Those of you who have been to our portfolio tastings will already be aware about our partnership with Biercraft – purveyor of the world’s most exciting boutique craft brews. Their philosophy of searching out small, quality-minded producers with delicious, compelling products chimes perfectly with Indigo’s.
There has been a worldwide burgeoning of craft breweries over the last few years, and the London scene in particular is thriving. Craft beer is now firmly front-of-mind for consumers, not just in bars and at festivals but in restaurants too. The diversity of styles and flavours can work really well with food, but it’s a whole new ballgame to pairing food with wine. With this in mind we asked Nick Trower, Bier-meister and general font of knowledge on all things hoppy, to take us to a few of East London’s brewing hotspots. And this is what we learned…
We started out at Redchurch Brewery, cosily tucked under a couple of arches in Bethnal Green. Set up by former lawyer Gary Ward in 2011, they expanded and moved to larger premises in 2014, where they make excellently crafted hoppy beers with a real sense of East London provenance. As well as the brewery they have a tap room where we gathered around the bar for a taste through their range.
Taproom bar at Redchurch. Sofia giving us a bit of background on the range. Meditating on the type of malo in Tartelette – so geeky! Some of the range at Redchurch. Downstairs in the brewery where the magic happens.
I particularly enjoyed Tartelette from the ‘Wild Series’ so named because they are brewed with wild yeasts, mixed and bacterial fermentation and foraged and cultivated ingredients. Tartelette is a sour beer, but don’t let that put you off, it has a gentle tartness with a refreshing citrus finish. Quirkiest beer of the tasting was Pillar of Salt, a German gose style beer which actually tastes of salt – there has to be a great food pairing for this somewhere…
Next stop was Square Root Sodas, winner of last year’s Radio 4 Food and Farming awards for best drinks producer. Set up by former Howling Hops head brewer Ed and his partner Robyn, they moved to a small but perfectly formed site under a railway arch in Hackney last year. They produce seasonal fruit sodas and distinctive tonic waters. They don’t use additives or preservatives, this is all about quality ingredients.
They are devoted to using the freshest, tastiest raw materials, and spoke about a trip to Sicily from where they now buy nobbly, un-waxed and gloriously tasty lemons. And an expedition to the Yorkshire rhubarb triangle where they were spooked to hear the rhubarb growing!
Squeezing organic, un-waxed Sicilian lemons by hand at Square Root. Ed explaining the production process. Tasting some of the Square Root summer flavours with Robyn.
Square Root was a revelation. From a space not much bigger than my kitchen Ed, Robyn and a small team produce the most startlingly expressive soft drinks I’ve ever tasted. Ed said how exciting it was that soft drinks were finally being recognised– I say when they’re this good it’s no surprise.
Just around the corner in a railway arch (surprise, surprise…) three friends Graham, Ben and Sam aka Pressure Drop make an exciting range with a focus on wheat beers and foraged ingredients. The trio started out in 2012 in Graham’s shed, but soon pinned down some winning recipes and needed to move to more spacious premises.
I was excited to try the intriguingly named Wu Gang Chops the Tree, a wheat beer with a host of other flavours and foraged herbs, including bay leaf. The result apparently pairs wonderfully with curry and tandoori dishes, definitely one to try at home kids… And the name? That originates from a Chinese proverb about Wu Gang who tried to cut down a self-healing sweet olive tree, the Eastern version of our Sisyphus myth.
Graham and Sam talk us through the kit. Some of the colourful labels, mostly designed by local artists. The famous Wu Gang!
A couple of stops along the Overground brought us to our last brewery of the tour, Howling Hops. They recently moved to a brand new site with a bar attached in Hackney Wick. Scaling up production – and this was certainly a bigger more technical looking affair – means they are able to have better control over quality and consistency. The move wasn’t all plain sailing though, installing their tanks in the relatively low ceiling warehouse was a feat of ingenuity. I bet they needed a beer or two after that one… As luck would have it next door is UK’s first tank bar – ten serving tanks directly dispense ten Howling Hops beers from behind a ten metre long bar, it doesn’t get much fresher than that.
Hard work over, we settled down onto one of the long bierkeller style bench tables to sample some of the grog, my vote went to the floral/citrusy Farmhouse Saison, Nico preferred the East End Hefeweize, there’s something for everyone – prost!
Hmmm it’s all looking quite technical in Howling Hops brand spanking new brewing site Howling Hops Tank Bar
A huge thanks to Nick Trower at Biercraft for setting the visits up, if you would like to see our beer list, chat through the range, or would like some samples with your next wine order drop us a line.