Bitter ales. Caramel porters. Golden lagers. Hearty stouts. Whatever types of beers your friends are into, there’s one London pub guaranteed to have them all–along with a few you’ve never heard of. The Porterhouse is Covent Garden’s world class temple to beer, and it’s a grand one. Like a traditional Irish pub on steroids, it rises up — and up — for a staggering 12 levels of revelry, and a wider variety of beer than you’ve ever seen. Yet despite its massive size–it’s the largest bar in London–the space is cozy, full of wood-paneled nooks where you and your friends can bend an elbow and catch up on the latest. The lamps cast a reverent light on glass-paneled shelves, each lined with a marvelous variety of beer bottles. If there’s any bar to make you appreciate the artistry of good beer-bottle design, this is it. But it’s the contents of those bottles–as well as the signature beers on tap–that really matters, and the Porterhouse can suit just about any taste, so grab a table with your friends and start sampling.
The draughts are all specialty brews, crafted in Dublin and shipped across the Irish Sea to London. Speaking of the sea, the signature Oyster stout is fantastic, getting a smooth sweetness from oysters in the brewing tank. Those with more traditional beer tastes will enjoy the light, hoppy Temple Brau lager, or the copper-tinged, 7.0 percent ABV Brain Blasta ale, an aromatic, triple-hopped brew whose soft bitterness melds into a malty sweetness with every sip.
If you want to explore past the Emerald Isle, the bottled beer list offers a trip around the world. Sip your way from Iceland to Vietnam, from New Zealand to Peru. With more than a hundred bottled beers to choose from, even the snobbiest of your beer-snob friends will find it impossible to complain. There’s a selection of abbey ales for fans of of Belgian brews, a range of fruity lambics and ciders for the sweet-toothed, and even a gluten-free organic pilsner for your “g-free” pal.
As the evening goes on, you and your mates order different beers, weighing which ones win “best pint” in your judgment. After a few rounds, you faintly hear some familiar power chords below you. Everyone grabs their drink and moves to the basement bar, where a local band is kicking out some classic rock jams. Don’t feel self-conscious about belting out “Sweet Home, Alabama” — with the whole bar joining in on the chorus, no one can tell you’re off-key.