This weekend, a potential 8,000 partygoers will be piling into the Old Truman Brewery for a beerathon, complete with a vegan street food market, a ‘pub rave’ and a whopping 146 drink exhibitors. BrewLDN (Thu Feb 27-Sat Feb 29) is a new event from the founders of London favourite Craft Beer Rising. Its co-creator Daniel Rowntree says he and his partners wanted to throw an inclusive party in line with the 2020 drinking landscape: ‘I mean… craft beer is no longer rising,’ he says. ‘It’s risen. It’s not going anywhere.’
‘I think it’s a bit of a nostalgia thing’
Almost ten years on from the boom, craft beer is fully mainstream. In London alone there are now more than a hundred breweries. There’s a whole generation of pubs that have never seen pumps of Fosters and Stella. But this scale brings its own issues. ‘The industry’s gone bonkers compared to 2013,’ says Rowntree. ‘It’s massively competitive.’ If everyone is doing it (including the corporate mega-brewers), how do you stand out in this landscape? Evolve. ‘Cask beer is having a resurgence,’ says Rowntree. ‘I think it’s a bit of a nostalgia thing.’
‘I don’t think people like getting drunk any more’
He also acknowledges the impact of the low-and-no craze, which he attributes as much to attitudes as health: ‘I don’t think people like getting drunk any more,’ he suggests. He thinks the wellbeing movement could see the emegence of more ‘healthy’ and ‘functional’ beers – enhanced by CBD, aloe vera and the like – as well as tipples such as the carb-free ‘hard seltzer’, which appears at Brew LDN. ‘It’s like alcoholic sparkling water,’ he says. ‘A sessionable, light-tasting drink that’s made using the same equipment as craft beer.’
Craft beer is far from done, but it is changing. Above all, Rowntree sees punters expect just that: independent, and giving a shit about the same things they do. ‘Brewing good beer is no longer enough,’ he says. ‘You’ve got to have a point of difference: what you stand for.’
Where to try the trends
At Shoreditch’s TT Liquor on Kingsland Road you can get a taste of CBD beer Green Times, a low-alcohol IPA brewed with natural cannabinoids, as well as more familiar amarillo and mosaic hops.
The Harp on Chandos Place is famed for its cool selection of cask beer (fermented in the barrel, aka ‘real ale’) in an old-school setting off Trafalgar Square.
Nunhead’s Beer Shop has two casks pouring from the likes of London’s Anspach & Hobday and Shipley’s Salt.
More and more ‘alcohol-free’ beers (0.5% abv or less) are filling up fridges – head to Paddington’s Heist Bank at 5 North Wharf to sample the much-loved Lucky Saint on tap.
For more low-and-no action, try Colours Hoxton on Hoxton Square, which pours the very impressive Special Effects by Brooklyn Brewery on draught.