Is craft beer Hackney’s fastest growing trade?
- Credit: Archant
In the last year alone, there has been a 24 per cent rise of craft breweries opening in London – and one in five breweries in the capital call Hackney “home”. Emma Bartholomew explores why Hackney is such a hub
In 2011 three craft breweries launched in Hackney within the space of a fortnight.
Since then there has been an explosion in the sector – and if it’s not the biggest industry in the borough, it’s certainly expanding rapidly.
Bucking the gradual trend of breweries shutting down over the past couple of decades, Peter Hills founded Hackney Brewery – Hackney’s first micro-brewery – in 2011 with Jon Swain.
He said: “We started dead small and I don’t think anyone quite foresaw what was around the corner – but within a week or two of us starting the company, a couple of others popped up: Beavertown and London Fields. It was unbelievable because none of us knew each other. It must have been some sort of zeitgeist.”
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He describes the past five years as a “snowball effect”.
“Subsequently there was more of an interest, which made a bigger market for us,” he explained.
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“When we started there weren’t as many pubs that took as much beer from smaller brewers, but now if you haven’t got something like that on your lines, people expect it.
“It’s almost like ‘the more the merrier’ – the more breweries there are, the more people want to drink and try the beer.”
He believes Hackney has become a hub for the industry because of its creativity. “There are a lot of people here who make things and draw things and do music and art and create, and I kind of think that’s what brewing is,” he said.
“They are the kind of people who like to try different things and taste different things.”
Compared with big firms, micro-brewers get the opportunity to try new recipes, flavours and techniques – perhaps by adding fruit, or using different types of yeast or hops – meaning they don’t just come out with standard ales and lagers. One of Hackney Brewery’s specialities is made using a Japanese hop and sushi rice with green tea.
Although the micro-breweries are technically competitors, and pursue the same customers, their real competitors are the big brewers, so there is a lot of goodwill between them. “Doreen from Five Points calls it ‘co-opertition’,” laughed Peter.
“You are kind of in competition, but you’re mates as well. If you run out of things we certainly help each other out. Certainly in Hackney there’s a general feeling of ‘everyone is kind of in this together’, and we understand sometimes you can do with a bit of a hand.
“We’re almost part of a movement. That’s starting to get a bit philosophical about it, but there are a lot of like-minded generous spirits in this industry.”
Business is so good, Jon and Pete employ a team of nine people and are brewing non-stop from 7am to 7pm to produce 15,000 pints a week. They’re even about to triple the size of their brewing kit so they can scale up production.
Meanwhile the 40ft brewery operates out of shipping containers in the Bootstrap car park in Abbott Street, Dalston, brewing 3,000 litres a week. Co-director Andreas Pettersson said: “We’re mobile, so when the lease from the council runs out we can pick it up on a truck and move the whole structure somewhere else.
“The beautiful thing is to create something you’re proud of and see other people enjoying it in your tap room, drinking and talking and having a good time – you equipped that to happen and that’s really nice.”