Lager is a style often overlooked, mostly because of its emphasis on malt and clean yeast character over bold hop character. Pillars Brewery respects lager – so much so that they’ve committed their time to producing one worthy of recognition. In a city famed for porter, Pillars hopes to put London on the map for another reason: a crisp, modern adaptation on the Czech style.
Based in the Ravenswood Industrial Estate in Walthamstow, Pillars is a bit of a family affair. Established by three brothers – Eamon, Samie and Omar Razaq – and friend Gavin Litton, the brewery was founded on a single core beer. The Untraditional Lager came from their tireless endeavour to create a recipe for a lager that could equal ales in flavour and complexity. The beer relies upon typical style characteristics, including soft water (as would be found in the town of Pilsen, birthplace of the golden lager), pale malts and yeast that's clean tasting.
Things get interesting when the hops come in. Instead of earthy noble hops, Pillars relies upon bold West Coast US varieties, with pronounced citrus and pine flavours. The brewery describes the Untraditional Lager as a hybrid between a pilsner and an IPA, which seems apt. On the palate, the beer is crisp and nicely bitter in tandem.
Their dedication to this cause has been meticulous, extending to their brewing equipment and conditioning period. The brewhouse comes from Italy and is designed specifically to produce the consummate lager, including a whirlpool efficient enough to ensure that the beer doesn’t require filtration, yet remains bright. Removing the need to filter the beer is crucial for its mouthfeel and even head retention, all of which enhances the drinker’s holistic enjoyment of a pint.
Pillars currently have six fermenter tanks and are at 90% capacity, so expansion is already in the works. They thankfully have plenty of room in their spacious unit, which also houses their taproom and plenty of tables on a Friday night and Saturday afternoon, when it’s open to the public. Even though they’re only brewing two days a week, they cold-condition their beer for five weeks; this is longer than most commercial breweries, where the time might be reduced to two or three weeks.
The taproom is a vibrant space adorned with eye-catching murals and serving up small batch beers, which are mostly influenced by the German purity law, The Reinheitsgebot. This forbids any adjuncts in brewing, permitting only malt, hops, water and yeast to be present. Gavin stresses that they are not bound to this, but their second core beer – Rebell Helles, which is set to be launched next month – is another ‘pure’ beer.
Spending a Saturday afternoon at Pillars is recommended, their taproom offering a warm ambiance to enjoy some crisp beers. Comfortable and equipped with rotating food vendors and resident DJs, it’s the perfect venue to drop into – or stick around in – and make a day of it in Walthamstow and pop into Wild Card Brewery, located in the same estate and literally a stone’s throw away.