I won’t lie, I had been looking forward to last Saturday for a while. Oktoberfests at 2 London breweries on the same day. And one of them only a 10 minute walk from my flat. And It ended much better than I thought too. So, lets get started shall we?
The first Oktoberfest of the sunny, but pretty chilly day was at the By The Horns Brewery in Summerstown (between Earlsfield and Tooting, SW London). The brewery itself is in a unit on an estate and was adorned with a gazebo, much brewery signage and a BBQ for the ubiquitous wursts. We arrived about 1pm, an hour after it had started, and it was pretty quiet but that gave me a chance to speak to the brewers, Chris and Alex, about their setup and brews. First off, I tried a half of their Stiff Upper Lip pale ale – a very drinkable, light, session beer. They’ve only been around about a year, and from talking to the guys you get the feeling that this is a big passion, and that they’re so happy to be able to brew for a living and give their creations to eager punters.Their setup is relatively small, with I think 5 or 6 fermentation tanks (one filled with their next seasonal American IPA, a single hop Willamette), 3 of which were recent aquisitions.
For my next glass, I went for the Diamond Geezer red ale – wonderfully malty and hoppy. More people we’re arriving, and the vibe was starting to get more festive. We went outside and chatted to a beer lover who’d been let out by his wife and decided to venture here after he heard about it at a recent beer festival. Good to know their name is getting around. We talked London breweries, and I drained my glass.
Next up, the Lambeth Walk porter – deliciously robust and smokey, perfect for the chilly day (had to alternate my pint hand it was so cold!). They have been trying to get their beer stocked in local pubs (who wouldn’t want to drink a beer from down the road!?) with some success – The Leather Bottle, for one, is regular on their supply list. And their bottles are also stocked in The Earlsfield Deli.
And finally, for we had arranged to meet friends, I went for their seasonal Munich dunkel, Prince Albert – so smooth, with a rich, malty taste that’s almost creamy. Didn’t get a chance to sample their Bobby On The Wheat beer, or their Hopslinger Black IPA, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for bottles of those. They do sell bottles from the brewery, but I think it’s only open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm. But, like I say, you can get their bottles from The Earlsfield Deli just down the road.
I really enjoyed my brief visit to this fine little brewery, and have already put their next event in my diary (10th November) – I’ll be there with bells on. For beer fans in London, its great to see inside an up-and-coming brewery and meet the brewers, really feels like like the beer has been crafted. I can thoroughly recommend a visit, great beers and friendly brewers. And with The Rocky Head popping up just around the corner too, it feels like south west London is having a little craft revolution of it’s own.
Then, off across London to meet friends at the next brewery in Hackney at the London Fields Brewery. Underneath the arches, as it were, we were greeted by music, the smell of BBQing pork, and the bubbly sound of people having a good time. We headed straight to the bar and I plumped for half a Love Not War – a warm red ale with a nice hop finish. And my wife, a bit beered out by this point, went for a G&T. First downside: plastic glasses. My heart broke just a tiny bit. Maybe that was an indicator of the very different style and vibe of this Oktoberfest than the one we’d just come from. Still, lots of beer to try and friends to chat with so chin up!
There was no space at the benches inside so we ventured into the open. Lots of seating outside, some of it consisting of casks around stacks of wooden pallets, despite the chill in the air. But luckily we had scarves and gloves. And beer.
Friends arrived, along with lots more people, and the place starting to get very buzzing. Next I tried their pale ale (which was a bit thin after the stronger, hoppier red ale, but I’m sure a decent session beer), and the Hackney Hopster, which was, well, hoppy. Nice and crisp, if a little too bitter for my taste. They had various spirits behind the bar too, along with their range of brews, which is good as apparently not everyone wants to drink beer at an Oktoberfest.
Then I went on a journey through their single hop IPAs – delta, cascade and galaxy, if my memory serves me correctly. Which, to be honest, it might not. Not as dry as the Hackney Hopster, they were much more to my liking. All very good, like a slap with a wet hop, just slightly different hops. I went through them all pretty swiftly.
By this time we had moved into the warmer inside, between the busy bar and the band, and I think I was just about done for the night. I felt a little like I’d eaten a bag of hops, but that’s my affliction and I’ve got to live with it – Hello, my name’s Phil and I’m a hophead. Whew, I feel a little better.
As we strode out, into the cold, dark, wet Hackney night, I suddenly felt it in my stomach – hunger. We could turn back and grab a sausage and sauerkraut fresh from the grill…or we could do the 10 min walk to Duke’s for some ribs and some Beavertown brews. Despite the rain, we pushed on to Duke’s!
The wait of an hour for a table (well, it was 8pm on a Saturday) was eased by some Neck Oil – which, as the name suggests, slipped down a treat. Nice to have something not too hoppy and bitter for a change. Lovely!
The ribs, pulled beef and all the sides were delicious, the portions were healthy (or unhealthy, depending on the way you look at it), the service was quick and efficient, I just felt that maybe the meat could have been a bit saucier, a bit stickier. They were very nice and tender, but me and my wife thought they were missing something. That might be their style, and it might be that I just prefer my ribs a bit jucier. That said, they were better than most ribs I’ve had in London.
The Thornbridge Jaipur finished off the evening well, my only regret being that I didn’t have the guts to go for the house Smog Rocket smoked porter. I tried a sip at The Gunmakers and thought it very intriguing but wasn’t sure if a whole glass might have been too much, especially paired with smoky ribs. We pretty much waddled out of there, full to the brim with meat, malt and hops.
So 2 very enjoyable, but very different brewery events with the same name. The London Fields do was a party with music and food and beer that was held in a brewery, and had a wide appeal. The By The Horns day was all about the beer, that was the real star. And personally I preferred that.
Like I say, the next By The Horns open day is in the diary, and I’ve also added the London Fields brewery tour to my to do list. Different breweries, different approaches and different outlooks, but both with great beer.