East London’s craft beer scene continues to evolve; constantly bringing new, interesting concepts to an area that’s already home to a number of microbreweries. The latest addition is Clapton Craft, a beer shop on Lower Clapton Road in Hackney that is introducing refillable growlers sold with the customer’s beer of choice. Clapton Craft is run by Will Jack and Tom McKim, who previously worked together in nearby Borough Wines where they were in charge of sourcing the beers.
“We noticed how popular all the different beers were with people and there weren’t really any dedicated beer stores around, though there are some opening up now. There’s lots of pubs in the area, but in pubs you never really get to talk to anyone about the beers; in a beer shop you can have an interaction with someone who’ll tell you about what you’re buying,” Jack says.
Clapton Craft’s unique selling point is the 64 oz growlers and 1 liter “squealers” that are filled using a counter-pressure filling unit, the same technology that microbreweries use to bottle their beers. Customers can choose from eight different beers and the beer in the growlers stays fresh for up to six weeks—and when it’s finished the growler can be brought back for a refill. “People are starting to sell growlers now but no one is doing it using the counter-pressure system that we’ve got,” Jack explains. “The filling unit gives you the ultimate quality control, and there are a few London breweries that won’t sell you beer to retail in this way unless you use this system. There’s also beers available on keg that aren’t available in bottles.”
Clapton Craft—which used to exist in the preserves shop London Borough Jam before moving out into a stand-alone storefront—is registered as a brewery and eventually Jack and McKim hope to sell their own brews and host in-store demonstrations. For now, the shop also has a wide selection of bottled beers in addition to the tap beer for the growlers, and it works closely with local breweries.
The first beers to be available for growlers are Rogue Brutal IPA, from Newport, Oregon, London brewery Kernel’s porter, local brewery Beavertown’s Neck Oil, and Dutch brewery De Molen’s Amerikaans beer. Clapton Craft also plans to strengthen its connections with the local breweries by hosting tap takeovers, where one brewery supplies the beer for all the taps. Ultimately, it’s about finding the best beers and spreading the word about them. "We don’t want to sell beer that we don’t like, or don’t think is good," Jack says. So far, the feedback from locals has been positive, "We have customers walking in off the street, since a beer shop isn’t as intimidating as a wine shop can be, and people really like the look of the store."
For those outside of London, Clapton Craft will also have an online store.
Photos by Cajsa Lykke Carlson