A surprise under the arches

Phil Mellows discovers a hidden gem where you might encounter some famous faces – over a good pint

A glamorous  drinking space with bunting, tables and glitter curtains
The Wanstead Tap
The logo for the Something's Brewing Column

Over the past decade a modest bar under the railway arches in Forest Gate’s Winchelsea Road has become an unlikely destination where book lovers and the simply curious can meet top authors – and drink some exceptionally good beer while they’re at it. 

In recent weeks the Wanstead Tap has hosted talks by the likes of geographer Danny Dorling, actor Nigel Planer, broadcaster Robert Elms and Rebecca Lowe, who cycled for a year to get to Tehran in Iran.

“That was one of the best we’ve done,” says the venue’s founder Dan Clapton. “We had a full house and you could hear a pin drop while she was speaking, it was so interesting.” 

Dan was a pioneer of the craft beer revolution in the UK, selling brews from market stalls around east London, before finding a place to call home. 

“We were the first in Winchelsea Road that wasn’t a garage or a car repair shop. Since then, others have come and gone but we’re still here. 

“I think we’ve cornered market around here for quirky book events. We work very closely with Newham Bookshop in Barking Road, and if an author interests me, I’ll book them. We keep the bar very high. We’re able to attract world-renowned talent that people can see for £15 or £20 a ticket.” 

And that isn’t the only attraction at the Wanstead Tap, open from Thursday to Sunday. Dan has continued to pursue his passion for beer with six constantly changing draught lines and at least 20 more beers in cans. 

“We’re moving to darks, reds and stronger IPAs for the colder months,” he says. “We have a Lost & Grounded 6% red ale and a Baltic Porter from Bristol, Little Critters Hazelnut Milk Stout from Sheffield and Duration Ebb and Flow American stout from Norfolk.

“And we have a good range of wines plus 20 vermouths for our negroni menu – all made to order and really popular.” 

He partners with locals businesses such as Yard Sale Pizza and Wanstead Kitchen so customers can have food delivered to their table, and there’s sport on screen, too. 

Speakers taking the stage in November will include Matt Tiller on Canning Town-born footballer Jack Leslie who was blocked from playing for England in the 1920s because he was black, and Dan is hoping poet Michael Rosen will be back for a special Christmas show. 

He’s also launching a live audience podcast and promises “exciting projects for January and February”. 

“We don’t take anything for granted. You can’t sit back and expect people to come, and we’re always looking for something new.”