Wandsworth resurrection

Sambrook’s Brewery was founded eleven years ago in a small industrial unit in Battersea at a time when the total number of breweries in London was less than ten. Perhaps the most significant closure at that time was that of Young & Co’s Ram brewery in Wandsworth town centre in 2006. Today there are around 140 breweries in London and counting, of varying size and character. Most produce an eclectic range of tasty and often challenging beers, with Sambrook’s being no exception.

Brewing at the Ram site in Wandsworth began in the 1550s at the Ram Tavern. Thanks to the efforts of former Young’s brewer John Hatch (see Duncan Sambrook’s comments below) who has operated a nano-brewery there since Young’s departed for Bedford, it remains the longest continuous brewing site in the UK. It is with a delightful touch of irony that time moves full circle and the medium-term survival of brewing on this historic site has now been assured.

Sambrook’s have signed a 20 year lease with developers Greenland for 11,000 square feet of that section of the Grade II- listed old brewery buildings to the right of the old brewery tap on the corner of Ram Street and Wandsworth High Street. Sambrook’s will be installing a brand new three-vessel 20 hectolitre (440 UK gallon) brewery with new cylindroconical fermenters and horizontal maturation tanks. All casking, kegging, canning and bottling operations will be off-site, thereby allowing for operational flexibility in and enlargement of the brewery, compared to their current site in Yelverton Road, Battersea, which is now operating at full capacity and for which the lease expires in around two years.

The new Sambrook’s Brewery in Wandsworth will include a tap room that will be four times the size of the current tap in Battersea and be open seven days a week. There will also be a shop and visitors’ centre cum museum to showcase the unique historical character of this iconic brewing site. The old Young’s coppers will be retained as part of this experience, along with surviving iron and brickwork from the Surrey Iron Railway that was the first public railway in the world, sanctioned by parliament in 1803. The new Sambrook’s tap and shop should be open before Christmas this year, with the brewery becoming fully operational early in 2020.

Entrance will be from both Ram Street and Bubbling Well Square which will provide space for al fresco drinking and lies in the heart of the renovated site, now known as the Ram Quarter at Wandsworth.
Peter J Sutcliffe
(CAMRA Liaison Officer for Sambrook’s Brewery)

Duncan Sambrook adds, “It is an exciting time for all of us at Sambrook’s Brewery. Having outgrown our current site in Battersea, we are now able to secure our future and continue to brew in the borough of Wandsworth. There will be a tinge of sadness when we close the site in Battersea which has served us well for eleven years and move just under a mile up the road in early 2020. The start of the brewery in August 2008 seems like only yesterday, but a lot has changed in the London brewing scene since then. Not only have we seen an explosion in the number of breweries but we have also seen a growth in interest and awareness of the many great styles of beers there are. Our new site will allow us to experiment with more modern styles of beer and small batch runs to provide further interest in the ever-growing London craft beer scene. What won’t change though is our commitment to British styles of beer, British ingredients and of course cask ale. Wandle was our first cask beer and remains my personal favourite; being able to brew this beer right next to the River Wandle will make it even more special. A special mention to John Hatch too, who has single-handedly continued the brewing heritage at the Ram Brewery site throughout the redevelopment. His Phoenix ale is exceptional and we are looking forward to the opportunity to brew this with him once we have commissioned our brewery.”

Chris Daly, Senior Commercial Manager at Greenland (UK), developers of the Ram Quarter, said, “It’s poetic that London’s oldest independent brewer is setting up home at Britain’s oldest operating brewery. Greenland has always recognised the importance of Ram’s brewing legacy and safeguarding its heritage has been crucial to our development plans, from our approach to the design of the new homes through to our commercial ambitions for the site. We’re proud to be keeping Wandsworth’s beer tradition alive while creating an exciting new destination in partnership with a local business.”

Young’s did not sell the complete site. They retained the pub on the corner and the adjacent listed Brewer’s House. Sadly, the pub has not been used since 2006 and has recently been looking somewhat forlorn. I’m pleased to report however that Young’s recently announced that they are reopening the pub. The project is in the reliable hands of Lee and Keris DeVillers who are also the tenants of Wandsworth’s Old Sergeant and Pig & Whistle. The pub will be called the Ram Inn and will feature its own small (six barrel) brewery called Sly Beast, run by David Dooley.

Photo: Mike Flynn

In my early days as a real ale drinker, Wandsworth used to be one of the great pub crawls. Well, it was if you liked Young’s, which I did. In the last few years, especially since Young’s sold their brewery in 2006, it has fallen out of favour. I’m pleased that this will soon change. Oh, and the Council is going to reorganise the one way system as well!
Tony Hedger