So, pubs and bars are starting to open again. Huzzah! Things may not yet be quite back the way they were, but it’s a welcome start. It’s a bit strange having to sign in to a pub and order your drinks from behind a plastic screen, but if it means we can start going out again then I’m all for it. And if I’m honest, the introvert in me quite enjoys places not being so crowded.
Like many a beer nerd, I spent my lockdown sampling beers from bottles and cans. Buying online was a great chance to try out some breweries you don’t see in the local shops. One such brewery was London’s Howling Hops. Apparently, I’m really late to the party because the brewery’s been going for a few years now. But I have to say that even when I lived and drank in the capital back in 2015-16, I don’t remember seeing them around. Anyway, better late than never I suppose!
I happened to be passing through London this weekend and decided to make a quick detour. The brewery is handily located just a stone’s throw from Hackney Wick Overground station. It’s part of the popular Queen’s Yard, which is also home to Crate Brewery. These former Victorian warehouses now have new leases of life as breweries, bakeries and all sorts.
Inside, it’s a pretty standard modern brewery layout; white brick walls, fold-up benches and trendy industrial lampshades. The main difference here though is the 10 shiny steel tanks lining the wall behind the bar. When it opened in 2015 (how did I miss it!?), this was the UK’s first dedicated tank beer bar. We of course tried many a tank beer last year during our month in the Czech Republic. It’s a great way of serving, cutting out the middleman of a keg or cask, ensuring peak freshness.
As the brewery’s name suggests, the brewers here believe that hops are king when it comes to beer. Much of the fare on offer on this drizzly Saturday afternoon was along these lines: dry-hopped IPAs, big juicy DIPAs and tropical pale ales. There’s a bit of variety however, with a lager, a wheat beer and a sour too. In fact, it was the latter I decided to start with.
To be honest, I’ve not been drinking many sours lately as they can get a bit samey. This one caught my eye though, Super Chuck (7.4%), a summer berry kettle sour. I imagine this would have been a lovely beer to look at. However, in today’s brave new world my “glass” was in fact a white paper half-pint cup, so I couldn’t actually see it. The taste was great though, just a hint of sourness and a dry, moreish finish. They certainly didn’t skimp on the fruit either, with a huge hit of blackberry coming through. With so much flavour, it really didn’t taste its 7%+ strength.
Next up I tried a couple of the brewery’s more typical offerings. First up was Top Buzzer (5.6%), a brand new pale ale only released in the last week or so. This was a double dry hopped pale with lots of pineapple flavour, which gave way to a pithy bitter finish. If I had to criticise, it was maybe a little over-carbonated and sharp on the tongue, but once it had warmed up a couple of degrees, it was much more pleasant.
I had time for one more taster, and I must say it was a good one. Meanwhile Uptown (6.7%) was a classic New England-style IPA; hazy, straw-coloured and with loads of tropical fruit aroma. It was a pleasure to drink too, with plenty of mango and a smooth, pillowy mouthfeel. There was a little hint of bitterness at the end as well, quite unexpected for the style (NEIPAs usually have no bitterness at all) but it really worked here and made you want to go back for more.
Sadly it was time to leave to catch my train, but I’ll definitely be back next time I’m in the capital!