Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A Tale of Two Breweries

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.


Anonymous said...

If the beer's good, as you say it, I'm sure it'll do well.
I can't say I've heard of them before, so I expect they are under the radar.
Your mention will not harm them. JC

John West said...

I really care about beer - but this year I've got to the point where I can't keep up with London's seemingly endless tide of new breweries. Perhaps I've become an old fart myself before my time, but I'm settling for tried-and-tested more and more rather than overpriced novelty.

An Anonymous Boozer said...

I wasn't that impressed by Southwark Brewing Company to be honest, though I've not tried the Imperial Stout yet. Of the 'newer' breweries along the Bermondsey Mile, I think Fourpure are the most impressive (and not stupidly overpriced as I recall).

I can't fathom why some of the weaker session/table beers along the mile are charged as they are. The Kernel I think still have reasonable on-site prices (especially considering how much they cost elsewhere), but £6 for that 2.8% 'table' porter at Anspach and Hobday I just can't understand.

And why on earth Brew By Numbers require a bloody glass deposit to drink there is beyond me.

Erlangernick said...

If double-priced, Yankee-wannabe keg beer starts replacing crap keg beer, then I guess I'm very much "meh" on the issue. If, OTOH, this stuff starts knocking cask beer out of places, then I'd be upset.

We should band together and form a club to foster and protect cask beer from this new threat.

DavidS said...

It's maybe a bit of a tangent, but I wonder if part of the appeal of keg to new-wave crafty types is that if you fancy something properly hoppy (or otherwise untraditional) then you've got a far better chance of finding it with no fuss from the keg lines rather than the cask lines. As in, there seem to be quite a few traditional cask ale brewers - who are often perfectly good at what they do otherwise - who'll glance at an unopened bag of citra on the other side of the room at some point during their fermentation and then call the beer "Extreme Hop Terror IPA" or something. Whereas if a small brewery are kegging stuff then you suspect that they probably know the difference between a hop monster IPA and an easy-drinking golden ale.

I don't think people actually rationalize it that much, but I think it does influence people's thinking. It's essentially mode of dispense used as an indicator of style and quality. (Which is arguably the same line of thinking that got CAMRA started in the first place...)

John West said...

I think DavidS makes a reasonable point here.

All the more so given the (proportionally, given number of pubs) relatively poor cellaring to be found in London.

Flabby, warm, over-vented cask is bad in any situation. But it affects the hoppy pale earlier than it affects, say, best bitter (I reiterate this is BAD IN ALL SITUATIONS).

As an aside, while condition is more important than any of the below, I am considerably more pro-sparkler than I used to be having visited excellent pubs using them in the North.

A good publican will condition the beer to take account of the sparkler - so there will not be a dead pint. The implacable opposition of many southerners to sparklers is that it is often - in our part of the country - sharp practice to put a sparkler on beer past its best in order to give the impression of decent condition. This is bad beer to begin with, but the sparkler made it worse.

Unknown said...

I know you've played the 'tongue in cheek' card but why spoil an otherwise decent blog post about a brewery that's barely on the radar of most people let alone been blogged about by us enthusiasts by marginalising young folk who enjoy growing facial hair and prefer their jackets a little tighter fitting? It seems to go into every London post of yours and it takes away from the good stuff. Just let them enjoy their beer!

As for A&H they've been around for almost a year now so are established and have built a name for themselves. Generally I find it more family orientated than the other Bermondsey breweries (they also do a cracking G&T in there) but when I was in there very recently I was drinking table porter at £2.50 per 2/3rd measure, so I'm not sure where this £6 pint has come from...

I think Southwark will be a lot busier next time you're down here, especially as you've helped spread the word that they exist...

Tandleman said...

Ah Matt.Two, or maybe three things. I am correct about the prices. I know. I was there. £2 a third for all drafts. I asked E and that was her correction too. Your pricing would make t even cheaper than Southwark and it wasn't.

As for my ribbing of hipsters, that's my idea of (occasional) fun. I have not been writing my blog to make a career, persuade people to drink beer (though that comes into it) or to please you - or indeed anyone else. I do it for me. For my own amusement and as a challenge to put things across to people in my way. Blogging should be annoyingly individual in my opinion.

Don't worry though. I'll probably get bored of hipsters soon, though they still for the moment are hugely fascinating to me.

Tandleman said...

Oh and another thing Matt. I last mentioned beards in June this year in an otherwise positive article about Mother Kelly recommended to me by you. There was one passing reference to hipsters some time before that but only using the word. Nothing else for many months.

I confess to remarking in my Indyman article that there seemed to be less hipsters in Manchester than London.

So maybe you just think I do?

Tandleman said...

Response one should say "recollection" of course.

Steve said...

I've been to A&H many times and my recollection of the prices is closer to Matt's, though I think the glasses were 330ml rather than 2/3. Thirds did not appear to be on offer.

That said, I've not been in for a month or perhaps two.

Back then people were queuing up Druid Street. Revised pricing, which I'll therefore have to take your word for, might therefore reflect demand far outstripping capacity.

Which wouldn't be an enormous surprise, since the beer is some of the best in the country right now.

Tandleman said...

Steve: Pretty sure I'm right, but maybe it was halves that were £2 each? My eyesight isn't what it used to be. Looked like thirds. Surely they wouldn't be illegally selling 330 ml on draught?

Either way it seemed more costly than its neighbour, but pricing wasn't my main point, popularity was.

ABrewHaHa said...

Sadly I can't enthuse about Southwark Brewery, when I went a few weeks back I thought the beers dull and listless. Maybe it was a case of early days and things have improved. But first impressions count.
Thoroughly enjoyed doing the mile and would recommend it as an enjoyable way to spend Saturday afternoon. Some great beers, even if a bit pricy,

Anonymous said...

I think you will find A+H beers are probably the dearest beers around London.Probably they were busy because they brew better beer.Price is not something that seems to bother the young London drinkers.Nor sparklers although I am with you on that.London beers need sparklers.cheers john

Rocket said...

Ron- just back from London weekend break , these breweries where a little to far out from my Kentish town hotel. But Camden town brewery tap is a great place to sample along with the southampton arms and the superb (newly refurbished) rose and crown .

Tyson said...

Good stuff. You'll be happy to know that I agree with your assessment of Southwark: the Best is too old fashioned for my palate but it is what it is.

Don't let the kids send you off running to Specsavers just yet. When I went to A&H it was £3 for a glass or you could have a third of cask and a third of keg for £5.So £6 a pint is right in the ballpark.

Tandleman said...

Cheers Tyson. I thought I was right hut Matt had me doubting myself. Tsk!

Stonch said...

Setting aside price, I'm surprised at the kind words for Anspach and Hobday's beer above. Before the brewery first launched I was given a bottled sample of something Belgian and was very impressed. All downhill since then, and others have said the same to me. The atrocious beer I pictured in my own recent post on London Murky was A&H.