Words & Photos - Matthew Curtis
The area around Islington's Upper Street in North London has long been known for its restaurant culture. It makes perfect sense that it would become one of the hubs for the city's thriving craft beer scene. From the popular Craft Beer Company on White Lion Street to the trendy Earl of Essex just behind Essex Road it almost seems like this spot is becoming over saturated with quality pubs but try and squeeze into any one of the many crowded drinking dens of Islington on a Friday night and you'll soon realise that there's a need for more. Hell even those scamps at BrewDog are rumoured to be opening their first restaurant on Essex Road very soon, a clear sign of how vital good beer in this area has become.
Enter The Hop and Berry, formerly The Barnsbury, on the quiet Liverpool Road parallel to Upper Street. The brainchild of former Euston Tap manager Tony Lennon, The Hop has come up with a unique way of standing out from the sea of nearby competition, it only stocks beer from London breweries. With almost 70 breweries operating in the capital and more on their way this makes perfect sense. Especially when the quality of beer coming from the likes of Brodie's, Pressure Drop and Weird Beard, to name but a few, is so high.
Stepping inside the spacious interior the horseshoe shaped bar is home to six hand pulls and behind it are twelve keg lines. While the cask beers are clearly marked with pump clips the keg beers are simply numbered but a quick glance to my left reveals what's on draught. The nicest touch about this list is that beside every beer is the distance in miles the brewery lies from the pub. No pub on the list was from more than 15 miles away with many much closer and there was something both reassuring and satisfying about this. My half of the always excellent Pressure Drop Pale Fire certainly had both of these qualities. Craftophiles will be pleased to know that as well as pints, third and two-third measures are available.
Tony tells me that he eventually wants to stock a wine and spirit offering that rivals the locality of his beer and while he may not be able to source these from London itself there will certainly be some quality British produce gracing the shelves. Food is of the gastropub variety with roast dinners served on a Sunday, something that people bored of the endless supply of burgers and pizzas will find appealing. I didn't eat much bar a few bar snacks on this occasion but I'll be returning to investigate once the kitchen is in full swing.
There's plenty of room in here and I get the feeling that this is the kind of pub that people will come to when they want to avoid the nearby hustle and bustle and grab a table with friends while enjoying good food and great drink. There's even a beer garden which is something many London beer bars are sorely lacking. It's also very handily placed for the start of a pub crawl that weaves its way through the Angel. Although still a bit too new with the smell of fresh paint lingering in the air I'm positive that with time The Hop and Berry will make yet another excellent addition to the Islington beer scene.