2017 in review: what didn't make the cut (part I)

With 2017 coming to a close, it’s a logical time to reflect upon some of the events that didn’t make the Brewing East editorial calendar. With London’s active craft beer scene, most weeks brought coinciding or a string of consecutive happenings.

Simply, it was impossible to document them all. Whether it was due to unideal conditions for photography or competing events, some were dropped in favour of others. Whatever the reason was – and sometimes if was simply down to time constraints – there were plenty of occasions that were memorable enough that they are worth revisiting now.

And so we present a few snapshots of the other gatherings that unfolded during the year that were just a plain old good time.

24 February 2017: Left Hand Brewing Company tutored tasting at Mason & Company

Left Hand Brewing Company

We were joined by Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing Company’s Chief Operating Officer, Chris Lennert, for an informative tutored tasting. Ticketholders were invited to sample some of Left Hand’s range, including their celebrated Milk Stout Nitro, America’s first nitro in bottle. Still relatively difficult to track down in the UK, this was a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the beers in the presence of a company representative who demonstrated boundless enthusiasm for the products, the brewery and their Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) model.

Left Hand Brewing Company

The event sold out and Chris was an engaging and animated guide who happily entertained attendees well into the night. It was an insightful look into one of the USA’s most respected craft breweries.

3 June 2017: London Brewers Market at Field Day 2017

Field Day London Brewers' Market

As with any summer outdoor event, when you get glorious weather, it heightens any experience. This is just what happened for this year’s Field Day, held in East London’s Victoria Park, where a formidable line-up of musicians drew in the crowds. Again this year, the London Brewers’ Market provided an alternative drinks selection to the overpriced, sponsored bars. Ten breweries were on hand, each one tackling unrelenting queues and offering respite to drinkers who clocked on to the reasonable prices being charged for a range of interesting beers.

Field Day London Brewers' Market

The London Brewer’s Market acted as an oasis at one of East London’s most seminal summer events, giving ticketholders the opportunity to enjoy beers that went down as well as the music. This partnership works extremely well and we hope it continues.

29 July 2017: Camden Brewery Enfield site open day

Camden Brewery

The new Camden Brewery site in Enfield was bound to impress, with its jaw-dropping £30m price tag. When it invited the public in for an open day, the tickets were snapped up quickly and despite the inclement weather, curious people turned up to take a tour of the grounds, indulge in some street food, participate in arts and crafts and even see Camden’s founder, Jasper Cuppaidge, get dunked in water.

Camden Brewery

The brewery was something to behold, a 50,000 square foot, carbon neutral site capable of producing 400,000 hectolitres of beer a year. Seeing a London brewery, which was founded in 2010 and began life at the Horseshoe pub in Hampstead, get snatched up by AB InBev for £85m in 2015, certainly provoked discussion and debate amongst craft beer drinkers (and continues to do so). Still, many flocked to experience the vastness of the new premises, which increases Camden’s capacity by an astonishing 2,000%. 

It was incredible to see how far Camden had come, strolling above the gleaming brewery and admiring the towering fermenter tanks and sprawling packaging line. The dizzying scale of the site is a first for a contemporary London brewery.

Check back next week for part II of what didn't make the cut. Until then, happy holidays to all.

London Brewers' Market November 2017: the new and old

Last weekend's London Brewers' Market saw over 20 breweries come together for one afternoon, serving up to thirsty patrons under the glass roof of the iconic Old Spitalfields Market. Despite having a different layout, where breweries were confined to the back of the market, the event drew in a crowd.

Old Spitalfields Market recently went under renovations, meaning that breweries are no longer permitted to serve liquids from their new, very expensive, stalls. More flimsy stalls located at the far end of the Market were offered, so the area where beer was served was distanced from the vinyl stalls set up by their event partner, the Independent Label Market.

The breweries were more consolidated to a single area than in previous London Brewers' Markets in this space; this was beneficial for attendees who were on the hunt for particular vendors. Previously, they were spread out and dotted around an open floor where tables were laid out and DJs were playing. It also facilitated our jumping from stall to stall and locating some of the newcomers to the market. In some areas, however, the more narrow thoroughfare did cause congestion as drinkers tried to find a convenient space to perch with their beer.

We tried a number of new beers across the afternoon, starting on those breweries who were making their market debut. The Albion Pale, a tasty dry-hopped pale ale from Old Kent Rd Brewery, was an excellent beer to kickstart our drinking. It was a balanced and refined beer from an operation that started out of UBREW, Bermondsey's open brewery. Old Kent Rd are currently looking for their own site to scale up their production, so expect to see more of their beer around the city soon.

East London's Neckstamper Brewery also impressed with their Squencher IPA, another balanced and juicy beer with waves of Mosaic on the palate. It went down without any effort at all, making this a promising start for the enthusiastic team behind the brewery.

Forest Road Brewery POSH

Newcomers aside, we also enjoyed finally trying POSH from Forest Road Brewing Co. A brewery that had a single core range beer since its inception in early 2016, the WORK pale ale, they've finally welcomed a second addition to the family. POSH is a great, clean lager that merits a lot of praise. We went back for a few halves, where the effusive and talkative Boston-born founder, Pete Brown, gave us plenty of his time.

Affinity Brewing Co

Perhaps the best beer of the afternoon was the Toowoomba lamington cake inspired stout from Affinity Brewing Company, a beer that's been around for a while but still has tongues wagging. It's a velvety and luxurious stout with raspberries galore, hints of toasted coconut and dark chocolate, combining on the palate for a rich and moreish experience.

Beavertown Brewery also brought their A-game, serving up the startlingly delicious Paleo Pinhead collaboration with Florida's Cigar City Brewing Company. Another silky and intensely rich stout, this one boasts a 9% ABV. 'Liquified Bounty bar' is the most sublime description of this incredible beer. We tried this for the first time at the Beavertown Afterburner event in their taproom in October and have been raving about it since.

Although only a fraction of the remarkable beers that were sampled across a pleasant November afternoon, these beers made an impression and are still emblazoned in our minds. It was another successful London Brewers' Market with plenty of brewers on site to represent their products, happy to talk any curious customers through their range. We enjoyed a mixture of new beers and old favourites, meeting brewery founders for the first time and catching up with old friends. It's no wonder that this event is still one of the best showcases of the London beer scene.

London Brewers' Market April 2017: a review

April Fools Day saw the spring edition of London Brewers’ Market set up in the Old Spitalfields Market. Held in conjunction with the Independent Label Market, this seasonal event brings together London’s newest and esteemed craft breweries in one picturesque East London setting. It always attracts a huge audience and on April 1st 2017, 25 London breweries were in attendance.

Fortunate with the weather – which was clement but not sweltering – sunglasses were at the ready and the atmosphere was that of a teeming beer garden. This event typically draws in a large segment of London’s beer drinkers, from those whose work in the industry to those who've merely stumbled upon it. Even the most ambitious beer drinker can’t cover all of London’s industrial estates and railway arches, so the Brewers’ Market offers a chance for them to catch-up with the city’s quickly evolving scene.

New breweries such as Affinity Brew Co and Brewheadz participated, offering drinkers a chance to taste some beers currently generating a buzz in bottle shares, blogs and social media. At the Brewers' Market, if those filling your glass aren’t the brewers themselves, those responsible for the beer are always within earshot. It's guaranteed that regardless of who is actually pulling your pint, they'll be animated with passion for their craft.

Fourpure London Brewers' Market

Based on research and recommendations, there were some beers that I sought out, but it’s crucial to be open to everything. Revisiting old favourites is never shameful as well, as Fourpure Brewing Co’s citrus wunderkind, Juicebox IPA, was as pleasing as ever. I’ve been enjoying the new core IPA, Push Eject, from Hackney Brewery over the past months and its intense tropical flavours make it a juicy beer I'm happily returning to. And, frankly, there's nothing that a clean Five Points Brewing Co Pils won't cure when the sun is beaming.

Hackney Brewery London Brewers' Market

New to me was Affinity, a brewery based in Tottenham that’s been impressing with its Belgian-inspired range. A brief chat with the founders, Ben Duckworth and Steve Grae, was fruitful; they have some exciting plans in the future that will eventually see their beers moving from a shipping container to the taps inside Five Miles London – a music and events venue that's based on the same estate where their taproom currently sits – which is set to open this year. I settled on the Parasol, their hazy Belgian Ale with hints of citrus, spiciness and bread in both aromas and on the palate. It's a complex and easy-drinking beer that I look forward to revisiting.

Affinity Brew Co London Brewers' Market

Another new brewery conquered was Brick Brewery from Peckham – well outside my East London comfort zone – whose Rhubarb Sour Berliner Weisse was an tremendous introduction to their range, presenting puckering tartness with big sways of rhubarb in the body, finishing on a crisp bitterness that proved exceptionally refreshing and one to add to the list of summer beers.

Brick Brewery London Brewers' Market

But it wasn’t light beers getting all of the glory, as the nadir of Saturday’s beers was something very unusual and dark in colour: the Blended Black Framboise from One Mile End Brewery. Two parts barrel soured with Brettanomyces, one part barrel aged Gose, gin botanicals and raspberries. This beer was exceptionally palatable, offering tempered sourness, big cocoa notes and juicy, jammy raspberries. Lightly carbonated and velvety smooth, any hint of the 8.1% ABV was completely lost in the deliciously sweet tones. This was exciting, accomplished and a good return to One Mile End, who have impressed me with their experimental approach in the past.

One Mile End London Brewers' Market

The spring edition of the London Brewers' Market was not only a pleasant day out, but a glance at the benchmark of the styles and quality of beers that London will be enjoying this summer. Sours, IPAs and Berliner Weisse won't surprise, but there's always room for something a bit more rounded and complex like the Blended Black Framboise. Thankfully drinkers are being and breweries are being increasingly adventurous; in my mind, it's always the accomplished - but atypical - beers that are the most memorable at London Brewers' Market.

Now to wait patiently for summer...

London Brewers' Market July 2016: A review

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. 

DSC00359 (1).JPG

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. 

  1. 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. 

  2. 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.     

  3. Milou saison from Bullfinch BreweryA 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. 

  4. VIPA from OddlyMarking 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.  

  5. 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.

The London Brewers' Market is organised and managed by The Five Points Brewing Company. Be sure to keep an eye on their website for upcoming events.

One to watch: One Mile End

My first encounter with One Mile End Brewery– like most good things– stemmed from the search for a decent beer. Ambling into the recently renovated White Hart pub in early 2015, I was intrigued to find that it now hosted a microbrewery in its basement. There’s a long line of successful independent breweries in London with similar humble origins– most famously Howling Hops at The Cock Tavern and Beavertown at Duke’s Brew & Q– and a microbrewery is therefore the beginning of brewing lore. So something exciting was fermenting in Whitechapel at the White Hart, it seemed.

Even then, one thing was immediately apparent: the sleek branding, replete with quirky illustrations of Victorian caricatures and prominently emblazoned with the brewery’s moniker, demonstrated confidence. This was reinforced by the innovative selection of styles that were on offer at the bar. I recall tasting several iterations, mostly out of probing curiosity; some of the flavour combinations were atypical and baffling, but this was still early days. On this occasion, I settled on the Salvation!, a quaffable pale ale with a good dose of bitterness from US hops, but tempered with a creamy wheat backbone. It was fresh, balanced and accomplished.

Fast-forward to April 2016 and One Mile End was represented at London Brewers’ Market in Old Spitalfields Market. I was intent on visiting the stand to assess how the brewery had developed in the interim– while I ‘d stopped by on occasion to have a pint in the White Hart, it was clear that One Mile End had unconstrained potential and ambition. The variations and range of dynamic specials that alternated on each visit to the pub indicated that a brewing frenzy was going on beneath the street.

I was fortunate enough to chat with Simon McCabe, One Mile End’s head brewer, at the Brewers’ Market.  Having cut his teeth at Redemption Brewing Company, his talent was assured and his adventurous spirit was palpable. After a brief chat, he was pouring me samples of everything– including a barrel aged raspberry sour stout still being fine-tuned. Not shying from high ABVs, the stout came in at 8% and was chased by a half pint of their blood orange wheat DIPA at 7.4%. I wrote my impressions of the latter as part of my round-up of the event for London Brewers’ Market here. By way of a summary, I was sufficiently impressed by the complexity of both beers.

Around the same time in April 2016, One Mile End announced that they were expanding and opening a new brewing site in Tottenham. Specifically, they would be increasing their production fivefold on a 12.5 BBL kit at the former Redemption Brewery site– McCabe’s former stomping ground. While The White Hart would still be used for onsite brewing, the new, ample space guarantees that One Mile End is about to muscle its way into beer fridges across London and further afield.

At the end of May 2016, beer was already in the new fermenters. The brewery has also teamed up with Western-themed East London pop-up, Django Bango’s Gold Rush, to produce a special beer: a golden ale that promises a refreshing accompaniment to the immersive hootenanny. Their Snakecharmer IPA was previously offered at an earlier incarnation of the same pop-up earlier this year– I discovered this first-hand, once again, haphazardly.

While my relationship with One Mile End has been characterised by serendipity, it’s apparent that they are on the cusp of something colossal. Their catalogue currently boasts a good range of core beers that includes their Snakecharmer IPA and their Hospital Porter– but the one-offs and experiments with barrel aging have captured the attention of beer drinkers across the capital.

Snakecharmer IPA and Salvation! are being rolled out across the capital already, but don't miss out on going straight to the source– The White Hart Brew Pub– to try something more challenging. And if you happen to catch them at an upcoming London Brewers' Market (they'll be in attendance at The Hackney Summer Fete  on Saturday the 9 July) , beeline to their stall. Simon might just have something he's working on that will have you rooting for One Mile End too.

For more information on One Mile End and their brewing adventures, visit their website here. Their beers can also be enjoyed at The Alma in Chapel Market.

London Brewers' Market: April 2016 review

Not even April showers could dampen spirits at the inaugural London Brewers’ Market of 2016. Held in partnership with the Independent Label Market on the 4 April, Old Spitalfields Market was occupied by 26 independent brewers from across the capital. Attracting a steady stream of pundits for one afternoon, drinkers and breweries came together to exalt great beer. Brewers eagerly showcased a range of styles, representing the innovative spirit behind London’s growing brewing scene.

With such a dizzying selection on offer, it was a defensible act to overlook a stall. It was equally pardonable if- instead of pushing the boat out- you were tempted by an old favourite. The cold, harsh reality is that it was impossible to try everything on offer.

With that acknowledgement of our individual limitations — whether attributable to time or ABVs — I’ve compiled a list of five beers that were proffered at LBM. These are representative of the spectrum of styles currently in demand in the city.

• The Five Points Brewing Company: Vito’s Brown Ale (Now known as Brick Field Brown)
 The most recent version of this brown ale was unveiled at LBM. Although it pours an opaque black, its high carbonation and dry finish made it a highly sessionable choice. It delivered warm malty notes with hints of dark chocolate. Deliciously moreish and undoubtedly one to track down again.

• Hackney Brewery: Kiwi Thunder
 A solid IPA with a clout of antipodean flavours. The New Zealand hops gave it aromas of juicy grapefruit, orange peel and other tropical notes- the taste also delivered the same citrusy punch, balanced with light sweetness from the malt. A zesty IPA that’s worth revisiting.

• Rocky Head Brewery: Pale Ale
 An American pale ale from a small brewery based in Southfields, this was a flavoursome and balanced pale ale. Golden, unfiltered and using new world hops, this smooth-drinking pint had aromas of citrus and pine. A hint of sweetness from the malt and a clean finish make this a fruity and pleasant choice.

• One Mile End: Blood Orange Wheat DIPA
 With an ABV of 7.4%, this packed a punch. A complex aroma of marmalade, pepper and citrus, this dark golden beer was intensely citrusy at first sip. The bitter hops then kicked in and the alcohol lent a warming finish. It grew on me, but I didn’t dare go back for a second so early in the afternoon.

• Anspach & Hobday: The Sour Dry Hop
 A sour/wild ale that was outstanding. It carried an aroma of acidic lemon and followed through with lip-puckering tartness. It finished with a dry crispness and screamed out for an afternoon session in the sun.

This is by far a non-exhaustive list, but it highlights the varied tastes catered for at LBM and across London more generally. It will be fascinating to see what styles prevail at the next LBM-yet to be confirmed-but we hopefully won’t be kept on tenterhooks for too long.

Originally published at londonbrewersmarket.com on May 9, 2016.