Brewery Open Day

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

By The Horns Brewery Open Day, Nov 2012

Three new beers were showcased at the Wandsworth brewery yesterday: Wolfie Smith, London’s Raspberry Coffee Stout and the latest in their Hopslinger IPA range, Willamette.

Wolfie Smith is a brown ale named after Robert Lindsay’s character in the 70’s sitcom Citizen Smith about a half-arsed communist in Tooting. The beer was a nice choice for the first drink of the day – malty, rich, with a grassy hop finish. A surprising amount of flavour for such a low ABV beer, probably a good session number. But I wanted something with a bit more punch and depth, so opted for the raspberry coffee stout. As the name would suggest, it has lots of delicious smokey, roasted coffee flavour but the raspberry sourness left it a little thin-tasting for my palate. But again, a big flavour profile for another low ABV beer (3.6%). They’re obviously trying to get taste and aroma over pure alcohol, which is refreshing to see after so many double and triple IPAs lately.

Next up, I went for their Bobby On The Wheat which I didn’t get the chance to try last time.  Cold, cloudy, fizzy, banana-ey, slightly sweet, and everything you’d expect of a wheat. Good, but I’m not sure I could have too many of them.

The time had come for the Hopslinger – a 6.2% range of American-style IPAs, with a different twist every month. This month it was the turn of Willamette. Not much hop on the nose, certainly not the pine or citrus I would have expected from a North American hop, much more subtle and grassy. A sip is like a mouthful of toffee and biscuits, with a big warm wash of booze at the end, and a crisp, dry finish. Not what I’d come to expect of a highly-hopped IPA, but very suited to a cold autumn evening in London. I spoke to Alex, one of the brewers, and he assured me they use the same malt base for all the Hopslingers, and late/dry hopped with lots of Willamette, but the caramel flavours just dominate this beer. Unexpected, but pleasant.

And then I went for a Diamond Geezer red ale and the Lambeth Walk porter, both of which are favourites for me. I had a bottle of the Diamond Geezer at home a few weeks ago but I have to say it was a shadow of the version straight from the cask. And the porter was as good as ever, warmed me up good and proper!

As I’ve said before, it’s great to be in the brewery, tasting the beer fresh from the cask or keg and talking to the brewers. The guys seem genuinely passionate about their  brews, and happily for them, their list of stockists seems to be growing by the day.

Their next open day is on Saturday 15th December, 12pm-8pm and they’ll have a spiced Christmas beer (which was in the fermenter) and I’m assuming their next Hopslinger installment (I spied “Summit” scribbled on their brewing schedule behind the bar, so I’m guessing that’s it). Put it in your diary.

Categories: Beer, Brewery Open Day | 1 Comment

By The Horns and London Fields Brewery Oktoberfests, and Ribs with Neck Oil!

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.


Categories: Beer, Brewery Open Day, Pub, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Sambrook’s Brewery Bash 2012

I’m a little hungover today as I write this, and that’s because yesterday was Sambrooks’ 4th birthday. The weather was good at the brewery in Battersea – a little chilly but lovely and sunny – and people were already milling around outside, sitting on hay bales and sipping on ale when we arrived. We handed in our tickets, received a pint glass and 6 tokens and headed into the brewery. Our first stop was into the main room of the brewery – the Brewery Bar – to have the first pint of the day, where the Pumphouse Pale Ale, Lavender Hill Pale Ale (a summer special) and Wandle were available. We all went for the Pumphouse Pale Ale, a deliciously drinkable, light, hoppy, clean beer with bags of fresh flavour.

We stood outside near the food, supplied by The Ginger Pig, which smelt very enticing – huge sausage rolls (standard, pork and stilton and lamb merguez), sausage buns from the BBQ (made with Sambrook’s Junction ale) and quiche. Whilst we enjoyed the sunshine and the Pale Ale, we discusses the merit of halves over pints – the half measures we saw around us were very generous! So, we went back to the  Brewery Bar to try the Lavender Hill, which is made with honey for a slight sweetness but still has a clean, bitter finish. Once again, very tasty. We tried a couple of the sausage rolls while we drank, which were delicious and matched the beer wonderfully.

We decided to explore the other bars – there were three in total – and popped our head into the porter bar (not yet, we decided) before heading upstairs to the Boadicea Bar over looking the brewery, and with a great selection: Wandle, Junction, Lavender Hill, and Pumphouse (both cask and keg, interestingly). We all went for the keg Pumphouse which served to make the beer crisper and more aromatic. Great for a sunny day.

We ventured back outside just as the music was starting. Didn’t catch their name but they were really suited to the setting and the atmosphere – fiddle, double bass, acoustic guitar, banjo and snare drum, plus 5 harmonising vocals – and did some great country and bluegrass songs as well as some inventive covers.

I also tried the Junction (a nice, deep, rich ale) and the porter, which was very drinkable (I’m not usually a porter/stout fan, but this was very light and smooth), before going back to the 2 pale ales.

By the time last orders came, we were all well lubricated but used up our last tokens on a final pint as people started to disperse.

All in all, the vibe of the day was really good and a combination of great beer, good music, tasty food, excellent weather and friendly staff made for lots of happy drinkers. Congrats to Sambrooks!

Now, I’m off to start cooking a steak and ale stew in the hope it might make me feel better…

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