Dish of the Day: Community Brewing

Rory Elsome

image003 300x225 Dish of the Day: Community BrewingThese days you’re never far away from a decent pint in London. At a time when country pubs are in decline, with 18 pubs closing every week of last year, London seems to be immune. Where I live in East London, a new pub serving cask and keg ales from fresh-faced London microbreweries seems to open every week.

Perhaps more than ever before, people are really interested in drinking good beer, which is refreshing, having been a beer lover since the time when not everyone was so adventurous.

“We don’t want to go to one of your old man pubs” was the typical comeback to the suggestion we should drink anywhere with decent beer. Independently produced beer is the latest product to be popularised by the aspirational wave of eating and drinking finer things, with importance being placed on where it comes from and the passion and innovation of the brewers producing it.

As Gordon Ramsay might say, it’s all about fresh, local produce. With lots of new breweries starting up, often setting up in the heart of communities, it is now possible to drink a wide of range of great local beer in London – as most of these breweries almost exclusively distribute within the walls of the M25.

One type of event that has grown as a result of this is the open-day, where customers can go drink and purchase beer directly from the brewery. I know the traditional brewery tour has been around forever and nearly all breweries, from the macro to micro, offer them. The difference is the tours had to be arranged in advanced by the customer, whereas an open-day is hosted by the brewery and is almost like mini beer festival that anyone can turn up to. The proximity of the new breweries to their customers allows them to simply open the doors, put their beer on and invite people in to drink it.

Recently my most local brewery, the Five Points Brewing Company, held its second open day and in between enjoying the excellent range of beers (their Red Rye dry hopped with Simcoe was fantastic), I asked the owner, Ed Mason, why they wanted to host this kind of event.

“When we were setting up the brewery, we thought it was really important for it to have a central location,” he says. “A lot of breweries in Britain set up out of town, but we really wanted this to be a community brewery. Me and Greg both live in Hackney, so it was important to us to set up the brewery as central to the community”.

As well serving their own beers they had casks from other prominent East London brewers. As Greg Hobbs, the head brewer, explained: “It’s important to us it’s a community event, we didn’t just want to showcase our beers, we wanted to invite other breweries here to showcase the industry in general. We were keen to have the other East London brewery’s beers here to increase the awareness of all the great beer being currently being produced in the area.”  The day was really well attended and brought everyone interested in beer in the area together to chat, drink and enjoy the wide range of beer being brewed locally.

I think these events are worth attending if you get a chance and they are becoming increasingly common. The Kernel and Partizan breweries in Bermondsey open up and sell directly to customers every Saturday. It’s worth a trip as you can pick up their bottles for a fraction of the price they are in the pub.

Throughout the summer the London Fields Brewery has also opened on the first Saturday of the month for their ‘Craft Beer Battle’ events. The idea being they pit British beers, including their own, against a different foreign contender each month.  The grand finale, where British beers have the daunting task of going up against beers from the rest of the world, is in September. They’re a great chance to learn more about your local brewery scene and drink plenty of fresh, local beer. What could be better than that?

Follow Rory at @RoryElsome

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