The craft beer movement is huge in London right now. I mean, really huge. So local craft beer connoisseurs rejoiced when Clapton Craft opened in East London earlier this year. The store, founded by William Jack and Tom McKim, has already gained a loyal following of regulars who can’t get enough of the fine brewed produce and the growlers – just to clarify, a growler is a large bottle that can be refilled over and over again by the beer of your choosing.
The Manual caught up with the guys to talk shop and bottles for all occasions.
How’s business been so far this summer?
Good! We got a taste of what the fine weather would mean for us with a few hot days in Spring. Thankfully people also love a beer when the weathers rubbish . . .
Can you remember your first introduction to the craft beer movement?
Will: I did an internship for a New Zealand micro brewery called Limburg back in 2005 when I was in my last year of high school. They made an NZ hopped pale ale called ‘Hopsmacker’ which I’d get refills of direct from the brewery. The brewer was really into Lambics and Belgian styles too so I started getting into these.
How was Clapton Craft born?
We’d been discussing the potential for a beer specialist for a while and in the middle of last year decided it was viable and we started looking for a location. We had both lived in or around Clapton for years and decided Lower Clapton Road would be the area of focus. It was then a matter of scraping together some capital, planning, designing and executing. We did just about everything ourselves, from gutting the premises, taking out walls and plastering and painting. There was plenty of swearing, late nights, asthma and lots of stock went missing.
The store opened at a time when people seem to care so much more about what they’re eating and drinking. Any thoughts on how this shift has come about?
It’s probably due to a number of factors – health, environmental, education and taste, but I also think that Londoners, or people that live in London, are increasingly proud of their city and are keen to improve it. I think beer is a great example because it’s been so essential to peoples lives forever and it really suffered from the industrialization of the industry. Many of the beer styles are just replicas of old recipes, just with the bonus of New World hops and a huge dose of creativity and freedom.
Tell us about the growler concept.
Pretty simple, we sell 1.89 litre glass Growlers or 1 litre plastic bottles which customers can come back and have refilled with any one of 8 different beers. We use a counter pressure filling system, which means the beer stays fizzy and fresh for up to 6 weeks from filling.
What is the single best thing about craft beer?
What kind of beer would you recommend for the following…
1. A BBQ –
Beef – Black IPA or Porter
Lamb – Belgian Dubbel or better still a Flemish Sour
Pork/Chicken – Saison or Farmhouse IPA
Fish/Veg – Hefewizen, Session
The best thing about beer though is that it’s pretty flexible with food and if you get it wrong you can move on to something else fairly quickly . . .
2. A night in with friends –
A bit of everything, save the double IPAs til’ later, they really do ruin your palate
3. A whisky chaser –
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