At a junction of main roads, a stone’s throw away from Hackney Downs, is an imposingly solid-looking 19th-century building that identifies itself as the Pembury Tavern. Closed in the late nineties following a fire, it was refurbished and reopened in 2006. Formerly with Cambridge-based Milton Brewery (whose beers are still represented here), it's now under the control of FourPure, who use it as the brewery tap.
Wandering in on a Saturday afternoon, we found the large, bright premises furnished with numerous wooden tables that were sparsely populated with drinkers, a couple of local groups hosting ‘meetings’ and, somewhat incongruously, a well-marshalled group of young children dressed as Cybermen. The place is certainly local-friendly.
Approaching the bar, it was encouraging to see 11 of the 16 available hand-pumps in action, predominantly featuring Milton Brewery beers, but with a handful of guest ales and one cider also available (as well as Moravka unpasteurised lager on keg). The fridges were more focussed on a healthy selection of European, mainly Belgian, bottles. We also counted (or miscounted) 14 whiskies among a decent selection of spirits.
The Milton beers mostly lived up to expectations, despite their unconventional names. Marcus Aurelius – a ‘Roman stout’, allegedly – was suitably strong and coffee-ey, whereas Sparta and Justinian were eminently drinkable session pale ales with crisp flavours. We struggled to categorise Nero; the dark brew seemed to have difficulty deciding whether to be a porter or a stout, or maybe the difficulty was just ours. Dionysus (a vaguely blonde ale) and Pegasus (a ‘best’-style bitter) were a bit anonymous after all that flavour, but that’s not always a bad thing. The food menu looked pretty decent; we opted for a couple of simple but well-implemented pizzas for beer-soaking purposes, which did not disappoint.
A recent revisit revealed a bit of a paint job, with light green walls, graffiti-style swishes and what looks like a portrait of a spilled urine sample. Nice. Still, a great place to go for a beer and a natter, where even the sturdiest ale drinker won't be able to get through the selection.
Last updated May 2018 to reflect change of ownership.