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Beer culture

On 14/06/13 by David Wilson (Director of Public Affairs)

Stoke Newington, or ‘Stokey’ to the locals, is cool. Last weekend saw hundreds of trendy literary types converge on the bohemian Hackney urban village to enjoy a brilliant array of writers, journalists and cultural commentators plugging their books at the culmination of a week long literary festival billed as ‘eclectic, amusing and inspiring’ by festival director, Liz Vater.

Liz and her husband, the brilliant beer writer Pete Brown, are long term Stokey residents and beer and pub enthusiasts. As a result, beer was at the heart of the Festival’s appeal. Great beers, properly served, were available at most of the readings. Sponsors Budweiser Budvar provided a beer marquee outside the Stoke Newington Town Hall where ‘fringe’ music and poetry events took place all weekend.

A festival beer echoing the feminist theme of this year’s – ‘Mary Wollstonedraft’ brewed by the Redemption Brewery up the road in Tottenham – added to the enjoyment and further exemplified the integral link between beer and British culture.

Another Redemption beer ‘Trinity’ was served at a lively ‘London’s Brewing’ event in a Church Hall on the Saturday afternoon. Other smaller producers, led by Duncan Sambrook (a relative ‘veteran’ with five years brewing and trading history at his eponymous brewery in South West London), including Byron Knight from Beavertown Brewery, Ed Mason from start-up Five Points Brewery from Hackney Downs and Sam Smith from Stoke Newington based brewery with his ‘Stokey Brown’ beer brewed under a railway arch at Hackney Central, joined a panel with Pete Brown and journalist Will Hawkes, author of Craft Beer London.

Part brewery history, part tutored tasting, this sell-out event drew a young crowd of beer enthusiasts who would not have looked out of place in an Oregon craft beer convention and demonstrated the widening appeal of beer to a new generation of social drinkers. The explosion in beer styles, the rediscovery of London classics like porter and a willingness to experiment with new approaches, were all discussed. What struck me was the passion for their product and the commitment to quality that must be good for the whole beer category.

As Will Hawkes reiterated, this rediscovery and reappraisal of beer is part of a wider movement to value food and drink more in this country, a renewed focus on provenance and a passion for quality and craftsmanship that many of the smaller Stoke Newington independent shops are a testament to.

In these tough economic times ‘Stokey’ is leading the way and beer is at the heart of the regeneration.


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