Welcome to the sixth edition of Raising the Bar – a fortnightly review of an establishment that a beer fan (such as yourself) should really pay a visit to. Each entry in the series will lay out why said place should be on your beery agenda, giving the key factors as to why these venues are so special.
Beer Merchants Tap – London
From what was once a beery no-go, Hackney Wick has now risen to prominence in the London scene, and is now second only to Bermondsey as the place to go for craft beer in the city.
Between Howling Hops and their tank-served brews, Crate and their beer and pizza offering and Mason and Co. and their craft carnivals – east London’s craft beer drinkers now have a plethora of canal-side options to choose from in Hackney Wick. And earlier this year, these bars got a new “noisy neighbour”.
This noisy neighbour, is Beer Merchants Tap. And it’s a bar that I’d put my vote behind for being the city’s best craft beer venue. A very big statement I’m sure you’ll agree – and here’s why:
Many venues claim to be ‘by beer fans, for beer fans.’ But with Beer Merchants Tap, you can see it in every fibre of the experience.
Set in an refurbished warehouse mere moments from Hackney Wick station, your initial impression-setter will likely be the fridges that coat the walls.
Catalogued by style for simplicity, beers from far and wide lay in wait inside.
Range and quality are the key here. Eye-catchers like Cloudwater, Cantillon and a ream of other magical breweries that don’t begin with C adorn these shelves with regularity. And due to the connection with the Beer Merchants online store, the likes of near-mythical breweries such as Toppling Goliath, Three Floyds and Westvleteren have all made guest appearances.
These cans and bottles seem all to be at optimal freshness and, most impressively, are takeaway priced at the same level they are on the Beer Merchants online shop for (with a small increment added for drinking-in).
This selection alone, heck even the mere mention of some of those breweries, would be enough for many. But this is just the starting point.
Your eyes would likely next turn to the walls, exposed brickwork (what else) adorned with murals and prints from the likes of Beavertown, Lervig, Deya, Tiny Rebel and others known for their eye-catching artwork.
Like Westworld, it isn’t just the big things that make you realise how incredible something is. It’s also the little touches that show every details was carefully considered that make it so special.
And finally, the boards behind the bar. The first set advertising a variety of specially-selected cheeses to go with your boozing, as well as pointing to the guest food vendor that makes camp in the beer garden space on the weekends (a recent highlight was the incredible Deeney’s and their haggis toasties that would spin any sporran).
And the other set of boards. Well that’s the draught selection. And this is what you came for.
As mentioned before: by beer fans, for beer fans. The spine of the selection would be enough to excite most, with delicious numbers from: Paulaner, Lost and Grounded, Tiny Rebel and the bar’s own house beer – Huis (made in collaboration with Wild Beer, Duration and Burning Sky), all ever-present.
But the ever-evolving taps, rotated to ensure all the best breweries are showcased. That’s where the magic happens. On recent visits, I’ve been greeted with Beavertown, Wild Beer Co., Deya, Lervig, Cloudwater, Half Acre, Tilquin, Cantillon, De la Senne, Garage Beer, Magic Rock, Northern Monk – you name it. Each offering a fresh and vibrant brushstroke to a glorious beery masterpiece for all to enjoy.
There’s a cornucopia of reason why I’m so in love with this venue, From beer selection – both draught and fridge – to the food offering, to the artwork, to the fact they’ll soon be opening an in-house blendery and making all sorts of crazy beers on the premise – this place is somewhere the connoisseur can call home without being off-putting to the casual drinker. And that to me is perfection.
Other venues, take note. The bar has been raised.
Why you should visit in a sentence: Made by beer fans, for beer fans this is in my opinion London’s best bar.
Where – 99 Wallis Road, London, E9 5LN – 3 minute walk from Hackney Wick Overground Station.
Selection on day of visiting (April) – 19 kegs and 3 casks. Featuring the likes of Wild Beer Co.’s big hitters – Wildebeest and Wineybeast, Lost and Grounded – Keller Pils and the recent Beavertown and Half Acre collab, to name a few.
Highlight Beer – Deya – Momentary Bliss. As expected from Deya, a big, punchy, mouthcoating, papaya puree of a beer
Food Menu – A whole selection of both UK and imported cheeses to make the cheeseboard of your dreams with. As well as a rotating kitchen outside on weekends from the likes of Deeney’s and Parm Star.
Price of an average beer – Keg – £5.50 for a pint, £4.90 for 2/3 or 1/2s of bigger stuff. Cask – £4.50 a pint
Additional little touches: An incredible beer cellar that would be way too geeky to go into, terrestrial and BT sports on show in the bar, a really good wine and cider selection for any non-beer drinkers and they sell Buckfast.