Tryanuary 2018: a spotlight on East London breweries

It's that time of year again: Tryanuary is here. Since 2015, this campaign has encourage people to support the beer industry throughout the month of January. Instead of subscribing to recent movements like Dryanuary, the Tryanuary initiative asks us to support local and independent businesses during the year's most challenging month.

Offering a counterpoint to the Dryanuary movement, which has gained significant traction in recent years, Tryanuary doesn't ask us to drink more than we've comfortable with. In fact, it recognises that many of us will be cutting back on excesses following an indulgent Christmas period. It suggests that we make the beer that we drink count and that we drink conscientiously. And, of course, we should aim to do this year round, so it serves as an excellent perrenial goalpost for drinkers.

Today, January 5th, marks the campaign's spotlight on London, and in light of this, we wanted to direct eyeballs towards the official Tryanuary Twitter account, which will be manned by a group of passionate volunteers to represent specific areas of the city. This is a fantastic way to become acquainted with breweries that lie beyond the boundaries of your residential postcode.

In East London, we have covered some of our favourite and/or the newest breweries to pop up, including:

Crate Brewery

Crate Brewery
Five Points Brewing Company
Hackney Brewery
One Mile End Brewery
Pillars Brewery
Wild Card Brewery

Wild Card Brewery: a brewery holding all of the aces

We've also featured some of our favourite local venues that are deserving of your support, including:

Angel of Bow

Angel of Bow
Mason and Company

Salvation for Stratford: Mason & Company launch

While this list is not conclusive (there's a glaring admission of Howling Hops Brewery and tank bar, for instance), it does demonstrate that brewing is alive and well in East London. If you would like to see some of what Hackney Wick has to to offer specifically, The Five Points Brewing is hosting their annual Tryanuary pub crawl  – the Hackney Beer Hop – on Saturday, the 27 January, which includes some of the aforementioned spots. We've attended and enjoyed these in the past (here and here) and it's well worth the £7 charity donation.

However you decide to observe Tryanuary, we hope that you discover some new and thrilling beers, breweries and venues along the way.

Pillars Brewery: championing lager in Walthamstow

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.

Pillars Brewery Walthamstow

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 Brewery

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.

The Return of Dalston Beer Day for 2017

Last Saturday, ten breweries assembled in The Bootyard for the second Dalston Beer Day. The event was a resounding success, with occupancy reaching capacity only a few hours in. The weather held up and sustenance was flying out of the Honest Burgers food truck, keeping revelers contented enough to linger until late. Drinkers worked their way through a varied selection of beer against the backdrop of an East London hideaway, tucked away from Kingsland Road.

The Bootyard space offered a comfortable setting for this relaxed and informal beer festival. The brewery list had changed from last year, seeing some relatively fresh additions to the London scene, including Affinity Brew Co and Pillars Brewery. Beavertown Brewery was present for the second year running and had rotating specials on, such as Lime Phantom – which had disappeared by mid-afternoon – and some examples of their small-batch brewers’ series, Beavertown Says. Psychotropic, a New England style table beer with a breezy ABV and hazy appearance, was a sublime way to kick off the festivities.

Affinity Brew Co Dalston Beer Day

Pillars Brewery is a recent addition to London’s craft scene with an exclusive focus on lager. Their flagship beer is the Untraditional Lager, a commendable effort at a notoriously difficult style. Pouring golden with a foamy head, its subtle aromas of zesty citrus and hay was immediately promising. It's very easy drinking, with clean, biscuit malt flavour accompanied by lemon and grapefruit. With a 4.5% ABV, this will appease any lager fan, embodying the characteristics of the style and it was served up exceptionally fresh.

Pillars Brewery Dalston Beer Day

Dalston Beer Day also presented a second chance for me to sample Affinity Brew Co, that Tottenham brewery that impressed at the London Brewers’ Market earlier this month. Founders Ben and Steve were again on hand, enthusiastically serving up drinkers. They launched a hibiscus sour, which was a stunning beer that rightfully proved popular. It was a radiant pink colour, drinking like an effervescent rosé with balanced hints of hibiscus. Tart, dry and flavoursome, this slipped down effortlessly and was the standout beer of the afternoon.

The Kernel Brewery was also present, understated as always, but they were pouring a juicy Pale Ale hopped with Mosiac and Victoria Secret. As expected from the brewery, it was another silently exceptional beer that was crisp and delicious, satisfying the need for an outstanding pale in the sun. Kent’s Pig & Porter also carried remarkable rye ale, Arachnophilia, which was a wonderful harmony of spiciness from the rye and bursting citrus from the hops. Intensely drinkable, it was a gentle yet moreish beer.

Dalston Beer Day

The crowd was a good mix of genders and ages, both local residents and beer aficionados unified in one space. The team behind the event, 40ft Brewery, make a concerted effort to include the surrounding community and it seems to be paying off: guests were wandering in without any pretense or knowledge of the beers on tap or the breweries present, just to grab a drink. The casual nature of the event meant that it was accessible, and while there is still work to be done to attract a more diverse crowd, it encapsulated what the craft beer scene in London should always aspire to: being inclusive, friendly and - most importantly - fun.

And there's good news if you missed April's event, as a June edition of Dalston Beer Day has just been announced. Watch the 40ft Brewery Facebook page for more details.