I was alerted by my good friend Tyson about a new brewery on the Bermondsey Mile. Tyson being at the cutting edge had been there and noted that it wasn't a keg and bottle effort as most of them are, but a cask brewery. Sounded interesting and being at the Tower Bridge end of the mile, it's just a twenty five minute walk from my London place. So we went on Saturday.
Situated in Druid Street, in the inevitable railway arch and sandwiched between a bakery (see what I did there) and a car repair shop, sits Southwark Brewery. This straightforward name gives you an idea of what to expect. It's quite a big arch and sported a bar to the right with four handpumps and the usual benches and a toilet stuck near the door. Handy. We got there at one and it wasn't that busy and in the hour or so we were there, it changed customers more or less, but remained fairly quiet and it was noticeable to this old git, that it was mostly a more mature customer that was attracted. In other words, other old gits, though there was a few younger ones, wondering probably how they'd got into this fine mess. We sat nearest the mouth of the arch and watched the various hipsters as they wandered up and down Druid Street. One or two looked in and found something wanting and moved on. Some were bolder and came in, looked round, then buggered off.
There were four beers on. Each served, Glory Be, by a swan neck and a sparkler, for that is the policy. I was warming to them. I didn't care much for Bermonsey Best which was reassuringly brown and a decent enough drink if you wanted a malt forward, fugglesy type thing. But I didn't. However it was to be all good news after that. I liked LPA which was indeed hoppy with citrus notes, Hop-X (I think - I didn't take notes) was a blend of English and American hops, was pale and it worked well and leading the pack at 5.6% was Gold, which just has a sweet hint of alcohol and was a decent drink. Beers were available in thirds, halves, two thirds and pints and were all under £4 a pint. Enjoyable and reasonable priced. There were bottles too, including a Russian Imperial Stout at 8.6%. The bottled take away service was doing quite well. Staff were pleasant and happy to chat.
Now I've said it before and will do so again. Will those drinking craft keg please stop saying it costs just a little bit more. We left Southwark Brewery and walked the few yards to Ansbach and Hobday where the beard and too small jacket brigade were in full swing. It was, as we say in Scotland, "hoaching". Busy. We had a look and noted that all beers were £6 a pint - even those at 2.8%. No chance. Like a News of the World reporter in a knocking shop, we made our excuses and left.
So what's it all about? The lure of superior keg beer, the attraction of being with fellow types? Why was one heaving and the other, a stone's throw away not? Will cask beer crack the Bermondsey Beer Mile? You tell me.
But it isn't all bad news. At least they'll have me from time to time. Cool and sparkled beer in London? Why ever not?
This is of course a tongue in cheek post, but I really do wonder. Is it just that Southwark Brewery aren't on the radar yet I do hope so.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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