Matthew Curtis shines a light on some breweries that he feels don’t get enough of the attention they deserve
Tuesday 11 February 2020
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There are a lot of breweries in London: 126 at the time of writing this article (according to the ever-useful resource, beerguideldn.com). Some of these are immediately obvious. The Kernel for example, is perhaps the most important brewery to emerge in the UK within the past decade. Pressure Drop, shacked up with Verdant at their bar, The Experiment, is another one of the (deservedly) hyped-few. Five Points is a further example of a brewery that has captured a lot of attention recently, notably due to their excellent cask ales, served in perfect condition at their Hackney pub, The Pembury Tavern.
But to consider a handful of headline grabbing beer-makers is to merely scratch at the surface of the brewing riches London so dearly clings to. I worry that so much talent within the capital’s beer scene goes unnoticed. This attitude may exist because a few years ago people were put off by the occasional sub-par beer, and subsequently haven’t experienced the vast improvements the majority of London’s breweries have made to their quality control as they’ve expanded and invested in their people and processes. Or it might be our fault for not shouting about them enough.
And that’s what I’m going to do here. My word count is limited, so I can’t tell you about all of the amazing breweries here in London. But this is as good a starting point as any, and you’ll be ready to get the full London experience next time you visit us. Here is a selection of some of my favourite London breweries I feel fly under the radar, and are far more deserving of your immediate attention.
ANSPACH & HOBDAY
Anspach & Hobday is a brewery that has never been interested in following trends. Sat near the start of the Bermondsey Beer Mile (their taproom will remain here despite production being relocated to Croydon due to an expansion in 2019) this is not a taproom you come to for the latest DDH juice-grenade. And while hoppier beers do appear on the menu, so do wonderful interpretations of German styles such as rauchbier and hefeweizen. Belgian-influenced beers such as the aforementioned patersbier also often feature, as do some of the most incredible porters, stouts and more recently a sublime bitter. If you’re lucky enough to visit over Christmas you’ll get to try their seasonal Pfeffernüsse Saison, spiced to taste just like the German festive treat.
I recently sat down with brewery co-founder Paul Anspach and after finishing a glass of their excellent Belgian-style pale, The Patersbier, I told him I didn’t drink enough of his beers. Unsurprisingly he agreed with me. Honestly I could wax lyrical about Anspach & Hobday’s beers for the entirety of this article—and that’s before I even mention their barrel-aged, Brettanomyces fermented beers. Next time you’re in London do yourself a favour and pay them a visit, it might just surprise you.
MONDO BREWING COMPANY
Mondo quite possibly has one of the best taprooms in London. It’s far easier to visit than you might imagine, too. Take a quick walk from Oval station on the Northern Line and you’re there (although if you’re really lazy you can jump on the P6 bus, which stops right outside). If you’ve been to a few London taprooms before you might be surprised when you arrive at this cosy little spot, complete with windows that allow you to look right into the brewery itself. It’s even heated, and there’s nary a railway arch in sight.
That’s not all that might surprise you here—Mondo has been working hard behind the scenes to hone its offering, which includes a complete rebrand as well as dialling in core recipes. And for the tickers there’s plenty of new ones to contend with. Start with a glass of Dennis Hopp’r; Mondo’s flagship West Coast pale will take you straight back to 2012 (or, if you’re an optimist like me ground you in 2020) with its snappy, clean hit of grapefruit and navel orange. After that, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, why not move on to an IPA such as Flute Logic, or the excellent It’s A Trap tripel. Whichever way you decide to go, it’s likely you’ll be more than pleasantly surprised when you do.
CANOPY BEER CO
While much of London’s beer scene is overlooked, perhaps no part is more so than South London—yes, beer south of the river does extend beyond Bermondsey. Among breweries like Orbit in Kennington and Villages in Deptford is Herne Hill’s Canopy Beer Company. Established in 2014 by Estelle and Matthew Theobalds, Canopy provides a touch of easy-going, family friendly vibes to an otherwise busy London scene. In fact easy-going is the perfect way to describe this little corner of South London, which feels a world away from the bustle of Hackney or the aforementioned, eponymous beer mile.
If you want to drink as the locals do then Brockwell IPA is what you should order. This bright and citrusy pale is beautifully balanced, with chewy malts that make it somewhat reminiscent of the classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. There’s often a few slightly more experimental brews on the menu too: imperial stouts infused with amaretti biscuits or raspberries and cacao nibs for example. What’s even better is the taproom is right around the corner from a branch of the famous Morley’s Fried Chicken, another essential visit when you’re in this part of town. Get yourself down to Herne Hill if you desire some tasty beer and seriously chill vibes.
If any London brewery deserves more hype and attention than they currently get, then it must be East London’s Hackney Brewery. It’s hard to believe that the brewery is close to being a decade old. Founded in 2011 by friends Peter Hills and Jon Swain, Hackney initially attempted to build itself a reputation on the back of more traditional beers, typically served on cask. It was when they decided to kick this idea squarely out of the window and into the adjacent Regent’s Canal that things really kicked into gear for them.
Hackney Brewery in 2020 is unrecognisable to the brewery they were when they first started out. Now you’ll find intensely hopped IPAs, gloriously tart fruited-gose and luxurious, indulgent imperial stouts among its range—all neatly wrapped up in some gloriously modern and colourful can artwork. They’ve made some cool friends too, spearheading 2019’s Skyline project, which saw a host of breweries from New York City such as Finback, Interboro and KCBC collaborate with some of the UK’s finest. This project is perhaps proving the scale of this little East London brewery's influence, most of which is down to the excellent beer they are making these days.
BEST OF THE REST
Even if you consider these breweries next time you visit us here in London, there is still a ridiculous amount of brewing riches to indulge yourself in, so while you’re at it don’t miss Affinity, Brick, Exale, Wild Card, Signature Brew, Villages, and let’s be honest, many, many more. I guess you’ll just need to visit us again real soon...
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