Saturday, 28 July 2018

Hackney & Bethnal Green Craft Beer Pub Tour

East London has a wide range of pubs and brewery tap rooms. This is a tour starting in Hackney Wick and working back towards the city centre. The route is about 4 miles end to end - but it is designed to follow the bus route 388 - so you can easily hop on and off the bus which tracks near all the pubs listed.


Hackney Wick 


Beer Merchants
Beer Merchants - Bar
In Hackney Wick - start at the new Beer Merchants Tap room  - ticking everything on a craft beer bar check list - exposed brickwork, dangly industrial lights, cable trays, rough planking and a tap wall - its a great new asset to the Hackney beer scene. A decent range of keg and bottle beers and helpful staff in a spacious and airy re-purposed industrial space

A short walk away is a brace of bars which are now must-do sites for a London beer geek:

First off try CRATE - true hipster location on the canal, alternative living and anti-establishment house boats abound. Sit on the terrace watching the bikes and boats drift by. The actual brewery is across the yard and supplies most
of the beers in the bar, including a decent range of cask beers and keg from other London makers.

Within shouting distance across Queens Yard is the tank bar - Howling Hops Claiming to be the first dedicated tank bar in the UK - a selection of all in house brewed beers served direct from the tanks behind the bar. Long Teutonic style benches in rough industrial chic.

Victoria Park Road


Heading back towards Bethnal Green you could try: The People's Park Tavern or the Hemingway
Or alternatively walk the canal tow path - round from CRATE towards Bethnal Green; a pleasant stroll past Victoria Park to emerge on the Cambridge Heath Road.

Mare Street

Try the London Fields Tap Room or the Forest Road Brew Co Tap Room


Cambridge Heath Road 

Mother Kellys
Redchurch Brewery Tap Room - Tucked away off the main road, a London classic micro brewery: in a railway arch with the ubiquitous white corrugated ceiling liner and plenty of pallet wood on show. But a real gem of a tap room and open pretty  convenient hours. Near by is the essential stop on any craft beer tour: Mother Kelly's. A long row of fridges hold all sorts of bottle beers and a menu gives access to the 20+ taps on the back wall.

Bethnal Green Road

Old St Brewery
Old St Brewery Tank Bar
A tucked away little treat is the Old Street Brewery Tap Room - follow the passage to the side of the railway and yes its a planking and white corrugated plastic trimmed tap room. But small batch brews are sold from mini serving tanks behind the bar. The enthusiastic staff talk you through their beers and clearly enjoy what they do. Outdoor seating along the passage mixes with second hand furniture and other local traders.

There is whole street of interesting pubs along Bethnal Green Road - Sun Tavern, Star of Bethnal Green, and tucked up a side road the Three Sods Taproom

The Kings Arms is a London modern-traditional-hipster pub - old school Victorian meets multi-tap keg emporium.

Back on the main road is the quirky Well and Bucket - faded elegance of fine crumbling tiles climbing up the pock marked walls to high ceilings.

If you are feeling peckish now - its a handy detour down Brick Lane for a world of food choices. 

Follow up with a beer at the Williams Ale and Cider house or the Craft Beer Co St Marys Axe

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Bamberg – An Adventure in Brewing, Malt, Smoke and Beer

The air was heavy with the aroma of gently roasting malt as we disembarked from our train. Standing on the platform we were taken with the smell of the Weyermann maltings, its majestic brick façade towering over the beautiful Bavarian town of Bamberg.

We had travelled here to take part in a collaboration brew at the brewery attached to the 140 year old malting company. Weyermann make some highly specialist malts, many of which we use in of our XT and Animal beers. They have an amazing no-expense-spared, high tech brewery to test their malts and experiment with a wide variety of beer styles, and we had been invited here to play on it.

Bamberg must be one of the world’s top places for beer and it is well known for the local smoked Rauchbiers. As with much of Germany the locals are very loyal to their local breweries and the styles particular to the region. Generally I will always search out the local beers in my travels, but to only see local beer and no national or multinational brews at all was a revelation. The Germans see beer as a highly valued part of their culture; it’s not just a ‘drink’ and somehow inferior to wine. The brewing and serving of beer here is a respected career choice.

The old town of Bamberg is beautifully preserved, and a pleasure to wander around its old timbered houses, grand churches and cobbled streets. The locals get about on bikes on the many cycle paths and somehow they manage to ride normal looking machines without the need for lycra or carbon fibre. Most importantly however, Bamberg is blessed with nine breweries, all of which are within the old town environs. The breweries all have their own traditional bars attached, plus there are numerous pubs to tempt you, it’s actually quite hard to find a bad one. Here is a short list of some of our favourite breweries and bars:

Spezial - A traditional brewery which still smokes its own malts for the house speciality Rauchbier. We stayed here during our time in Bamberg, and it is well worth seeking out these characterful places – take a look on for similar brewery guest houses across Germany.

Zum Sternla – Thanks to our hosts Weyermann, who are almost the Bamberg royal family, we had the honour of sitting at the ‘top table’; this is a bit of tradition where the landlord has his own reserved table and holds his beery court. It’s a great way to meet a wide variety of the locals and get to understand the traditions and enjoy the respect that German’s have for their beer and the well trained staff that serve it with such reverence. Sampled some very fine Weissbier (wheat beer) here, which has deep rich flavour missing in many more commercial versions.

Keesmann – Famous for its Herren-Pils and Helles, but for me it was most memorable for the huge food portions which actually defeated my companion who is not normally the loser in man vs. food. On investigating the extensive brewery behind the bar I spotted a huge machine which at first I could not identify, after enquiring I learned it was for the cleaning of beer bottles. In Germany the regional breweries use standardised bottles and they regularly collect and refill them. This was eye opening and a radically different way of thinking to our own throw-away culture.

Mahr’s Bräu – Opposite Kessmann, we really enjoyed the biergarten here and, after the night closed in, the convivial conversation on long benches in the dark wood panelled bar inside. The shared tables in the bars are very much part of the drinking culture; everyone sits together and if you arouse their interest, you will inevitably be drawn into the conversation of your neighbours. This bar also introduced us to the delights of “Ungespundet” which literally means “unbunged”. It’s a process for maturing beers with open vented vessels leading to much less gassy beer. The age old Reinheitsgebot or purity law has far reaching influence over the beers here, interestingly it also forbids the use of extraneous gas in the beer, only gas from the fermentation can be in the beer. So there is a little puzzler for you real-ale purists, is German keg-beer real-ale?

Klosterbräu – Attractive riverside brewery here for over 450 years. The oldest in Bamberg.

Schlenkerla – Probably the most famous Rauchbier: Aecht Schlenkerla. The extensive bar with several panelled rooms and covered yards serves only one beer: it is black and it is very smoky. Served directly from wooden casks behind the bar, it’s a very special beer and special bar that encapsulates Bamberg and its deep beer traditions. If heaven forbid you want a different beer, you can buy the bottled helles, and yes that is smoky too!

I would definitely suggest a beer adventure in Bamberg with its great beers and great bars plus the added bonus that it’s actually a very attractive town. Bamberg is certainly up there in the top ten beer cities of the world.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Future of Cask and Craft Beers

XT Brewing welcomes proposals by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to widen its remit to include all quality beers, and not just cask ales.

XT Brewing head brewer Russ Taylor said CAMRA’s move fits in well with XT’s business philosophy.

“Following a very busy 2017 when we made a significant investment in new brewing equipment and a new brewery tap room, we are 100 per cent committed to increasing the production of our cask ales.

“However, we are also committed to increasing our production of all our craft beers, which are also produced in kegs, bottles and cans.

“CAMRA’s proposal to appeal to a wider range of drinkers who enjoy all quality beers – while continuing to advocate that real ale is the pinnacle of the brewers’ craft, fits in well with our thinking.

It’s been a great voyage so far on the good ship ‘XT’ – seven years ago we were just setting sail as a new virgin brewery in a beer world where there were only a few hundred like us. Now there are five times more breweries in a very crowded sea. However – we are still going at full steam ahead, with strong growth every year since the outset.

There have been some significant changes in the world of beer – it has made seismic shifts from dull mass marketing or nerdy, “Fred in a Shed” brews to the glamorous new epoch of ‘Craft Beer’. Back when we started our branding was quite unusual, turning away from the traditional look or silly names, we went clean, slick and straightforward with a cutting edge numbering and colour coded look.

The terminology of ‘Craft Beer’ is something of an enigma in England. The Americans, who arguably coined the term, view the beer and brewing world: vertically in terms of volume by producer; whereas over here, we do things differently, and view it horizontally in terms of dispense method. This does rather make twisting an American view point over our beer world a bit tricky.

So is cask beer ‘craft’ or not? –Yes probably, but I don’t think it really matters. At XT we make beer for cask, keg, can or bottle and we ‘craft’ all of them with the same love and care. The most significant format for us is, by far, Cask. Cask beer makes up most of our production and we have invested heavily over the years in our facility and equipment to make more of it and make it better. The cask range under the core XT or experimental Animal brand has been growing and we have striven to keep evolving and developing.

Our R 'n' D programme has been bringing some wondrous beery delights including the 12 month Imperial Stout, aged in a variety of seasoned oak vats; the ever changing Animal cask range and its impetuous little cousin the Baby Animal series of nano-brewed one-offs. The Eisbar Craft Lager has been rolled out to our pioneering pubs. One of the most recent developments has been our newest beer of 2018: the HopCat IPA; it is bang on trend as a hyper hoppy but lower ABV session beer.

The design world of beer has now caught up with our branding but we will keep moving ahead of the pack and continue to do our own thing. To further show our faith in the future of cask beer – we have brought our cask beer branding up to date with a modern new look. The next generation branding will be launched in March 2018 and gives all our beers a cohesive family look while keeping to our core branding principles.

We see the future of XT firmly in the cask market, working with our existing pub partners and also reaching out to other operators who are looking for an innovative brewery to develop new markets for beer with us.