An ode to West London
Sarah Sinclair explores the West of London
Saturday 20 November 2021
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Talk about the London beer scene and you’ll most likely picture the gritty yet gentrified streets of the city’s East End, with murals, hip independent shops and IPA pouring in every bar. The west, conversely, is an after-thought; a bastion of the mainstream, of slugs, lettuces, pitchers and pianos. Yet this view holds less water with each passing year, as West London fills with modern brews, micropubs and – most importantly – a real sense of craft beer community. It’s this community, which welcomed me with open arms at the very start of my craft beer journey, that make West and South West London my favourite parts of the city.
Lucy Do welcomed me into her business, The Dodo Micropub, as a novice beer drinker, a freelancer and a woman in beer, but to be honest anyone and everyone could expect the same warm reception. Opening this cask-focused micropub after being made redundant from her city job took a huge leap of faith, but not even Lucy could have anticipated how The Dodo would act as a nucleus for local craft beer lovers and other artisanal businesses.
“Community is a word that gets thrown about a lot these days, but in this part of London it’s really very tangible and powerful,” she says. “Patrons of The Dodo Micropub are collectively and affectionately known as the Hanwell Massive and they are passionate, kind and get that human connection and community is everything. I really advocate for the West London beer and wider small business community.”
Among its accomplishments, the Massive has thrown a 70-year-old his first ever birthday party and helped a young lad build a train track around the pub so his Thomas the Tank Engine could go on an adventure. They’ve cried with joy when Lucy and the pub won awards and been at the heart of many amazing events; they see it as their pub, and are as invested as any landlord.
From Ealing to Battersea, Mondo Brewing Company sells the lion’s share of its beer within a six mile radius of the brewery’s Nine Elms home. It runs group bike rides and runs with its neighbours as well as taking part in fundraising events for local causes.
Co-founder Thomas Palmer says: “We've been lucky enough to be there and be the place where our friends and neighbours have celebrated some of the most important events of their lives. From birthday parties to graduations, marriages, anniversaries and myriad other momentous occasions, our local community has chosen either our taproom or our beer specifically to play a role in that experience they're sharing with loved ones.”
Linda Birch is a founder of bottleshop Brewery Market, and agrees that West London’s diverse, welcoming and family-focused community is what makes it so attractive: “The people around you want you to do well, especially the business community. The craft beer community knows no borders though; I have seen their support to be beyond neighbouring boroughs.”
Brewery Market is a fresh take on the bottleshop model, not a bar or a pub, but a safe place to discover and explore new beers. It was here I experienced my first bottle share, where I learnt how to taste beer properly, had many laughs and developed a benign addiction to Linda’s range of hop-infused ‘Beertanicals’ balms and lotions. Linda says: “West London and Twickenham have many traditional bars and pubs, places to drink pint after pint. We wanted to give people a different perspective on beer.”
Getting a job at The Black Dog Beer House in Brentford showed me how smart, entrepreneurial people who care about community and quality products can really make an impact. The pub’s owners were among the first to recognise the opportunities that West London presented.
Pete Brew, co-owner of the pub and Fearless Nomad brewery says: “West London and its inhabitants have a great vibe. It's inclusive, friendly and unpretentious…West London has such a cross-section of different people that it brings us diversity, and in a pub environment diversity is vital. Craft keg beer sits side-by-side with traditional cask ale and cider; there doesn't seem to be as big of a divide amongst drinkers which is pleasing to see.
“I think we bring some diversity of our own, in the form of a brewpub which is just a bit different from the more traditional pubs in the area around us. Our range of beer, ciders and wine along with our food is different from the norm. By choosing to build our first business in the area, we are hopefully providing another reason to visit West London and helping build its reputation as a destination worth travelling to.”
Another potential draw for those tired of the urbanism of East London is the abundant greenery found in the west. Frankie Kearns, co-founder of The Park Brewery in Kingston Upon Thames says: “We’re all about open spaces, in particular Richmond Park, hence The Park Brewery. West London has more green space… there’s more of a countryside feel generally. We live and work over here with our kids, and family life is a big part of being in West London for us.”
Mondo’s Thomas Palmer says the overall vibe of West London is more patient, low-key and relaxed. “London is a dynamic city,” he observes. “And each cardinal direction offers something different and unique and new. The West, for us, seems just a bit more low-key, a bit dialled back and certainly somewhere we feel really comfortable. We love all of London, but SW8 is truly the home of Mondo Brewing Company.”
The West London beer scene has grown more slowly and isn’t as saturated as the east, but it’s community is strong and loyal. The Park Brewery’s Frankie says: “The West London beer scene has come a long way since we started back in 2014. I love the gradual change that’s happened. It feels pretty solid. It may have taken a while to convince West Londoners to try new, different beers, but now they’re on board I think the loyalty and commitment are strong and here to stay.”
West London had a traditional brewing history, which helped attract these businesses to the area, but with the growth in popularity of hoppy styles there is now a true mix of drinkers coming together.
Frankie continues: “People didn’t have the taste or interest in new hoppy beer styles, but that was probably because there was no one selling it over here. The wheels have slowly turned and now there’s plenty of interest and buzz about new beers and microbreweries…We’re a pretty varied bunch of breweries over here. Big, tiny, modern, traditional, quirky, casky, new and old. There’s something for everyone and it’s been really exciting to play a part in the general mood change from traditional beer drinkers to a more open-minded crowd, up for trying new styles.”
West London may be bustling but its beer scene still has room to grow. “It’s growing all the time, getting better every day and it’s still not reached its full potential,” says Linda. Pete of The Black Dog Beer House and The Dodo’s Lucy echo this sentiment, noting that West London still needs more independent beer businesses to meet demand, and predicting that new, small bars and breweries will be welcomed with open arms.
Mondo’s Thomas Palmer confirms this played a part in his own story: “We were definitely drawn to the underrepresentation of small and medium-size breweries in the Southwest. We had no intention of being a part of the Beer Mile and found Hackney and Shoreditch saturated…with the new Northern Line extension and the Power Station opening in phases, we're having a pretty good time down here.”
No longer playing second fiddle to the railway arches and post-industrial cool of the city’s East End, West London has emerged with a character all its own, with exceptional breweries, innovative pubs and bottleshops, and a welcoming, inclusive and passionate craft community. As the Pet Shop Boys once sang, “go west, life is peaceful there”. But not too peaceful.
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