Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Beer Mile of London

Just like Edinburgh in Scotland has its Royal Mile, filled with tourist traps but also some serious whisky hot spots, London now sports a "golden mile" of excellent breweries, along the railway line south east of London Bridge in the rapidly developing district of Bermondsey in the Borough of Southwark.

Along the railway line, from 79 Enid Street, near the center of Bermondsey, to 22 Bermondsey Trading Estate in the south east, you'll encounter four relatively young craft breweries, three of them located in the arches below the railway! According to Google Maps, this distance is a 1.3 mile walk, which is close enough to a mile for me to label it The Beer Mile of London.

The Beer Mile of London, starting at Brew By Numbers (A),
with stops at The Kernel (B), Partizan (C) and at Fourpure (D)

At the end of November 2013, I made my first visit to this part of London and I was duly impressed. Here's a brief recount from my visit (thank you Stig, Chris and Ruth for the great company!).

The easiest way to get to Bermondsey is via the Jubilee Line to Bermondsey station (the stop after London Bridge). From there simply follow Jamaica Rd west towards the railway line, after 1/3 mile take left down Abbey St and pass underneath the railway. Take left down Enid St and let the fun begin at No 79.

The best day of the week to make this hike, in fact the only day you should consider, is a Saturday, because that is the day when all of the four breweries are open, allowing you to peek inside and to taste their beer at makeshift bars. But be there early to beat the crowds of locals (and other visiting beer geeks), though on sunny days it's actually pretty nice to stand outside the arches with a beer in your hand.

My own visit on Saturday November 30th was blessed with a clear blue sky and warming sunshine, so I had a lovely walk with a great view back towards The Shard by London Bridge. The nice weather made it possible to enjoy a few beers outside, even though London is fairly cold at this time of the year.

I actually started my trip at The Kernel, but I'll list the breweries as they are shown on the map above.

Brew By Numbers in a railway arch in Bermondsey

Brew By Numbers
Address: 79 Enid St
Open Saturdays from 9 am to 3 pm

Brew By Numbers aka BBNo was founded in March 2012 by the two London homebrewers Dave Seymour and Tom Hutchings, who take their inspiration from US craft beers and the great Belgian beer tradition. They launched their micro brewery in December 2012, using a 1-bbl (160 litre) pilot brewery to brew their beer at home.

In May 2013 they moved to their current location, at 79 Enid Street, where they started constructing a proper 10-bbl capacity brewery. When I visited at the end of November 2013, the brewery was ready and I was told it would go into production mode the following Monday (i.e. December 2). This increased capacity should make the BBNo beers more available in London, and hopefully elsewhere.

In their railway arch, BBNo offer visitors up to seven draught beers and a number of bottled beers. But there is hardly any space to sit down, so be prepared to stand when you taste their beer. I tasted their excellent Saison, made with Saphir and Lemon, and the nicely hopped IPA, made with Amarillo and Mosaic.

The Kernel in railway arch 11 at Dockley Road Industrial Estate

The Kernel
Address: Arch 11, Dockley Road Industrial Estate
Opening Saturdays from 9am to 3 pm

The Kernel, founded by homebrewer Evin O'Riordain, commenced brewing in 2009, which makes them four years old now but already a veteran in the vibrant brewing scene in London. The Kernel has attracted a large following of fans both in and outside England, thanks to the historical stouts and hoppy pale ales. As early as 2011, The Kernel made its first appearance at the prestigious Borefts Bier Festival hosted by Brouwerij de Molen in the Netherlands.

In 2012, when moving his brewing operations to its current location, O'Riordain donated his first commercial brewery kit to Partizan, helping that brewery get started. Thanks to this spirit of camaraderie and the rapid success of The Kernel, more micro breweries seem attracted to this part of London - making the "beer mile" a hot bed for new and exciting English brewing.

In Arch 11 in Dockley Road, a modern brewhouse with a capacity of 3200 litre per batch has been installed. There O'Riordain and his helpers brew three days a week, making The Kernel the largest of the four breweries along the beer mile. The Kernel primarily brew traditional English ales, such as pale ales, india pale ales, brown ales and porters, but they love to experiment with new hops and have made some stunning pale ales with New Zealand, Australian and American hops.

During my visit to The Kernel, they offered eight beers on draught at their tap room, which can easily seat 50-60 guests. I was also fortunate to be taken on a short tour of the brewery, by the assistant brewer from Sweden, and was particularly impressed by their barrel aging program and their focus on exciting new hop varietals.

The Kernel looks set to continue their growth and cement their position as one of the leading English craft breweries.

Partizan Christmas Stout and Andy Smith

Partizan Brewing
Address: 8 Almond Rd
Open Saturdays from 11 am to 5 pm

Located in a railway arch along Almond Road, Partizan is the smallest of the four craft breweries along the "beer mile", both in brewing capacity and in physical size of location. But I still found it to be the most varied of the four breweries, making beer in a number of styles, from a hoppy pale ale and IPA, to an excellent porter, a spiced sour ale, Belgian dubbel and Quadrupel.

Partizan Brewing is the brainchild of Andy Smith, a former brewer at Redemption Brewing, who decided to give it a go on his own in 2012. He was given for free the old 4-bbl (about 600 litre) brewing kit from The Kernel, when that brewery moved to its current location just up the railway line from where Partizan is. And Andy Smith has put that brew kit to great use, I could see the top fermting yeast bubbling over in the open fermenter.

During my visit, Andy Smith was at the brewery, serving beer to visitors. Unlike at the other three breweries, the Partizan beers are only available by the bottle, either to take home or enjoy on site, but the beers I tried were all amazing, in particular the 8.9% Christmas Stout which was brewed with sour cherries, spices and brettanomyces and aged for 6 months on oak! The Partizan 6 Grain Porter was also impressive, smooth and rich.

Fourpure Brewing Co has just opened its tap room

Fourpure Brewing Co.
Address: 22 Bermondsey Trading Estate
Open Saturdays from 11 am to 5 pm

Founded in March 2013, this young brewery is located in a big industrial warehouse not far from the railway line in South Bermondsey, with plenty of space to expand (unlike those breweries stuck in a railway arch). Even though the brewery just started up, it has secured a fairly experienced Dutch brewmaster in Hidde John Driebergen. Driebergen came straight from the job as brewer at Meantime Brewing in London, where he was responsible for some of the more adventurous Meantime beers such as the Cali-Belgian IPA. Before Meantime, he even put in some work at Brooklyn Brewery in the US.

The Fourpure brewhouse was bought used from Purity Brewing in Alcester, Warwickshire, England, and can brew both 30 and 60 hectolitre batches, and their current location can take many more fermentors and storage tanks, when that becomes necessary, placing Fourpure in a great position to expand when the demand goes up.

The Fourpure tap room officially opened to the public on the day of my visit, November 30th, with Daniel Lowe, one of the owners, serving beer with help from his sister-in-law. In the spacious tap room you can sit down at wooden benches and taste the Fourpure beers while enjoying the view of the brewhouse and storage tanks. The tap room has seven beer taps in all, but two of them were not used during my visit - they will be used for seasonal and special beers.

Fourpure Brewing Co claim to be inspired by adventure, but to me the beers on offer proved rather traditional (pale and amber ale, oatmeal stout, ipa) though of a high quality for such a young brewery. Their Amber Ale, a style that was popular in the 1990s but is now hardly brewed anymore, was really well made. However, my favorite that night was the tasty 4.2% abv Session IPA - rich in hops for such a low ABV brew but still balanced and very drinkable.

View along the railway arches in Bermondsey

For more photos from this trip please visit this Flickr set.

7 comments:

  1. Great post, one which has made up my mind to visit this area, and pick up some beer from some of the breweries featured, and tap rooms what an excellent idea.

    David

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  2. And now Anspach & Hobday has opened up near Brew By Numbers, making it 5 in a row! A good Saturday, if you ask me.

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  3. Superb - thanks for this. Shall be recreating your route tomorrow (and possibly then adding Brew Wharf at Borough Market, making five breweries in all).

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  4. Great post... That stretch of railway is one of my favorite parts in London.

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  5. great post thanks. Would any of these be open Friday afternoons?

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  6. @Drew: No, I don't think. These breweries are too small to both brew and cater to visitors at the same time, so it seems they've all chosen to take Saturday off from brewing to cater to visitors at their respective breweries. At least that was the case back in November, when I was there.

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  7. Great article. I gotta go :)

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