Last Saturday, Old Spitalfields Market hosted droves of music lovers, imbibers and the arrival of sweltering summer temperatures. The latest edition of the London Brewers’ Market, held in conjunction with the Independent Label Market, transformed the East London space into a literal oasis. The public were invited to explore the ranges of 27 London breweries under the market’s glass canopy, against the backdrop of a soundtrack provided by a line-up of DJs.
Kegs prolifically flowed as the afternoon heated up and stands welcomed steady crowds of inquisitive drinkers. Smaller breweries were manned by head brewers and founders- sometimes both- who animatedly spoke of their ethos, brewing process and future growth. Given the expanding community of independent brewers across the capital, some attendees were afforded their first opportunity to swill a beer from their local brewery. Areas such as Brixton, Croydon and Herne Hill were represented, indicative that breweries are no longer consecrated to Bermondsey and Hackney alone.
While pints and half pints still reigned supreme as the measurement of choice, there was a discernible amount of canned beers in circulation. Drinkers loved the convenience of cans, reducing the need to queue and keeping beer chilled in the oppressive heat. Standard 330ml cans were ubiquitous, but there was another resounding success in the form of the 500ml 'tallboy' can: the Juicebox IPA from stalwarts Fourpure Brewing Co. Its generous sizing was paired with a punchy design, catching the eye of neighbouring drinkers. In addition to this, a further development in canning was offered from The London Beer Factory, the first brewery in the United Kingdom to use 360° can designs, which allows the top of the vessel to peel away to reveal a cup shape.
More than a single afternoon would be required to sample everything that caught my eye, but some of the beers were consistently on the lips of bloggers, writers and friends. Following the advice of my erudite colleagues, I was fortunate enough to try some standout examples and I’ve compiled my picks of July’s LBM below.
Juicebox citrus IPA from Fourpure Brewing Co: I’ve already extolled the aesthetic virtues of the packaging, but the contents inside of the can merit just as much crowing. This is a tsunami of citrus aromas and flavours and was, in my opinion, the superior thirst-quencher of the day. Orange zest and mango on the nose are balanced with crisp bitterness from the hops, making this a seminal summer beer.
Snake's Alive DIPA from One Mile End Brewery: The LBM was abuzz over the relaunched Snake’s Alive DIPA and it lived up to the hype. It’s a smooth, harmonious DIPA with a sneaky ABV of 8%. A soft, sweet nose with hints of tropical fruits ranging from peach to mango, the malts are smooth and sweet, but all is tempered by a glorious dry finish. Proving popular on the day, this is perhaps the brewery’s most exciting beer yet.
Milou saison from Bullfinch Brewery: A fantastic Belgian pale ale that was brewed for a sun-drenched afternoon. Nice fruity notes from the yeast, the creamy mouthfeel that you’d expect from a wheat beer and subtle bitterness from the noble hops combine to deliver a mellow and refreshing drink. This is a fine example of the great range available from this Herne Hill favourite.
VIPA from Oddly: Marking their inaugural visit to LBM, Oddly’s IPAs were catching the attention of drinkers- in particular, the unusual offering of this IPA infused with masala chai, which resulted in a highly drinkable beer. It was extremely aromatic with a marriage of spicy earthiness from the chai with Citra hops for an enormously palatable and modern take on the IPA.
05|18 India Pale Ale: Galaxy & Nelson from Brew by Numbers: It’s not unexpected that the masters of consistent and adventurous beers were decanting another knock-out. This time, it was in the guise of an IPA hopped with Galaxy and Nelson hops. Perfectly matched with the sunshine, the antipodean hops brought a chorus of tropical notes rounded off with a nice, clean bitter finish. This one really danced on the palate with lots of crisp, bright flavours and aromas.
While the summer weather undeniably favoured temptingly refreshing IPAs, the above examples really stood out as exceptional. Alongside the rising popularity of cans, a quick recce of the LBM crowd confirmed that the IPA is alive and well- a rainbow of Juicebox tins and hazy golden pints certified this.
Whether or not this is a barometer to gauge current trends in the beer industry is difficult to tell, but there's one thing for certain: this is how customers, both committed fans of beer and those who merely found themselves there on the day, were drinking. And that's the joy of LBM, a free event open to the public- it's about the beer and the breweries, no gimmicks- there's no purer form of democracy than voting with a pint glass.