Exploring the Best Craft Beer in London’s East End
We were in the UK recently for a few days, and noticed the flight price from Edinburgh down to London was only £17 thanks to Ryanair. Did we want to tack on a visit to London onto our Itinerary? Absolutely.
Being quite honest, it’d been seven years since I was last in London, and that occasion was the first night of my honeymoon where we enjoyed an exquisite evening in Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, as it was at the time, before we flew off to Florida. Much like here, in recent years, there has been an explosion of microbreweries all over the city. So we relished the opportunity to visit and check out another vibrant beer scene.
We were staying with Friends, so we made our way into the city and made the walk through the Westfield Shopping Centre, and right past the Olympic Stadium to our first destination Howling Hops Tank Bar. It was a lovely bright day and we’d built up quite the thirst. The tank bar, which was the first of its kind in the UK, is quite unique, the beer is brewed on site, and then served directly from these tanks. There are ten tanks which carry everything from their regular line up and specials. Not only was the beer ultra fresh, they were serving artisanal gin,spirits and cocktails, along side a Guest BBQ offering. Oh and the coffee was very good too.
Next up, we got an Uber, and travelled the relatively short journey to Bethnal Green, to the famous Mother Kelly’s which is a great tap room, not a brewery tap, but a tap room which beers from all over the world. There were also ample bottles in the bank of fridges up the side of the venue. This very diverse beer range was also complemented by cured meat boards, cheese boards, and other simple tasty treats that went so well. It was lovely to sit out an people watch while drinking some amazing beers. One of my favourites was a Raspberry & Mint Berlinner Weisse. There was even a chocolate board. It’s a space I adored, an old railway arch turned into a true beer emporium.
From here we took a short stroll down Bethnal Green Road, toward Shoreditch, we took a pitstop in The Kings Arms which from the outside definitely resembled the stereotypical English Pub, inside it was anything but. The bar was in the middle of the room, and kind of reminded me of when musicians play “in the round” One edge of the bar was lined with Hand Pumps for the various cask conditioned ales that were pouring, and along the other, a line of keg taps, which were pouring some of the best UK beers. I’d a delicious IPA from Four Pure called JuiceBox IPA, it was as delicious as it sounded.
From here we went on to our last stop of the day, we were invited to be Guests at a live podcast episode recording of the Beer O’Clock Show ,the UK’s leading Beer Podcast, who were doing a focus on beers from Bristol, in a great bottle shop called Hop Burns & Black (http://www.hopburnsblack.co.uk/ ). Thank god we were with people we knew as i don’t think i’d have managed the public transport so well. But we got the train from Shoreditch to Peckham Rye, sadly I didn’t see any Del Boy Robin Reliants. Of course, we spotted a nice bar called The White Horse where we had a couple of really interesting drinks, including a Blood Orange Cider which was a true thirst quencher on such a warm day. Now was time for the show. Hop Burns & Black isn’t only a bottle shop, they also sell boutique chilli sauces, and vinyl. Hence the name. There was even a few bottles of White Hag beer on the shelves, and the owners took the chance to pick our brains as to what beers to bring in. We were only too glad to help.
All in all we had a great flying visit, and are already looking forward to returning. One glaring thing that really makes us different is our archaic treatment of alcohol licensing. Here we had an amazing bar in a railway arch serving truly world class beer, we had a brewery, serving beers fresh from tanks, where the beer was brewed literally 10 feet away.
Why can’t we have anything like this in Ireland? Vested interests of course. It costs approximately €100,000 to purchase a licence, and the current state of play is just like taxi plates before they became regulated. A Cartel. When pubs close, which is frighteningly more often than you think, the licence usually ends up being bought by the supermarkets. The thing is, you have to extinguish an existing licence to put the licence on a new property. So even if you’ve a venue you have this red tape to deal with. Daft. There is no need for the system in this day and age to be so cumbersome. Our legislators could do well to look at how they do things in England. The approach to breathing new life into areas this way, and utilising buildings for different purpose than what they were originally intended for is refreshing and shows maturity with regard to alcohol consumption.
This brings me onto Brewery Taps, it’s currently illegal for brewers in Ireland to sell beer to individuals, in quantities under 19 litres (about 38 pints). Given how hard it is for brewers to get a foothold in the market sometimes I and many others feel that they should be allowed the opportunity to open their tap room for visitors. We’ve already seen how successful this is in the UK and USA. Given how much tourism potential there is for this sector it’s amazing the rules haven’t been lightened. I don’t know many brewers who could afford to buy a licence. This could provide an extra amount of revenue to these businesses, plus the upswing to the local economy I’m sure would be more than welcomed. This is truly supporting local businesses.
However I’m not hopeful that the current political class has the vision to deal with alcohol legislation in a mature manner, beyond let’s just tax it, and look at the wider picture that we’ve seen work very well internationally.
From IPAs, to Stouts, to everything in between. Wayne is a passionate advocate for Craft Beer and Cider in Ireland. He regularly features in online publications and podcasts, as well as writing with his wife on www.irishbeersnob.com. Wayne’s aim is to kick down the doors of convention surrounding Craft Beer and Cider by writing in a no nonsense style. Drawing on his experiences of many different beers he is going to bring you on a journey that you’ll be asking yourself, why didn’t I join this revolution sooner?