On Friday I set out to Stratford as a means of tracking down some of the East London beers – and it made sense to get the Overground from Stratford So-Called International. (It would make sense to walk, but the Olympic legacy means you need to circumambulate the Olympic Village, tripling the distance.) Having by instinct sat at the front of the HS1, I exited the station by a difference escalator than usual and, in search of Caffe Nerd, realised I had found Tap East. I’ve been here twice before, but both times had taken rather longer routes back to the station. This may not be a useful recovery.
Hackney Central is convenient for the Cock Tavern, Mare Street, a single square room on a corner, entry through the corner. I’m guessing the space was subdivided at some point, but it’s a cavernous space dominated by dark wood. I didn’t count the hand pumps, but there were four Howling Hops, two Redemption, a Brodies, and something from the west country, along with five cider pumps. Tempting though the Redemption was, I decided to focus on two of the onsite beers – the Session Wit, which was delicious and it hardly felt like 3% and the Chocolate Stout 5.2%, which tasted okay, but I’m no stout fan. Rather than continuing with the Mild or the other stout, I decided to risk a Brodies Mocha, ticking off a second new-to-me brewery, but weighing in at a hefty 9% and tasting like MDF in a glass. Smoky, coffee, chocolatey, but dusty and not entirely pleasant.
I hit Mare Street and headed south – walking past London Fields where there is another brewery and buying a couple of their bottles for the train. I began to recognise where I was, having stayed in the area for a couple of nights, and cut left toward Victoria Park and the Britannia, where I was hoping for something from the Hackney Brewery. It’s a wide, shallow pub, with an area curtained off but clearly knocked through into a single room. It was one of those pubs that doesn’t seem to have enough tables for its size, but there was friendly dog visiting. The empty beer pumps were unpromising, but at opposite ends there was Laines Best and Hackney American Pale Ale. I risked something from Sussex – it’s Brighton – having had a poor Laines before. This, alas, ran to form – if this is Best, I don’t want second best – but the Hackney American Pale Ale at 4.5% was also poor. The Laines had a flavour of pear drops, and there was something off (sour) about the Hackney, making me wonder if this was a cellaring issue. I must try one elsewhere, but I’m in no mood to retry Laines.
Heading further east, into industrial decline, I located the Crate on the edge of the Olympic Park and next to what I take to be the river Lea. This has a post-industrial vibe, but of a 1980s municipal leisure centre feel, large white bricks, improvised seating in an l-shape around a slanting bar in front of the pizzeria cookery area. I think this place would be fun to come to; at least four beer pumps, with chalked pump faces. I went for the Golden Ale, which, although not unpleasant, had a bit of a generic craft beer taste at 3.8%, and their IPA at 5.4%, which was much more pleasant. I would definitely come back.
I walked to Hackney Wick station, noting a more direct route, and dropped some money drunkenly, and watched a train go by with an open door. Another arrived ten minutes later, packed, and I caught this back to Stratford. After some calories and a coffee, I found the Tap East and had a Tonic Ale 3% and had an IPA of some description. Whilst I like their three stouts, there’s something I don’t like about their ales. There’s a certain… soapiness… about them which doesn’t work for me.
And then, back to the train, and a bottle of London Fields, a Marynka IPA which was very tasty. (I understand marynka is a Polish variety of hops.)
So, four new breweries tried, but in retrospect staying in the Cock Tavern would have been smarter.