Dish of the Day: My favourite pubs in Hackney

Rory Elsome

My favourite pubs in… Hackney

If beer in London has undergone a revolution in recent years, then Hackney could be considered the embodiment of the change.  Having gone from having zero microbreweries in 2011 there are now a remarkable 9 micro’s in the borough (possibly more depending on where you draw the boundary) and they are producing some fantastic beer. I have chatted to plenty people who have come to tour the borough’s pubs and to sample its beers. For me, the hardest thing about writing this piece was picking only four pubs, but I think these four all offer something different from each other and showcase the diversity of beer on offer in Hackney today.

The Clapton Hart

I always think that great local pubs are an extension of your living room, and I certainly feel like part of the furniture here. A pub has stood on this site for several hundred years, but the building had fallen into disrepair following the closure of its last venture. Thankfully, Antic London saw the potential and have lovingly restored it while keeping the ‘original brickwork’ look. The pub’s beer is its highlight and is spread across a line-up of eight handpumps, two keg lines and a decent bottle range. Another bonus is that card-carrying CAMRA members can pick up a pint of cask beer for £3.  They also hold regular meet the brewer events with local breweries, as well as gigs and offer a delicious Sunday roast.

Regular breweries featured:  London Fields, Siren Craft, Magic Rock, others

The Cock Tavern

Situated in the heart of Hackney, on the bustling Mare Street, this pub is a beer lover’s favourite. Formally a pub notorious for the wrong sorts of reasons, “it was a hole when we took it over” the barman told me, it is now a small understated and peaceful retreat from the city outside.  The pub’s basement is home to the venerable Howling Hops Brewery, and despite the high quality of their beer this is still one of only two pubs where you can get your hands on a pint of it.  The bar features a large amount of handpumps (I actually lost count) which are equally split between ale and cider with at least four Howling Hops creations on, as well as rotating guests from local microbreweries.  With an equally impressive keg line-up it’s a must for any beer lover.

Regular breweries featured: Howling Hops, Five Points, Redemption, Pressure Drop, others

The Pembury Tavern

If ever you wanted proof that craft beer and real ale are two sides of the same coin it can be found down Amhurst Road, which separates this pub from The Cock Tavern. Both are excellent pubs with great beer, but the offerings have a distinctly different feel. The Pembury is a real ale haven with 16 handpumps on the bar, although not all are in operation at once except during the pubs regular beer festivals.  Cambridge’s Milton Brewery feature heavily, and you could probably try most of their range here, as well as ever changing and well thought-out guest beers.  The pub specialises in serving great Italian food that’s very popular with locals.  Oh, and if you forget your wallet it’s the only pub in London where you can pay in bitcoins.

Regular breweries featured: Milton, rotating guests

The Dove

A pub that precedes the gentrification of the Broadway Market area, it has an appropriately traditional feel with a large wooden bar splitting off into two side rooms.  The bar features six handpumps, with one reserved for a local offering. It’s a great place to wile away a few hours exploring the well curated beer list, which features a vast array of Belgian beers.  The list includes all the favourites (Orval, Westmalle, Rochefort etc.) and most Belgian beer styles are covered.  The bottles are reasonably priced for what you get and the list includes rarer treats such as, the Duchesse de Bourgogne, a sour red Flemish ale, and the Poperings Hommelbier, a well-hopped Belgian IPA.  A good place to round-off a day’s trip round Hackney’s best pubs.

Regular breweries featured: Variable

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