As a recent milestone approached, I decided a cultural fact finding mission was appropriate. So the Bermondsey Mile (or part of it) was duly selected. I have watched with a mix of awe, amazement and sheer astonishment as the London craft beer movement has developed, and been replicated in other places. Out have gone any previous limitations, and we have such a range of beers available. I am a bit old school, in that as much as I love trying different beers, I generally like it to be moreish, and I do still enjoy a few pints of session ale, in a pub, where the conversation flows as richly as the beer. So wrapped up warm, we headed off into Marylebone, then across to Borough Market for some blotting paper, as some stronger than average beers were anticipated. Good to see a range of Hooky beers on sale there.
The first Brewery stop of the day was to the famous Kernel
Brewery, as they close at 2pm on a Saturday. The place was packed, and we queued for a good ten minutes, but there was a great relaxed atmosphere – a bit like rural pubs on a Friday night, or like rural pubs on a Friday night used to be. The beers were listed by style, served in half pints, and we opted for six beers between the four of us, ranging in alcohol, 7.3% being the strongest. Well, it was my birthday. Bench seating in a cold railway arch, drinking cloudy, strong beer; but everyone was loving it, there was a real buzz. I have always loved this sort of seating arrangement, none better than in Munich, where it just forces people to talk to each other, which is such an important part of drinking in pubs and bars. Made me think of the empty vaulted cellar beneath the steam engine at Hooky, and what we could do there…….
We moved on to The Bottle Shop, sampling beers from Beavertown, Siren and Pressure Drop. I had visited Pressure Drop last summer to look at their brewing kit prior to us ordering our pilot plant, so it was good to be reacquainted with their beers.
Brew by Numbers, Anspach & Hobday and Bullfinch were next in line, though it may not have been in that order. One of the defining sights of the day was visiting craft brewers in new premises under railway arches, with people drinking inside, and also sat outside on wooden pallets drinking and socialising; and yet opposite was a boarded up pub, still with some garden furniture outside, at which people were sitting drinking beers from the new brewers. I am sure that not many years ago, this pub would have been busy on a Saturday afternoon, with people drinking international beer brands, yet here they were drinking artisan craft beers, and each seemed to be trying a different beer. The peer pressure here wasn’t one of brands, but one of exploration.
By now we were feeling the cold, so made the short walk to the Draft House on Tower Bridge. This is a real favourite pub of mine, with a well chosen and wide ranging beer choice. A pint of Camden Town Pale Ale for me, varying drinks for the others. The pub was buzzing, with a great mixed and friendly crowd, just as I can remember pubs being on a Saturday some years ago. So what did this pub have? Warm, clean, friendly environment, and good range of well served beers. Just what the five of us needed after a tough day. Note the three chaps sporting varying degrees of facial hair.
So what is Craft Beer all about? What we saw, and enjoyed, was a genuine people day. Yes some great beers, pushing the boundaries, and the somewhat ubiquitous (at times) use of American hops with gusto, but above all a great fun day. Five people, all choosing, savouring and drinking different beers, including one lady who would probably not normally have beer as her first choice, but really enjoyed all we sampled. On trying to remember where exactly we had visited and in what order, I was reminded by one of my sons that somewhere along the line we also visited a gin distillery, and one of the biggest street food markets I had seen.
Back in the shire I was able to round off the evening with a couple of pints of cleansing cask ale. A birthday to remember, a huge range of beers sampled, and the best thing was waking up on Sunday feeling on top of the world.
Next time you have a free Saturday, consider the Bermondsey Mile. There are a couple of web sites giving details, you will have a great day out. We did. With thanks to Jo, Dan, Lucy and Lewis for a sensory day to remember. And apologies for the sideways pictures, that was me.