I’ve made no secret of it that I think the best pizza in London (or anywhere) is baked right in the heart of East London, at Crate Brewery. Of course Crate is first and foremost known for its beer. While I don’t pretend to be the most well-versed beer connoisseur, I do recognize a good brew when I taste one. I’ve spent countless hours at Crate, and taken everyone that matters to me to share one of my favourite hot spots in London with them. It was finally time for a proper tour of the place, including a beer tasting at the end.
Crate Brewery is just a hop and skip from Hackney Wick overground station, or a 20 minute walk from my house. Where I live, public transit to Crate is a bit awkward, so I get a wholesome walk by the canal out of it.
On the way, you sometimes see some interesting sights. Like two canal boats navigating one of the locks. Or seeing a boat with a very Dutch name! It makes me a little nostalgic, even if the canal boats in London look nothing like canal boats in Holland.
When the canal bends, you basically run right into the White Building, the place Crate Brewery calls home. The brewery is really divided over several buildings, but the main hot spot is the white building and the surrounding grounds. In summer, the outdoor space is humming and in winter it gets very busy indoors when people hide from the UK weather behind their pints. It can be so busy in the evenings that scoring a seat is like winning the lottery and you may find yourself either hungry or eating your pizza while standing up. This is one of the reasons I love visiting on a Wednesday afternoon, when there are just a handful of people having lunch or making Crate their office for the afternoon (free wi-fi helps!).
Going beyond the White Building
The first stop on the tour is Mick’s garage. This is where the brews get a rest before they are shipped out. The space transforms into more room to sample pints on the weekend, or for events. It is a massive two-story area, and it was clear right away why I haven’t been yet on the weekend: pizza is not at home here. Instead, they serve up another flavour of delicious from the BBQ shack.
I tend to be loyal (or hard-headed, your choice) when it comes to my food. I love the pizzas, and when I go to Crate that is what I eat. Swapping it for a BBQ night is just not an option for me. However this also speaks to my relative enjoyment of BBQ compared to pizza, and that is very much a personal choice.
More than beer
In Mick’s garage they have also hidden what looks a lot like a research lab. Turns out it – sort of – is. This is where Crate is brewing something entirely different from beer: Kombucha. This is a fermented tea which is supposed to be great for digestion.
They are working on several flavours and I had a chance to try the traditional version as well as passionfruit. It was pleasantly surprising! My favourite was definitely the passionfruit version.
When I hear “fermented” and “cocktails” in the same sentence, for some reason I assume it is alcoholic, but of course it actually isn’t. It’s nice to have some tasty alternatives if booze isn’t your thing (that day) or you can’t drink for other reasons. It’s that time in my life when many of my friends are starting families so I’ve become quite aware of the limited options available when they still want to go out with you, but should stay clear of the regular beer. Keeping summer cocktails on the list of options is all around good news.
After tasting Kombucha we take a quick look upstairs where they were getting prepared for London Beer Week. I also get a sense for how much space there is and joke you could host a wedding at the venue. While it started as a joke I thought about it some more and the idea itself grew on me. Not that I have wedding plans for myself, but you should never say never.
Inside the Brewery
One of the final stops on the tour is where Crate beer is actually brewed. An unassuming door hides the magic that happens before we get to enjoy what’s on tap.
Efficient as they are, even this space can be used for private events. It can host 30-50 people easily, and provides a very intimate personal bar experience.
I notice the coasters along the wall and it turns out that whenever they host a guest brew from another brewery, a new coaster goes on the wall. The collection is an impressive testament to Crate reaching beyond their own beers to offer unique experiences from fellow brewers.
The brewing takes place a bit off to the side, and the space is not tiny but also not huge. It is impressive how much they manage to produce, and the variety of beers, in what seems like a modest amount of space to me.
At this point I’ve seen three different buildings, all with a distinctly different purpose. We walk back towards the White building and I spot the bench I’ve sat on many times in the past two years. It looks like a massive sewing machine to me, but it turns out to be something quite different and entirely appropriate within the up-cycled environment at Crate Brewery: a part from a massive dough mixing machine.
Crate Brewery tasting
Back in the White building it is time for my beer tasting to start in earnest. Personally, I like beers that are not too hoppy, and I find my favourite very quickly. The Crate steam lager.
Out of the fridge comes a can of Crate sour, a new creation. It tastes like a non-overly-sweet alcoholic lemonade to me, striking a perfect balance for a hot summer day. Another nice selling point is the packaging. If you don’t want to advertise you are having a beer, this is your perfect choice because it looks like a can of soda.
I tried every single Crate brew on tap, except the cider (I’ve had it before). All of them are great, but whichever becomes your favourite will depend on your taste. Personally, the steam lager was perfect and after the tasting completed I met up with friends to enjoy the quiet afternoon. We fired up our laptops, bought a few beers and a pizza and made Crate Brewery our home for the afternoon.
If this post got your appetite going, you can check out the Crate beer and pizza menu here.