Horsey horsey, don’t you stop

Variety is the spice of Walthamstow


A microcosm of the city that surrounds it, the Blackhorse Beer Mile is a slice of London that embodies the creativity and community spirit that this cosmopolitan metropolis is known for. On this industrial estate – which rather amazingly backs onto the Walthamstow Wetlands and London Wildlife Trust – differences rather than similarities bind together the group of producers that have made Blackhorse Road a destination for beer lovers all over the city.

It’s hard to pinpoint a moment in time when the beer mile was born; Wild Card Brewery was the first to set up shop off Blackhorse Road, in 2017, but the group didn’t start to form until Signature Brew and Exale arrived in 2019. Big Penny Social and Hackney Brewery joined the ranks in 2020, with Beerblefish and Renegade Urban Winery following suit in 2021. Pretty Decent Beer Co and Burnt Faith Brandy House were the most recent additions to the mile, joining in 2022 and 2023 respectively. 

In May of 2022, the seven producers then in the area declared the Blackhorse Beer Mile an official destination, and celebrated with a riotous street party, fondly remembered in spite of the queues. Thanks to all the parties thrown since then, the Blackhorse community has got celebration down to a fine art. Venues now take over adjacent car parks, set up additional pop up bars, bring in more food vendors and coordinate entertainment to make this tiny corner of the city a well-rounded knees up on occasions that call for it.

The camaraderie and coordination that carries these events permeates daily life for these breweries too. Not all venues keep their taprooms open all week long, but when all doors are flung open, a degree of organisation has taken place to make sure events aren’t getting in the way of one another. The view among the Blackhorse community is that no one is attending the beer mile with the intention of visiting just one brewery, so not only is unhealthy competition pointless, but championing variety and diversity actually helps the community as a whole. 

Operational manager at Renegade Urban Winery, Caitlyn Falasco, says that when she tells people about Blackhorse Road, “a lot of them don't realise it's super easy to get to. It's the second-to-last stop on the Victoria line, right before Walthamstow. What used to be a seemingly random, sleepy industrial estate has really come to life in the last few years. Banding together and pooling resources as the Blackhorse Beer Mile has helped get the word out, so the entire area is now more of a London destination. Our businesses don't need to be in competition because we all benefit from people hopping from taproom to taproom, which is also great for customers who want to keep their options open, as they're spoilt for choice here. Europe's largest urban wetlands are also literally on our doorstep, so families and friends can make a day of it - there's something for everyone really.” 

For example, founder and managing director of Signature Brew, Tom Bott says that with Signature Brew being all about great experiences that stem from fresh beer and live music “we love the fact we can scoot round the best Beer Mile in London, before grabbing a burger at the Collab and head to a show at Walthamstow Trades Hall just up the road”. He says that from the moment the brewery moved into the area, it has felt “extremely welcome and proud to be members of this incredibly creative community”. 

Peter Hills, managing director of Hackney Brewery feels particularly fortunate to be based so close to the Walthamstow Wetlands. "We're really lucky to have the wetlands right next to the brewery,” says Peter. “It's a calm place for walking or just relaxing in nature with loads of species of birds and animals, including kingfishers, egrets and peregrine falcons… Our end of the mile has its own little feel about it with that bit of wildlife backing onto two breweries, an urban winery, a scooter garage, a bakery and a barbers. It's great to have such good neighbours.”

Good neighbours seem to be something everyone on the mile is determined to be and grateful to have. One doesn’t get the sense that the kindness of this community is taken for granted. "Our area is made by its people,” says James Casey, founder of Pretty Decent Beer Co. “Families mix with groups of friends partying, yet there’s always a chance to nurse a beer quietly if you want. Everyone’s so supportive, positive and kept us going through a crazy few years. Less supportive when you make a Dill Pickle beer it turns out … but it’s the people living, working and visiting the area that create a collective atmosphere that we think is what London is all about.”

And of course, that “community” on the Blackhorse Beer Mile extends well beyond the breweries that populate it. Founder and managing director of Beerblefish, James Atherton, says that "lots of our customers have become friends and we love how they support us and each other. We love the enthusiasm that the community has for gaming, whether that's board games, Warhammer, pool or Dutch shuffleboard and we love hosting all sorts of groups who like to combine a great pint with their favourite hobbies.”

Wild Card marketing manager Ellie Edmonds says the thing she loves most about the area is "how lovely the people are. Our pub in Higham Hill, Tavern on the Hill, [also in Walthamstow, just with more extensive opening hours than the brewery’s taproom] brings in all sorts of wonderful people for Wild Card beer and a roast on Sundays, and we’re proud to say we’ve built a really friendly and welcoming community together." 

Marketing and social media manager at Exale Brewery, Stephanie Solley, shares this feeling, saying "it’s all about community, you can walk into any taproom and get a friendly smile and a great pint, when you visit the Blackhorse Beer Mile you'll be amongst a wonderfully diverse mix of great people who value culture and creativity. So at Exale our mission is simple - to build community through music, dance, beer, food and good times."

So, if you’re due a daytime catch-up with old friends, or are in the mood for a bit of a soiree, the Blackhorse Beer Mile’s first celebration of 2024 is currently scheduled for Sunday the 5th May. Get it in your diaries. That said, there is never a bad time to visit this corner of the city, and websites for all participating breweries are wonderful resources, which will help you plan your trip, and direct you to businesses and activities in the area which might be of interest to you. If there were ever an argument to be made for the social power of beer, and the positive impact breweries can have on their communities and localities, the Blackhorse Beer Mile is a case in point.

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