It’s been a busy summer with a trip to Scotland, weekends in Wales and the Euros taking priority over our area search. Come early August I was starting to miss the buzz of London and I was very keen to get the search started again but still there wasn’t a free weekend to search entirely new areas. But a visit by my cousin, who had come to stay with us to celebrate his 21st birthday, prompted action. Having spent last summer living in Russell Square whilst completing an internship he is very familiar with central London so we thought it would be good opportunity to show him London life outside zone 1 and we came up with the idea of a south London beer tour.
We decided that the tour would start in Gipsy Hill and end in Brixton taking in Gipsy Hill Brewing Co, The London Beer Factory, Bullfinch, Canopy, Brixton Brewery and London Beer Lab along the way. It was an ambitious plan given that the London Beer Lab closes at 8pm but we were confident that we’d make it. Comfy shoes were donned for the walk and after brunch we caught the 417 bus from Clapham to Gipsy Hill, it was a largely overcast humid start to the day and by the time the journey was over we were ready for our first beer.
Both Gipsy Hill Brewing (http://gipsyhillbrew.com/) and The London Beer Factory (http://www.thelondonbeerfactory.com/) are located just a stone’s throw away from one another on an industrial estate just off Hamilton Road. Upon arrival The London Beer Lab were still busy preparing their outdoor seating for the day, some precariously placed planks on top of empty barrels, so we headed to Gipsy Hill Brewing first. Here the furnishing is just as basic but remember that you’re here for the beer, which is exceptional and also a fair bit cheaper than at your local pub. We visited two days after the launch of Drifter V2 and I was very excited to try it having really enjoyed V1 earlier in the year, but I was slightly disappointed and soon joined the boys with a Hepcat whilst we waited for our friends to arrive. The Hepcat is a great example of a session IPA and easily ranks inside my top 3. The friendly barman was happy to provide a taster of Beatnik (a pale ale) and Southpaw (amber ale) whilst we chatted about the refurbishment the brewery is currently undergoing and the general trend for craft beer. I was impressed with the set up and with new tanks being installed this month it’s a very exciting time for the brewery.
The sun made an appearance just in time for the second stop at The London Beer Factory where we sat on the outside benches and sampled the 360 degree can for the first time. The can is a great idea and definitely makes a difference to the drinking experience, you really do get a fuller flavour compared to a normal can. There is something for everyone here, whilst I stuck to the Paxton IPA which is a good steady slightly hoppy beer, there were opportunities to sample some special editions from the Pilot Range from which my friend chose the Strawberries & Cream, at first I was unsure but it was utterly delicious. The name suggests great sweetness, but it was a very balanced hoppy smooth summer ale with a subtle sweet undertone, I highly recommend that you try it if you see it. Looking around I noticed that two of the other units are taken by a cupcake business and a hog roast business, it would be great if all of these businesses could work together to create a market / yard party every Saturday (especially in summer). There is certainly an appetite for it when you see other markets & tap rooms from around London and even with just the two taps room open there are plenty of people around creating a lively atmosphere.
After a few swift drinks we were starting to feel a little headed so we called into The Rosendale to share a pizza before continuing the walk to Bulllfinch brewery (http://www.thebullfinchbrewery.co.uk/). Bullfinch is located under the railway arches in Herne Hill, a short walk from Brockwell Park and immediately you can tell that they’re competing with the local pubs for customers with its comfy seats, cushions, fairy lights and bunting along with blankets for cooler evenings. The tap room occupies a smaller space here than that at the Gipsy Hill breweries and as a result the bar area was slightly crowded. The staff, although still friendly, had less time to chat and discuss each beer in detail to recommend the best one for you but they do offer tasting trays which was perfect for us as it gave us the opportunity to try something that we wouldn’t normally order. My selection included Alpha (a strong pale ale), Rascal (session pale ale) & Milou (a saison), I wasn’t so keen on the Milou but the other two were good, although at 7.4% I’m glad I only had a 1/3 pint of Alpha. Both Mr B and I concluded that the next dog walk in Brockwell Park will end here for a swift pint!
The final stop of the day was Canopy ( http://www.canopybeer.com/ ) which is short walk from Bullfinch. It was fairly busy but after loitering for 10 minutes we managed to find a table inside. Again the décor is very plain but the playlist creates a very chilled vibe and I’d happily have stayed for a few hours. I wondered why there were so many bikes and lycra clad men sat outside until I read that that brewers are keen cyclists themselves with the tap room showing the Tour De France along with other classic races. We ordered our beers, Sunray Ale, Brockwell IPA and Milkwood Amber along with a pork pie and piccalilli to share. The Brockwell IPA was well hopped but I preferred the Sunray Pale Ale which is very unusual for me. The great thing about Canopy is that they’re also keen to showcase other London breweries and when we visited they had a tap dedicated to Five Points, it might seem odd to showcase another brewery at your tap room however I think it’s great to see start-ups supporting each other as it’s a sure way to ensure that the craft beer movement continues to grow.
We’d been having so much fun along the way that we’d completely lost track of time. It was now 730pm and therefore we had no time to head to the Brixton tap rooms so instead we continued the tour with a drink in the Florence (http://www.florencehernehill.com/) before heading to the King & Co (http://thekingandco.uk/) for a few night caps. And as usual neither pub disappointed.
It had been a great day but Mr B was very disappointed not to finish the tour so next time we’ll try a different tactic of having just one drink in each brewery which should mean that we’re easily able to make it around. The other option is mix up the route slightly by heading to Gipsy Hill, then Brixton and back to Herne Hill as the breweries there are open until 10pm. The walk between Gipsy Hill and Herne Hill also opened our eyes to that area that we hadn’t fully appreciated so watch this space for my next area review.
Mrs B xx