"A jumble of residential, commercial and industrial activities."
Patrick Wright on Hackney
(A Journey Through the Ruins: The Last Days of London, 1991).
It is a funny old place, Hackney Wick, one of the few places down south, I suspect, where things are still manufactured. Here, there are working factories busy both day and night - fish smokers, printers, timber yards, etc. Arrive at night and it's somewhat eerie: dark streets punctuated by the floodlights of an industrial site; a few workers in flourescent jackets trudging to work on the night shift. The whole area is suffused by a surreal atmosphere lent mostly by the Olympic stadium looming on the horizon with a Speilberg quality (you know the film), and the canal whose dark, silent waters have concealed many a foul deed.
But watch the surrounding streets more closely and you'll see wraith-like figures with portfolios under arms disappearing into loft apartments. As one friend muttered darkly to me recently, "Essex people are taking over Shoreditch - all the creatives are heading to Hackney Wick." So far, so tribal....
Whatever the reason, the artists are moving in, and the area continues to exude the enterprising spirit of East London, old and new; creative workshops and new loft-style flats are springing up in rejuvenated industrial buildings that line Roach, Dace and Bream Roads. And it is here you will find The Crate Brewery, a craft brewery set up last summer in an old industrial unit on the tow-path by the River Lea.
The Crate is a micro-brewery with a discerning East London clientele, turning out some 3,000 pints a week: Crate Lager, Golden Ale, Stout, Best Bitter and IPA, all are brewed and served on site. These are pin sharp, nutty and malty. It also stocks a selection of bottled beer from other craft breweries in the UK and USA, as well as a short wine list for non-beer drinkers.
You don't have to be a beer drinker to appreciate this place; it's a cool hang out serving amazing pizzas with inventive toppings such as Sweet Potato, Stilton and Walnut; Middle-Eastern Lamb and Sage and Truffle.
|Sweet Potato, Stilton and Walnut pizza|
The Crate has been set up by a small group of locals and is very much a neighbourhood enterprise. The simple industrial space is furnished with recycled materials from around Hackney Wick: the bar is constructed from railway sleepers, cushions are stuffed old grain sacks, and massive tables inside and outside the bar are built from other reclaimed wood.
In short, The Crate epitomizes an industrial/artistic East London vibe which, along with nearby Hackney Pearl, makes it a popular meeting place for all the creatives who have migrated from Hoxton and Shoreditch.