I am a beer lover.
I wasn’t always. I can remember my first pint, 20 years ago. A sweet countryside pub, picture perfect. Exposed beams, friendly locals… and a watery ale, served at room temperature. 5 years ago, when the microbrewery trend started, I marvelled at the range suddenly available – black IPAs, Saisons, wild yeast beers… I’m addicted to crazy associations of flavours. Peanut butter, spiced pumpkin, Tzatziki, peach and basil, coriander and salt, miso, flat white stouts… You name it. If you can dream it, someone has probably created already.
The dilemma was the same with British cider: super strong, but often on the dull side. The opening of Hawkes, in Bermondsey’s beer mile, famous for its funky microbreweries, gave me hope. The first urban cidery, nestled under the railway arches, complete with a tap room. And yes, everything is produced on site. Looking at the board, above the counter, it’s obvious this is more than a cider brewery. This is an experimenting lab in the making…
I started gently with a half pint of Urban Orchard: rather elegant, it proved very close to a dry French cider in its crispiness. No wonder: it uses champagne yeast! How not to want more? The tasting flight, which can be matched to a cheeseboard for a mere £10 in total, tickled my curiosity. Cheese works wonderfully with wine, beer… Would it tick all the boxes? Hell yes. The Draft Funk, super dry balanced quite well with the creamy Normandy Camembert. The Mixed Berry, infused with strawberry, raspberry and blueberry offered a ruby red colour, a superb juiciness and complemented the fruity Comte, especially if you add just a touch of Kernel . It was the last one, Elephant on ice, which brings memories of pear poached with vanilla beans and cinnamon, that really wowed me. Desserty, yes, but not overwhelming sweet. Now, this, I would have a whole pint of, maybe even 2! Add some Persillé du Beaujolais and you have a match made in heaven.
It’s a place to come back again and again to, preferably with friends. There are cider cocktails on the menu, a cider ale (a hybrid blending apples with a caramelised and malty beer wort, using American Ale and Sauvignon Blanc style yeasts in the process), pizzas made from scratch on request. The first floor, which overlooks the brewery part, even has a kick football table. And if that weren’t enough, you will find a fridge presenting an incredible choice of guest ciders with descriptions to make your mouth water (elderflower cider, anyone?) and superb labels.
My friends, the cider revolution has begun.
Hawkes Cidery & Taproom | 92 Druid Street | London SE1 2HQ