Brewing craft beer used to be the alternative pursuit for hipsters – places off the beaten track holed away beneath railway arches somewhere in deepest East London. And while most of those boltholes are happily still booming (such as Crate in Hackney, and Fourpure Brewing Co in Bermondsey), craft beer is now reaching a wider audience. So much so, it’s likely that your local pub has bottles of independently-brewed lagers and ales, and even the big supermarkets have cottoned onto the craft beer revolution. According to food and drink magazine The Grocer, sales of craft ales including Huddersfield-brewed Magic Rock and London-based Beavertown increased by 7.2 per cent in 2018, while at the same time sales of more traditional premium brands have fallen by £15.6 million since 2016.
In short, now’s the time to brush up on your craft beer knowledge – because there’s more choice than ever. Here are five London craft beer brands you need to know about.
Five Points Brewing Co
Five Points Brewing Co goes further than the beer: they’re a social enterprise. The brewery puts on talks addressing leading topics within the industry, such as women in beer, and how beer works with charity. The team behind the brewery says its commitment is to the beer community, and an ethical approach to beer-making means the brewers take great care over provenance of ingredients. The Hackney brewery welcomes guests for tours and tastings. When you’re there, ask for the Railway Porter, an unusual and deliciously different beer with chocolate and coffee notes.
Five Points Brewing Co ‘The Railway Porter’, £2.45 per bottle, available at fivepointsbrewing.co.uk
The eccentric style of Beavertown’s website, which has animated superhero imagery all over it, epitomises the brand’s playful and experimental approach to beer production. Expect beers in beautifully-designed cans, with big flavour and strength of character. We’d recommend the signature Gamma Ray pale, full of ripe tropical flavours, and the Neck Oil IPA, which is so easy-drinking it could land you in trouble. Get your fill of the brand at the tap room in Tottenham Hale, which is open on Saturdays from 2pm until 8pm.
Beavertown, ‘Gamma Ray’ pale, £2.55 per bottle, available at beavertownbrewery.co.uk
The Kernel Brewery has a similarly straight-forward approach to its brewing as it does to its no-muss, no-fuss labelling. ‘The brewery springs from the need to have more good beer,’ says the simple sales pitch on the website – which is reflected in the wide-ranging reach of the brand’s ever expanding line that now includes pales, stouts and London porters. There’s no taproom, but if you head to the Bermondsey brewery on a Saturday between 9am and 2pm you can pick up bottles to take away or head to over to the Fourpure Brewing Co nearby which has a generous on-site tap room.
The Kernel Brewery, from £3.59 per bottle, available at honestbrew.co.uk
Hackney Wick has gone through a transformation over the past decade from a post-industrial stretch of canal to a district packed with some of the capital’s coolest bars and restaurants. One of the vanguards of this transformation was Crate Brewery, a stone’s throw from the area’s eponymously named London Overground station. Here, the idea is to make beer just one part of a wider offering, so there’s great stone-baked pizza and regular DJ nights. The old factory building that houses the brewery offers tours, but if you’re just relaxing by outdoors by the canal, we’d recommend the Citra Sour – with citra hops and yuzu juice, it’s an unusual delight. Either that, or keep things simple with the punchy IPA.
Crate Brewery, ‘Citra Sour’, £2.80 per can, available at eebria.com
‘What better way to preserve bread than by brewing beer?’ says the team at Toast, which uses fermented bread to brew its beer. This ethical waste-reduction project uses the Hackney Brewery premises for its brewing process, and works alongside Hambleton Ales to brew a neat little range incorporating an IPA, a lager and a pale. British hops are exclusively used for brewing beers with strong character, and with a sustainability-first approach, the brewery itself is powered entirely by wind turbines. The brewery’s pale ale is the one to try first – it was awarded two-star status at the Great Taste awards in 2018, an accolade taken extremely seriously by those within food and drink industry – and judged by 500 of the top critics, restaurateurs and producers.
Toast, core range, £2.50 per bottle, available at toastale.com