We understand that London has the ability to take on several guises and entice you to visit with a plethora of offerings. Catching dinner and a show is always a winner, especially when followed by hitting the various West End bars afterwards (heck, hitting them beforehand is always a great option too!)
Or how about a spa break in London? The city has some of the most luxurious hotels to be found anywhere in the country, so stopping by for some top-notch treatment in a lovely location can be the perfect way to rest and revitalise.
While all of that is great, we’re taking a slightly different approach to recharging our batteries here, by exploring the wonderful world of the British beer garden.
What About Beer Gardens?
If you’re a British citizen or indeed, if you’ve spent any prolonged time on these shores, we’re confident you’ll be well familiar with the concept, but we’ll cover some of the basics for the uninitiated among you, just to make sure we’re all on the same page when you hit the section below that directs you to the very best that London has to offer.
Unfortunately, the name is a little misleading, since the garden is not actually formed of beer. ‘Ah,’ you say, ‘that’s fine. But the beer does sprout from the ground, yes?’ Alas, it is also not a magical place where you might find craft beer chrysanthemums or lily lagers (maybe it should be – somebody, get working on this post haste!)
In reality, a beer garden – which is a loan translation of the German phrase Biergarten – is generally a collection of shared tables where one can enjoy alcoholic beverages and local food in an outdoor area. But fear not, this is still a wonderous place and a true, time-old tradition of the British summertime.
How Was the Beer Garden Born?
As shocking as this next morsel of knowledge may be, it was not the British who came up with the idea of a beer garden. As the German phrase alluded to above, that honour belongs to Munich dating back to the 19th Century. Though we have to go back to the 16th Century to get a real handle on the emergence of beer gardens, since it was closely related to the seasonal limitations of beer brewing.
As early as 1539, it was forbidden to brew during summer months due to the increased risk of fire, which led to cool storage being sought during these warmer climes. This began with breweries digging cellars into riverbanks and later adding horse-chestnut trees to provide a canopy for the beer beneath. People had already started consuming beer from the earlier ‘beer cellars’ but the shaded backdrop provided by the trees added a dynamic that would prove incredibly popular. It wasn’t long before benches and tables were added, forming the traditional beer garden setting we’re familiar with today.
Where Can I Find Good Beer Gardens in London?
Well, apart from this splendid list we’ve put together for you, the Londonist has a rather handy map which plots some of the best beer gardens that fall inside the M25, giving you a handy visual of where you are versus where you want to be. And if you’re looking for a little less ‘beer’ from your garden, Fever Tree’s Gardens tool will help you navigate ‘Britain’s best pub gardens for sipping G&Ts’. Simply pop in your postcode and away you trot.
What’s the Top Beer Garden in London?
In terms of London’s top beer garden, it’s very hard indeed to look past The Red Lion and Sun, which is the reigning Great British Pub of the Year. Situated in the ‘leafy rural haven of Highgate Village’ and boasting not one but two beer gardens, it’s an ‘idyllic pub offering an extensive wine list that’s a cut above the rest’.
What Are the Best Summer Beer Gardens in London?
However, while The Red Lion and Sun is unquestionably excellent – not to mention award-winning – we’re going to narrow our focus a little and let you in on the best beer gardens in London that go particularly well with a spot of sunshine. Enjoy!
People’s Park Tavern, Victoria Park
If you’re looking for a quintessential village pub, look no further than People’s Park Tavern. Formerly The Britannia, you can enjoy some of their People’s Pints – which come straight from their very own in-house brewery – among the leafy surroundings or inside a wooden cabana. Fancy adding a bit more expanse to your milieu? No problem! Victoria Park is right next door.
The Albion, Islington
A gem of Georgian mastery that’s understated and exudes charm because of it, this walled garden features flowing wisteria and open fires for those unexpectedly chilly evenings. Situated just off Angel’s Upper Street, it’s far enough away from the hustle and bustle that you’ll completely forget you’re in one of the world’s busiest cities.
The Ship, Wandsworth
More naming confusion for us to contend with, we’ll let The Ship get away with not actually being a ship because of its splendid riverside location. Add into the mix the BBQ, alfresco bar and heated booths and it’s easy to see why this is such a popular spot. If you’ve not been there to watch the sunset over the river Thames, you’re really missing out.
The Crabtree Tavern, Hammersmith
Positioned on the most picturesque part of the Thames, the lavish Crabtree Tavern is an iconic Victorian establishment with several outdoor spaces. The seating area under the weeping willow is a particular highlight… if you can nab yourself a spot.
BONUS PICK: Aviary, The Montcalm Royal London House
We may be stretching the definition of beer garden a little here, as Aviary is more accurately described as a ‘rooftop restaurant and bar with a stunning south-facing terrace’. But when surrounded by sun-dappled, mid-century styling and breath-taking vistas, we don’t mind stretching the rules a little to include one of the City’s most sought-after spots.
If you like the look of Aviary, you’ll find no better accommodation in London than to check-in to The Montcalm Royal London House. Or, if your stay in the capital takes you nearer the hip streets of Shoreditch, make sure you stop at the sleek and beautifully designed M by Montcalm, which features architecture inspired by the work of Tate Modern artist Bridget Riley, no less.