Champion Beer of London

The competition, organised by Christine Cryne, took place at this year’s Ealing Beer Festival in July. The awards have recently been presented to some of the winners as follows.

FIVE POINTS – PROVIDING SOME BALANCE!

It may be argued that awards aren’t everything but it is interesting to note how many Five Points have picked up recently. What makes it even more interesting is that, unlike some breweries, it isn’t for just one beer. Five Points is not a one trick pony; 2019 saw their Porter win the Champion Beer of London and Five Points Pale claim Silver in the Golden Ale category in CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain competition, being pipped by longstanding golden ale favourite, Oakham Citra.

In the spring, Five Points started to experiment with a best bitter, maybe an unusual choice for a modern brewery, especially as, if you Google Five Points, you tend to get towns in the USA. Head brewer, Greg Hobbs, explained the reason for the beer, “I wanted to drink a beer style I grew up with. I like beers where balance is important. We tried this out at a Brewers Challenge at Whitelocks and I was delighted with the reception we got amongst other brewers. It’s designed to be drunk in volume. It’s definitely a session beer.”

Greg holds the certificate, with brewery owner Ed Mason (right) and CAMRA egional Director Geoff Strawbridge

Various hops were tried in this 4.1% ABV, dark amber bitter before settling on the British iconic hop, Fuggles. A great deal of care has been taken to source this hop with Greg visiting the Kent hop farm where it was grown. Greg continues, “It comes from Hukins, which is a fifth generation hop growing farm. It helps us do our bit for the environment too, using English hops from 50 odd miles away rather than importing them from half way around the world.” It was clear from the pleasure on Greg’s face that he is personally delighted in the unexpected success of this more traditional beer. He elucidated, “I’d hate to see Best Bitter die out. People have flocked to it from beer geeks to ordinary drinkers. It now accounts for 5% of our total beer production.”

This however doesn’t mean that cask is the majority of Five Points’ sales; 55% is keg and 25% cask, with the rest being small packaging (cans and bottles) but Five Points is bucking the trend detailed in this year’s Cask Beer Report. The brewery’s cask beer is showing a 5% increase year on year and Five Points’ total beer sales are up 30%, which means that the brewery is fit to burst. To meet demand they are brewing three times a day except Friday, when it is twice. A search for new premises has been going on for a while.

Alongside the expectation of a new brewery, Greg is enthusiastic about real ale’s prospects, “We are proud of our cask range. In a nutshell, we love the fact it is growing. As long as breweries and pubs are doing the right thing, then cask ale has a future.” And that means more experimenting with traditional styles. May will see the introduction of a mild and, who knows, if it proves as drinkable as their Pale, Porter and Best Bitter, they may see another gong on their hands.
Christine Cryne
Note: Whitelocks Ale House is a famous pub in Leeds (Good Beer Guide page 571) which is also owned by Ed Mason, the owner of Five Points.

MILD MAKETH THE BREWERY!

The Tap East brewery has been around for eight years but it probably doesn’t come to mind when you think of award winning London breweries, yet this 2.5 barrel operation punches well above its weight. As well as winning SIBA’s South East IPA category this year, they scooped the award for the best speciality beer and best mild in CAMRA’s Champion Beer of London awards. It was also the overall silver award (to Five Points’ Railway Porter’s gold).

So what makes this brewery special? The pub brewery was set up in 2011 in the Westfield Centre, Stratford. It may be an unlikely venture in a place dominated by the big names of the high street but that is why they are there. Westfield wanted some smaller, local outlets alongside the likes of Waitrose, Boots and Costa Coffee and so Tap East came into being, a venture set up by Mike and Richard of the Rake in Borough Market fame.

Since the early days, there have been four brewers but the ethos of each appears to have been the same: to keep the best and tweak the rest! Josh, the current brewer, explained, “There are certain beers within the portfolio that are loved and it’s important that the regulars continue to be satisfied.”

Josh Walker, Christine Cryne and Mike Hill plus lots of awards!

Despite this, each brewer brings in their own flair and Josh said that Richard and Mike are happy for experimentation as long as the beer sells! An example of the experimentation was the hosting of a home brew competition with the winner having the chance of brewing their beer at Tap East although it didn’t turn out quite as expected because the winner lives overseas and they ended up doing a ‘virtual’ brew via the internet. The winning brewer will however be coming over shortly for the launch of the beer.

Josh started as a brewer at the Brewhouse & Kitchen at the Angel before moving on to Camden Town Brewery. Each has provided a unique experience from creativity to efficient brewing, lessons that Josh is fully aware of but the latter can’t really be applied to Tap East. As he explained, “It’s the weirdest brewery I have ever brewed at. It’s been designed to occupy as small as space as possible. It messes with my head a bit but, unlike at Camden, efficiency is not the name of the game.” Take the mash tun and kettle; they are stacked on top of each other, as are the four fermenters, so in total it looks like just three vessels and the kettle doubles as a hot liquor tank as well. Space has an impact on the storage of ingredients too. They keep the hops and some smaller ingredients on site but everything else is stored at Five Points Brewery. Cask and keg storage space is also at a premium (60% is cask and the rest is keg) although the kegs are KeyKegs so the beer is still live with a shortish shelf life. This is no problem with most of the beer being sold in the Tap East pub and a little in the Rake.

So what of the future? With Josh’s energy and com-mitment to quality, more awards are likely and, if nothing else, do try their East End Mild and Coffee in the Morning; their gongs are well earned.
Christine Cryne

WIMBLEDON ON THE BALL

Wimbledon Brewery’s XXXK Vintage Ale (10% ABV) won the award in the Barley Wine and Strong Old Ale category. On a rainy Saturday in October a hardy bunch from CAMRA’s South West London branch, along with Regional Secretary Roy Tunstall representing Ealing Beer Festival visited the brewery to present the certificate. As ever, the hospitality was excellent, led by master brewer Derek Prentice, later joined by owner Mark Gordon and head brewer Charlie Long. Thanks also to Max who kept the beer flowing.

Left to right: Derek and Charlie with Regional Director Geoff Strawbridge

Mark’s research in the local papers of the time had revealed that the original Wimbledon Brewery brewed an XXXK in the 1880s although there is no record of its recipe. Alas, this year’s XXXK had all gone, although more is on its way. We therefore started with its ‘little brother’ XK Mild (3.3% ABV), a seasonal beer, well recommended with its flavour of malt, red fruit and chocolate. It comes from the same brew as the XXXK using the parti-gyle system. We also sampled Common Pale Ale and the wonderful Quartermaine IPA.

The Brewing Book

The visit had its educational aspects with Derek giving us a demonstration of a Lovibonds Comparator. This device measures the colour of beer against a set scale. A sample of beer goes in one side and a calibrated wheel in the other and you turn the wheel until you get a match. Derek also showed us a hand-written brewing book from his days at Truman’s which was rescued from a skip. It is part of a small collection of brewing memorabilia that he has assembled. Our thanks go to all concerned.
Tony Hedger