Lager, 4.8% ABV, IPA, 5.8% ABV, Pale, 4.5% ABV, Golden, 3.8% ABV, Cider, 4.7% ABV
Crate has been going since summer 2012 and was the first craft brewery (with a delicious pizzeria) to establish itself in Hackney Wick. Proudly local, Crate’s renowned bar and pizzeria was built by its own people and the community, who own and run it, and the large pro brewing operation they have is quite impressive. Over the years, their distinctive, no-bullshit design and packaging, great flavours, and passion for craft brewing has made them one of the most prominent craft breweries in London. With their status in the craft community, and their delicious beers, we had to stop by and get our fill of some of their staple brews.
Starting with their amber Lager, we begin our Crate consumption with one of the brewery’s leading beers. It has character, albeit a confusing one – the Lager tastes more like a pale ale, and its colour especially suggests that. It’s got a sweet, malty smell, an interesting swirl of flavours, and a crisp, hoppy finish. The aftertaste is lightly bitter/malty, and the carbonation even lighter (which will deter some), but the aromas have some power. This wouldn’t be the first lager I’d pick when out.
Following on from the (sort or) lacking Lager, we have the IPA. Well-balanced, flavourful, and packing in a load of Chinook and Cascade hops, the IPA is certainly a winner. Juicy and stimulating, it boasts a really invigorating aroma, but isn’t too over the top (though some might argue it’s a little restrained in its kick). I could drink this one all day.
Chasing the IPA up is the Pale, a light and fruity ale with a clear citrus finish. The flavour is rather prominent and tropical fruits writhe on your tongue. This is a very fruity, citrusy ale, though upon drinking it the flavour balances out to a more levelled taste. It’s almost too fizzy, but shouldn’t bother most. With its cool taste and refreshing fragrance, the Pale feels like a welcome summer breeze.
A nice comedown (in a mixed sense) from the Pale is Golden, a mildly zesty golden ale with a clean hop finish, making for easy drinking indeed. The Golden is quite hoppy but smooth, and with a bit of carbonation. There’s not much bite in it, and seems a little flat in flavour and fragrance.
Finally we have Crate’s Cider. Fermented in oak vats with a mix of dessert apples and Somerset cider, this crisp, medium-bodied cider has a sweet, subtle sparkle to it, and clings to your mouth in a most comforting way. It’s got a nice light nip that says summer is calling, and despite the flavours lingering in the mouth it goes down very smoothly. I’m not much of a cider lover truth be told, veering uncomfortably between effeminate swill like Kopparberg and standard street punk Scrumpy, but this is a wee charmer.
Torn between the IPA and the Pale, I have to let the IPA come first, though the Pale definitely follows close. On the outside, Crate’s location and image would seem to reflect the more trendy side of craft beer, but to pay any credence to such surface observations would be doing Crate a disservice. Their beers don’t have the most character (at least in bottle – on draught at our visit I remember them being sharp yet subtle, and rather distinctive). But Crate’s place in the London craft scene is doubtless, and they offer some refreshing, dynamic beers. Their pizzas are killer too.