Hop, Burns and Black, Peckham, SE15

OK, this is not a pub. Definitely not. No. But a shop that sells beer, chilli sauces and vinyl records (hence the name) would have to be doing something extraordinarily bad to not make the cut in this book. That you can buy bottles and cans to drink on the premises seals it. It’s not the first bottle shop to start flogging flagons to the thirsty, mind. A growing number are sailing close to the Weights & Measures man’s wind and operating as off-licence-cum-tasting-shop and doing rather well as a result. Who knows how long it’ll last?

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But spend more than five minutes at this Peckham Rye beer vendor and you’ll be hoping whichever loophole allows this to happen never gets noticed and closed. Because whether you’re nerding out at the shelves full of beer, riffling through the records or salivating at the searing sauces, you get the impression the owners have thought long and hard about what their shop will be and how it will operate. Everything seems so thoroughly well thought through. Decor is pitched just the right side of painfully cool, the grey picket fence outside is not too pristine and the planters are sparsely maintained. There aren’t that many records to choose from and there are no real bargains to be had, but that just ensures you don’t get distracted by crate digging.

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The same can’t be said for the beer. The shelves aren’t creaking under the sheer weight of the bottles; they’re too well made, of course. But the array is a clichéd dizzying and spans miles of styles. Everything from basic crowd pleasers and stalwart standards to limited editions and rare reissues. All beer is here. And oddly for a place that sells records, the staff are helpful, friendly, keen to ascertain your level of expertise and happy to either advise or leave you alone to peruse. Once bought, your beer of choice can be drunk either inside or at the substantial trestle tables outside.

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This place could so easily be horrendous. The prospect of intolerable irritability cannot be underestimated in a venture such as this in a neighbourhood that is flirting dangerously with crawling up its own arse. But this terrific little shop skates lightly and skilfully over the thin ice of potential wankiness and ends up more John than Edwina Currie as a result.

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