Brewery

London’s Brewing…

1367693025465Last weekend saw the long-awaited, and sold out, London’s Brewing event held at the London Fields brewery in east London and organised by the London Brewers’ Alliance. The website for the event boasted that over 30 London brewers would be represented, and I was very excited about attending, especially after my disappointment of local brewers at Craft Beer Rising earlier this year. I got tasting tickets for the Saturday evening session which started at 6pm. The tickets were £20, which included entry to the festival, a branded 2/3 pint glass (pictured) and 3 pints of beer.

The first question mark came on Saturday when, checking twitter, I saw tweets from disgruntled festival goers complaining that the afternoon session was 40minutes late opening, leaving people waiting in the rain with no explanation of what was happening. Then, when everyone was finally let in, the queues for the bar were horrendous. But as the afternoon went on, people said it calmed down and got better. People who stayed, that is.

So, we headed off to the festival, but decided to have a couple of drinks in Craft in Islington beforehand. I was careful not to have anything from London as I thought I’d have plenty of opportunity for that later in the evening, despite how tempting a Kernel Table Beer was.  I had a couple of halves of the Siren Sound Wave, a US style IPA, after I’d read about their launch event a few weeks ago. It was very tasty, a big hit of tropical citrus and grapefruit.

We arrived at the London Fields brewery just after 6pm and joined the back of a queue of around 50 people. Not bad. It was moving along, and at least it wasn’t raining. But it was a bit annoying that if you just had a festival entry ticket then you could head straight in, skipping the crowds. As we entered the brewery, I showed my ticket confirmations on my phone but no-one seemed to check very closely, and we were given cards with 9 beer mug logos on them (each representing a third of beer, to be stamped off as you drink, thus giving you your 3 pints included in your ticket), the glasses and a programme/beer list. And, for one reason or another, they gave me 4 cards when I’d only bought 3 tickets. Bonus!

The brewery is, like a lot of London breweries, set under railway arches. In the first arch was the Keg Bar, and in the second was the Cask Bar, although both bars actually had some of each. We bumped into Des De Moor outside the keg bar, who told us that the beer judging and all the presentations planned for the weekend had all been cancelled. Not great organisation. So, he decided to just stay and try lots of beers. Sounds like a tough job being a beer writer. We headed to the cask bar, as it wasn’t quite so horribly busy, crowded and hot as the keg bar, but we still waited for about 15 mins at the bar. And this was where I got the biggest disappointment of the evening: the realisation that I wouldn’t be able to try all the beers I wanted. A few beers had run out already, and the programme didn’t say what would be available at which bar. Very confusing, and it meant there was lots of umming and erring at the bar while people decided. I was very disappointed to to be able to have Weird Beard’s Mariana Trench, as I loved it when I tried it a the Earl of Essex, and also that there was no Rocky Head Pale Ale left, as I really wanted to try it from the keg.

I tried lots of beer. Lots. Too many to list (or, in fact, remember). The condition of the cask beer was generally good, expecially from the cask bar, but the keg stuff was on the whole not cold or fizzy enough for something which should be both.

We managed to find a table for the evening, which made the time spent drinking and talking very pleasant, punctuated by infuriating waits at the bar to get beer. And walking outside from one bar to the other felt like a salmon trying to swim upstream.

On the whole, I think it would have been a much better idea to stay at the Craft, or go to one of the many other craft pubs in London which would no doubt have a good stock of London beers. London is brewing, but this wasn’t the showcase for it that I’d hoped it would be.

Categories: Beer, Beer Festival, Brewery, Pub | 5 Comments

A Boozy Saturday and Homebrew Cooking

Someone asked me recently what my favourite brewery is. I thought about it for a moment and then realised, all things weighed up, it’s The Kernel. Consistently good beers that are right in my ideal flavour profile (usually tropical hops, long but smooth bitter finish), and I can’t remember trying one of theirs that I haven’t liked. Which I definitely can’t say for most breweries. But, surprisingly, as a Londoner I had yet to visit the brewery, which is open every Saturday from 9am-3pm for takeaway or to drink on the premises. So, with a couple of friends, we ventured into a trading estate in deepest Bermondsey to get some of London’s finest beers fresh from the source.

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Outside The Kernel

It was cold on Saturday. Bloody cold. Snow flurries and freezing winds. Maybe not the best of situations to go to a brewery which, in my experience, are usually cold places to start with. But, the plan had been made so we stuck with it. Passing big flat blocks left and right, a railway bridge ahead, we turned the corner into Dockley Road, and I had to trust my friend Pat (who’d visited before) that we were headed in the right direction. The Dockley Road Trading Estate didn’t look particularly promising or inviting, but a few steps past the gates I spied a honey shop, a greengrocers, a fishmongers, a bakery, a charcuterie and, right at the back, The Kernel. Seems like a great place to spend a Saturday morning, but possibly not when it’s snowing. On a spring morning, it would have been very pleasant indeed. Still, there was beer to warm our cockles.

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Inside The Kernel

It was around midday and the wooden tables set aside in the brewery for drinkers were already filling up. We went to the bar and I was surprised and pleased to see that as well as the wall of various bottles on the counter, there were 6 or so taps behind offering some fresh draughts. I went for a table beer to ease myself in. An ideal first drink, light and crisp with a bitter grapefruit hit. And my friend Pat went for a single hop pale ale, I forget which one, but the two together were £5. That’s not at all bad for two 330ml glasses of beer. The place was buzzing, despite the cold – all the drinkers were wrapped up warm, gloves, hats and scarves abounded. The mood was friendly and relaxed. We stayed for another couple and our friend Steve joined us. I tried the Bière de Table (a light, slightly banana-ey saison) and the Citra IPA (just as you’d expect a Kernel IPA).

As we were in the area, we decided to swing by Partizan as well. I’ve been hearing a lot about Partizan, and after trying a pale ale last week in the Earl of Essex, I was keen to try some more. On the way, we popped into the Monmouth Coffee tucked away behing The Kernel and Steve bought a pack of the most aromatic coffee I have ever smelled.

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Partizan Brewery

A short trip down the road brought us to Partizan. Much quieter and more unassuming than The Kernel, we walked into the brewery, made our way through the piles of boxes and crates, past the mash tun, to the counter. All bottles here. We each got a bottle of pale to drink while we decided on some takeaways. A 15% discount on a box of 24 meant we each got to choose 8. The had 3 saisons, a pale, 2 IPAs, a porter and a stout, from memory. I got a selection and we trudged back to The Kernel to pick up some more for that evening. This was turning into a very boozy day. But I guess when you get to a brewery at midday, there’s only really one way the day can go.

After the pales, I decided to go for the LBA stout which was very good. Much more suited to the weather than the pales and IPAs. Deep, warm and toasty, full bodied with a lingering citrus hop flavour. We noticed the crowd at the bar was growing as it was nearing last orders, so we joined the back of the queue and once again, beers in hand, decided on what beers we wanted to leave with. I got myself some Tables and a couple of other pales. Always good, always dependable. Then we headed to a friends house to drink some of our spoils.

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Our spoils from the day

Tasting notes are a bit thin from here on in, although I didn’t try many new beers so no real drama. I had the Partizan Galaxy Saison, which I remember being lighter than its 5.4%, with the trademark Belgian yeast aromas and flavours.

That evening, we popped into the Effra Social, an Antic pub that’s been open less than a month, for a quick drink on the way home. It really does feel like a social club and has a very 60s grandad kind of vibe. In a sort of cool way. They had a couple of interesting beers on, and I tried the East London Brewery Foundation Bitter, which I found a bit too thin, bitter and astringent for my tastes. And then it was off home to eat leftover rice & peas while watching Stewart Lee.

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Homemade steak and homebrewed ale pie!

The next day, spurred on by this relentless winter, my wife and I decided to make a hearty steak and ale pie, and whilst looking through my beer cupboard for a suitable bottle, I thought, “Why not use a homebrew!?”. My 6-odd % porter seemed like a perfect candidate: strong, slightly sweet finish and very dark. So in it went. And the stew turned out great, rich and tasty (although, to be fair, it doesn’t look particularly appetising in the picture). The only issue is that when it came to baking, I left the pie in the oven a touch too long which resulted in the crust being a bit flakey and not as buttery as I like it. Still, with some simple veggies and mustard mash it warmed us up, and it felt nice using my homebrew as an ingredient. I think we’ll be making this again. How soon depends on how long this bleedin’ winter lasts.

Categories: Beer, Brewery, Brewery Open Day, Home Brew | 2 Comments

Brewfile & Brewday – Sambrook’s Brewery

In my continuing (if slightly foolhardy) attempt to visit and write about every London brewery, I arranged to visit Sambrook’s Brewery in Battersea a couple of weeks ago, and was fortuitous enough to be there on a double brew day.

I was greeted by brewer Paul Brooker at 6am. Not a lot of other life about in Battersea at that time in the morning. Paul was mashing-in as I arrived, and he ran me through their setup and procedures. The brewery was founded by Duncan Sambrook in 2008 and was then amongst only a handful of London brewers. And despite the explosion of the London, and the British brewing scene in those few years, Sambrook’s beers have remained at the forefront. Wandle, their flagship beer won World’s Best Bitter Under 5% at the World Beer Awards last year. And as Gary Wilds (another Sambrook’s brewer) told me when he was brewing the second batch of Wandle later that the day, “That’s a lot to live up to!”. I have remembered seeing and drinking Wandle for many years now in pubs across London, even before my love for beer…how should I put this…intensified? So they’ve been a staple, certainly in London ale pubs, for some time.

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450Kg of grain and…lots of water. Smelled lovely!

My first task was to weigh out the hops. We were brewing the day’s first batch of Wandle. The gorgeous smell of Goldings and Boadicea hops filled my nostrils as I measured them out for the two hop additions. Its a very simple recipe (2 types of grain, 2 types of hops) but the end product has so much depth, complexity and smoothness. It really is a great session bitter.

With the hops weighed out, I took the chance to peer into the steamy mash tun. As I said, this was the first brew of the day – the two brews on the 20 barrel setup would then be mixed in one of their big fermenters before the yeast was added. This shows the demand for their beers.

Paul, a born Londoner, told me that he’d come to Sambrook’s about a year ago after having worked for many years at Young’s Ram Brewery in Wandsworth before it closed down in 2006, as did a couple of other staff members. However, Paul didn’t actually brew when he was at Young’s, instead he did all manner of jobs around the brewery – filling, packing, sorting, loading etc – so working here was his first experience actually brewing beer. He enjoys being a brewer and likes the satisfaction of making something that other people enjoy.

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The lab

By this point (about 7:30am), Jaime had arrived. She is another brewer here and she’s originally from Australia. Jaime started by volunteering a few days a week and eventually got offered a permanent position. She took me up to their lab/office to measure the gravities of the beers currently in the fermenters. She has to do it three times a day for all the beers to make sure they’re on track and the yeast are behaving.

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Racking Junction into casks

Next to arrive was Zac (yet another brewer), and his job for the day was filling casks. The brewers rotate their tasks day to day, which is needed for a brewery that needs to produce so much beer in a week. 7 brews in 5 days the week I visited. Zac is from New Zealand, he dabbles in home brewing and he’s leaving shortly to spend some time in the vineyards of France. He was racking Junction into casks and he let me have a go at filling, pouring in the isinglass and then knocking in the shives. He was far more adept at all of this than I was. And the cold weather didn’t help either, but everyone there seemed to be used to it so I manned up and got on with it. Well, I did as best I could anyway. Zac then jumped on the forklift to stack and pack the filled casks on pallets ready for delivery.

In one corner of the brewery, next to all the casks, was a big stack of keykegs (disposable kegs for carbonated beers) which Sambrook’s uses for its carbonated Pale Ale – its first craft keg product. They use a technique called krausening where fresh fermenting beer is added to the already fermented beer when the kegs are being filled in order to add carbonation. Zac said that the whole process takes a lot longer than racking to casks but the end result is worth it.

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The Sparge

Paul was just beginning to sparge when I went back to the mash tun and he took a sample of the first runnings up to the lab to take measurements – gravity, temperature and pH. There are notes taken at every stage of the brewing and fermentation, sheets of figures and measurements, attenuation tests done on the yeast. This is a brewery that is focussed on maintaining a high standard for all of its beers, and keeping each brew consistent.

While up in the lab I met Sean Knight, who is the head brewer of Sambrook’s. But due to him going away in a couple of days, preparing for the Battersea Beer Festival that week and having to give a tour of the brewery that afternoon, he was a busy man and and such I didn’t spend much time with him. Sean started there washing casks and moved up to brewer, and then when the previous head brewer left, he was asked if he wanted the job. And it looks like he loves the job, even if it can be quite a load sometimes.

Back downstairs Jaime and Jason were washing casks and she asked if I wanted to help. How could I refuse? Now, on a cold Tuesday, moving around wet casks is not particularly fun. My job was to drain the casks, check if they were clean inside, whack them and hammer in the keystone (a rubber plug where the tap gets hammered into). I got wet and I got cold hands. But I’m learning that cold and wet are 2 words that usually describe a brewery. From September to April at least.

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Me in the mash tun (note how clean it is!)

Paul was finished sparging, and the boil was going when I went back in and he gave me the perfect opportunity to warm up. Cleaning out the mash tun. I was handed a big shovel and jumped in. It was hot, steamy and cramped, but that’s part of a brewers job I guess! And there’s a lot of water-soaked grain that is left behind when the wort is drained. A lot. But there’ll be some happy cows somewhere.

There were some troubles with a pump that slowed the transfer of the boiled wort through the heat exchanger and into the fermenter, so Gary had started to mill his grain and fill the mash tun before Paul was finished with his brew.  Paul’s wort was eventually emptied out of the boiler and sitting nicely in the fermenter. And in there it stayed until it was joined by Gary’s wort, at which point the yeast would be added. Gary jumped into the boiler to clean out all the spent hops, and I gave him a hand sweeping and bagging all the mess that poured out the bottom of the vessel. Paul went and took some final readings of the wort from the fermenter and then headed home, job done for the day.

Paul has been working at Sambrook’s as a brewer for 2 and a half  years. Before that he worked at Young’s and then Hogsback in Surrey. He is a passionate brewer, and clearly gets great pleasure out of his job. He was all set up for his mash, so I left him to it.

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The Wandle in the fermenter

So, that was the end of my day at Sambrook’s. It’s a very busy, friendly place, full of amiable people that seem in some ways like a family and made me feel very welcome. I very much enjoyed my day there and was craving a Wandle by the time I’d left. And that was also the most work I’d done in a day in a long, long time. It made me realise that brewing is a lot harder work than I had thought. Maybe I’ll stick to the day job, visit breweries and brew at home for friends, family and myself. Oh, and I ached all over the next day.

Categories: Brewery, Brewfile | 1 Comment

Guest Blog – Emerald Vale, Chintsa, South Africa

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This post is from Will Talbot, a very good friend if mine who recently moved to South Africa. A bit of an out if the way location, but it looks like tasty beer. Take it away, Will!

Chintsa’s Emerald Ale Brewery

Arriving at South Africa’s youngest brewery we noticed earlier visitors eagerly loading four cases of Chris Heaton’s beer into their boot. This gave us an indication that this may not just be a pleasant first stop on a pub crawl but a tasty treat too. Chris currently makes about 6,000 litres of ale a month at the Emerald Vale brewery, ranging from Pale to Gold and Dark ales. He tells us that his interest in brewing started as a schoolboy, concocting illegal brews out of sight from the boarding masters and to the delight of his dorm mates. This turned into a hobby in later life and is now a passion from which he earns his living. Chris’ earlier career in construction means that the rooms and machinery he uses are all built by him and often salvaged combinations of brewing tools and household plumbing equipment. We taste the Pale Ale which is surprisingly clear for unfiltered ale, crisp to taste and has a lovely aroma. The Pale Ale is fermented for 14 days and then is laid down for a further fortnight. He uses a combination of Southern Star and Cascade hops, only the best Belgium yeast and pure rainwater, collected from the farm roofs on the property. Chris explains that the tin roof runoff gives the water added zinc, which then helps the yeast in a way that I can’t fully understand but certainly does wonders for the end product.

Chris Heaton stands about six foot, wears flip flops, shorts and a t-shirt and has the flushed complexion of someone who has been hard at work. It turns out that we have come to visit the Emerald Vale brewery

at the most demanding time of the company’s five months in business. December was always expected to be the busiest time for the brewery that supplies local hotels and pubs which always see a surge at that time, being the start of the summer holidays in the southern hemisphere.

Quite uniquely, rather than capitalising on this holiday rush to feed further expansion, Chris is planning to reduce production to 5,000 litres a month in 2013. This will help him focus on the solid selection of ales he’s established and make incremental improvements to each of them, in order to reach his required taste and quality. Luckily for the local residents and brewery visitors that get to enjoy the Emerald Vale ales, Chris Heaton’s standards are very high!

If you’d like a visit, you can find the brewery operating from a cattle and goat farm on the Chintsa road (or ‘Cintsa’, depending on which road sign you read). Chintsa lies on the Atlantic Ocean about 15 Km from the N2 highway and about one hour from South Africa’s only river port, East London (which is definitely not cockney).

Categories: Beer, Brewery | 1 Comment

By The Horns – Brewfile

With beers like Lambeth Walk, Diamond Geezer, Wolfie Smith and Bobby On The Wheat, the By The Horns guys are certainly proud to be Londoners.

Founded in September 2011, Alex Bull and Chris Mills are making a name for themselves across London with their quirky labelling and their varied and interesing beers. Alex had been homebrewing for a few years before they founded By The Horns, and they saw that there weren’t many London breweries (how a few years can make a difference!) and that there was an opening for a new brewery with a younger outlook, and demand for good London-brewed beer. From initial idea to the first brew took about a year, with Alex going to BrewLab to learn about the business of setting up and running a brewery. Then they sought out the equipment they needed from Oban Ales, and took a leap of faith by ordering it before they actually had premises – they signed the lease the week before the kit was delivered. So at least no time was wasted!

The guys definitely consider themselves as craft brewers, defining the term as “small batch production using almost experimental and non-governed beers which you can change every week”. Their regular 4 brews are Stiff Upper Lip (pale ale) – their most popular brew, Diamond Geezer (red ale), Bobby On The Wheat (wheat beer) and, my favourite, Lambeth Walk porter – which was a winter seasonal, but has become a regular due to demand. And they have at least one new seasonal a month too – they’ve done a summer blonde, a Prince Albert Munich dunkel for Oktoberfest, a raspberry coffee stout (in collaboration with Nude espresso), a brown ale called Wolfie Smith… And if that weren’t enough, they have their recurring Hopslinger range – American IPAs, each with a twist (single hop, black etc). To keep up with demand, they brew 3 times a week on their 5 bbl setup.

Chris and Alex are trying hard to change how drinkers and pubs perceive beer and breweries, especially in London. There will always be pubs that stock and serve the same beers to the same customers, but they’re trying to tap into the drinkers and landlords who want something different and home-grown. I still find it unbelievable that I can walk out of a London brewery and pass pubs and off licenses within 2-3 mins walk that don’t stock the beer, and probably haven’t even heard of it.

When I visited they were finalising ideas for new bottles and labels, with the emphasis on sleek, and eye-catching designs that will stand out in bar fridges. Just as Meantime made their London Pale Ale and London Lager in standard 330ml bottles to appeal to pub and bar bottle-drinkers, that’s where Alex and Chris are looking to push now. They are already stocked in a few bistros in the local area, and with recommended food pairings also on the new labels, these would sit perfectly in restaurant fridges too. They want to try to entice lager drinkers over to the craft/real side of beer, which I support whole-heartedly.

When it comes to new brews, Chris and Alex often do test batches on a homebrew setup, and try experimental conditioning styles – they mentioned a mojito IPA, conditioned with lime, mint and white rum. Alex loved it, Chris wasn’t so keen. And they very nicely gave me a bottle of their Diamond Geezer red ale with ginger added that they did for the Antic chain of pubs over the summer. I have yet to try it.

Their next seasonal, a festive one this time, is named Jolly’s Revenge. It’s a Christmas spiced, oatmeal brown ale, and when I tried it out of the fermenter it was very rounded, malty, warming, spicy, smokey and hoppy. And their next Hopslinger is a Summit single hop, which had just finished casking and bottling when I arrived, but the yeast that was running off was very green and smelt pungently hoppy.

Since they started brewing, both their beer tastes have broadened. They used to be lager drinkers, now Chris says he loves dark beers and also drinks his beers warmer, which makes the flavours much more prominent, especially with the smokier, toastier beers.

The name By The Horns is something Alex thought up, and it sums up the attitude of 2 twenty-somethings stepping out of a comfortable 9-to-5 career progression to do something they are more passionate about. Before they were brewers, Chris worked in offshore purchasing and Alex worked in oil, and the experience in negotiating and buying/selling is serving them well as brewers.

The journey from the idea to where they are now wasn’t as smooth as they had envisaged – some aspects were easier than they thought, some were harder, and some they had never even considered. Supplying the beer to the pubs works quite differently to how they initially thought: it’s rare for a small brewery to get a contract with a certain pub or chain of pubs, instead they get requests from new pubs every week, but not neccessarily regular repeat orders. Then you have the logistics of transporting beer across London, sometimes with only certain delivery windows to hit. And when the pubs do get the casks, they often don’t put it on for weeks, or even months. All of this was a bit of an eye-opener, but neither of them regret the change of career. Chris did say, however, that they would have second throughts about starting a brewery in London now, with the huge number of breweries that have been founded even in the last year. And although there is an element of competition with the other brewers, there is also a spirit of collaboration and shared knowledge that binds them all together – take the annual collaborative brews organised by the London Brewers Alliance, most recently a stout brewed at The Kernel. Chris just hopes that all the new brewers maintain the high standard and reputation that has already been set in London by the established breweries.

They have brewery open days about once a month, with the Christmas one on Saturday 15th December, starting at 12pm. You can read about the two previous open days here and here. I recommend you come down if you can, have a drink in the brewery, see the mash tun and fermenting vessels and meet the brewers. I am very much looking forward to warming myself on a few pints of Jolly’s Revenge. And a Hopslinger or two as well while I’m there.

Categories: Beer, Brewery, Brewfile, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Clarence & Fredericks – Brewfile

These guys could currently claim to be London’s newest brewer, but there are so many popping up all over the capital that by the time I’ve finished this sentence, I’m sure another one will have set up shop on a trading estate somewhere.  Clarence & Fredericks started brewing in the middle of October 2012, and when I went to visit, had just casked brew number 5. So very young indeed. (Incidentally, for pics of the brewery from empty shell to working unit, plus the family brewers themselves, check their Facebook page here)

Founded by couple Duncan Woodhead and Victoria Barlow, the idea was simply to do something which they were passionate about. And Duncan is clearly very passionate about brewing.

His first contact with beer was in his parent’s pub in Worcester, and as a teenager he started helping out on the odd day at a local microbrewery. His payment was a few pints and a sandwich in the nearby pub at lunchtime while the wort was left to be cooled and run off into the fermenter.

Duncan moved to the States when he was 22 to do a masters in history, before moving back over the pond to Edinburgh – where he started getting involved with CAMRA – then Newcastle and finally London in 2008, when he met Victoria.

A year later, their son Freddie was born, and Duncan felt he needed a change of career – they were both working for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (and still are, part-time). The couple discussed some options, and Duncan decided he wanted to brew. He was taken on a couple of days a week at the WJ King brewery in Horsham, and also started experimenting with his own recipes on an all-grain homebrew setup. He used this time to see how a bigger brewery functioned, how he could scale up his homebrew recipes, and learn anything that could help him in his own enterprise from head brewer Ian Burgess. In 2011, after a year at WJ King, the couple set up their own business and Duncan trained at BrewLab at the University of Sunderland. When the course ended,  the planning of the brewery started in earnest. When it came to finding a name, the couple wanted something classic-sounding but that also meant something to them, and rather than use their surnames, they took a slightly different angle: they chose the street they live on and the name of their now 3 year old son.

With Victoria’s background in PR and communications, it seemed natural that she would handle a lot of the sales, branding and marketing while Duncan focused on the beer itself.  He brewed over 30 test batches in the kitchen of their Sutton house in the 18 months running up to the brewery’s launch, trying out different beers and finalising recipes in order to be scaled up to their 10bbl plant. And Duncan’s passion for history meant he was fastidious with the results of the research; he showed me a box containing 24 homebrew bottles, all with hand-written labels and scraps of paper wrapped around them with recipes, tasting notes and all sorts of brewing calculations scribbled on them (one being an old envelope). This is where he gets his inspiration for the seasonal brews –  his brewing record and recipe book, if you like. For example, their Christmas beer this year will be a stout based on a plum porter he made last year, but using redcurrants instead of plums for that festive twist.

They decided on premises in Neville Road in Croydon, and the equipment was supplied and fitted by John Trew from Oban Ales, and while the brewery wasn’t spic and span when I visited (still bits of building equipment here and there) Duncan assured me that what matters is the insides of the vessels, not the outside. And the brewery is producing beer – good beer – so a tidy up can wait.

Their 2 regular brews are a Best Bitter and a Golden Ale. The former is a session ale which is brewed without the ubiquitous crystal malt, which makes it feel thinner in the mouth, but the 4.1% ABV brings up the rear with a nice warm finish. And the sample I was given as Duncan showed me around the brewery, though young, was still very drinkable and full of earthy, caramel flavours. Their Golden Ale bursts with hoppy aroma and flavour. Very much my kind of ale. Although the hop shortages in the US meant that Duncan had to alter his initial recipe slightly for his first brew as there was no amarillo available. And I’m sure he’s not the only brewer who’s had to substitute when it comes to those fruity and extremely popular hops at the moment – hopefully the much talked about new UK hops will fill the place of those big new world hops. And their only seasonal so far was a Smoked Red, which won first prize at the Wallington Beer Festival earlier this year.

He currently brews 1 batch per week, which is just over 40 casks to get out there to the drinkers that want it. And that’s the hardest part about being a brewer, according to Duncan. Actually getting pubs to take your beer. Obviously, most pubs won’t just take beer from anyone, and until you have a reputation its difficult to get pub owners to take a punt on a 70-odd quid cask of beer. But they must be doing something right as the list of pubs that they’re supplying is growing by the day, and among the names written on the whiteboard when I visited were The Hope, The Southampton Arms, The Holborn Whippet and The Rake. And this was only a week after their official launch in the cosy back room of The Gunmakers, where Duncan was enthusing about his beer to publicans, bloggers and other influential beer folk, while Victoria spoke about their philosophy and plans for the future.

Duncan spoke about trying to get into his local Wetherspoons, so they are obviously trying to get a real foothold in the south London and north Surrey area. He describes himself more as a local brewer than a craft brewer and is clearly proud to be brewing in London, and specifically Croydon. And next on their agenda is to open a brewery shop on the premises too – initially selling cask beer in takeaway containers, then moving on to bottles and brewery merchandise.

It’s always good to see passionate brewers, and these guys certainly fit the bill. Speaking to either of them, you immediately get sucked in by their dedication and excitement for their beer. And for Duncan, the best part of the job is when he can see someone in a pub enjoying a pint of his beer. To know that he created that from a balance of 4 ingredients makes it all worth while.

Check their website, twitter and facebook for up-to-date listings of where you can find their beers. Definitely seek them out.

Now I’m off to track down the last of the Smoked Red…

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London Brewfiles

First off, I’m a big fan of a portmanteau and like to use them when I can. They save time.

So this is the start of what I hope will be a series – I’d like to do a “Brewfile” (that’s a brewery profile) on all the London brewers and interview them and get a more rounded picture of why they started, what they love about beer and brewing, their thoughts on this so called “craft” movement and where they see the future of their beer.

Keep an eye out for the first 2 in the series, Clarence & Fredericks from Croydon, and By The Horns in Tooting in the next few days.

Categories: Brewery | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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