Welcome to our ongoing mission to explore what London has to offer the discerning lover of excellent beer – from pubs and retailers that take pride in the quality of their hoppy offerings, to local breweries and beer events. In this instalment, we spend half the evening considering chewable pig by-products in Hackney.
With winter settling in and the usual season of outdoor beer festivals having passed us by for the year, fans of a pint or two would be well-advised to figure out how to get themselves to The Round Chapel on the Lower Clapton Road for this year's Pig's Ear Beer & Cider Festival.
Upon entering the building one could be forgiven for forgetting that London's one of the most populous places on the planet – when we visited the vibe was very much a laid-back cheery and good-natured satisfied hum, as beer enthusiasts of all descriptions socialised and sampled their way through the 200-strong list of beers and ciders on offer. Among the imposing wall of barrels was something for every taste – a full gamut of beer styles on offer ranging from a sessionable 3.2% ABV up to a frankly terrifying special festival brew at 13% ABV.
In the interests of keeping it London-centric we sampled mainly locally-made brews, and even ran into a few of the brewers from London's burgeoning local roster, such as Kernel Brewery, Redemption, and London Brewing Company: all not only supporting the event by providing their beers for the festival, but also by coming down to meet people and have a chat.
The helpful bar staff, while unable to provide taster samples (when you see the number of casks there, it all makes sense), seem to know their beers quite well and were able to recommend us towards the seasonally relevant Christmas Stout from the By The Horns brewery in Wimbledon – cloves, cinnamon, and a huge velvety chocolate-malt punch, which had us wondering if someone had added a few drops of Jagermeister for good measure.
The festival is also hosting a bar of Italian cask ales, which make for an interesting take on the English form. We tried beers from ELAV and Revelation Cat – if you think you know ale these are definitely worth a sniff.
Pig's Ear Beer & Cider Festival, Round Chapel, Powerscroft Road, Hackney, E5 0PU. Tues Dec 6th - Sat Dec 10th, 12:00-22:30 (23:00 on Fri & Sat). Entry fee £4 (£2 to CAMRA members). Bar prices varied between £1.40 and £3 per half pint, and a selection of hot food was also available.
Disclaimer: we attended the festival with complimentary tickets.
Words and pictures by Jason B. Standing.