In deepest, darkest Hackney Wick (it’s weird), there are many industrial buildings which in these heady, post-industrial times are more suitable for apartments, raves and yes, now brewing. Crate is a few years old, a veritable old-timer for today’s brewing boom. They have the perfect spot alongside the canal, with views to the various carbuncles of the Olympic Park and Stratford itself.
About 50% of those alighting from the Overground beelined straight for Crate; we followed a girl (in a chivalrously non-threatening manner, I hasten to add) through the desolation and came across it easily. It was packed considering the eerie quiet of the streets outside, and full of bearded, industrious types scurrying around in their artisan's aprons for this higher calling of pizza and pints.
The oh-so-carefully placed sacks of barley and kegs reminded me of that old Science Museum room where kids could play at industry: scooping up grain and putting it through various conveyor belts and contraptions. Only a bit more grown up. And not completely pointless, as the outcome is beer.
Pizzas here are an odd bunch, but a merry one. My favourite was surprisingly a veggie option – the stilton, walnut and blue cheese, which sounds bizarre but was tangy and sweet genius. A sucker for detail, I loved the thoughtful, egalitarian arrangement of sweet potato allowing everyone to have a piece, possibly inspired by the local squats.
Pepperoni was also fantastic – a hot mess of gunk and grease. And whilst not a pizza bianca like the stilton, it was very light on the tomato base. And finally, the grim-sounding but again, very good minced lamb and pine nut. A friend once ordered a disgrace of a lamb pizza once (at the Lansdowne), which was like regurgitated doner meat from Upper Street's finest, so I was suspicious, but this was genuinely tasty. All crusts are Roman thin and the wooden sharing boards keep everything tactile and sociable.
I can be a bit of a purist bore about pizzas (and many other things) but these were smart, salty toppings which perfectly complemented the copious mead going down. In fact, the flavours worked so well that traditional Italian pizza adornments may have made the whole beer thing feel a bit boorish. Not that it stopped those vampy doyennes of Twitter Rachel Roberts and Grace Dent from sinking a few bottles of red instead – there is something for everyone.
So there it is – admirable pizza, interesting beers (they stock loads beyond their own brews, including a rarity on these shores, Bear Republic) and that canalside space. It would be chaos anywhere else, but luckily it’s so far from the beaten track, it’s practically in Leyton. But if you’re adventurous, and fancy doubling the population of Hackney Wick in one train journey, it may be the best shout…