Posts Tagged ‘redchurch’

One Weekend in Hackney

We turned an invitation to a wedding in Folkestone into a ten-day trip to London and Kent. Even though it was a family trip we had plenty of time to visit some interesting beer places. Writing an entire blogpost about the state of beer in London would be insane. The city is about half the size in both population and area as my own little country. It would take weeks to get some sense of the London beer scene. Therefore I will stick to just one part of the city, Hackney, where we stayed with friends before traveling on to Canterbury.


If you like book markets, vegetarian food, thrift stores and other hipster things this is the place for you. It even has a wooden spoon store. Really, no joke, a store sells spoons made of wood. No wonder that breweries have started here as well, probably helped by the for London standards at least somewhat affordable living- and working space. It’s a neighborhood everyone wants to live, a neighborhood very close to the City but with enough there to never leave it if you don’t need to.

But beer, that’s why we are here isn’t it? Here are three places we visited.

Seven Seasons

Here’s a tip for stores or bars still thinking about becoming a verified Untappd venue. Do it! If the Seven Seasons store wasn’t one I might not have visited. A simple search on the app told me this store was 400 meters away from my friend’s house so I couldn’t resist. It’s the typical modern beer store with beers from all over Europe and America with heavy rotation on the shelves. And what I enjoyed the most was the good selection of local beers from Hackney and other nearby neighborhoods. And to my surprise I also saw bottles from Dutch breweries Kees, ‘t IJ, De Molen and even Two Chefs. Two Chefs even had a sort of tasting in the store a few months ago while they were in London.

Another plus is the people working there, they know everything about it as well and can tell you exactly how a beer tastes. If I lived in Hackney this would be the shop I would go to every week.

London Fields Tap Room / Brünch

London Fields is a Hackney based brewery that has a Tap Room, that also seems to double as a German style restaurant. Interesting combination because the beers are not very German. Cask ales mostly in the IPA’s style. The beers itself are ok, but not mindboggling great. But paired with the food options this Tap Room is still a great place to visit.

Because if you want a good German brunch this is the place. The people who work here are international and I heard German so it even has authenticity. It’s a very alternative place with vegan options and yoga posters on the wall. Buckwheat pancakes or Bauernfrühstück, no problem.

A nice place to visit for the beerhunter, and a good place for the lover of German cuisine. And if you like both it’s a double win.


I initially went here because it was taproom and close to where we were staying. I thought I had not heard of them before. It took me a while to realize that Redchurch was in fact present at the Borefts Festival two years ago and that it is in fact a renowned London brewery. I remember now that their Export Stout was exceptional and one of my favorites at Borefts.

The brewery and tap room are housed in an arch of the overground railroad, a little outside of normal traffic lanes so you need to look up where it is.

When you walk into the brewery you really walk into the brewery. On the right are barrels, hopefully filled with wonderful beer. You can even walk in and have a look at the installation and bottling line on your way to the bathroom. The taproom is up the stairs. It is small, with seats for only around a dozen people, but with more standing room. They only serve their own beers but on a Sunday afternoon it is fine, not too busy when we were there. Wonderful stuff on tap from their usual pale ales to more experimental sours, like many of the modern breweries today. One was made with lemon and rosemary and was very good. Their Big Eastern IPA rocked, unfortunately the Export Stout was not on tap. .

Hackney itself is a great part of London to walk around it where the streets are still walkable and you don’t trip over tourists. Who knows how long this will last before the housing prices are too high here as well, but for a beer lover you can easily spend a weekend here visiting different things.


Borefts 2015 and the frontline of brewing

If you believe that adding orange peels and coriander in a wit, cherries in a geuze, or sugar in a bock is already pushing the limits of the definition of what beer is, than Borefts is not for you. If you get fits of anger when strange fruits, herbs and vegetables show up in the list of ingredients of some newfangled beer from Estonia, than Borefts is not for you. If you believe beer was so much better 15 years ago when it was all much more simple, you should probably put on your cardigan, take off your reading glasses, replace them with your regular glasses and take your ideas back to 1999. Because once again Borefts showed Europe what is going on in the front lines of brewing, and it is nothing like beer brewed before the turn of the millennium. And I for one, and thousands with me those two days, welcome it with open arms and mouth. Borefts has become the Paris fashion week, or Austin’s South by Southwest festival, or the Sundance Film Festival. A place where mostly independent artists showcase their work for an audience that is ahead of the curve and interested in everything new and exciting.

borefts2015aLocal Farmhouse Beer

The theme this year was as postmodern as always. Brew a saison (classic) but add something local (modern). The chances are that if you go through all the green herbs in your spice rack there was a beer brewed with it by one of the brewers at Borefts. This is really what the brewers of today do. Where Ferran Adria or René Redzepi look at the edible world around them, so do the new (post)modern brewers. Beer is the basis, the rest is all open to personal taste and interest. Not everything will make it to the larger public of course, but it was interesting to see how brewers look at beer these days. Was it all great then? No, with this many beers there are bound to be some misses. And even though I personally welcome experimentation my favorite beers were still an Export Stout from Redchurch, a Jim Beam Barrel Aged Hel & Verdoemenis from De Molen and an excellent sour ale from Belgian Alvinne. But Omnipollo’s desert themed beers (yes, there was a raspberry smoothy beer) or the many sour ales with strange fruits and herbs made clear some new words need to be added to the standard beer review vocabulary. Words like ‘funny’, ‘interesting’ or ‘strange’

But I have only been able to taste a fraction of what was on offer, there is just too much supply, even for a fairly experienced beerhunter like myself.


That more nations are joining the ranks of top craft brewing was evident again. More British breweries this year and a bunch of Scandinavian as well, also more before it seems. In fact, some breweries weren’t even making beer when the first Borefts festival was held 7 years ago, and that isn’t even that long ago.

Another region that is very much up and coming is the Baltic State area and they finally made the big show with the appearance of Latvian Labietis at Borefts with some excellent and most of all interesting beers with local ingredients. I had an interesting wit with caraway seeds, inspired by Latvian bread. With brewers from the UK, Belgium, Latvia, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Holland and Germany and the United States this year and brewers from Italy and France in previous years the state of craft beer in Europe is strong and diverse and the end not yet in sight.


Every year Dutch brewers are asked to be part of the festival as well and for a Dutch brewers there is no higher stage, it is the same as headlining Glastonbury or Bonnaroo. This year Oedipus from Amsterdam and Brouwerij Kees were invited. Oedipus rise in and around Amsterdam has been meteoric with a new brewery, tasting room and shelve space in supermarkets. Kees has been to Borefts many times before while still brewing for Emelisse, but now that he has gone solo nothing really changed for Brouwerij Kees is again easily one of the best breweries in the Netherlands. Since Kees has just started who knows what else we can expect.


Every year it seems Borefts has reached the limit of the number of people the premises can hold, but every time the setup changes for the better. This time the former children’s indoor playground was in use for half of the brewers, a great view to see them stand in front of the rows of barrels with beautiful De Molen beer aging just for us to taste in a year. Signs asked people not to smoke outside underneath the tents, though unfortunately we were too late. Inside there was enough room upstairs, another great find.

Borefts too finally offers online ticketing, and even though they are still able to let people in at the door this is the way forward. It is a lot easier to get your ticket and the line in front of the registers was virtually non-existent. The food is getting more diverse every year and the free distribution of water remains yet another reason why Borefts is the number 1 festival in the country, and maybe in Europe.

The nearby train station is still where most people arrive from the surrounding cities, though I started to see buses from Germany parked as well. And the festival is also a good boost for the surrounding cities with visitors staying in hotels in nearby Alphen and Gouda but also in Amsterdam and Utrecht. In the days after I saw many of them visiting breweries in Amsterdam and Haarlem for example, making Borefts more than just a De Molen festival.

One thing is for sure, as long as this festival brings together brewers and beer drinkers from all over Europe as it has done now for 7 years, the state of craft beer remains strong and will keep growing. Bring on the strange brews.