In the past few years Shoreditch and its sister neighbourhoods in Hackney have become spoilt for choice when it comes to locally crafted beers and ale. This quarter of the capital is now even host to a number of related events, such as the London Craft Beer Festival, held at Oval Space, Bethnal Green on 14-17 August.
A decade ago it would have been a struggle to find a single bottle with 'Made in East London' on it, but a fashionable boom in demand led to the establishment of on-site breweries and microbreweries to revive the ale-ing tradition of drinking homegrown draughts. Nowadays there’s nothing much that's more traditional to the area than the sloshing sound of native amber nectar being pumped out barside.
It would be extremely unhip of a venue to offer a limited choice of neighbourhood brew. In fact, it might even be a challenge to find such a spot, so we thought we'd celebrate that lip-smacking fact. Offering everything from a thin to full bodied experience, here are a some of the best local breweries on tap:
The Truman Brewery
You would be hard pressed to hear the word ‘brewery’ in the Shoreditch area and not instantly think ‘Truman’ - a landmark space that was first opened in 1666. The connotation however would not necessarily relate to the brewing of beer, as the building has become significant as the arts and events core of Brick Lane over the last half decade. Now home to a multitude of creative businesses, galleries, restaurants and bars - it almost forgot its historic success as the world’s largest brewery.
Established way back when as the Black Eagle Brewery, it was managed by Benjamin Truman in the 18th century, when he not only revolutionised the production process, but also provided the Royals with their favourite brew. Apparently he was an all round nice guy, employing a school master to teach all of his men fundamental skills, telling his workers; “this day in six weeks I shall discharge every man who cannot read and write”. That didn't happen because he succeeded in his task. Result after result over the next two centuries was followed by a rapidly changing industry and a 20th century taste for mass produced lager, leading to the Truman Brewery closing its doors in 1989.
Fast forward 23 years later and two men, Micheal-George Hemus and Jame Morgan took up the task to revive the brewery's legacy from an attic in Elder Street - and now Truman's Beer include their staple ‘Runner’ (a beautiful dark bitter) and a choice of malts including a pale, chocolate, wheat and a couple varieties of crystal rye, complimented by a blend of two traditional British hop varieties. Cheers to that!
With childhood memories that are largely composed of brewing beer with his grandpa and then drinking the results, it would seem that Peter Hills was destined to start his own brewery. Which is what he and his business partner, Jon Swain, did in 2012. The pair, who inevitably met while working in a pub ten years previously, started one of the first in a line of breweries that have sprouted up in the Hackney area. The first - Hackney Brewery - sits burrowed romantically underneath the railway arches of Kingsland Road, producing small batch craft beer that includes Golden Ale, Best Bitter, American Pale and the New Zealand Pale Ale - which is their most recent addition to a line-up of stunner malts.
London Fields Brewery
Established in 2011, the London Fields Brewery was born amongst brother crafts, to parents who wanted to put the rising cultural production centre of Hackney on the map for its malt fermenting talents too. Well, nestled under the verdant railway arches of London Fields ever since, this spot has well and truly found its place in hops history, helping the sprawling concrete playground that is East London become a go-to destination for artisan beer lovers. The quirky, café -esque Tap Room is the onsite drinking venue made up of beam after beam of reclaimed timber whitewashed brickwork, overflowing plant life and upstanding kegs for resting pints of post-modern classics on. Here are a few by-the-flagon must-tastes when at the bar (okay go for just a bottle instead then): the zesty pale ale number known as The Hackney Hopster, the red liquid velvet called Love Not War after being brewed while barricaded in during the London riots, and the killer brew of midnight hues and coffee innuendos - Black Path Porter.
The Redchurch Brewery
A craft beer factory that takes pride in its filter-less and unpasteurised technique of maturing malted barley, hops and yeast; every mouthful from the Redchurch Brewery intends to make your taste buds think. The brewery’s casks pop with character that’s evocative of the company’s home turf of E2. There’s the refreshing Bethnal Pale Ale, the moreish Shoreditch Blonde, the dark roast that is the Hoxton Stout, the complex amber known as Hackney Gold, the fruity India Pale Ale and the palate cleansing bitterness of the Brick Lane Lager – and a little element of surprise in the limited edition Old Ford Export Stout. So head down to Poyser Street to experience the producer’s multiple flavours at a watering hole with a twist – a mezzanine in a warehouse. While brewing engines churn away somewhere close by on the premises, the elevated bar space has a distinctly urban feel that makes it perfect for hosting live music: with a high spec bar crafted out of timber crates, a curved roof moulded out of corrugated iron and low hanging lights burning bright with hot filament. Whether it’s the surrounds or what comes out of the tap – blandness is not allowed.
From the basement of an off license to a full-sized farmhouse brewery, the shell of Pitfield Brewery has transformed and evolved over its thirty years of existence, much like the brand, which over time, has perfected the liquid that sloshes around inside its bottles. The business began in 1982 when home brewer Rob Jones and business partner Martin Kemp were asked to set up a brewery in the cellar of a specialist Pitfield Street off licence. It then expanded to Hoxton Square where they developed their Dark Star beer, which tasted not only of deep malty tones but of success, winning the 1987 Champion Beer of Britain. After huge changes in the company including mergers, changes of location, closures and the fragmentation of the team, Rob went on to start the Dark Star Brewery in 1991 and Pitfield Brewery got back into business on its home turf of Pitfield Street in 1994, headed up solely by Martin Kemp. The company has since taken on a farm-house in Essex to brew wholesome organic and vegan beers such as ‘Eco Warrier’. Preferring the holistic technique of making in small batches, the Pitfield Brewery now aims to make the world a purer place in every pint that’s pulled.
A life size collage of scavenged goods styles up the rustic yet industrial bar in Hackney Wick; an awesome showcase of what getting experimental with upcycled railway sleepers, ratchet straps and rusty old bed springs can do. Outside, the canal flows past working up the thirst of local frequenters – who can pull up a pallet bench to down a draught of home-grown lager, pale, golden, best, IPA or stout at a scaffold plank table surrounded by moored boats and wild herbs. If that’s not enough East End ambience for you, across the yard is the brew-shed, where harvested ingredients and 800kg tanks process Crate Brewery's own delicious version of liquid gold; roiling up and pouring out barrels of ten classics at a time, or five at a time for limited edition “tap-takeovers”. That’s all for now, but there’s a narrowboat getting rigged up with the whole works by the micro-brewery as we speak, so the future is looking more delectably ambrosial than ever.