So I'm back with another educational experience, this time involving one of London's oldest craft beer breweries, Sambrook's Brewery. Settled by the river in Battersea, London, is a moderately sized building where Sambrook's beer is made and (fun fact) was once the location where the first seasons of Thomas the Tank Engine were filmed and created.
Note: the brewery is 15 minutes walking distance from Clapham Junction Subway Station, but please take into consideration your travel time; it took us almost an hour from Liverpool Street Station to commute during the peak hour.
Sambrook's Brewery hosts free tours every other week in an attempt to educate curious folks about the complex and scientific processes behind creating a delicious brew and the differences between craft beer and industrial beer. Check out their Facebook page or websitefor dates on when they host these free tours.
We were welcomed with a complimentary half pint of beer! I'm not a massive beer drinker because my weak stomach can't really handle it nor can my taste buds appreciate its flavours, but I did try their Pale Ale and loved it! Maybe because it wasn't too fizzy nor flavour intensive; it was a very easy beer to drink and I'd recommend it for those who don't frequently drink beers.
Photo by Samad | The tour has begun
The evening kicked off with one of the lads introducing us to the ingredients that they use in their brew. I've been to an industrial brewery tour many years ago and don't remember ever learning, in detail, about the actual ingredients that are added into this beverage!
They passed around a few of the ingredients for us to touch, taste and smell. The interesting part for me was the hops! Hops are a type of flower grown in the UK that are used as a flavouring and stabilising agent in beer and can incorporate certain flavour notes like bitterness, zest and citrus.
They also showed us roasted barley and how the flavours of the beer can differ depending on how much heat is being used on the barley. The higher the temperature, the more smokey and coffee-like the barley becomes.
Photo by Samad | Hops! Smash it in your hands and the aroma of beer will surprise you
Photo by Samad | Lightly roasted barley
Photo by Samad | Dark roasted barley! Tastes like coffee
After an introduction to the ingredients, we were escorted down to the microbrewery. They showed the heavy machinery used to to peel the fibre off of barley, the grinders, temperate exchange coils, yeast fermentation contraptions and all that kind of mechanisms and gadgetry that could easily impress us simple-minded folk.
It's was cool because the host showed us the actual beer being fermented with yeast. It was a little gross and you can guess the smell too, but also something interesting to witness (and smell).
Here are a few funny things we learned that night. Do you know why lager is served cold? The obvious answer is that warm lager taste like shit. But do you know why? Because at room temperature, lager exposes the actual flavours of it! So when you see big beer companies advertise their lagers as "best served at zero-degrees" or "best served frozen", then you can probably assume that the beer in actuality tastes horrible and they're using the numbing temperatures to hide it. But this is not to say that there aren't great tasting lagers out there, this is just to point out what the industrial ones are hiding from you (haha).
Also an interesting note, ales are usually served cool at between the temperature of 11-12 degrees Celsius. This is because for non-pasteurised real ales, the appropriate temperature will bring out the various tastes of the ale at its best. Too low a temperature and you'd numb the taste buds, but when served at the right temperature, the balance of the ale would be excellent. However, this is really depending on your flavour preference.
Photo by Samad | Beer machines and dohickeys!
Photo by Samad | In the yeast fermentation area
Photo by Samad | In the yeast fermentation area
Photo by Samad | Some other beer options
Photo by Samad | Another half pint before heading home
To cap off the night, we headed back up to the bar and with another half pint of beer in our hands, we were presented with a concluding topic on the brief history of craft beer and the resurgence of it, especially in the city of London.
What I learned is that craft beers are created manually, in small batches, are privately owned and can manifest in multiple versions for you to try! Similar to chocolate, coffee or wine, it's essentially your journey of discovering different flavours and choosing favourites that cater to your preferences and palette. There are about 100 microbreweries in London today and if you're a beer drinker, why not dry them all!
I'd highly recommend visiting Sambrook's Brewery for their free tour. The lads are very friendly and informative, and I also think that this would be a fun activity to do on a night out with your friends. And hey, beer!
2 Yelverton Road, Unit 1 London, United Kingdom SW11 3QG