Twickenham Fine Ales
In partnership with Twickenham Fine Ales
Friday 08 February 2019
Share this article
Although Twickenham is England’s home of rugby union, there’s more to it than just rugby. The area also boasts an excellent hidden gem - Twickenham Fine Ales, a creative and well-established microbrewery.
Founded in 2004, not only is it the oldest microbrewery in London, it’s also the first brewery in Twickenham since 1906. Originally in a small unit with a 10-barrel plant, it expanded in 2012 to a much larger unit with a 25BBL kit and seven fermenters, which allows it to brew more than 65,000 pints a week.
Using world hops since the very beginning, and working to keep the cask ale trade afloat, Twickenham Fine Ales has made a remarkable name for itself over the last decade and a half. In part, this is due to its move to larger premises which has allowed it to grow its output and expertly brew even more of its award-winning ales. Ben Norman, one of the directors at Twickenham Fine Ales, comments: “Drinkability is the key thing for a lot of the beers that we brew. There’s a lot of beers out there where you can have one and think ‘that’s intriguing’, but we like to make interesting stuff that you can keep drinking.”
However, its growing popularity is also thanks to its brewery bar open days, which bring in literally hundreds of thirsty punters each time, desperate to sink a few pints of Grandstand amber session bitter (which won CAMRA’s Champion Bitter of London last year) before England and Harlequin home rugby matches.
As a consequence of this, the brewery’s publicity generally takes care of itself, since it’s an obvious place to go pre-match. At these times, it’s the Grandstand bitter that is the most popular, because people want to have a rugby-themed beer; you might as well go authentic if it’s available. Its best-seller at any other time of year though is its Naked Ladies hoppy golden ale*. But their Grandstand bitter, Ben remarks, is “a proper beer, and not just a brand - at rugby time a lot of people will rebrand and put a rugby name on one of their beers to get it into the market, but ours is all year round. It’s a fine pint, and not a gimmick. It’s about having authentic beer at all times.”
Other than its three regular and four seasonal beers, they also brew over 20 other beers a year, including monthly specials, London porters, lower ABV Mosaic pales, cask-conditioned saisons, and flavoured wheat beers. They experiment with the full spectrum, according to Ben: “we are viewed as a classic cask ale outfit, but we have done so many things over the years, more than people would expect. There’s always something different going on, and there’s more to us than meets the eye.”
For instance, its first collaboration brew was really quite innovative at the time; back in 2011 it joined forces with the now very much revered Brouwerij Alvinne from Belgium, which is famous for its sour beers and Flemish ales, to make a barrel-aged sour which was eventually bottled in 2013. Ben remarks: “ironically, back then, we were too far ahead of the curve. You didn’t see that many sour beers then!”
2018 was a particularly successful year for Twickenham Fine Ales. The brewery started to produce more in kegs and cans which, according to Ben “surprises people, because they’re used to seeing our casks”. Also, every year it brews a variety of small-batch stouts, and 2018’s were a fig stout (YUM) and a Jamaican ginger cake stout, which unsurprisingly went down a treat with customers.
While the brewery inevitably has big ties to rugby, Ben would like to emphasise: “beer is the critical part of what we do - it’s not just about rugby for us, we just happen to be in the home of rugby”.
*This is not a derogatory name. This beer is named after the statues of water nymphs in the gardens of the nearby York House, which have been known locally as the ‘Naked Ladies’ for many a decade. I was advised that, for the purposes of writing this article, googling “naked ladies Twickenham” was safe, and Ben was indeed correct.
Share this article