Britain loves its beer. Over 800 beer-makers belong to the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), but there are many hundreds more beyond those.
Every region of the UK has its own eclectic mix of artisan, craft and independent brewers. The sheer range and variety of beers and ales they produce is vast, catering for every taste possible.
Below, find out more about the British brewing scene and discover the 12 best breweries in the UK.
Types of breweries in the UK
In America, the Brewers’ Association has set definitions for the different types of breweries. The equivalent UK body, SIBA, has no such criteria, so the definition is a bit looser.
As a rule of thumb here in Britain, a craft brewery produces limited beer volumes in any given year.
They create experimental beers that deliver a distinctive taste using quality ingredients. Many only sell their beer within a restricted geographical area. You may often hear craft breweries referred to as microbreweries.
Independent brewers share many of the same characteristics as craft brewers. The main difference is that independent brewers tend to produce more mainstream and traditional beers. They often sell their beers and ales further afield than craft brewers, too.
The prominent players in the industry, the ones that are most familiar, are the major brewing companies. Companies like Bass, Whitbread, and Scottish & Newcastle make and distribute beer in massive volumes. Many are part of multinational businesses and produce foreign-brand beers under licence.
Recommended craft breweries
Entertain your taste buds with everything from limited-run pale ales to stand-out session IPAs on a day out at a craft brewery. Here’s a selection of leading craft brewers you’ll enjoy visiting:
Ludlow Brewing Co.
Based in an old railway shed, Ludlow Brewing Co. boasts a range of seven popular beers, including a much sought-after blonde beer. Its celebrated Ludlow Gold has won and continues to win awards for its quality.
They run a daily tour, too, so you can see exactly how they brew different types of beer. You can sample the product for yourself at the end of the tour.
About Ludlow Brewing Co.
- Address: The Railway Shed, Station Dr, Ludlow, SY8 2PQ
- Visiting: The taproom and visitor centre are open seven days a week. Monday to Thursday 11am to 5pm, Friday 11am to 6pm, Saturday 10am to 5pm, and Sunday 12pm to 5pm
- Nearest train station: Ludlow (a five-minute walk away)
The Three Legs Brewery
You've heard of wine and cheese pairings. The Three Legs Brewery takes that next logical step at its innovative beer and cheese bar.
Sample their own range of first-class cask and keg beers, as well as beers from other selected brewers nationwide. If you’re not in the mood for cheese, enjoy tasty street food with your beer, ranging from tacos and burgers to Japanese izakaya dishes.
About The Three Legs Brewery
- Address: Unit 11, Beeching Road Studios, Beeching Road, Bexhill, TN39 3LJ
- Visiting: Taproom is open Monday to Thursday 3pm to 10pm, Friday to Saturday 12pm to 10:30pm, and Sunday 12pm to 8pm
- Nearest train station: Bexhill (a 15-minute walk away)
The Four Candles Brewery
The Four Candles Brewery is the smallest brewpub in Britain and a must-visit for any beer connoisseur. The brewery’s area is no larger than three metres squared.
Come here for their amazing range of home-brewed ales and ciders. They also serve wine. But what they don't do is Sky TV, music, or Wi-Fi. Spirits and lagers are also off the menu. That return to roots is exactly why the locals and tourists love the place.
About The Four Candles Brewery/h5>
- Address: 1 Sowell Street, Broadstairs, CT10 2BA
- Visiting: The brewpub is open Monday to Friday 4:30pm to 11pm, and Saturday to Sunday 11:30am to 11pm
- Nearest train station: Broadstairs (a 10-minute walk away)
Siren Craft Brewery
Established in 2013, the Siren Craft Brewery produces a wide selection of beers, ales, stouts, and porters for all tastes. They won the "Best Brewer in England 2015" and the "Supreme Champion Beer of Britain 2018" awards, so you know they’re doing something right.
There’s a great taphouse on site with a large outside seating area for sunny days. On Fridays and Saturdays, you can grab street food from the artisan local vendors on-site to compliment your beer. To see how they create their beers, book one of their tours.
About Siren Craft Brewery
- Address: Marino Way, 18, Alberto House, Finchampstead, Wokingham RG40 4RF
- Visiting: There are tours on Saturday. The taphouse is open every day except Monday
- Nearest train station: Wokingham (then a 21-minute journey on the number 3 bus)
Recommended independent breweries
Here are four fast-growing, award-winning independent breweries you should plan a day out to go and visit:
Inspired by a trip to Boston, U.S.A., husband and wife Steve and Jo Stewart decided that they would dedicate their future to quality brewing. They succeeded as their range of full-bodied beers has now won over 140 awards between them.
Stewart Brewery tours get great reviews, as does its on-site taphouse and restaurant. You can even try your hand at the craft and brew your own bespoke beer for only £250.
About Stewart Brewery
- Address: Bilston Glen Ind Estate, 26a Dryden Rd, Loanhead EH20 9LZ
- Visiting: Tours take approximately two hours, and you can book your preferred date and time on their website.
- The shop and taproom are open seven days a week. Sunday to Wednesday 10am to 5pm, Thursday 10am to 8pm, and Friday to Saturday 10am to 6pm.
- The Bar and pizza kitchen is open from Wednesday to Sunday. Wednesday 5pm to 10pm, Thursday 4pm to 10pm, Friday to Saturday 9am to 10pm, and Sunday 10am to 8pm
- Nearest train station: Eskbank, then get the 140 bus to Herd Terrace (a 19-minute bus ride away)
The Kernal Brewery
Kernal Brewery in London produces a wide range of beers, from brown ales to dry stouts.
Evin O'Riordain founded the brewery in 2009 after a trip to New York opened his eyes to the magic and potential of independent beer and ale. The beers he produces are so high quality that he ended up appearing on the BBC World Service to talk about his experience of running a brewery.
There’s no tour here, but there’s a lively and popular pub on-site, which always features a wide range of beers on tap.
About The Kernal Brewery
- Address: Arch 11, Dockley Road Industrial Estate, Dockley Rd, London SE16 3SF
- Visiting: Wednesday to Friday 3pm to 10pm, Saturday 11am to 9pm and Sunday 12pm to 8pm
- Nearest train station: Bermondsey Tube Station (an eight-minute walk away)
The Grainstore Brewery
Find The Grainstore Brewery in a beautiful renovated Victorian railway building in the heart of Oakham. They produce a range of quality traditional and real ales and ciders on the premises.
They also offer a popular tour here, so booking in advance is a good idea. Lasting an hour and a quarter, end the tour with a delicious meal in the on-site taphouse.
Alternatively, go at night to catch live music, comedy, and more. They also hold three festivals a year, famed among the welcoming locals for their great atmosphere.
About The Grainstore Brewery
- Address: Station Approach, Oakham LE15 6RE
- Visiting: Tours take around two hours, and you can book your preferred date and time on their website. Open seven days a week. Opening times change according to the different events
- Nearest train station: Peterborough (a two-minute walk away)
Bristol Beer Factory
The Bristol Beer Factory has grown quite fast since its owners founded it way back in 2004. It’s one of the leading independent South West breweries. You can taste their wide range of quality beers, IPAs, pale ales, ambers, stouts and lagers.
The tour gets great reviews, as do the brewery’s growing range of pubs across the city. Check out the Barley Mow in the centre of town and four other venues in Southville and the Harbourside.
- Address: 291 North St, Southville, Bristol BS3 1JP
- Visiting: Tours take approximately two hours, and you can book them on the website
- Nearest train station: Parson Street (a 18-minute walk away)
Where to get the best beer in the UK
Although craft and independent brewers tend to sell to free-house pubs local to them, a handful sell their beers and ales across the UK.
For the ultimate beer tour of Britain, catch the train to the following destinations:
- London: The capital city is a hotbed of the UK craft beer scene. Check out Fuller’s and its historic Griffin Brewery tour, as well as Camden Town Brewery, when you’re here.
- Cornwall: Come to one of the country's most beautiful areas. Check out local champions of British beer like Sharp’s Brewery and St Austell Brewery in the region by booking yourself onto their tours.
- Sheffield: Yorkshire is home to some of the leading UK craft beer brands. See the brewing magic in action in South Yorkshire at the Kelham Island and Heist breweries.
- The Central Belt of Scotland: Scotland is home to some of the best UK craft breweries. Make a beeline for the Drygate and Stewart Brewing tours when you’re North of the border.
- Northwest England: This vibrant part of the country has earned a name for its variety of excellent cask ales. Book yourself on the Robinsons tour, one of the area’s largest craft ale producers. Check out the Runaway Brewery tour to see a true microbrewery in action.
- Newcastle upon Tyne: England’s most northern city has a well-earned reputation as a party city. Experience some of the local culture by seeing how local breweries produce their beer. The best places to do that are at Brinkburn Brewery and Ouseburn Brewery.
- Southwest England: This most beautiful part of the country has some of the best independent breweries in the UK. When you’re here, take a tour of St. Austell Brewery and Padstow Brewing Company.
A list of the top UK breweries
Below, read more on four of the fastest-rising stars of the UK brewing scene.
BrewDog has become one of the most popular breweries in Britain and beyond. It is one of the UK’s biggest breakout brands of the last 20 years.
They’ve made a name for themselves based on their bold flavours and in-your-face marketing campaigns. The company brews a wide range of beer styles, many surprising and unconventional.
- Address: Balmacassie Industrial Estate, Ellon, Aberdeenshire, AB41 8BX
- Visiting: You can book on the website, and tours take an hour and a half
- Nearest train station: Aberdeen (then a 30-minute bus ride to the brewery)
Black Sheep Brewery
Theakston’s is one of Britain’s best-known brewing companies.
Most may not know that a member of the fifth generation of the family founded the Black Sheep Brewery. He wanted to run a brewery that did things the old-fashioned way and followed his dreams.
Paul Theakston, the owner, went back to basics by focusing on quality ingredients and great flavour profiles, and it worked. In 2022 alone, the Black Sheep Brewery won five medals, including a prestigious gold at the World Beer Award.
About Black Sheep Brewery
Address: Wellgarth House, Wellgarth Court, Crosshills, Masham, Ripon HG4 4EN
Visiting: Tours are at set times on Wednesday to Sunday and take an hour. The bar and kitchen are open seven days a week, starting at 12pm. But they close mid-afternoon (2:30 to 5pm) and then start back up until 8pm (8:30 on weekends). There is no evening service on a Sunday.
Nearest train station: Northallerton (then a 25-minute taxi ride to the brewery)
In the short time since its launch in 2014, Cloudwater Brewery has created hundreds of different beers. This modern brewery loves to innovate. But at the same time, it respects time-tested and traditional approaches to brewing.
Cloudwater won the Best UK Brewery award in 2016, followed by the second-best brewery in the world in 2018. Their popularity is spreading too, as they now have three sites in Manchester and a London taphouse.
About Cloudwater Brewery
Address: Unit 9 Piccadilly Trading Estate, Manchester, M1 2NP
Visiting: Tuesday to Thursday 3pm to 10pm, Friday to Saturday 12pm to 10pm and Sunday 12pm to 7pm
Nearest train station: Manchester Victoria (then a 10-minute tram ride)
Founded by a couple of enterprising home brewers who loved hop-forward beer, Adam and James decided they wanted to brew their own. Fast-forward a few years, and Verdant Brewery now offers a wide range of DIPAs, IPAs, and pale lagers.
Judges recognised their talent by awarding them the "Best New Brewer" at the 2016 Ratebeer Awards. Their taproom is well worth a visit as it features 16 keg and four cask lines, live music, and visiting DJs.
About Verdant Brewery
Address: 30, Parkengue Kernick Industrial Estate, Penryn TR10 9EP
Visiting: Open Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 11pm and Sunday 12pm to 10pm. The kitchen closes at 9pm. It is not open on Tuesdays between October and Easter.
Nearest train station: Penryn (a 10-minute walk away)
Travelling to the UK’s breweries by train with Avanti
We’ve brewed beer on these islands for many centuries. There can be little doubt that we’ve gotten quite good at it.
If you’re passionate about British beers and ales, visit some of the amazing producers for yourself. Come and see the brewing process in action, soak up the atmosphere in the taphouses, and fall in love with another part of the UK.
The easiest way to visit Britain’s best breweries is by train. Most of these establishments are next to the main stations. Plus, you’ll get to relax in your seat and enjoy the British view along the way.