Sambrook’s Brewery in the heart of south London
I know I usually blog about wine but what’s more traditional then real English cask ale in the heart of London? Being an American and a winedrinker primarily, I’ve never really gotten into the whole ale thing but I was given the chance to tour Sambrook’s brewery in Battersea to learn more about this very English beverage. At one point, London was a huge producer of English ales but most breweries have closed, with Fuller’s in Chiswick being the only major brewery still in operation. Duncan Sambrook just thought it was plain wrong that London had only one brewery.
Duncan had a vision to open his own London based brewery. By a stroke of luck, he met and partnered up with David Welsh, formerly of Ringwood Best Bitter, to open up a twenty barrel plant in Battersea. The place has only been in operations 4 months but they are doing gangbusters. Real English Ale is made with only 4 ingredients, water, malt, yeast and hops and the cask ale is similar to champagne with it’s second fermentation, it’s technically “alive” when it leaves the brewery because it’s not pasteurized so the yeast is still able to work it’s magic. I found out that the ale even “ages” in the bottle and although it has a limited shelf life, it does improve with age. I guess you could say it’s an accelerated version of aging wine. They also use isinglass to fine it, just like wine. I was liking the sound of this ale more and more.
During our tour we got to see the malt before it’s ground up, they aim to use as many traditionally produced ingredients as possible and Duncan told us all about how the malt was roasted and then turned by hand for 3 days with a special pitchfork! That was pretty cool. He also showed us the hops, they use 3 to give their ale it’s distinctive flavours- Fuggles, Goldings and Boadicae (they sound like a law firm to me). Boudicea was specially produced for English ale making. We even got to stick our noses into the bags to get a good sniff. Hops in their natural state can have very pungent aromas. It’s a bit tough to describe – they ranged from a cow pasture to grassy, herby smells, the Fuggles was the most, um, aromatic.
Check out the video for a quick tutorial on hops and their smells
(I think the malty smells in the video came from the malt behind me!)….
Afterwards, our charming host Charlie McVeigh, who is a big fan of Sambrook’s ale, invited us to his pub The Westbridge in Battersea for oysters and stout! Not to mention some tasty lambchops. We even got to try Porterhouse stout made with crushed oysters. Too bad I’d already eaten all my oysters by the time this bad boy came about but it was surprisingly light. That’s the thing about these stouts, they may look thick as mud but they certainly don’t taste like it.
And what about Sambrook’s Wandle Cask Ale, you ask? Well, even though I’m no expert, it was delish! The colour was most enticing (see video above), it looked like a glass of golden honey. I was amazed at how clear it was even though it hadn’t been filtered. Sipping on it, at first I was surprised at the sweetness of it. They call it bitter but I’m not sure why because this was anything but, gorgeous, slightly honeyed, fruity and then waves of toasted organic brown bread coming at you. The flavours were really intense. I was really diggin’ it. From what I gathered, all English cask ale isn’t this good so I’m not going to torture my tastebuds but I will keep an eye out for Wandle Cask Ale. You can find it in a lucky few London pubs including The Westbridge in Battersea or contact Duncan at Sambrook’s Brewery.