The best pubs in Brixton, you say? Here’s our rundown of tried and tested establishments — from craft beer cornucopias to converted Conservative clubs to joints where you can tear up the dancefloor till the wee small hours.
Duke of Edinburgh
The Duke of Edinburgh is all about its belter of beer garden — the largest in south London so it’s said. What, with the sweet waft of BBQ smoke from in-house kitchen White Men Can’t Jerk; big screens broadcasting the Big Summer Sports; and the general hubbub of a few hundred people slurping pints and Pimm’s while trains roll by a few feet from your table, it just wouldn’t be summer without this place. There is, apparently, an indoors too. Duke of Edinburgh, 204 Ferndale Road
Brixton, Tulse Hill, Herne Hill… whatever Sympathetic Ear’s exact geographical designation, this cute cornucopia of craft beer occupies a special place in our hearts. Straddling a bar and bottle shop setup, much of the upstairs is taken up by fridges, stashed with pretty much any incarnation of beer you could dream up. Pluck a can from this liquid library then go to the bar for a glass, before collapsing into one of the old cinema seats — or sit at the table that’s an old work bench, and inevitably fiddle with the vice. There’s a great wine and spirit selection, too, not to mention a shelf of reading material featuring Nairn’s London. Venture downstairs for N64s and all the Mario Kart you can play. Sympathetic Ear, 37 Tulse Hill
A lovechild of the previous two pubs on this list, Ghostwhale is a double threat of superb craft beer (a well-curated handful on tap, millions in the fridges), and a top-notch beer garden. Size-wise, this garden’s nothing compared to the Duke of Edinburgh, but safely nestled within this dynamically-decorated suntrap — a 7% IPA in your mitts — you’re winning at life. They take their beer seriously, even hosting private tastings, but you needn’t dress up in a lumberjack beard/plaid shirt combo to drink here — Ghostwhale is simply a neat little place serving quality brews. Ghostwhale, 70 Atlantic Road
Crown & Anchor
The Crown and Anchor gastropub is from the same folks behind the much-lauded Jolly Butchers up Stoke Newington way. Handsomely occupying a spot on the Brixton Road, the Crown & Anchor has a bar the length of a bus, serving dozens of cask and kegged beers and ciders — and the food’s good, too, with kitchen takeovers, and veggie and vegan options that are more than just a token gesture. They make a good fist at Sunday roasts too, and there’s a patio down the side for al fresco drinking. Crown & Anchor, 246 Brixton Road
It’s rumoured Winston Churchill drank in this former Conservative Club (although not sure if they ever served Pol Roger in this place), and said rumour’s been galvanised in the chintzy front bar, where the flock-wallpapered walls feature a smattering of Winnie portraits. It’s a relaxing pint-and-a-paper sort of enclave, but the nub of the Effra Social is its vast village-hall-like dance floor out back, hosting comedy nights, pub quizzes, live bands and other shindiggery — while the bar staff dish out Aperol spritzes and bloody marys to get hopped up on. A marvellous space, used to great effect. Effra Social, 89 Effra Road
Effra Hall Tavern
Another pub that takes its names from the now-culverted river running beneath Brixton, the Effra Hall Tavern is a no-nonsense kind of a establishment by day, where you can happily sink a couple of G&Ts at the bar — with its beautifully brass-stemmed lamps that glow like huge Mr Whippys — or simply crash and watch the footy. The pub shifts gear in the evening with live jazz sets, where everyone huddles around the musicians (there’s no stage as such), and all is well with the world. Effra Hall Tavern, 38 Kellett Road
There was one heck of an atmosphere in the Grosvenor during the final day of the 21/22 Premier League — with Liverpool battling it out on one screen, Man City on the other (plus a lone Wolves fan screaming his head off for no particular reason). The Grosvenor might offer a slew of excellent beer — often including Kernel, Brew By Numbers and their own Affinity brand — but it’s more of a ‘pubby’ pub than the other craft offerings on this list, with multiple matches playing at the same time; a well-used pool table; and a kitchen churning out very decent pizzas. Fun fact: it has a sister pub, the Priory Arms, down the road in Stockwell. Grosvenor Arms, 17 Sidney Road
Say what you will about flat-roofed pubs, they know how to throw a party. Nary a day goes by when this Brixton Hill establishment doesn’t pull out the stops for a shindig — whether a set from an au courant band you just heard on 6Music or a folksy gathering around a candlelit table at the weekly No Frills Folk Club. Perhaps it feels more like a boho community centre than an average boozer, but Windmill Brixton couldn’t not be on this list. Windmill Brixton, 22 Blenheim Gardens
We’re getting to the party end of Brixton’s watering holes now; while the Dogstar is unmistakably a pub (well stocked bar: check. Good grub: check. Live sports: check), this Coldharbour Lane corner boozer comes out of its shell in the wee small hours of Thursday, Friday and Saturday, when DJs spin choons and the punters — by now a few pints of Gamma Ray down — rip up the dancefloor till it’s time for carriages and a cheeky Morley’s. You may not remember a hell of a lot the next day, but you’ll know you had a ball. Dogstar, 389 Coldharbour Lane
Is Hootenanny a pub or a state of mind? This raucous venue, which neighbours the Effra Social (see above), pulsates with 70s disco, tropical house, Queen as reimagined by brass bands, eardrum-bursting drum ‘n’ bass and jazz/funk open jam sessions that’ll be swirling round your cochlea for the remainder of the weekend. If it’s not the beating heart of Brixton, Hootenanny is at least one of its vital nightlife organs. You needn’t have it large to get in on the action though — there’s Balkan pub grub, and a fairy light-strewn beer garden. Hootenanny, 95 Effra Road
Other honourable mentions: The Prince of Wales (or POW as it likes to identify) is known for its comedy nights. The White Horse does pub quizzes, 2-for-1 mojito nights and opens till 3am on weekends. Once the cock of the craft beer walk, Brixton’s Craft Beer Co is still a worthy spot for a third of some ludicrously strong imperial stout. The Beehive once featured in our round up of London’s best Wetherspoons (but it still, admittedly, a Wetherspoon). Brixton Brewery and neighbouring under-the-arches brewery Dogs Grandad aren’t technically pubs, but both admirably slake the thirst of hopheads.