Posts Tagged With: brewery

By The Horns Christmas Do

Just a quick post on last Saturday’s open day at By the Horns.

Christmas jumpers and mince pies abounded in the small Wandsworth brewery, welcoming all to the warming embrace of their London craft beers. 

Their Christmas beer Jolly’s Revenge was very moreish – it’s an oatmeal brown ale spiced with chilli and ginger. It was deep and malty, with a lovely sweet-spiced flavour that was perfect for a cold afternoon. The Hopslinger Summit was everything an American-style IPA should be – tangy, citrusy hops at the front with a nice clean, but not too dry finish. And, as an extra, they had a brand new red rye Hopslinger that had the trademark rye spiciness, but also a sweet finish that balanced it very nicely.

My recollection grows hazy of the later hours of the evening as I think I was quaffing the beers a little too quickly for my constitution. And I was slightly tender the next morning. But it was worth it.

I do remember Alex telling me that they will be launching a definitive Hopslinger next year, rather than the monthly specials, which will be packed with a variety of hops to give it a complex but balanced flavour. I’m looking forward to that one.

Right, back to work now I guess.

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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.

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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.

 

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North London Beer Expedition

There are 2 beer shops that I have long heard about but had never visited as they are in north London, and I don’t usually have much business being in those parts. Which is unfortunate, given the crop of craft and real ale pubs up that way.

It was a lovely, sunny, autumnal day yesterday, so I decided to venture to the two hallowed beer shops of Kris Wines and Drinkers Paradise to see if they were up to all the hype I had read and heard about over the years.

On my way up north, I also popped in to St. Pancras station to have a look at Sourced Market, which I had seen listed as a stockist on the London Fields Brewery site. And very impressed I was too, a surprising selection for such a location: Camden, Moncada, London Fields, Beavertown, Windsor & Eton and Kernel from London, and a good range of real ales from around the country. The prices were a touch high, but not bad considering its location.

So on I went, up York road in the sunshine, past the now derelict York Road tube station, until I reached the parade of shops just before you get to Camden Road. And there, with its shutters down was Kris Wines. God damn it. Well, it was about 12:45pm, so I figured I’d walk to Drinkers Paradise and hope that Kris Wines would open up about 1pm.

Drinkers Paradise is a good little shop. Not blown away, but certainly a much better selection than your average off-licence. Possibly not worth a journey to go there specifically, I’d say, but pop in if you’re in the area. I got myself a Little Brew pale ale (a local Camden brewery), and Eistök pale ale (which I’m seeing around more and more).

So then I went back to Kris Wines and it was open! And, Lordy, what a shop. An overwhelming selection of beers from all over the world; a section of Belgian beers, a whole shelf devoted to Mikkeller, little nooks and crannies filled with craft beers. I could have spent hours and lots of money in there. But, I only had £6 on me (for reasons I won’t go into) and I had to carry what I bought down to Camden. So that limited me to 2 beers. One choice was the London Fields Love Not War because I have, as yet, not tried anything from them. The second choice was tougher and took me a good 15 mins to decide. I finally plumped for the Kernel Porter, as I seem to be exploring the darker beers at the moment (after trying the Sambrooks porter at their brewery bash – it’s opening up a whole new, roasted, toasted world to me!). Kris Wines is definitely worth the hype, and definitely worthy of a trip. Just make sure you take money and a means to carry your spoils, as it’s no fun having to choose only 2.

Then I strode off towards Camden to meet a few friends (with a brief stop to watch 6 middle-aged women trying to negotiate Camden lock with a narrow boat, whilst 2 guys from Amsterdam criticised their every move). The first stop was The Black Heart, as I had heard about their range of craft beers and real ales. The selection was pretty good (Camden, Darkstar, Moor, By The Horns, Brooklyn) but the setting wasn’t. You’re definitely in Camden. It’s also a venue upstairs and feels like it – a bit dingy, bad toilets and not great for a quiet afternoon drink. Still, we stayed to sample their wares, highlights being the Stiff
Upper Lip from By The Horns, and the Darkstar Revelation.

We wanted a bit of food so we ventured to the BrewDog just round the corner. The 5am Saint was very, very good. We ordered food – a pizza and a burger – which took nearly an hour to come. After asking a few times where the food was, the staff simply said it was on its way, not offering an apology. The food came, it was good, but as I’ve mentioned before, when that place gets busy it gets very loud. After the food we decided to call it a night, which was a shame as I didn’t get to try Hello My Name Is…Beastie which I’d heard a lot about. Perhaps I’ll have to pop back soon on a quieter night.

All in all, a lot of walking, a lot of beer, and a lot of discovery.

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Rocky Head Launch

I had a lovely afternoon today (after waking up a teensy bit hungover from an evening at Craft) visiting my favourite beer shop, Drink of Fulham for the launch of Rocky Head Brewery.

The new London brewery is based in Southfields, south west London (and about a 5 min walk from my flat) and is the weekend hobby for the two brewers, Steve and Pete, who are wine merchants Monday to Friday.

They are currently only brewing a Pale Ale while they build up their reputation and profile but will expand to other brews in time. The Pale Ale is, I think, one of the nicest beers I have tasted. Loads of hoppy flavour, as you’d expect from a pale ale, but a nice smooth finish that doesn’t grip your tongue like other pales can. Very well balanced, it’s a really good beer with bags of flavour, and so good to see something a little different from a local microbrewery.

They hand bottle and label themselves, and stamp each one with a “Bottled On” date, making it feel very hand crafted. Their artisan approach to brewing means that while they try to make each batch the same, differences in hop yield, malts and the small quantity of beer brewed will result in slight variations in each individual brew, giving an interesting variation. Much like the wines with which they are both well acquainted.

The beer was matched with various Gujarati snacks from Shrila, the owner of Drink of Fulham, who had enough faith in the brewery to host the launch before even tasting the beer.

The only tough part was then choosing which beers to take away. So to ease the pain, I had a Rocky Head Pale Ale while I perused. And now, as I’m writing this, I’m drinking the beers I purchased earlier today. Nothing like writing about beer while you drink it.

I will follow this fledgling brewery closely, I think they have a bright future ahead of them. And I will also be back to Drink soon to stock up on some more of their pale ale, and I recommend you do too.

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Bibacity Map of London

New page on the blog here, long term goal of doing a beer drinker’s guide to London. Send updates and suggestions please.

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Hook Norton Brewery Tour

When I was last in the Cotswolds with my wife and in-laws, we visited the Hook Norton brewery for a tour. We had a packed schedule so we opted for the 9:30am tour, I think. It was early anyway, on a crisp, cold morning that we pulled into the car park and looked at the beautiful, tall and somewhat ramshackle building that is the home of Hooky beers, surrounded by beautiful rolling Cotswold hills.

Since it was early, we were the only ones on the tour. We were taken through the brewing process and shown all the original machinery that was used when the brewery was originally built – lots of red-painted iron wheels, gears and drive shafts.  It’s an old brewery that works on gravity, so the water is stored in a tank at the top of the building and is allowed to flow down through the stages under it’s own weight. The same with the grain, hoisted up top and then is guided to where it’s needed.

A very interesting thing is that they have 2 mash tuns and 2 hop backs – one old and one new so you can see the brewing process. In new breweries its all sealed stainless steel, self-cleaning vats. The old mash tun has a perforated copper floor made up of numbered pieces so it can be removed for cleaning and put back. And the cleaning is done by hand, which we saw. The brewery worker didn’t look like he was having the best time, but being knee deep in hot spent grain in a copper tun doesn’t sound like the most pleasant thing in the world. And the older hop back was, if my memory serves me correctly, quite open with a chimney over the top so you could see the wort boiling with the hops. Very enlightening.
They use modern cooling now, but still have the large copper pans at the very top of the building that were used to cool the wort before the yeast is added. The slatted walls offer beautiful views of the fields and hills that surround the brewery.
We then ventured briefly into the fermentaion room, smelling that wonderful sweet, yeasty aroma, and seeing the sticky foam on top of the vats.

Then, off to the tasting room! Unfortunately, I was driving. And also, it was just before 12pm. But still, we tried everything they had to offer! Great tutored tasting of their range: all the standards, plus a seasonal or two. Lovely beers, simple but very tasty and wonderfully easy to drink.

Definitely a tour to try, good mix of the old and the new to really show you the brewing process. The tours are around the £10 mark, but for us that included tasters, a “Hook Norton Champion Drinker” badge, and a pint glass. An absolute bargain, if you ask me.

There is a small brewing museum above the shop that is free, and the shop is very nice and worth a visit even if you don’t do the tour. But do do the tour. It’s excellent.

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Meantime Brewery Tour

A couple of weeks ago I went to the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich to do the “Pie & Pint” tour. It was a great experience and excellent value – £30 for the tour, a very nice steak pie and as much beer as you wanted. I got there about half an hour early, was shown to the tasting room – pictured, showing a wonderful beer and glass collection – and promptly offered a drink. I was somewhat hungover, but the cool Pacific Pale Ale I had handed to me sorted me right out.
As the rest if the group arrived, we we’re given more beer and then the brewing process was explained by our great guide Jack. Then we we’re shown around the Brewery itself – a large room with huge stainless steel containers. Then for the tasting. Expert guidance and a diverse range of Meantime beers made for a very enjoyable experience.
Then the pie and more beer. Delicious!
We stayed, sipped and chatted to the very knowledgable Jack until 4pm, and eventually had to leave because the next group we’re coming in.
Over the last few years Meantime have grown in size and popularity, cropping up on tap in more and more pubs – which is a very good thing as their London Pale Ale and London Lager are both very crisp, refreshing and far too drinkable.
I can thoroughly recommend the Meantime tour to any beer fanatics, not so much for the tour itself but for the tutored tasting. Excellent value and insights
For more information, check out their website, pubs in London and also supermarkets – I’ve spotted their beers in Sainsburys and Waitrose so far. Very promising.
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