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.

Stokey Beer Fest 2017: a review

It was audacious to propose a beer festival in January, a time of year plagued with post-Christmas tightening of strings and the Dryanuary initiative. However, Stokey Beer Fest organiser Chris Martin proved the sceptics wrong and saw his event at capacity during both of its sessions on Saturday, the 21 January 2017. But he was on tenterhooks until the eleventh hour, as more than half of the tickets sold only days before the event. Incredibly, he found himself literally turning people away on the day due to its overwhelming success.

Eight breweries were showcased alongside an on-site bottle shop provided by Mother Kelly’s and gin distiller Jensen’s for the spirit drinkers. For sustenance, Provisions were on hand, curating delicious plates of cheese, charcuterie and bread. As people streamed through the doors of Abney Hall in Stoke Newington on a bright Saturday afternoon, they were each given a festival glass and a stamp card for a 1/3 pint sample from each of the breweries. In addition to stalls, attendees were offered a 1/3rd of the Discontinued ESB, a beer brewed especially for the day following a series of Twitter polls to determine a style and recipe for this beer of the people.

The hall was amply spacious for the scope of the event and queues for a drink rarely surpassed two people deep at the busiest of times. Brewers were on hand, happily mingling and talking visitors through their beers. For one of the breweries, Suffolk-based Little Earth Project, this was their inaugural festival experience. They were thrilled at the turn-out and the kudos received for their excellent sours. They specialise in mixed culture fermentation and their Brett Terroir had a beautiful delicate tart and funk notes, redolent of a bone-dry farmhouse cider.

Ubrew, the open brewery based in Bermondsey arches, was selling their new canned beers. Two of the breweries - Brewage à Trois and Seven Sisters Brewery –also rely upon Ubrew’s facilities to brew their range, so there was a palpable sense of camaraderie in the hall. East London’s own 40 Ft Brewery and Howling Hops were serving up some enticing styles, including a Märzen from the former and a Double Chocolate Coffee Toffee Vanilla Milk Porter from the latter. The Solvay Society won drinkers over with a delicious dry-hopped sour that was available in both a standard and barrel-aged form; the depth and complexity of the barrel-aged version was beautifully tart and a personal highlight of the festival.

Elusive Brewing was on my radar the one given the recent buzz around the brewery. Brewing on a 5BBL kit in Finchampstead, Berkshire, Andy Parker is the man behind the beer. Andy’s pedigree is inarguable, having won the title of National Homebrew Champion in 2014, and his beers have been receiving a lot of attention in recent months. The pixelated, retro gaming branding sees a Donkey Kong-esque barrel as the brewery emblem and some of the range of beers take their moniker from the same source, including a ‘Level Up’ series. The Sphere of Destiny (Mosaic) was on cask and quickly disappeared, but the Raspberry Ruin was perhaps the beer of the festival, a double raspberry imperial stout with copious hits of juicy tartness enveloped by deep, silky chocolate notes.

The morning session had a great crowd of people with familiar faces and new, all opining on the more unusual beers, including the End of Thyme saison brewed with thyme and honey from Seven Sisters, which divided drinkers. The first hour was fairly tranquil, but crowds starting building quickly and at 3.30, beer writer Pete Brown hosted an informal session about styles of beer and beer tasting, guiding a group through several tasters.

We remained until about 4pm, when the lull of a local pub with a seat beckoned. We felt that we'd sampled everything as intended and the crowds were beginning to thin out. In conjunction with Five Points Brewing Co, many pubs in the area were offering a £1 discount off their range, which we liberally made use of as we moved on from Abney Hall. If the evening session was as successful as the morning, then Stoke Newington might just have a new annual festival on its hands. It would be great to see more local breweries involved, so already the venue might need to be reassessed to allow for further growth.

And Chris, the organiser? Well, he’s a maths teacher by day and juggled his job with curating the entire event, so he might need an extra few pairs of hands to see the festival become a regular event for the East London calendar. He might also consider a spring date next time, but then again, January seemed to work just fine for Stokey.