25 January 2024

Beer Guide London Visits 30 – Hackney

By admin

18th June 2022

Nowadays we are used to finding good beer and good bars all over London but there was a time when you really had to hunt around. Bermondsey started the change with the nascent beer mile but Hackney and Hackney Wick were quick to follow in its footsteps.

Today’s plan was to start at the northern end of Hackney and work south getting to as many Guide entries as time and capacity would allow. That’s the other problem now, with increased choice comes increased temptation and it can be hard to be disciplined on days like this when confronted with so many great beers.

The first stop of the day was actually in Hackney Downs at All Good Beer. This bottle shop originally started in the rear of another bar on the Bermondsey Beer Mile. They opened in this old studio complex and for a while continued to run both before switching to concentrate their efforts here. Located in a shared space with other food outlets there is plenty of space to sit and enjoy your beer chosen from the half dozen on tap or extensive packaged selection. It is good to see them growing and succeeding.

It is quite a walk down towards central Hackney, but the prospect of reaching my next stop, Pembury Tavern, made the time pass quickly. This is a long standing London stalwart and was always a reliable place to find new beers in the days when you really had to hunt them out. There was a short, worrying, time when Milton Brewery announced they were selling it, but the fears were quickly allayed when Five Points Brewing took it on. It is now a great place to sample their excellent range alongside well chosen guests.

Leaving here it is a short walk down Amhurst Road into central Hackney where there are a number of great beer places in close proximity. I started by heading to Hackney Tap one of the more recent openings of the group of pubs bearing the Tap name. Sited in the old Town Hall this is an impressive building and the beer range lives up to such surroundings, as you would expect from a bar in this family. Nearly 20 taps and a further half dozen hand pulls give plenty of choice.

Less than 5 minutes from here and you are at another London beer institution, the Cock Tavern. This is a classic pub, lots of wood and benches, with real spit and sawdust vibe to it, in a similar way to its sister pub the Southampton Arms. This was the original home of Howling Hops brewery before they moved to bigger and better things in Hackney Wick. 24 taps split pretty equally between keg, cask and cider. Do not miss the pickled eggs!

I crossed back to start my journey along Bohemia Place which at the time of this visit was home to four Guide entries cheek by jowl. Unfortunately this is no longer the case.

The first venue was Brew Club Tap Room. This was a place, in a similar vein to UBrew, where anybody could book space to brew their own beers. People had an opportunity to take a step up from home brewing without buying lots of expensive kit. All of the small kits were housed in one large room with the adjacent, spartan, room housing a tap room with eight beers available. The selection was always interesting and was augmented by a couple of fridges. Sadly it closed down in the first half of 2023.

Next along is the impressive tap room and brewery of Hackney Church Brew Co. They occupy two large arches with the brew kit one and a spacious tap room in the other, and they also have a beer garden. Plenty of their own beers on offer, which are usually of above average quality, as well as some guests. Thankfully this is the one venue on Bohemia Place still going strong.

A couple of doors down was The Experiment. This was a joint venture between Pressure Drop and Verdant providing a showcase for both breweries. Given the quality of both breweries it was always a pleasure to visit here but unfortunately it closed its doors for the final time in the summer of 2023.

Staggering another couple of doors along brought you to the final beer venture on the street, Deviant & Dandy Tap Room. Another brewery in a railway arch with a rather quirky tap. Most of the seating was in the open yard with the bar originally being housed in an old caravan. I liked their beers, especially the one called Steve… They closed down in late 2023.

Leaving Bohemia Place at the far end you need to turn left and then immediately left on the footpath under the railway. Turn right and you will come to another of the hidden gem pubs. The Chesham Arms is a quintessential back street locals pub that has been packed every time I have ever visited and it throws in an above average beer selection making it a must visit venue when in the Hackney area.

I left here and started the walk towards Hackney Wick. It was only 10 minutes walk until my tenth stop of the day, a first visit to the Kenton, although it still bears the name Kenton Arms in large letters. It is impossible to miss this large corner pub given it’s mustard yellow paint job! It proclaims itself a “traditional British pub with a Norwegian twist,” that being the nationality of the owner. It certainly has a traditional pub feel and throws in a good beer range on tap too. A great place to break the walk from Hackney to Hackney Wick.

A few minutes along the road you arrive at the northern edge of Victoria Park and the People’s Park Tavern. This is a Laine’s pub that also used to house a brewery. The brewing kit was removed in 2022 and the range now is pretty standard resulting in it’s removal from the Guide. It is a huge venue that backs on to the park and on nice days gets very busy indeed.

Heading directly through the park and out of the opposite entrance brings you to the Italian Job (Hackney Wick). This was the fourth in the small chain of bars operated by Birrificio Del Ducato. When they first started they were excellent venues providing a chance to sample some great Italian beers but in recent years they have declined to the extent that latter visits produced no Italian beers at all. A real shame.

A short bus journey took me back to Mare Street in Hackney and Five Points Brewery Tap. The taproom is now in what was the warehouse area and was absolutely packed when I arrived. When the weather is nice they also have extensive seating outside. You know you are going to get good beer from these guys and the tap room offers a good selection of their current offerings as well as some guest beers.

I was reaching the limit of my capacity, but I couldn’t finish on 13 visits! I therefore made the short 5 minute walk to the Dove Freehouse. This is a great bar specialising in, but not limiting itself to, Belgian Beers. It was good to see another full bar with people enjoying the great beer selection. There are a dozen or so beers on tap and more than 100 packaged beers to choose from. In a slightly bizarre twist I finished my day in East London drinking a Norwegian beer in a specialist Belgian bar. That is a great summation of how far the London beer scene has come on!