Saturday 8th December 2012
At the time of my visit this was probably one of London's newest breweries as it opened in July 2012. It's located alongside the River Lea Navigation and is very close to Hackney Wick station.
The building is a former print works and it is surrounded by the typical industries of this part of London, mostly involving repairing motors, although there is a bagel bakery close by. This is in sharp contrast to the other side of the canal which contains the gleaming new buildings of the Olympic Park.
Any preconceptions you might have had regarding a brew pub will be thrown out of the window with this establishment, as it is über-cool. This rather horrible hybrid bi-language phrase has a definite resonance here though, as it appears that the average age of the regular drinkers is under twenty-five and they flock to it in droves.
Of course there are the nouveau-keg beers that are now de-rigueur on the bars of London but there are also four hand pumps; so it appears there is an educational aspect to their offerings.
It was pleasing that a considerable number of the clientele were drinking cask beer and surprisingly their bottled-conditioned beers were proving to be popular; these are good signs.
The interior is possibly what might be called "Industrial Chic" but I doubt whether that much thought went into it. They used recycled materials from the local area. In practical terms this means old railway sleepers (the bar), old wooden palettes (the seats) and old sacks (cushions). It is certainly cheap and cheerful.
If you think I'm being too harsh let me say that I liked the place very much, but I'm not keen on being told of all this, as if they are personally saving the planet, rather than just using a load of cheap materials.
I settled on my comfy palette and had a couple of beers and was pleasantly surprised that their temperatures were ambient; I was expecting something much colder. The Golden Ale (3.8%) was reasonable, yet really should have been served a bit cooler as befits this style, and I thought I would never ever say that! Best Bitter (4.3%) was really nice with a smack of English hops. It was like a best bitter of old, yet hoppier. I haven't enjoyed a beer so much for ages. I passed on Stout (5.7%) but would like to have it in the future. I think full marks should be given to the names of the beers, no silly or pretentious titles there. The fourth pump had Titanic Plum Porter (4.9%), so I suppose there is always one guest beer.
The pub commendably advertises itself as selling only Beer, Wine and Pizza, and that is about it. The Pizza and house-brewed beer combination is reminiscent of many such places in Southern California. This connection was reinforced when I noticed a dead ringer for Frank Zappa emerge from the kitchen!
The main room was smaller than I had imagined it to be. On entering the building I could see just a little of the brewery that was hidden away on the right. The bar was in the middle of the room, with the kitchen behind. Outside there are four large tables from which, in nicer weather, one could observe the occasional passing traffic on the cut and the incessant traffic on the North London railway line with an Overground train every ten minutes in each direction and, for added interest, a freight train often squeezed in between.
I will return to this pub as I thought the Best Bitter was superb and would be interested to see if their other beers are as good.
The CRATE Brewery, Unit 7, The White Building, Queen's Yard, White Post Lane,
Hackney Wick, London E9 5EN
Open: Daily 09.00-23.00. Beer is not served until after 12.00 (Midday)
The pub is around five minutes walk from Hackney Wick station which is served very frequently by London Overground trains running between Stratford and Richmond. From the station leave from the Westbound (Richmond direction) side, go down the zigzag slope and turn left, then almost immediately turn left into White Post Lane. You should now be parallel to the station and this road bears right then left and ends up with a footbridge over the canal into the Olympic Park. Just before the bridge, go down the steps on the left to the towpath, and there you will find the pub. Local buses also call in the area around the station.