There's something distinct in the air of a British summer that I've never found emulated in other countries. Summer evenings in London entail light until around 10.20pm at the season's peak, in comparison to Auckland's 8.45pm height. The bird sounds, the smells, the parks full of evening picnickers are a unique joy that are essentially the product of economics - there's less sun year round - so when it's out, it's in big demand.
As such, Londoners actively participate in summer evenings, meaning a brewery set by a river in an area boasting the highest number of art studios in Europe has success with the young and hip written into its very walls.
My visit to CRATE was prompted by meeting a recently returned ex-employee here in NZ - he recommended Crate for its laid back Kiwi feel, delicious pizzas and unique range of beers. I wasn't disapointed - a sage and truffle pizza was washed down perfectly with a pint of CRATE's IPA as the sun set over the algae dappled canal.
On my return to New Zealand, I kept thinking about this special place, cemented in my memory for its unique location and organically cool set up. I got in touch with Aucklander co-owner Jess Seaton to find out more. She runs the venture with her brother Tom, and Welsh Head Brewer, Neil Finchley.
How did Crate come about?
CRATE came about through combining Tom and I's experience as restaurateurs, running a New Zealand style café in East London, with Neil's brewing experience. Combining the two passions resulted in our micro-brewery, and a renowned pizzeria and bar.
How did the three of you meet?
Tom's my brother, as well as my business partner. We opened our Counter Café in 2009. We'd always wanted to branch out and have a pizzeria. We were then introduced to Neil through a family friend, we saw an opportunity that we couldn't let slip by.
Did you have experience in running a brewery in NZ at all or was it a totally new venture?
No, we'd never done anything with brewing until we opened CRATE here in London. But the speed with which everything came together was incredible!
Is there anything about Crate that you would say is distinctly Kiwi? Have you made this an intention at all?
We've always had a strong DIY attitude, which I think is quite Kiwi. We'd much rather muck in ourselves and learn what we're doing on the fly than just sit back and let someone else do everything. We built almost everything out of recycled materials we found in the local area.
What are the locals like?
Hackney Wick is quite different from most of London. We're quite a close, tight-knit community. Therefore, a lot of our 'locals' are our friends. It's also an extremely creative area, with the most concentrated amount of artists and studios in Europe, and the Olympic Park just around the corner.
How do you think food compares in general in London to home?
I think New Zealand used to be ahead of the curve when it came to food, but in recent years, London especially has caught up. With the amount of competition here, there's a constant drive to do better.
What’s your favourite beer on the menu?
Being a craft brewery, we get to experiment quite a bit with new techniques and flavours. We recently made a coriander and orange peel wheat beer, and I've definitely been enjoying that. From our staple range though, in summer I love the Pale Ale and IPA, but in winter I move more towards our Stout.
How often do you brew?
We've had to increase the amount we brew a lot since we opened. Originally we brewed once or twice a week. Now, with two brew kits, we're quite often brewing twice a day.
Favourite Crate memory?
There have been a lot of milestones in the last two years, picking one stand-out is quite hard. Our opening day was quite an event, as was when we first started brewing in the new brew-shed with our larger kit. The whole creation of CRATE, from when we started out, to where we are right now, is my favourite memory.
Do you think you’ll ever bring Crate back home?
We've discussed the possibility of opening a second brewery back home, but at the moment we're focusing on the one we have. Further down the track though, we'll probably revisit the idea.
Address and further info
Crate Brewery & Pizzeria is located in The White Building at Unit 7, Queens Yard, Hackney Wick, E9.
Opening Hours: 12noon until 11pm, 7 days a week