There’s a room in a house in a street in a manor in a borough
That’s part of a city that is generally referred to as London
It’s a dark place, a mysterious place
And it is said that if you’re born within the sound of Bow-Bells
You have the necessary qualifications to be christened a Londoner
[It's a cruel place, it's a hard place]
But when you think back to all the great Londoners
William Blake, Charles Dickens, Dick Whittington,
Pearly kings, barrow boys, Arthur Daley, Max Wall
And don’t forget the Kray twins.
Ray Davies –London Song
I make no claim to have the necessary qualifications to be christened a Londoner. But I used to visit London at least annually.
A week every year.
I explored the city. On foot, by bus, by tube. I went on guided walks, I bought guidebooks.
I explored the pubs in number of boroughs, usually sticking to Young’s Special or Fuller’s London Pride.
But times changed. There were pubs with a broader range of beers. There were beer festivals. Utobeer and the Rake offered exiting American import beers. BrewDog entered the scene. Young’s disappeared.
The last four years I have only visited once. I have tried to follow the developments, but I cannot claim to have my finger on the beer pulse of London the way I used to.
Time to do something about that. Time for a pre-Christmas visit. In particular, it is time to get so know some of the dozens of new London breweries that have emerge over the last few years. Many of them are clustered in East London. Hackney seems like the centre of gravity right now. And my research shows that on the weekend I am in town, there are two events in the area worth visiting in addition to breweries, pubs and brewpubs.
There are four of us from Oslo going to London for an oval weekend. The other three have more knowledge of beer and brewing than I do. But I know a thing or two about advance planning.
We are talking Friday 6 December, starting at lunchtime. Anyone is welcome to join, get in touch about more exact timing.
Start: Old Street Tube Station.
Or Shoreditch High Street, if that’s more convenient.
There used to be a rather good beer shop around here some years ago, carrying the Pitfield range of beers brewed to classic English recipes. That’s history.
But we have a good alternative. The first stop is a something really special. A pop up beer shop.
The Wanstead Tap is a moveable feast, selling beers at festivals, farmer’s markets and other event. It has settled for two weeks in 87 Leonard Street in Shoretditch.
As far as I can understand, the concept is simple: Bottled beers from the London breweries. According to the East London and West Sussex Guardian, this is a case of true love for beer: A father of two has given up a successful career in television to dedicate his time to promoting beers brewed locally. I have already asked him to reserve something specialfor me. Have a look at the Facebook page if you are looking for something out of the ordinary..
I haven’t been to any of the BrewDog bars yet, and BrewDog Shoreditch is just up the road. 51 Bethnal Green Road. Maybe a swift one? www.brewdog.com
The question is if the Redchuch Brewery on 275-276 Poyser Street is worth a detour? I may be convinced. On the other hand, their beers might be available later in the day, too.
I think we will jump on a bus going north. Just before the road crosses the Regent’s Canal, the first brewery of the day is Hackney Brewery, just to the left. in Laburnum St. They don’t seem to be open to the public, but I have e-mailed them.
The next stop is across the Canal. It used to be the home of Beawertown Brewery, but they have moved on. But Duke’s Brew and Que is still the brewery tap. And, dangerously, they have around ten of their beers on keg or cask. Not to mention bottles.
I think I’ll have a Bloody ‘Ell Blood Orange IPA.
Adress: 33 Downham Road, De Beauvoir Town
After this it is probably sensible that we strech our legs, and our next target seems to be about a kilometre due east. Perhaps we will walk along the towpath.
London Fields Brewery has a core range of session beers and more challenging stuff in their Bootlegger Series.
The brewery and brewery tap: 365-366 Warburton Street. Gift packs of beers to take away are available.
If the weather and overall condition is up to it, we can continue walking. The alternative is to get on a bus along Mare Street towards Central Hackney.
Pressure Drop Brewing is located in a railway arch, but don’t have a brewery tap. I think we’ll have a fair chance of sampling some of their beers in the Cock Tavern, which I seem to recall as a rather grim establishment in its previous incarnation, but presumably gentrified along with the rest of the area. According to the Craft Beer App, there are chances of us finding beers from the otherwise elusive Happy Collie brewery from West London there. And, conveniently, the Cock Tavern has its very own Howling Hops Brewery at the premises. 315 Mare Street.
Just a few minutes away, Five Points Brewing is close to London Fields station. I thought I would e-mail them to ask them if they want visitors. But I don’t think we will be up to a serious presentation of a brewery at this stage.
It’s dark by now. But the Pembury Tavern, across the street, is like a beacon. It is actually the only stop on the route that I have visited before. 16 hand pumps, including a fine range from the Milton brewery. 90 Armhurst Road.
The sensible thing now is to return to wherever we came from. Eat some junk food and go to sleep. But there is a beer festival. The City and East End CAMRA Pig’s Ear Festival. With lots of one off beers from London breweries. It’s in an old chapel (!) in Powerscroft Road. Lots of friendly natives. Come on. Just for a pint?
London Beers listed for the festival include brews from
- Brew by Numbers
- Brew Wharf
- By the Horns
- East London
- Five Points
- Howling Hops,
- London Brewing
- London Fields
- Pressure Drop
- Tap East
- Weird Beard
- White Hart
- Wild Card.
That makes 27. And, while there is no way to know which beers are on at any given time, there should be enough for even the most enthusiastic ticker.
Even the affectingly mentioned Pitfield from the beginning of this ramble is listed with a few beers. They have made festival one offs for Pig’s Ear for many years, now they are being brewed somewhere in the countryside.
The festival will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, which advocates the use of wooden barrels as part of British beer heritage. Several wooden casks will be featured, including a one-off anniversary special 7% classic Red Ale brewed by award-winning Cambridge Moonshine Brewery.
There is food available at a number of the pubs on the route, I suppose we will be snacking along the way rather than sitting down for a proper meal. Scotch eggs, crisps and beer cover most of the basic food groups.
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