildreth St, SW12 9RQ / 78 St John's Hill, SW11 1SF

Opened in Balham earlier in 2015, this smart and deceptively simple place has been such a stunning success that their second branch opened this week (Weds 28 October) offering around 450 beers in Clapham Junction (78 St John's Hill, SW11 1SF). The new site is bigger than the original, with a heated garden out back and a useful tasting room upstairs for 'meet the brewer' events and brewing workshops. Both outposts have 4 draft lines for growler fills and that all important on site drinking.

In Balham, on hip Hildreth Street, there's an immaculate range of 350 top quality bottles from around the world. Grab a beer and a stool, sit down and enjoy whilst perusing the fine range on the shelves. Rarities from Port Brewing, AleSmith and Hopping Frog are typical of the US selection, complemented by a great choice from the UK in the overall range.

Order beers online at Hubbub and enter WBB20 to get £20 off  your first order





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Hop Burns and Black - 38 East Dulwich Road, SE22 9AX - Closed Mondays

This smart but cosy and welcoming shop between East Dulwich and Peckham Rye opened at the tail end of 2014 but already feels like a well established part of the London beer scene. New Zealanders Jen and Glenn are incredibly friendly hosts, organising regular special events to go alongside their excellent range of high quality beers from around the world, hot sauces and vinyl (these three elements giving the shop its quirky but accurate name).

New outside seating - with heaters for the winter - provide additional space in which to enjoy a beer. And just check out that amazing flagon filling station - a state of the art beauty offering an eclectic and top quality range of fine draft beers to take away and enjoy at home.

Order beers online at Hubbub and enter HBURNS20 to get £20 off  your first order




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The Bottle Shop - 128 Druid Street, SE1 2HH - Saturdays only

Druid Street is perhaps the epicentre of the famous Bermondsey Beer Mile, being home to two breweries and the excellent Bottle Shop. This is a great example of a bottle shop bar. You can choose from any of the 200+ bottles and drink them here - or choose one of the ever changing drafts. Enjoy your beer in the seating area high up on the mezzanine level. With regular tap takeovers and 'meet the brewer' events with some of the country's best breweries, and an outstanding selection of bottles, you are sure to find something of interest here. Note the restricted opening hours, which are listed in our Guide entry here (currently open Saturday only).

Order beers online at www.bottle-shop.co.uk and get 15% off with a BottShop15 code

Photo taken by The Bottle Shop

Photo taken by The Bottle Shop
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The Hop Locker - Southbank Centre Market, Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX - Friday-Sunday 

Being a market stall in the bustling Southbank Centre market, just behind the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, The Hop Locker is a variation on the theme. However, as it offers drafts and bottles to drink at the market it still fits the bill of being a 'bottle shop bar' selling the best of UK beer to take away or drink on site. The range is expanding all the time and knowledgeable owner Joel now offers around 50 bottles and 8 constantly changing draft lines. While The Hop Locker only serves beer, there are plenty of food options from the other market stalls - many of them excellent. Wrap up warm over the next few months, however, as the drinking here is necessarily all outdoors. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday only at the time of writing.




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The Wanstead Tap - 352 Winchelsea Road, E7 0AQ - Closed Mondays

Another variation on the theme, The Wanstead Tap is many things under one roof: bottle shop; bar; 
coffee shop; events space; cinema and general community space. While it may sound like it's trying to be all things to all people, they appear to do all these things well: the beer range is over 100 and very high quality, at excellent prices. So it's well worth the 10 minute walk from Forest Gate or Wanstead Park stations, but check the opening times carefully before you set off.

Photo provided by @BonsVoeux1

Photo provided by The Wanstead Tap

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The Beer Boutique - 134 Upper Richmond Rd, SW15 2SP

Belgian Marc opened The Beer Boutique in 2010 in between East Putney and Putney stations. It got off to a slow start, fighting over licence issues, but has grown into a fantastic bottle shop with 400+ beers and two (very affordable) draft lines. There's a reasonable 25p corkage charge to drink in, which won't bother you greatly if you are tucking in to sharing bottles from the likes of The Bruery and Rodenbach.

Much like Hop, Burns & Black, they have a fondness for vinyl, though it's not on sale here. It's one of the more homely bottle shops on the list - a place you'll want to spend all day in. Keep your eyes peeled for events and tastings on their website.

Opening times: Sun-Wed 12-8, Thu 12-9, Fri 12-9.30, Sat 11-9.30

Order beers online at www.thebeerboutique.co.uk




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Drink of Fulham - 349 Fulham Palace Rd, SW6 6TB - Closed Mondays

Technically called Dr.Ink of Fulham, this friendly bottle shop was ahead of its time when it opened in 2010, allowing customers to open bottles on-site to drink in the heated front garden, at no extra cost. On top of that, owner Shrila sells her own freshly made Gujurati curry pastes on a daily basis, and wonderful snacks on Saturdays (70p samosas!). To drink, you'll find world beers from the likes of Mikkeller, De Molen and Ballast Point alongside a wide range of British ales and craft beers. It's not the easiest place to get to, but it's worth the 10-15 minute walk from Putney Bridge and Parsons Green tube stations. The 220, 430 and 74 buses go very close too.

Opening times - Tue-Fri 2-8, Sat 11.30-8, Sun 12-4




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Thanks to Jezza for writing the majority of this post. His guide to pubs and breweries in London can be found online at: www.beerguideldn.com

The site contains full details of Mother Kelly's, We Brought Beer, Hop Burns and Black, The Hop Locker, The Bottle Shop and The Wanstead Tap – including opening times, which you should check carefully while planning any visits. You can also follow Jezza on Twitter @beerguidelondon or @bonsvoeux1 for frequent updates.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like to read our recent post on Beer on the Southbank, and Jezza's up-to-date guide to the Bermondsey Beer Mile.

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