12 Boutique Breweries to Visit in the UK
If you thought beer begins and ends with a cool pint in a pub garden, think again.
There’s a whole world of frothy pale ales, full-bodied chocolatey IPA and citrusy craft beers out there. And the best place to try them? At the source: the brewery that creates them. From blink-and-you-miss-them microbreweries to hipster friendly brewpubs and farmyard taprooms that come with stinky French cheese boards, live music and even livelier locals. We’ve scoured the country to bring you the best breweries to visit in the UK.
1. Three Tuns Brewery, Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire
Housed in a Grade II listed building the first brewing licence was issued here in 1642. With much of the 17th Century structure still standing this is officially the oldest working brewery in Britain. The beer is brewed using their own yeast (refined over a period of 125 years) inside a classic Victorian tower. It’s served up in the warehouse style taphouse by a friendly team who love to host beer festivals and raucous live music events.
2. Hackney Church Brew Co. East London
This hip team, led by Head Brewer Ryan, takes a Michelin star chef approach to making beer: chemistry and alchemy are everything. They use fresh, locally sourced ingredients and have an in-house grain mill to maximise flavour and freshness. Styles range from kettle to keg. It’s tucked along a strip of arches in Hackney, stacked next to three other breweries: Pressure Drop X Verdant, Deviant & Dandy and Brew Club. A beer lover’s pocket paradise.
3. Three Legs Brewery Co. Brede, East Sussex
Ironically this upcoming brewery and taproom was born out of an idea founders Sam and Ben had on a winemaking course at university. They set up shop in 2015 and now make 3300 litres of vegan-friendly craft beer every week using only local ingredients. The buzzy taproom is housed inside a barn with tables spilling out into a farmyard. Order an oatmeal stout or session IPA with cheeses and charcuterie from the Jura region of France.
4. Cloud Water Co, Manchester + London
A light warehouse-style taproom serving up top quality ethically-conscious beer made using up-to-the-minute brewing science techniques and ingredients from UK suppliers. Expect a sturdy menu of citrusy pale ales, juicy IPAs and bold and precise modern beers called things like ‘Don’t go where I can’t find you’. Their popular not-for-profit festival called ‘Friends & Family & Beer’ takes place in February every year and everyone is welcome.
5. Knoydart Brewery, Scottish Highlands
Craving a fresh cold beer with an incredible view? Then seek out this brewery inside a tiny chapel in the remotest part of mainland Britain. Knoydart sits between Loch Nevis and Loch Hourn and is surrounded by 85 square miles of wilderness. With no road access and most people arriving by boat it feels like an island. Owners Sam and Matt note they’ve seen people arrive by helicopter and paramotor. All the beer such as Milburn pale Ale, Heavenly Blonde and Nevis Lager is made using clear mountain water.
6. The Grainstore Brewery, East Midlands
Friends Tony and Matt opened this brewery tap in 1995 and it’s been a roaring success ever since. It helps that Tony has had over thirty years experience in the brewing industry and Mike is a former steel engineer. A tour around the brewery will end with a tasting and ploughman’s lunch, or just relax in the pub-style taproom with a seasonal ale. There’s always something going on here from live music (Jazz, Blues, Rock), traditional pub games and comedy nights.
7. Four Candles, Broadstairs, Kent
You will get a warm welcome from owners Mike and Janice here. But this eccentric little place comes with its caveats: no lagers, no spirits, no piped music, no Sky TV and no wi-fi. What you get is freshly brewed real ales and ciders served from the smallest brewpub in Britain (the taproom in the cellar is 3m x 3m) with a range of Canterbury cheeses, local pork pies and pork scratchings on offer if you get peckish. Be warned the locals will 100 percent talk to you.
8. Art Brew, Devon
Art Brew is a boutique brewery in northwest Devon sitting on five acres of land, with a stream and a plush campsite. Owners Becky and John Winnerah serve up an ever-changing lineup of cask and keg beers and local music from their brewery tap every weekend, along with pizzas. The flagship beer is the six percent ‘Love or Nothing’ IPA, and they do a delicious raspberry pale ale and a black cherry chocolate porter. Every year in October the couple host Apple Day, when they press local apples to infuse into their brews.
9. Kingstone Brewery, Wales
Not far from the ruins of the 12th-century Tintern Abbey in Wales this four-barrel microbrewery uses traditional recipes to create session bitters, golden ales and IPAs. Most visitors arrive via a network of local walking trails around the Wye valley or stumble upon it after an afternoon river canoeing. Enjoy a tour around the brewery or just relax in the cosy taproom. They host regular pizza nights and The Hop Garden offers luxurious cabin accommodation.
10. The Black Swan, Pickering, North Yorkshire
Take a 300-year-old pub and hotel and combine it with the team behind Istanbul’s Bosphorus Brewing Co. and you have The Black Swan’s on-site brewhouse Breworks. Expect all the quaint comforts of well-versed English accommodation with a deliciously random mix of beers from Istanbul Pale Ale to American IPA all on the fringes of the North Yorkshire Moors. Book a room, get tasting and settle in for the weekend.
11. Bowland Brewery, Clitheroe, Lancashire
Allow us to introduce you to Beer Hall, Bowland Brewery’s flagship tasting parlour. It’s a grand space inside the converted Holmes Mill, also home to a boutique hotel, restaurant and Everyman cinema. Look out for Elizabeth, the mill’s original engine among it all. Beer Hall has one of the longest bars in the UK with 43 pumps and 24 new cask ales and craft beers made in the brewery by a team of artisan brewers inspired by the natural beauty of Bowland. Order the Hen Harrier, Boxer Blonde and Pheasant Plucker over the course of your night.
12. Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell, Peak District, Derbyshire
Derbyshire’s award-winning brewery in Bakewell, surrounded by Peak District countryside and considered to be one of the pioneers of the UK’s craft beer movement. They offer a range of incredible cask ales and beer, but try the famous Thornbridge Cocoa Wonderland, a robust and full-bodied chocolate porter that has pulled in impressive star ratings. It’s an easy 10-minute walk from the centre of Bakewell to this riverside brewery.
By Judy Cogan