Sunday, 21 October 2012

More Sambrook's beer? Oh, OK then.

As Addie has seperately reported, we went last Thursday evening for a trip around Sambrook's Brewery, a recent startup in Clapham, South London. I thought it was high time we took our journalistic responsibilities seriously, and even Addie has had a fair crack at a sensible review of our evening (so I won't repeat his findings). However, roving reporter Heath, co-writer of almost nothing that has appeared on this blog, had other ideas.

Still, after a few liveners in various hostelries en route, we reached the Sambrook's Brewery, a few minutes walk from Clapham Junction station, with something between fifteen and twenty of us looking forward to the proceedings yet to come. I was delighted to be greeted by this sight:

At that moment I knew this would be my type of place, and I was not disappointed. Tom, with his red T-Shirt and enthusiastic demeanour, proceeded to place a pint of Wandle in my hand (the last usable one from the barrel, much to my colleagues' discontent), and off we went. Wandle is a proper session beer, and I was immediately happy.

But Tom was dishing out pints (those who missed out on Wandle got a pint of one of Sambrook's recent creations, Lavender) and dishing out beer wisdom in equal measure. And Heath dished out heckles. And drank more beer.

Unfazed, Tom worked us through the sources and treatments of the Maris Otter barley (malt) which forms the root of all of Sambrook's beer. There were various roasts and we crunched our way through them all, trying to pretend we were sagely appreciating the various subtle notes to each one (though the one for the porter was obviously very darkly cooked compared to the other two). Then we had another pint of beer (I had Lavender this time round).

Next, we had a look at the hops. Rubbing them between your hands you can appreciate the real floral root of many great ales, the smell being released and wafting up your nostrils in the same happy, hoppy, beery way that the chemically air fresheners you can buy for your car or lavatory don't. It's a wonderful smell -- away from the beer, why doesn't someone harness this for use as a commercial scent? I mulled this over as I received a pint of Junction. Dear me, I'm really starting to have a lovely time now.

Having had our talk and our Junction, it was time for a wander round the area where all the action happens. I think this was now about my sixth pint of the day, and by this point I was trying to pay attention but finding it much harder than I had when we'd started. I gleaned that they could make about 3000 litres a time, using local (but "Burtonised") water, and that they tried various quantities of the various malts and hops, and different temperatures, amongst other techniques, to give the various commercial and experimental ales they brew their particular characters.

I listened as intently as I could through a happy haze, only temporarily woken from my stupor by an abrupt "BOOM!" shouted by Heath into one of the large empty metallic vats (what a reverb -- recording artists everywhere should consider these acoustic qualities seriously). Tom was still unfazed and took us through to a second area where the actual four (ish) day fermentation process occurs, and where (I gather, based entirely on the evidence of my iPhone's camera) it is subsequently filled into barrels.

We got to the other end of the brewery -- really not too far. To my immense pleasure, there were some barrels full of more beer. We'd been advised to bring our glasses with us, and I was very happy I had done just that. Another Wandle -- thanks very much.

And so it went on. Eventually back in the bar area, we had a go at the Powerhouse Porter (dark and moody -- a black classic, exactly as a porter should be), and quite possibly one or two others. I couldn't say; I only know that we came away happy, and that I probably said thanks and goodbye to our ever-smiling and charismatic host Tom about ten times, shaking his hand frequently.

Then we went to the pub. Well, that's what you do, right? Somehow I made it home, and let me tell you I knew I'd had a few the following day. But don't let Addie fool you. He was feeling hopelessly sorry for himself, having overshot his station by four stops on the way home, and waking up early to be a little unwell. In the office the next day he was the lightweight with bloodshot eyes.

Addie certainly can't complain he had a bad pint -- we had a wonderful evening filled with amazing ales, and we are in Sambrook's debt for a their excellent, educational and entertaining hospitality. Cheers guys! Can we come again next week?

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