London Riverside Guide

This month, join us on the riverside.


London was the most searched-for city on Untappd last year. This reflects the sheer number of options on offer in this world-class beer city. It has pubs aplenty from backstreet boozers to high-street and High Victorian, plus more taprooms and breweries opening all the time.

You can find all manner of environments in which to wet your whistle here. Many visitors come hoping for some gor-blimey Dickensian charm — and there’s lots of that to be had, with varying levels of authenticity. But if you’re up for a different kind of drinking experience you should make a beeline for the shoreline.

There is something special about drinking by a body of water, especially in London where the River Thames is an oasis of peace among the capital’s clamour. Pints drunk by the riverside are altogether different to the ones we sink surrounded by a sea of concrete and asphalt.

Perhaps it’s the proximity to something natural, something bigger than ourselves, something timeless. Or perhaps it’s just the change of scene that makes the beer taste better. Either way, here are some of London’s best spots for waterside refreshment.

Pubs and bars

The Dove (19 Upper Mall, Hammersmith, W6 9TA)

This cosy Fuller’s pub, a short way west of Hammersmith Bridge, offers the quintessential London riverside drinking experience. There are few better places to relax with a pint and watch the river flow slowly by, washing your cares away.

The Dove is a welcoming, working pub with just the right amount of history thrown in. It gives the impression of having been boiled down by half, thereby concentrating the pubbiness of what was left behind. The front bar is reputed to be the smallest in Britain. (A way of paying less tax, apparently.) And there is an ample supply of nooks and crannies to squeeze into with your mates, or just a pint and a good book.

Crate Brewery (Unit 7 Queen’s Yard, Hackney Wick, E9 5EN)

Drinking by the river in London usually means pubs, and usually means the Thames. But it doesn’t have to. How about a taproom by the River Lea instead?

Crate Brewery’s taproom is housed in a building, once a former squat, that was used in the past to produce porn and counterfeit money. Now it puts out craft beer and stone-baked pizza instead.

A good range of guest beers pour alongside Crate’s own offerings. There’s some decent wine and cocktails from the Alfred le Roy narrowboat which is moored outside.

There’s lots on offer at Crate besides the booze. You can take in live music and events at Mick’s Garage plus there’s Silo, a zero-waste restaurant.

The Mayflower PUB (117 Rotherhithe St, SE16 4NF)

You’ll find the Mayflower tucked away down a cobbled alley among the old wharves and warehouses of Rotherhithe. It is named after the Pilgrim Father’s Mayflower ship, which moored nearby in 1620 before setting sail across the Atlantic.

The pub has kept some connections to the states: you can buy US postage stamps at the bar, and there’s a book which descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers can sign.

Underneath its quaint wooden decor and historical charm, the Mayflower is at heart a properly-run pub offering a warm welcome, well-kept beer and good food. This is not the only pub claiming to be the oldest on the Thames, but it is perhaps the best.

What to do in the riverside area

London Craft Beer Cruise

The London Craft Beer Cruise offers something a bit different to the usual railway arches and industrial estates. Drinkers can while away a pleasant afternoon chugging along the Thames, taking in familiar landmarks from unfamiliar angles while they taste beers from the best of the city’s breweries.

You’ll get five drinks included in the ticket price, plus a souvenir tasting glass to take home when you disembark. And if you want to take on some ballast you can pre-order a cheeseboard, expertly matched to your beer by the on-board beer sommeliers.

The organisers take care to keep this a chilled affair. Large groups of lads on the lash will be turned away.

Tate Modern

An art gallery might seem an unlikely destination for those in need of a pint, but the Tate has been serving a good selection of craft beers for a while now.

If your South Bank culture fix has left you thirsty, head to the Terrace Bar where you will find beers from passionate and innovative breweries across the British Isles.

The Tate also hosts regular tap takeovers on the last Thursday of each month. The line up for 2020 kicks off with Cloudwater in January, and will also feature Burnt Mill, Wylam, North and Verdant among others.

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