A Bit of Pub and Beer History in London

Necessary ingredients for a successful visit to central London include equal measures of history and beer. And you can find a historical pub, once known as a smugglers meet, at 57 Wapping Wall, a short walk along the Thames from the Tower of London.

The Prospect of Whitby is an excellent starting point for your investigations of pub and beer history in London.

The pub was named The Pelican around 1520 although it was commonly referred to as the Devil’s Tavern because of its clientele. When it was rebuilt after a fire in the 17th century, it was renamed after a ship anchored in the Thames.


The Prospect of Whitby Pub

The tavern, a building that was sketched by both Whistler and Turner, is steeped in history; an entirely appropriate place to consider England’s unique beer. It's only a short walk or taxi ride away from several London hotels and is close to many historical attractions besides London’s famous tower.

There is more to the history of a city than its museums and ancient buildings. When staying at hotels in Rome, a seasoned traveller can speculate on such things as the history of Italian cooking – in London, it is the history of beer that may start a conversation.

Glass of ale

England is unique in that ales are popular.

Ale is brewed by warm (top) fermentation and is cask conditioned, which means that the ale matures in the cellar of the pub rather than at the brewery.

This is a country where communities appointed an ‘ale-conner’ at the annual court leet to ensure that bread, ale and beer were good and wholesome.

Hops were first imported from the continent and grown in England in the early 1400s. When you hear the term ‘bitters’ applied to English beer, they are talking about hops. Bitter refers to ale with between 3½ and 7 percent hops. The beer’s colour ranges from pale gold to mahogany.

The measure of great ale is its blending of bitterness from the hops and a fruity flavour from ingredients such as honey. However, taste is an individual thing, so a serious round of comparisons is in order.

There are many hotels London offers in the centre of the city – consider staying in the midst of a thousand years of history and close to historical pubs such as the Prospect of Whitby.