What could be better than supping on a cold beer and munching on a mound of fall-off-the-bone chicken wings? Not much, finds Laura.
The newly reopened London Fields brewery is offering a host of cleverly named brews on tap, with Prairie Fire BBQ at the helm of the dinky open-plan kitchen.
Step into the visually striking space, located within a railway arch and be greeted by the bar. My first tipple? Their 3 Weiss Monkeys: a citrusy hazy number with a hit of banana and a comical, eye-catching label depicting the pictorial maxim.
Rounding the corner, a mass of gleaming tanks are housed behind a half-moon shaped piece of glass – the scientific magic happens there.
In front, a bunch of tables and benches, whilst to the right the entire wall is covered by a vibrant mural spelling out the words Love Not War.
Hackney-local Luke McLean is responsible for all of the impressive artwork – from the cans and t-shirts to the framed pieces dotted about the venue.
There’s an array of meats on the menu, cooked traditional Kansas City style. Founder of the BBQ enterprise Michael Gratz was missing the taste of his KC roots, and in 2013 decided to open up shop in the capital.
The low and slow aficionado took a permanent spot at Mercato Metropolitano in 2016, and now this six-month residency.
We delve greedily into lip-smackingly tasty hickory wings – succulent and generously coated in a fiery glaze, they don’t last long.
14 hour applewood smoked pork towered between a lightly toasted bun falls apart in shreds, whilst the hunk of USDA brisket we see being sliced at the counter – the knife going through like butter – is full of flavour and basted in a sweet, sticky sauce.
But this place isn’t for carnivores alone: don’t miss the pulled jackfruit, a textural and worthy alternative to the piggy version, and super crisp, seasoned fries smattered with slices of chilli.
Oh, and as well as being able to devour the dishes in-house, aspiring pitmasters can try their hand at home with Gratz’s bottled condiments.
In-between feasting, we sip on a few more bevvies: top marks go to the Grapefruit Dead – a balanced fusion of tart and juicy, and the least punchy offering at 3.5%, we find that half a pint is the ideal quantity to quaff of this sour.
What’s the story behind the relaunched taproom? We get the low-down from Managing Director Martin Entwistle. “It was established in 2011 by two entrepreneurs who sat in The Dove in Broadway Market sinking a few drinks and had a bright idea of opening a craft brewery in the area,” says Martin.
But by the end of 2014 things had started to go wrong. “The founder was arrested for tax evasion and his license was revoked,” says Martin. Production was outsourced, funds were low, and the company's reputation was shattered. Unsurprisingly, business declined, and by 2016 the operation was up for sale.
And that’s where Carlsberg and Brooklyn come into the picture – the joint venture took things over in 2017. “We thought the name was awesome, and loved the location and designs,” says Martin.
That powerful mural isn't a random choice. “It's one of the origin stories,” says Martin. “Back in 2011, the riots kicked off, and some of the trouble was happening on this road. The brewer and the owner had to lock themselves in – they had a bit of time on their hands, so they made a beer. A red ale, and a mini protest against the mindlessness of what was going on around them. We want to keep that alive, so we're making it again seasonally.”
They’ve appointed Talfryn Provis-Evans as Head Brewer, whose CV boasts experience at Beavertown, Crate, and Redchurch. One of the noteworthy things that Talfryn has implemented is the ability to start the process from an app. “He can get up in the morning and do that from his bedroom,” says Martin.
The Schulz kit is custom-made, and everything is fully automated. “It might feel romantic that there's someone twisting knobs and opening valves, but actually, human beings make mistakes,” says Martin. “Missing a temperature by a couple of degrees influences the product.”
Canning-wise, the line manages a whopping 2,300 an hour. “Trust me, when you're the one manually taking them off and putting them into boxes, that's plenty fast enough,” says Martin.
With the ability to make a whole host of beverages, the apparatus is superbly flexible. “We really want to achieve all sorts of different flavours, and push the boundaries of innovation,” says Martin. They can even make things like Sake and Kombucha.
“We’re very much on the comeback trail,” says Martin. And with Prairie Fire alongside them, it’s a winning combo of pun-laden pints and authentic slow-cooked fare.
Prairie Fire BBQ and London Fields Brewery are open daily at 365-366 Warburton Street, London E8 3RR. More info: www.prairiefirebbq.com and www.londonfieldsbrewery.co.uk