Where: North London
Tours available? No
What to drink: Big Chief (5.5%), an IPA with notes of honey and nectar
Former banker Andy Moffat set up this uber-trendy craft brewery in Tottenham, North London in January 2010 after getting fed up of the finance industry. "I spent a year doing research and trying to convince myself to do it," he admitted at the time. It wasn’t only the first microbrewery to open in London, it was one of few environmentally-aware ones, as the brewery’s spent grain and hops are donated to local allotments to be used as compost and horsefeed. Flash forward three years and Camden Town Brewery and Little Brew have sprung up nearby, yet Redemption is just as popular as ever, with 6,200 Twitter followers keeping up to date with their latest ale launches. Our favourite is Urban Dusk (4.6%), a bitter with a rich, burnt-sugar aftertaste.
Where: Skipton, North Yorkshire
Tours available? Yes (Tickets from £10. Duration 60 minutes.)
What to drink: Golden Pippin (3.9%), a limited edition light ale that was so popular, it’s now brewed all year round
If you don’t live near the Shears Inn in Halifax or the other six pubs where Cooper Dragon beers are served, you can still sample their tipples as many are bottled and sold countrywide. Set up 11 years ago, the brewery produces five real ales, including the Best Bitter (3.8%), a malty, hoppy beer that is a favourite among traditionalists. If you’re in the area, the bistro restaurant is also worth a stop-off. It serves decent steaks, accompanied by very decent ales.
barbistro.co.uk (restaurant and tours)
Where: Porthmadog, North Wales
Tours available? Yes (Tickets £5. Duration 60 minutes)
What to drink: Dark Side Of The Moose (4.6%), it’s won more awards than you can shake an, erm, moose at
Forget the quirky purple logo, the Purple Moose-sponsored racing competitions, and the oodles of purple moose emblazoned merchandise. (Moose baseball cap, anyone?) Because when you strip away the branding and extras, you’re left with a very simple but very good range of ales. Try Madog’s Ale (3.7%), a malty bitter that won gold in the CAMRA Championship Beer of Wales Competition 2013. Their Glaslyn Ale (4.2%), Snowdonia Ale (3.6%) and Dark Side of the Moose (4.6%) have won an astounding 57 local beer awards between them, since 2006. Also popular is a pale elderflower-infused beer called Ysgawen. But try saying that after a pint, or four.
Where: Staveley, Cumbria
Tours available? Yes (Tickets £6.50. Duration 40-60 minutes)
What to drink: Great White (4.8%), a cloudy spiced wheat beer that’s brewed with coriander seeds and orange peel
BBC foreign correspondent-turned ale brewer Alex Brodie set up Hawkshead in 2002 after sharpening his skills as an ale connoisseur during his overseas assignments. Based near Lake Windermere, it produces seven core tipples including a pale ale, a bitter and a stout, as well as seasonal specialities. If you’re looking for a fruity summer drink, try the Cumbrian Five Hop (5%), a tropical fruit-flavoured blend with a dry taste. It won silver prize in the CAMRA Championship Golden Ale of Cumbria 2012 competition. If you’re passing, drop into the Beer Hall, a bar and restaurant complex at their headquarters in Staveley.
Where: East London
Tours available? Yes (Tickets from £12. Duration 30 minutes)
What to drink: Hackney Hopster, (4.2%) a pale ale with notes of grapefruit, lemon and gooseberry
Opened in 2011, London Fields Brewery is one of the youngest breweries in our roundup, but it has a huge (largely-hipster) cult following that rivals the others. The beer names and ‘beer backstories’ probably won’t earn them many fans among ale traditionalists - but they probably don’t care. Take the Love Not War (4.2%): ‘First brewed barricaded in the brewery during the London riots. This brooding red ale is an ode to all things love and peace. A true union of malt and hops.’ Just as popular as the beers is the line-up of events, including live music, beer festivals, brewing classes and film events with the independent Backyard Cinema that shares their premises. Planning a visit? Just remember to put on your drainpipes first.
Where: South London
Tours available? Yes (Tickets from £15. Duration various)
What to drink: Chocolate Porter (6.5%), a rich, dark beer with a mocha aftertaste
Founded by a group of friends in a small flat in Greenwich, Meantime has gone on to win numerous industry awards including the World Beer Cup. It also brewed CoffeePorter, the first ever FairTrade beer. Today, it produces ten staple tipples including a lager, stout, and raspberry wheat beer, as well as their classic: London Porter (6.5%), a dark beer with a recipe based on the ales drunk by dock workers and market traders in Eighteenth Century London. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a hot meat pie, if you’re heading to one of Meantime’s weekly Pie and Pint nights.