London Craft Beer Bars: Craft Beer Co Covent Garden
A premise that may sound familiar: You’re meeting a friend – after work, say. Your friend, aware of your intolerance to bad beer drinking proclivities, has asked you to pick a bar to meet in. But ah, the thing is: your friend doesn’t like trekking past Zone 1. They’re thinking central. Covent Garden central. So, a challenge: can you find somewhere that isn’t a) overrun by tourists, b) overrun by depressing lagers, and c) overrun by a sheer wall of bodies standing between you and liquid redemption?
Until (very) recently, I bet you couldn’t.
Sure, Covent Garden and the surrounding environs do offer up a handful of decent pubs, some restaurants with a token craft beer or three on the menu. But what was missing was a truly reliable address: one where you’d be guaranteed an expansive selection of brews, and space to enjoy ’em. Somewhere with a bit of buzz. You know – vibes.
Is it an overreaction, then, to say that the arrival of Craft Beer Co Covent Garden is something of a revelation?
The fifth of Craft Beer Co’s London branches (with one more Brighton branch thrown in), this particular outpost has received a bit of the Covent Garden treatment. It feels a little slick: whereas the Islington branch, for instance, leans, ambiance-wise, into Old Man Pub territory, this one’s scrubbed up. Green carpet has been traded for blonde wooden floors, and windows let in lots of light. All the better to reflect off of that gleaming, acres-long tap system.
Need it be said that Craft Beer Co Covent Garden takes its beer seriously? Between 15 hand pumps and 30 draught lines, there are Options at hand. While this scale can confound lesser bars – I’m skeptical of nearly anyone being able to keep 45 lines well-cleaned and in good working order – the guys here have sworn they’ve got somewhere downstairs whose only job is switching out kegs and generally keeping things on lock. It bodes well.
Of the expanse of choices, almost everything here is made in London or elsewhere in the UK: the manager confessed that while, several years back, American and other international pours were hot ticket items, these days it’s the local stuff that sells. Fair enough, though I wouldn’t have objected to a bit more of a mix. Just a token pour or two. But what I did have was exemplary of the best of the new London scene: Brew by Numbers’s babely new Tripel, which disappeared out of my glass in short order.
It would also be remiss not to mention, though don’t share this too wantonly: if you’re feeling something a bit harder than beer, this is a bar that can sort you out. Especially if you’re lusting for whisk(e)y. I was eventually persuaded into having a dram of Yamazaki’s sherry cask aged business, all soaked raisins and toffee, which didn’t disappoint. What I could have had, if it’d been in a more indulgent frame of mind, was a small pour of 20 year Pappy Van Winkle. Incidentally, it goes for £32 per shot.
Still not quite sold? Throw in a heaping order of parmesan-clouded truffle fries and a cozy seat in the dark, sort-of-looks-like-granddad’s-office of a basement lounge and you’ll find yourself fully warmed to Craft Beer Co Covent Garden’s charms. Not least because there’s no small value in finally having a decent central spot to pull out of your back pocket when the thirst strikes.