On Saturday afternoon I fancied visiting a brewery and decided to head to Hackney. It almost didn’t happen. I eyeballed the snowflakes that started tumbling from the heavens as I approached St Albans City Station and contemplated whether a micron layer of fluffy rain might bring the whole rail network to a standstill. I distinctly remember thinking “sod it” and girded my loins. About a half hour later I emerged from Bethnal Green Tube Station. My gamble had paid off.
The Redchurch Brewery tap room sits directly above the brewing equipment at 275-276 Poyser Street. Hanging hessian covers and peachy light soften the industrial stamp of the railway arch interior. Hogsheads add homeliness and create a comforting link to our pub culture. Otherwise the venue is tidy with bar and tables made from up-cycled wood. I perched on a stool and became aware of a superior presence patrolling the joint – Len the house cat. Len has become accustomed to people like me trying to pap him on smart phones and cameras. He lets you know you’re only there because he tolerates it – you can see it in his swagger and in his film noir insouciance.
All fresh beer is served from key keg. Based on beers I’ve had by Redchurch in the past, I associate this brewery with Saisons in particular – especially their beautiful Sauvage (available in 750ml bottles). On this visit one Saison was available – Petite Mort (4.5 abv). The title relates to the ecstatic sensation of the body “dying” after the scrumption of orgasm. Though the beer wasn’t THAT good, I did keep a close watch on the other punters for tell-tale signs. It’s pineapple yellow with a charging carbonation that soars up to a thick white meringue of a head. There’s a Champagne-like quality to the first sip. I often taste apples with Saison yeast and this is no exception. After the bubbles and refreshment comes the apt Saisony dryness.
I should drink lager more often and I had the perfect opportunity here. Brick Lane Lager (5 abv) is a cloudy orange yellow and immediately bitter like pine. There’s a sweeter suggestion too like custard to temper it. You can roll this beer around the tongue. It’s very juicy and quite tart. In a blind taste I’d have collared this as an American IPA by flavour. This is no doubt down to the hop profile: Cascade and Chinook.
The beer board displays a canter up and down the globe with regard to beer styles. The biggest influence on British brewing is still overwhelmingly American but increasingly when I go to tap rooms I see Wits, Goses, Saisons and Altbiers. We are eagerly mining continental Europe for inspiration, in fact I’m sure there are now more of the aforementioned styles being brewed in London alone than in their lands of origin.
|Len calmly plots the downfall of the human race|
Pillar of Salt (5 abv) is this brewery’s Gose. This Leipziger beer type isn’t really my thing but I still like to see different breweries’ takes on it. It’s a cloudy yellow with a vegetable soup aroma. Coriander is included and it can be sensed when you inhale it. When I drink it I’m reminded of seasoned tubers – especially parsnips eaten cold the day after a roast dinner. It parches you as well, this may also be down to the addition of salt/gypsum required by the style.
This tap room offers live music in the evenings. I sat by the latent music hub with its impressive looking gubbins, knobs and dials. While I was there, tracks were being played from the 1950’s like Little Richard’s Lucille. The tap room mixes the modern, the hi-tec and the classic. I like a bar with curios (shazam!) and there is both a snarling fox head mounted above the bar and a huge Indonesian beetle under glass. I hope Redchurch continues to surrender to the Magpie gene.
I left the strongest beers till last – Great Eastern India Pale Ale (7.4 abv) and Old Ford Export Stout (7.5). They are both sumptuous in their respective directions. The former echoes on the nose and palate with mango and the latter is rich and indulgent like coffee cake. Also on offer were Hoxton Dry Stout (6), Shoreditch Blonde (4.5) and Bethnal Pale Ale (5.5) which I’ll hopefully savour another time. I also love that most beers are linked to their East London neighbourhood by title.
There is massive competition for Redchurch in the current London boom and I hear that the core range will be brewed out in Harlow leaving this unit to concentrate on more experimental brews. It’s both exciting and reassuring to know that this brewing revolution is still in its ascendancy. Indeed, it seems like a comprehensive re-invention of beer itself. Redchurch is upping the game further still.
Classy tap room, delicious beer, great people, vibrant atmosphere, cool AF pussycat. What more could you possibly want of a Saturday afternoon?