Keeping it real … Real Ale
The London beer scene is constantly changing, it is hard to keep up to date with new breweries that open, it seems to be one a week at times. How long this can continue is unknown, we have already seen Late Knights close its doors recently, could we be starting to see the craft beer locomotive slow down. With this in mind, celebrating 5th birthdays seems even more important, it is a great milestone to be proud of. Within 7 days of each other two breweries celebrated 5th birthdays, both being two favourite breweries of mine. The first birthday bash was Hackney Brewery.
Nestled under the railway arches under London’s Overground railway line is Hackney Brewery, created by friends John Swain and Peter Hills back while homebrewing in their shed. They now commercially brew beer that can be found in not only cask but key keg, keg, bottle conditioned and soon to be cans. From a consumer and fans point of view their beers are always perfectly balanced and extremely sessionable, but also the other side of the bar they are a dream to work with. Always reliable, keeps very well and has a fan following of both traditional cask drinkers and new school craft beer drinkers.
I hadn’t been to the brewery before, so when Hackney Brewery announced they were opening their doors for a birthday party I was planning my trip straight away. The brewery is easy to reach via Hoxton train station, it is only a 5 minute walk around the corner, but due to being slightly early in my travels I thought I would take advantage of snapping some of the local East London street art. Getting off at Shoreditch and walking to the brewery is an easy 15-20 minute walk, and with sights such as huge ROA hedgehogs and a few giant pieces from Stik on route it made sense to enjoy the late October weather and walk.
The brewery had been cleared, bar set up, the office turned into a ticket station and even had a gin distillery in the corner! Spur of the moment brewery tours run throughout the day, John talking through the history of the brewery and showing off their new shiny fermentation vessels. There was a list of beers available too, some completely new to me. I first had their pumpkin beer a few years back at one of Leyton Orient Supporters Club beer festivals, there has been a few negative talks about pumpkin beer this year but I am on team pumpkin! And Hackney’s pumpkin beer was ticking all the boxes for me, not too overpowering on the spices, sweet but not in your face sweetness with enough of everything to know you are sipping on a pumpkin beer.
Hackney have been experimenting with some small batch pale ales recently, Calypso El Dorado being one of my favourite cask beers of the year. The small batch hop showcase available at the party was Chinook, it was super easy drinking and something I am going to be keeping an eye out for. The new beer of the day though had to be Kapow! The session IPA was one of the dankest, fruitiest numbers that I have had from Hackney Brewery before. Hackney Brewery have plans to go big with this beer soon and I can see it being very popular.
The whole day was a great chilled vibe, with plenty of people enjoying the beers and grilled cheese sarnies. I went home (via a wrong tube!) feeling extremely happy (mashup!), thinking it’s a shame that Hackney Brewery are not able to open up more regularly as I would walking down the streets of East London often to drink more of their beers at their brewery.
The second birthday party of the week was Signature Brew. For me, Signature Brew couldn’t have moved to Leyton at a better time, I had just started helping the Leyton Orient Supporters Club with beer ordering and to have a brewery a few minutes down the road was perfect. Signature Brew have been brewing with music since 2011, brewing beers in collaboration with different artists and trying to improve beer selections at live music venues. Music is a big part of my misspent youth, before all the beer there was Hip Hop for me, studying at Southend college during a time when Essex Hop Hop was at its best. British Hip Hop first sparked my creative side, which has now developed into beer writing, but I had let the dust on my record collection gather too much over the last few years. My like for Signature Brew and its links to music has helped me find my love for music again and I would love to see a Hip Hop collaboration beer soon.
To celebrate the birthday Signature Brew kitted out the brewery with bars, street food and live music. With cask beers available outside from themselves and other friends such as Five Points Brewing, Hackney Brewery and Titanic Brewery, with Signature Brew keg lines upstairs in the excellent backstage Bar. Cask conditioned Roadie was pouring outside, one of my favourite beers which absolutely ksmashes it on cask. Upstairs you could find the new brew of their Double IPA Stagediver, this beer killed me off last Christmas when visiting with a few old college mates and this year it is tasting even better. Easily matching many of the big name DIPA’s this year, so if you see cans of Stagediver on your beery travels then make sure you pick a couple up!
Although I couldn’t stay for the amount of time as I had wished, the time spent there was great. I left before the live music started but by the sounds of things it was excellent and the after party at the Leyton Star went on into the early hours. The hourly brewery tours and talks with new brewer Tibor took place with large groups eagerly listening to the history of the brewery and the brewing process. Signature Brew’s corner of E10 was buzzing.
Next year is going to be a huge year for both Hackney Brewery and Signature Brew. Hackney Brewery will be putting their new fermentation vessels into full use, it will be great to see them join the can revolution and even more exciting was the talk of a few big beer releases next year, but I will leave that to them to tell you about it. Signature Brew are going to be one to watch next year, expanding the brewery as well as their brewery team is going to push them to greater heights. With new beers brewed already and talk of some exciting sounding beers to follow, I think we are going to be seeing more and more from Signature Brew. It’s been a great 5 years for both breweries, I’d like to thank both Hackney Brewery and Signature Brew for the last couple of years and I can’t wait to see what happens over the next 5 years! Cheers!
Disclaimer – Some of the beers I bought from both parties was free of charge, some I bought myself. I do not think this affected my opinion on both parties or breweries.