Members bottle share: London

The capital is home to some of the best craft breweries in the country, some may even argue the world.
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Anspach & Hobday, Bermondsey, London

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The capital is home to some of the best craft breweries in the country, some may even argue the world. But this vibrant and diverse brewing scene wouldn’t thrive without the enthusiasm and passion of its loyal community. For our latest bottleshare, London’s Beer52 members came together under Anspach & Hobday’s arch in Bermondsey for an evening with one of the founders, Paul Anspach who talked us through some of their more funky and quirky beers.

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After everyone was seated and pleasantries were exchanged, the first beer was cracked open. First up was the ‘Brett IPA’, part of the brewery’s experimental range. The beer utilises two popular US hops, Mosaic and Cascade, both staples of IPAs here and across the pond. But it’s the yeast that is the most integral factor, in terms of taste. Jack explained that brettanomyces yeast is extremely hard to control and it’s forever hungry, even able to break down wood, which has made it a scourge of the wine industry. The particular strain used in this IPA is the ‘Bruxellensis’ strain, which imparted a nose reminiscent of potpourri or perfume but left an unmistakable tart flavour and lingering finish.

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Another ‘bretted’ beer then followed. The ‘Blond Brett’ was a much gentler example of how Brett can affect beer. The yeast used for this beer was the ‘Lambicus’ strain, in a very simple Belgian blond recipe. This strain takes longer to weave its magic than Bruxellensis, and judging by the reaction and lack of scrunched up faces around the room, was much less challenging than the Brett IPA. Jeremy and his son Sam in particular preferred this beer, commenting on its ‘softer’ and ‘creamier texture’. Flavours detected were akin to German wheat beers and saisons; notably banana, cloves with a much drier finish than the IPA.

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Continuing this funky theme was the recent collaboration with Hawkes cidery, just a few doors up from A&H. The idea came from Hawkes’ head honcho Simon, who wanted to brew a ‘Graff’, which was first devised by Stephen King in his Dark Tower series. In the novels, it’s a drink that was 40% beer and 60% cider, said to be tart and refreshing. So A&H brewed a Berliner weisse then fermented the beer with a lot of Dabinett apples. The result is a punchy, sour apple beer, potent for its 4.4% abv. However, it seems the current trend of Berliner weisses, goses and geuzes hasn’t sold everyone. Monalisa from South Africa questioned the popularity of sour beer styles, especially in terms of their acidity, arguing against their sessionable nature. 

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Before there was a risk of the room being all soured out and having our collective tastebuds shot to pieces, we were given A&H’s porter, its flagship beer and one beer that Paul spoke of fondly, a constant reminder of the very roots of the brewery. The first uni homebrew that he and Jack (Mr Hobday) nailed. It’s not only a beer steeped in history and heritage but also the beer responsible for turning a dream into reality for Paul and Jack. And it is a glorious beer, with a lovely viscosity, mouthfeel and one chock full of notes from liquorice to molasses to dark chocolate.

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Rounding off the night was a beer that in many ways fused together the styles and flavours we had experienced beforehand. On first glimpse ‘Brother Sean’ was just a big stout, weighing in at 8.3%, it poured and looked unashamedly bold and rich. But it was much more nuanced. It’s brewed once a year and the yeast (which is different every batch) is left to mature in the bottle for 12 months before release. The yeast selected for this batch was the ‘Bastogne’ strain, common throughout Belgian dubbels and tripels. Flavours included chocolate, and forest fruit flavours with a slight tangy tartness.

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After all that, as the sun slowly withdrew below the shard, there was barely any more room left for beer. It was a wonderful summers evening, full of anecdotes, history, and spent with some truly excellent beer.

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