In the first in a new series looking at craft beer watering holes, WriteYou beer writer Mark Dredge takes on East London.
Imagine someone has placed their pint glass down on a map of East London, creating a beer circle around all the ‘H’s: Haggerston, Hackney, Homerton and Hackney Wick. In this area you’ll find breweries beside the canal, you’ll find them in railway arches, in pub cellars, in shopping centres and shipping containers. There’s a lot of great beer in the area and you’ll find it almost everywhere you look. Here’s the best breweries, beers and bars to look out for in Hackney and its close neighbouring boroughs.
Let’s start in Hackney Wick, where only a fool arrives without a terrific thirst. Howling Hop Tank Bar is almost a caricature of Hackney: craft beer, barbecue food, bearded brewers, single-gear bikes lined up outside, pub benches in a graffitied car park, all housed in a warehouse next to a canal, but it’s certainly a brewery making some of the city’s best beers – even better is that they’re all poured directly from large serving tanks behind the bar. Their Pils is a Czech-accented pale lager while their IPA hollers of citrusy American hops. Right next door is Crate Brewery and Pizzeria. Order a beer and head outside to sit by the canal for one of London’s best outdoor drinking spaces. When you’re done you’ll want to cross the canal and head to Mason & Company, a beer bar with a wide and wonderful selection of bottles and drafts plus delicious Italian-inspired street food – the Mason part of the bar also runs Five Points Brewery, who make their beer in the middle of Hackney, so begin with something from them.
If you head a bit further east you’ll get to Stratford and Westfield where you’ll find the anomaly that is Tap East – a brewery in a shopping centre. Given its location the bar can be a bit soulless but the mute atmosphere is moot when you see the huge beer selection and know that their mall-brewed beers are typically excellent.
If you’re wanting some greenery then go to The People’s Park Tavern, a large brewpub with a garden that leads to Victoria Park. While across the other side of the park is East London Liquor Company if you fancy something harder – their gin is great.
There’s a good pub crawl through Homerton, if you fancy that (it’s a brisk 15 minute walk from Mason & Company if you’re on foot), with The Adam and Eve (great food) and the Jackdaw and Star. There’s also a home brew shop, the Homebrew Depot. And wander up to Clapton Craft for a top bottle shop with growler fills.
Next stop, Hackney Central. The Cock Tavern is the highlight. It’s where Howling Hops was born and now another brewery lives in the basement: Maregade. The Cock has loads of great beers on tap, some excellent cask ciders and tasty beer snacks – it’s a proper pub. Head south from there and you’ll eventually get to Bethnal Green and Mother Kelly’s, via a stop at Redchurch Brewery
If you head west from Hackney you get to Dalston where you’ll find 40FT Brewing, so named because the beer was originally made in two 20FT shipping containers. Their Larger is a Kölsch-style lager-like pale ale and you can visit their yard area to drink on Saturdays.
From Dalston (yeah, we’re still going… I told you there was a lot of good beer in the area) the next stop is Haggerston. The Fox is your focus here. It’s a brilliant pub on the corner of Kingsland Road with a great keg line-up, decent cask beer and filling pub food. A bit further down the road is Duke’s Brew and Que, the original home of Beavertown Brewery where you can still drink their beers and have them with banging barbecue – the pork ribs and Beavertown’s Smog Rocket is an perfect beer and food combo.
Hackney rivals all other boroughs in London when it comes to great beer, where it has some of the most unexpected brewery locations in the city, certainly some of the best pubs, and a food and drink culture that welcomes great products from small producers.