South London Ale Trail: Part One

We’ve tasked ourselves to get to know our local breweries, ooh it’s a hard life.  First stop, Brockley Brewery. Steve Wilcox reports.

As one matures (gets older..) certain vice’s need to be curtailed and one such vice is alcohol.  Now don’t panic, I’m not saying ditch the booze just improve the quality as opposed to quantity.  So as my taste develops for a more refined life so does my palate for a fine tipple.  Yes, that’s right, I am now a fully fledged member of the top-shelf booze brigade.

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Brockley Brewery is a cheese-wedge shaped industrial building in a residential area, five minutes from Brockley station, well sign-posted and easy to find.  Impressive fermenting casks set the main stage while a rather inviting bar sits at the back to the right, encased by wooden shelves laden with colourful bottles of ale and draping dried hops. We were greeted by very smiley staff and swiftly introduced to Mike, one of seven partners who gave us a tour of the brewery.

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Get your lab coat on, here comes the techie (ish) bit….

Brockley Brewery brews in line with the medieval German Reinheitsgebot that limits the number of ingredients in beer to four items; water, malted barley, yeast and hops.  It’s as simple as that.  The brewing process starts with water and malt, mixed together these turn the liquid into a sugary substance, it’s at that point the hops are added.   The liquid is then added to the fermenting casks, yeast is added and the liquid is kept at a temperature of 25 degrees. The brew sits for one week to ferment, this is where the alcohol content develops.  The brew then makes its way into casks, 40 litres in size, that is 72 pints!  And finally makes its way to our locals,  yippee for us!

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The best thing about Brockley Brewery is that it is a genuine local independent creating handcrafted, pure (i.e. no chemicals, just those four ingredients) delicious ales to feed us thirsty South Londoners.  They work with different malts, mainly a pale malt better known as the classic English.  The Red and Porter ales are slightly darker as they have a more, deeper caramel finish.  The Red Ale and Porter were my favourites.

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Check out Brockley Brewery, it is a great place to get a ‘take away’ on a Friday night and chill with ya pals on a Saturday from 12-6pm.  They often hold events, film nights and folk nights, find out more on their Facebook or Twitter pages.  The Sylvan Post Forest Hill and Vauxhall Griffin Vauxhall Griffin are just two South London pubs that stock their ales, so get your own ale trail booked in and fast!

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How to look cool in front of your mates when picking an ale:

  • Appreciate the flavours
  • The darker malts can provide malty, caramelised, chocolate, coffee, smokey flavours and dark notes
  • The lighter ales provide more citrus, lighter tastes, grapefruits, mandarin and vanilla
  • Ales can have very aromatic scents – so breathe them in, it’s almost like trying  a fine wine 
  • The key flavours come from the hops – sweet, dry, the American hops tend to be dryer 
  • The process of drinking Ale is an emotion, so be emotional……
  • p.s vegetarians watch out, the ‘fining’ of ale is a process which engages an element from the Sturgeon fish – so strictly speaking ale is not vegetarian, we won’t tell anyone!
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