There are beer bars in London that have a wider range than The Rake, that’s for sure – next to Craft Beer Company or Cask Pub & Kitchen, the three hand pumps and seven keg taps of The Rake may seem downright paltry. But look closer: those ten pumps/taps regularly feature the very latest releases from top British and world breweries, there’s frequently limited releases on offer that you can hardly get anywhere else but here, and everything changes with a frightening regularity. You can have a two-keg limited release of a Kernel/Tom Greasly collab (a Red IPA) one night (those two kegs lasted all of 40 minutes) and the launch of the Ilkley/Melissa Cole collab Siberia (a saison with Siberian rhubarb) the next. Because that’s just how The Rake rolls: respected and liked by brewers everywhere, this is the place of choice for many brewers doing a special launch or presenting a one-off collab. The Rake is not just a beer lovers’ pub, it’s a brewers‘ pub (as evidenced by the brewer guest wall of fame, getting ever more crowded with every week – look for signatures by the likes of Stone and Hitachino Nest). The Rake team (the same people are behind the Utobeer beer stall in nearby Borough Market, in case you have been living on Mars the past couple of years) also seem to be dedicated to geographical variation: as you would expect, the three hand pumps offer the best of British, as it were, and on the seven keg taps you can almost always be sure to have something from the US, something from Germany, something from Belgium, and something from somewhere else (Australian Little Creatures and Norwegian Nøgne Ø make frequent appearances, for example – I had an excellent Nøgne Ø Wit at The Rake the other day).
The bright blue sign of BrewDog is a beacon in the beer wasteland that is Camden: this part of London has been crying for a good beer bar for a long time. And in December of last year, those cries were answered. This is not your average pub, though, and it is doubtful if the BrewDog gang would even consider “pub” an appropriate word to describe their venues. There are no hand pumps, keg beer only, all dispensed via slick-looking branded black tubes. The interior is very du jour, with spartan cafeteria-style furniture and naked brick walls, plus of course the ubiquitious BrewDog branding. You’ll either love it or hate it – and I love it, as it gives the place an instant identity, a recognizable feel, a vibe, if you will. BrewDog Camden is your beer-loving friend who still manages to be hip somehow.
What can I say about The Craft Beer Company that hasn’t already been said? Within four months of opening, RateBeer had them down as the 4th best beer bar in the world. When RateBeer published their Best Beer Bar list for 2011, Craft Beer Company and their sister pub Cask Pub & Kitchen were the only two UK bars on the list. Craft (as it’s known) has 37 beers on handpump and tap, plus a phone book-size menu of bottled beers (all available for takeaway), so it’s by far the best selection I’ve ever seen, anywhere (better even than Cask).