It’s a rare departure from our usual two-bloggers-one-voice approach, but Bailey suggested I write this one alone, because I have to declare two interests in commenting on Tap East: my brother works there and it’s “on my manor”. I grew up and have lived in East London for most of my life; I used to work in Stratford and my Dad lives there now. To see it exploding into Olympic-inspired life is rather special for me. I really do remember when all of that was just fields (or wasteland, at any rate).
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of shopping centres but, if you have to have them, Westfield Stratford City isn’t bad. As well as welcome brands like Lego (big kid…) there are some quirky shops and cafes around the Great Eastern Market, which is where you will find Tap East, the first and only brewery in a UK shopping centre.
Inside you will be greeted by knowledgeable staff (I am very impressed by how much my brother has learnt in such a short space of time) who will help a baffled shopping refugee or hold their own with a lonesome beer geek at the bar, if required. When we arrived, they were gathered in a huddle, sniffing beer and discussing its aroma. A good sign.
Eight handpumps dispense local brews and reliably excellent guests (e.g. Oakham, Brentwood). We liked Tap East’s John Edward Edwin bitter in particular. On keg, various joys included Harviestoun’s Old Engine oil, perhaps the next step on from Camden Ink in the Guinness fan’s voyage of discovery? And there are bottles galore, so even the most adventurous beer geek should be able to find something new.
The main difficulty it will have is trying to feel even remotely as cosy as a pub when it is, after all, in a great big breezy shopping centre, without a separating door, and with centrally piped music to boot. Obviously, January and February in the middle of a recession will also make for challenging trading conditions. And there’s also plenty of competition, with Brodies and the Red Lion also offering excellent beer geek destinations nearby.
However, our experiences of being squashed in the Craft Beer Co., Cask and the Southampton Arms on the same weekend would suggest the market is not saturated, and Tap East is a worthy competitor to all of those in terms of the beer offerings, with the added advantage that you might even get a seat, all for the sake of a few minutes on the tube.
A couple of years ago, we were excited just to find a passable pub in Stratford. How times have changed.