A brief look at some of London’s best brewers, by Jon Falcone
I was recently invited to the Old Meantime Brewery in Greenwich to get a taste for their new seasonal ale, the Bohemian Dark. Following a tour of the brewery with brewer extraordinaire Rod Jones (pictured right) - I had no idea brewing was such a science - a gang of eager taste-adventurers akin to the Bash Street Kids assembled to quaff down the new offering.
Made from Czech yeast and roasted malts, this is a dark, rich brew that has lots of low-end flavours, liquorice, coffee, and chocolate but it also has that lovely, smooth Pale Ale creaminess. Meantime is a relatively young brewery started in 2000 but has grown rapidly of late. Its ales and lagers are now available in over 400 outlets and some major supermarkets.
It’s great to see a local brewery becoming a national hero for beer lovers. The South London brewer offers some rather designer seasonal ales in bottled form as well that would easily challenge wine for depth and range of flavour and would accordingly make great gifts in their rather fancy fluted bottles.
With this in mind, and in tribute to London Fashion Week, here’s a top selection of other fashionable London brewers whose wares are certainly worth a sample.
Fullers – ‘London Pride’ (4.1% - available at The Iron Duke pub in Mayfair)
The grand dame of London brewing, Fuller Smith & Turner (as it is known today) started in 1845, though the company’s first incantation started in 1829. Brewing out of Twickenham for over 350 years, Fullers has not only helped make Twickenham the ale capital of the city but has brought some well loved London ales such as London Pride, ESB and Seafarers Ale.
The Iron Duke pub on Avery Road (just opposite and down a bit from a Paul Smith sale shop) is a thin but long L-shaped pub that is adorned with old photos and offers a rich, creamy, pint of London Pride that always gives a surprisingly satisfying fullness for a 4.1% ale. Having twice won CAMRA’s Champion Best Bitter, London Pride has become as much a brand as a drink – so much so that even bawdy Top Gear chap James May has been associated with the noble drink on an advertising campaign.
Ha’penny Brewing Company Limited, ‘London Stone’ Best Bitter (4.5% - available at the Marquis of Cornwallis, 31 Marchmont Street - Bloomsbury)
A comparative baby in the brewing world and run by the duo of Chris Penny and Gavin Happe, this brewery started in 2003 and is only now beginning to look at providing beers outside of kegs for trade. Their brews are full of flavour that are turned out of their Cuckoo Hall Brewery which lies on the border between East London and Essex.
A step inside the Marquis of Cornwallis pub for a drop of the London Stone provides a seriously smooth red bitter that uses three English hops to match a malty taste with a slight zest. This is malleable ale that can comfort when huddled against cold weather and is also seriously refreshing on a pleasant day; a fine drop from a developing new brewery.
Twickenham Fine Ales, ‘Summer Down Under’ (3.9% - available at The White Swan pub, Riverside - Twickenham)
Head over to the rural chic of West London, more specifically Twickenham (or Twix, to locals) and you’ll find all manner of cosy pubs offering some fine sups from the Twickenham Fine Ale brewery. The White Swan pub on the river is particularly picturesque, on the riverbank (avoid on days after international rugby matches though – unless you like seeing burly men pull each other’s pants down and then vomit, usually whilst singing).
Another baby brewery opened in 2004 and a three man operation (Steve Brown is the brewery manager, Tom Madeiros the brewer and Anthony Pringle the drayman) the Chiswick Fine Ale company sit just north of Chiswick Green, producing 100 firkins per week of cask-conditioned ales with no adjuncts included.
The Summer Down Under is occasional ale made from Australian and New Zealand hops that provides a light, thinner ale with a bright golden colour and crisp taste that goes down very easily. It’s a perfect summer ale.
Iron Duke image courtesy of Flickr user mike_smith's_flickr.