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London’s brewing history goes back centuries. Until late in the nineteenth century, beer was actually safer to drink than water with even children drinking ‘small ale’ (a very, very watered-down version). Now you have to be over 18 to enjoy a pint, but there is certainly plenty of choice as a visit to any of London’s breweries quickly reveals while your resident at any of the hotels near Bupa Cromwell Hospital.
Down in Chiswick, Fullers Brewery is by far the oldest of the London brewers. It has been supplying Londoners with beer for over 200 years and its tours reveal the changes that have taken place over time. Take a look inside its small museum, and hear the stories of brewing past and present while you tour the brewery itself. Naturally, there are opportunities to taste the various brews at the end of the tour.
Over in Islington, a tour around the Hammerton Brewery highlights a story of beer revival. Hammerton’s first began brewing in 1868 but ceased in the late 1950s. In 2014, a family member decided to resurrect the brand and brought brewing back into the Islington area. A family-run business, they enjoy giving hand-on lessons about the brewing process as well as tasting sessions.
Not far away in Camden, the Camden Town Brewery has become a much-loved feature of the London brewing scene especially its Hells Lager. During the tour you can enjoy a pint of the lager directly from the tank – freshness is guaranteed!
Across the river, Bermondsey is becoming a big center of the London brewing trade with numerous craft breweries as well as London’s first cidery at Hawkes Taproom. You can book a London Brewery Tour Bermondsey Microbrewing experience which includes two behind the scenes tours at Partizan and Southwark, as well as guided tasting, stops at three other breweries. You can take a break from the tour and enjoy the Malay food at any Malaysian restaurant in Kensington London.
Fourpure is another Bermondsey based brewery operating special Friday night tours of its brewhouse. During the tour, visitors discover how 4,000-litre brews are created out of grain and ending in a very palatable beer. Relax at the end of the tour with a five beer tasting flight as a way of learning how to distinguish between the tasting notes from different beers.
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Fancy learning to brew your own versions? Hawkes Taproom offers masterclasses in cider production, while at UBrew in Bermondsey there are day-long sessions where you can brew some beer from start to finish – but you do have to wait several weeks before you can take it home to drink as it needs to mature in the special containers.
Whatever your choice, bear in mind that you will almost certainly have to book in advance. Spaces on these tours are limited, due to the confined areas within a brewery. There is also an age requirement as participants have to be of legal drinking age.