Over the past decade, London has experienced something of a craft beer revolution. The sheer volume and variety of bottle shops and independent breweries – particularly in the east – has made London the craft beer capital of the UK, with some 129 breweries currently operating within the M25.
But in March 2020, Covid-19 upended the industry almost overnight. It was an incredibly challenging time for many, but those who managed to pivot to online sales and adapt their business model saw sales boom during lockdown. With the public suddenly confined to their homes, with no after-work drinks or weekend social plans, many turned to takeaway treats, with the guilt-free bonus of supporting struggling small businesses. Post lockdown, and with a whole new generation of brewers on the horizon according to recent reports, the city’s appetite (or should that be thirst?) for craft beer shows no sign of slowing down.
‘The craft beer industry is huge and still growing,’ agrees Allan, AKA The Hoppy Poet (@thehoppypoet), a champion of local craft breweries. The Hoppy Poet blog and Instagram page are a product of Manchester-born Allan’s passion for taprooms and breweries, having moved to London City Island in 2018.
“We thought it would be fun to hold our first Lockdown Craft Beer Festival and want this to be a celebration of where we are now.”
Daniel Bull, founder of The Lockdown Room
This summer, Allan has joined forces with The Lockdown Room founder Daniel Bull to put on the inaugural Lockdown Room Craft Beer Festival at the end of July. The three-day event will welcome 12 local breweries to share their wares and knowledge with visitors. It marks a milestone year for The Lockdown Room, which – as its name suggests – opened during the pandemic and launched a permanent site on the Island in December 2021.
‘The Lockdown Room morphed from a grocery delivery service into a full-blown off-licence within about four weeks of opening,’ explains Dan. ‘Forget broccoli and carrots, people wanted craft beer – and lots of it! We stocked up on colourful cans from a selection of London’s finest craft breweries and always tried to keep things interesting… Back then, it was the small things that made a difference, and grabbing that ice-cold can of craft beer to enjoy on your walk or as a sundowner on the balcony became something to look forward to.’
Many people may be keen to forget, or at least move on from, the tumultuous events of the past two years. But Dan sees the upcoming festival almost as a celebration of getting through it together as a community, and a way of commemorating how far everyone has come.
The Lockdown Room founder Daniel Bull
‘We thought it would be fun to hold our first Lockdown Craft Beer Festival and want this to be a celebration of where we are now and remember the good times we had in 2020, to catch up with the friends we made during lockdown and pause our lives again,’ he explains. ‘We also want to showcase the breweries where our beers are made and show why it’s important to support these local independent businesses. Visitors will get the chance to meet the teams, hear about their brewing processes and, most importantly, sample a selection of London’s best craft beer, all while enjoying the obligatory street food stands and talented live music acts performing at the festival.’
Allan is one of those aforementioned friends and supporters Dan made during lockdown, and The Hoppy Poet’s knowledge and passion for craft beer has even helped shape the bar’s stock.
‘The Lockdown Room has 10 taps, and the wall is now stocked with seven different breweries; the furthest being only a few miles away,’ Allan says. ‘I discovered lots of these breweries in lockdown, due to only being able to travel locally. We are very passionate about supporting local businesses after the past few years, especially since they have such an amazing offering.’
Outside The Lockdown Room at London City Island
The 12 breweries taking part in the festival are: Hackney Church Brew Co; Signature Brew; Pillars Brewery; Deviant & Dandy; 40FT; Bianca Road Brewing Co; The Real Al Company; Solvay Society; Pretty Decent Beer Co; The Five Points Brewing Co; Old Street Brewery and Mammoth Beer. Representatives from each will be available to talk to guests at a special Meet the Brewers event on the opening day of the festival.
Each brewery offers something a little different and has their own story. And while The Hoppy Poet resists picking a favourite from the 12 taking part, when pushed, he cites Walthamstow-based Pillars Brewery as a particular highlight.
‘They create such great, easy-going lagers that suit the hot summer,’ he says. ‘So much goes into these beers, from the playful flavours and brewing process to the independent artists designing the can labels. So, whatever your taste, I would say that, if the name and description intrigues you, just go for it!’
The Lockdown Craft Beer Festival takes place from Friday 29 – Sunday 31 July. Purchase your tickets here