In 2011, while a riot raged destruction on Mare Street in Hackney, a microbrewery was born under the railway arches near London Fields.
The director of London Fields Brewery sent everyone home but the head brewer and the two of them barricaded themselves inside the building in order to make sure their new brewing kit wasn’t stolen.
The beer brewed during the weeks of the riots, a red ale called Love Not War, is still one of their best sellers.
In the nearly three years since they have been brewing in East London, London Fields has gone from producing a couple thousand of litres of beer a week to a whopping 12,500 litres, all of which is accounted for in sales prior to brewing.
And they are doing it all in humble surroundings. The brewery started with about £10,000 in capital, not a lot in this industry where some people come in with a few million, and initially reinvested all the profits into the business.
Since then they have opened a tap room, built a warehouse where the beers are bottled, and created an event space that can hold 900 people.
The brew team at London Fields is made up of six men from around the world, a diversity that translates into a wide variety of beer styles.
They currently brew six core beers, in both cask and keg, as well as various seasonals and a special Bootlegger series that consists of a high ABV beer of which only one batch is brewed.
Sales and Beer Ambassador Edwin Frost describes London Fields as “quirky, small, and rudimental.” In the best possible way.
“We like to have fun. We love working with people. We’re not a brewery that doesn’t like mingle. We help out breweries if we can and they help us out. Collaborating with other breweries, distributing our beer around the world as much as we can, and bringing beers from around the world here. That’s what we love.”
As Frost points out, London Fields Brewery isn’t only about promoting their own beers, they want to make good beer accessible to everyone.
“The brewery’s ethos in a way is to do really interesting beer that is available not only to the few that enjoy and already know about craft beer, but also we want to get it to the wider market as well. We want to try to convert people into drink more interesting beer rather than just your nationals. We want to educate people about beer in general,” explained Frost.
Brewing classes and a craft beer experience day are two ways that London Fields aims to achieve this goal. The brewing class allows the public to gain insight on what it takes to make craft beer and allows them to assist in brewing 10 litres of the brewery’s famous Hackney Hopster, a Pacific pale ale. The craft beer experience is a more intense, full day spent with a brewer.
There aren’t many other breweries in the UK offering these types of experiences. “A lot of people say it could be quite annoying for us to have these people around. It is challenging, but we want to do it and the brewers are happy interface with the public,” said Frost.
Every summer London Fields also plays host to the British Craft Beer Challenge. London Fields brings in beers from around the world and pits them against each other in a series of matchups, including North Great Britain v South Great Britain and Great Britain v the United states. This event, according to Frost, is not promotional, it is simply a showcase. “It allows the public to come and really see some beers from all around the world which they wouldn’t always get a chance to sample.”
The brewery also looks to collaborations as a way to bring better beer to the masses. Last year they worked with a Redwell, a small batch craft brewery in Norwich, to create a rye pale ale. The batch sold out within a couple of days.
The demand for these special brews is a testament to the popularity of craft beer in London right now. Every year more and more microbreweries are opening in London to meet the demand of drinkers and cash in on what can be a lucrative trade.
Some people could look at the increased competition as a negative, but Frost and London Fields don’t see it that way. For them, it’s the more breweries, the better.
“We’re very blessed to be in London because we’re surrounded by breweries doing the same thing as us and it forces us to keep our game high.”
By Amanda Slavinsky