Last week, M.C. Motors in Dalston was transformed into a Beer Mansion. Brooklyn Brewery curated this multi-room journey, a self-styled ‘Choose you own Adventure’ game fuelled by the love of beer. Held in conjunction with their 2016 Brooklyn Brewery Mash event, an itinerary of pop-ups hosted in nine cities across the globe for one week respectively, it was London’s round from the 11–15 May. For two magical nights, ticketholders ambled down Stoke Newington Road with only the vaguest of notions of what awaited them.
Following the instructions e-mailed to guests 24 hours in advance, I found myself in front of a nondescript facade in East London. Crossing the threshold, I emerged in a shabby-chic bar with a can of Brooklyn Summer Ale thrust into my hand. Venturing deeper inside, I was summoned towards the Brown Bar, where Brooklyn Brown Ale was pouring. Taking a sample, I welcomed the smooth, creamy mouthful of this sweet, malty beer. My adventure down the rabbit hole had commenced.
Disoriented, I sidled down an alleyway connecting the labyrinth of rooms into a vast, open space hosting a second bar. Here, rotating guest beers from local breweries Redchurch and Beavertown were offered. Beyond a divider of columns of upcycled lockers, there was a din around the barrel-aged beers. Miss Gabe Barry, Brooklyn’s Beer Education & Community Adviser, was imparting an erudite overview of the maturation programme to a rapt crowd. The barrel-aged samples were explosive, packing a bill of flavours derived from infused ingredients and characteristics of each barrel. The blends were inventive- the highlight was the New Old Fashioned, which drew inspiration from the classic cocktail in the body of a rye beer, matured in whiskey barrels and laced with bitters and botanicals. It was a compellingly smooth drink with bitter, sweet and spice notes in spades, followed by a wave of warming oak. I thought it a remarkably recognisable iteration of one of my favourite mixed drinks.
Crossing the floor, another chamber hosted Brooklyn’s animated Head of Culinary Programming, Andrew Gerson. Keen to demonstrate how effectively beer can be paired with gastronomy, he invited the adventurous to sample a mouthful of fresh Scottish salmon served in their cupped hand. Yes, fingers were spritzed and wet wipes were at the ready, but no guests appeared dissuaded by this atypical dining experience. Alongside the lemon-laced salmon, Brooklyn’s prodigious Sorachi Ace was served. As Brooklyn’s much lauded single hop farmhouse saison, Sorachi Ace bursts with lemongrass, dill and a bone dry finish, all masking its ABV of 7.6%. It hummed in harmony with the flavours of the fish.
As we passed through each room, the event space revealed further stairwells and unexplored crannies. Next was another area populated with tables, chairs, couches and a resident DJ. There was more quirky décor, from lumbering antique clocks to a scattering of enormous marquee letters, and cones of freshly popped popcorn and soft-serve ice cream were drawing crowds. A photo booth- one of several dotted around the venue- printed off quadrants of revellers’ portraits. Another bar proffered both light and hard-hitting options, from Brooklyn’s ½ Ale- a more sessionable variant of Sorachi Ace that extraordinarily retains much of the flavour- and Brooklyn Blast, a DIPA with an enticing aroma of sweet peach, but a palate-walloping bitterness and strong hop flavours. There was a highly drinkable DIPA from Thornbridge, Huck, which countered the Blast by offering a potent bouquet of aromas, but a balanced and juicy flavour profile.
Descending a narrow stairwell, another large warehouse space was laid out before us- a stage hosted live music and as the evening unfurled, the music became increasingly loud and energetic, spilling into the adjacent outdoor seated area. There was another tidy bar where- over the clamour of the music- Brooklyn’s Insulated dark lager could be sourced. The rich, dark brown appearance of this style is misleading- on the palate, it was crisp with a citrus resonance from the hops with hints of roasted coffee and a clean finish.
Zigzagging towards the yard, we passed a covert game of Brooklyn Cornhole- a bean bag toss game- that was intensely underway between two guests. Up another set of stairs and we were suddenly outside, bleary eyed and enclosed by a graveyard of shipping containers. Replete with communal tables and another bar- where 40ft, a Dalston-based brewery was represented- the yard also featured a queue of peckish guests who had flocked towards pizza. Voodoo Ray’s were serving up their legendary slices of pizza, catering to everyone from vegans to the exceptionally carnivorous.
It wasn’t a surprise that we’d worked up a ravenous appetite- the Beer Mansion lived up to its moniker and reeked havoc on the senses with its maze of chambers. As the evening drew on, the atmosphere remained electric and we lingered until we were ushered out by security. It can’t be refuted that Brooklyn Brewery throw one hell of a party- and by extending an invitation to other local breweries, this felt like a positive, inclusive celebration of beer, of brewers and of beer aficionados. Remembering that Brooklyn is an independently owned business, it makes this achievement all the more laudable- there’s still an abundance of soul and life in Brooklyn yet.
I purchased my own ticket to attend this event on Saturday the 14 May, 2016.