Tag Archives: brewery tours

Down by the river – an afternoon at Sambrook’s Brewery (part two)

DSC_0007(If you missed part one, read it here!)

Having exhausted all the options at the bar, we follow Duncan down into the brewery itself, situated in two large units a stone’s throw from the River Thames. Sambrooks currently produces around 50,000 pints of beer a week, making them the fourth largest brewery in London after Fullers, Meantime and Camden Town. It is astonishing what they have achieved when you compare their original investment to other brewers, and talking to Duncan, it is easy to see why this is. Every step in Sambrooks’ development seems to have been planned and thought through meticulously, and Duncan obviously keeps a close eye on the competition. Of another London brewer who invested substantially more for the same output, he laments: “What they did was just ludicrous. I dream of what we could have done with £2.5m”. Of a certain anarchic brewer who have recently gone on a share sale drive, he notes: “they raised £2m only two years ago, and they’ve spent it all, with no return. They’re not making any money. They’ve invested all this capital expenditure but it’s not generating. They’re practically giving their beer away. That’s the accountant in me. I was really shocked.” By comparison, his ambitions have been more realistic: “The first year was a tricky year for us. It was all about cash-flow management. We had plans to market the brewery and employ more people earlier, but we couldn’t. The first year was very much about damage limitation.” This cautious approach seems to have paid off. Their next investment, Duncan says, will be to install silos so that the malt can be delivered straight from the truck, saving time unloading nearly a ton at a time in individual sacks.

Sambrooks is obviously proud to stand a little apart from the trendy east London beer boom, with its traditional pump clips and sensibly sub-5% ales. Its only arguably ‘bridge’ product between real ale and craft is the kegged unfiltered and unpasteurised Pale Ale, launched last year. “When we first started, the marketplace was entirely different to where it is now,” he says. “East London is a real hotbed of interest, with so much happening over there, but London is massive. Do we put resource into trying to get our products into that hip, happening crowd? I said to my head of sales – to be honest, let’s just focus on the entire tranche of all the way down the river Wandle,” says Duncan. “Our target market is your local juicer where they have two or three hand pumps, where you have a pint of Wandle with a roast. We still want to produce the likes of Battersea Rye so that we’ve got something to sell into the craft pubs, but for us that’s not where we do most of our business.”


So where does this leave women, ICIP wonders, given that the craft scene is usually seen as being more women-friendly? Don’t breweries, especially those which seem to be as business-savvy as Sambrooks, see women as an untapped market?

“A lot of breweries are looking at whether there is a golden bullet to try and attract women,” Duncan admits, “but my opinion is that there is not. The only way that we as an industry are going to attract more women is to make trying beer easier.” We ask about his experiences of female visitors to the brewery. He thinks that if you exclude the not-particularly-representative stag parties, women make up 30-40% of the tour members – but often because they are dragged along by their boyfriends and husbands. “If we run a brewery tour, all the women stand around on their iPhones at the back, thinking ‘why am I here?!’. But if we can get them engaged and sampling, you end up with a circle of women at the front going “I never realised that tasted like that, and I looked at the pump clip and I wouldn’t have drunk it.”. The example is Junction – they see a dark red pump clip, a dark beer, and it’s ‘no’. And they see the Pumphouse Pale Ale – yellow and lighter – and they go ‘yes’, whereas I would say it is much more bitter and most women are not drinking this sort of beer.”

Does he think the traditional image Sambrooks has strived for alienates women drinkers put off by the CAMRA old-boys’ club image? “I don’t actively target women, but I don’t discourage women. I hope the branding is relatively general and neutral. It’s about the beer, trying to make it approachable for people so they say it looks nice, care has been taken with the pump clips, you recognise the brand.” ICIP asks what he thinks of the suggestion that the good old-fashioned pint glass puts women off. “There’s a lot of evidence that shows it changes how you drink. A glass with a big open end will be good for a beer majoring on aroma whereas a flute will be better for flavour. So actually it does change your perception of the beer. “ But Duncan demonstrates an in-depth understanding of the relationship between brewer, consumer and publican, and the issues this raises: “The challenge you’ve got with glassware is pubs. There’s a perception of a full pint. And the problem with that is it limits your glassware.” It seems that there is only so much a brewer can do to attract women to its product.

As we wrap up our afternoon at Sambrooks so that Duncan can get home after what was no doubt a typically-busy week at the brewery, he reflects on what inspired him, and ultimately what makes Sambrooks tick. “I have definitely come at brewing from a consumer perspective. I’ve never done any home brewing. I’ve never even had any aspirations to do that. I’m purely a drinker,” he says, matter-of-factly. “I love trying different beers. But ultimately my favourite beer will always be Wandle. What I love most is going to the rugby at Rosslyn Park, I’ll drink circa ten pints… and I walk home, and I have a fantastic day, and I drink a beer which I love.”

It’s this honest simplicity which we loved about Sambrooks, and we have a great deal of respect for what they have achieved in just five years. A traditional brewer with a modern twist, very aware of the market in which it resides and committed to producing excellent products. And who knows – if things don’t go too well in Tesco, (which seems unlikely), it sounds like they could have a pretty good following in Denmark already.

DSC_0003– PS


Down by the river – an afternoon at Sambrook’s Brewery (part one)


When we meet up with Duncan Sambrook, the founder and Managing Director of Sambrook’s Brewery, he is still reeling from a Scandinavian takeover of the brewery bar. The previous evening a gathering of fifty Danes downed an astonishing four firkins – nearly three-hundred pints – of their seasonal Battersea Rye ale. They have also, it transpires, pinched his bottle opener.

Despite the Scandi marauding, Duncan is in good spirits as he welcomes us to the brewery in Battersea, south west London. Sambrook’s is one of the more mature players in the recent London brewing boom, and has just celebrated its fifth birthday with an event at Morden Hall Park, Beer by the River. Unlike many of the trendy craft breweries popping up almost weekly in east London, Sambrook’s has a more traditional image, brewing a small but popular range of cask ales and supplying around 300 London pubs.

When Sambrook’s launched in 2008, the London brewing scene certainly wasn’t the hot property it is now. “I remember Christine Cryne came down with the [CAMRA] London Tasting Panel to do a tasting when we first opened, and said ‘it’s so nice to have a new London brewery, we haven’t had anything to get our teeth stuck into’,” says Duncan. “I saw her the other week and she said ‘gosh, we’ve got a backlog of about ten breweries to get through!’”. So what inspired him to make the radical career change from accountant to brewer?

“It was one of those slightly pissed ideas, sat with a few friends at the Great British Beer Festival. We’d done this crawl from Cornwall up to London, going from brewery to brewery. We got to London and there was just nothing,’ Duncan tells us as we pull up a barstool. “We looked at the market and saw outside of London there were breweries starting up and being successful. My home county is Wiltshire and there’s about seven breweries there, in a tiny county – it’s only about 300,000 people. We thought if that’s a trend, pushing towards local breweries, perhaps that’s something Londoners could catch onto.”

wandleWith support from family and friends, and with Duncan’s background in capital markets, he was well on the way to bringing his plan to fruition, but it was a fortuitous meeting with another City-worker turned brewer that sealed the deal. David Welsh, formerly of Ringwood Brewery, had sold his share to Marston’s and had some money to invest. “David came on board as a consultant to help us put the kit together and set the recipe for our first beer,” says Duncan, pouring us all a glass of Wandle, Sambrook’s flagship best bitter. With two business minds behind the product, a lot of thought went into its production: “we noticed that there was a really crowded market for the 4.0-4.5% sector. So we crept in with 3.8%,” Duncan explains, pointing out that this made it an attractive session ale for keen drinkers. “We tried to make it more golden than brown, so we’ve got a sunny golden sunset colour. We wanted a bitterness that was complementary to the sweetness”.

Described on Sambrook’s own website as ‘quaffable’, does Duncan think that some beer boffs might find Wandle a bit… bland?

“I know a lot of beer drinkers have said it’s not complex enough,” he admits, “but I think the thing with Wandle is it brings to bring people from lager into the category. I think of it a nice entry-level cask ale which allows people to get access to beers with more complexity.”

Unlike other breweries who have a high turnover of different beer styles and brands, Sambrook’s bided their time before releasing their next product – a whole year, in fact. But when they brought out the darker premium ale Junction in 2009 to mark their first anniversary, it certainly stood out from its older sibling. “Junction was everything Wandle was not. Junction is 4.5%, which changes the flavour profile quite a lot. It is packed with lots of Crystal malt, and we used Challenger hops for the bitterness. Challenger is not as harsh as the Boadicea used in Wandle so you get lots of rounded character.”


It is obvious that a lot of thought goes into hop choice at Sambrook’s. Their passion for localism means they use British hops such as Goldings, Fuggles and Northdown in every beer they brew, apart from the next beer on our tasting tour – the Pumphouse Pale Ale. This beer, a traditional English pale ale at 4.2%, uses a mixture of hops added throughout the brewing process to produce the bitterness and aroma you would expect of this type of beer. “With most of our beers, we add our bitterness hops right at the beginning of the boil and our aroma hops right at the end. Aromas are much more difficult to fix into a beer, so if we carry on boiling they’ll go up the flue and you won’t be left with anything,” explains Duncan. “So with Pumphouse Pale Ale we added the initial bitterness hops, British Admiral, right at the beginning to give it its base character. Then right towards the end we added the other bitterness hops, First Gold, in four stages. We find is that it gives you that lingering finish to the beer.” And how do they get that zingy pale ale nose we all know and love? “ Right at the end we add New Zealand Hallertau and Celeia hops. Not many breweries use New Zealand Hallertau. It’s a German hop which was taken down under and cultivated there to develop a very different characteristic. Celeia is a Slovakian hop.”

Pumphouse Pale Ale was initially devised as a seasonal beer to be sold in the summer, but its huge popularity meant that Sambrook’s decided to release it as part of the permanent range. Its success encouraged the brewery to continue with their seasonal programme, which lead to the development of the beer of choice for Danish invaders – Battersea Rye (4.5%). This is the first beer that Head Brewer Sean Knight has taken full responsibility for and Duncan is delighted with the results. “Brewing is something you have to do 100%. After three months in the brewery I worked out I couldn’t do that, because you’d have a customer turn up or a phone call for a sale and it interrupts the brewing, so I hired somebody to look after it for me. Sean is fantastic; all I said was ‘I think we should do a rye beer – go away and work it out!’, and I think he’s done a really good job for his first brew on his own. He can take a lot of credit for that.”

Is it difficult to brew with rye, ICIP wonders? Not many breweries produce a rye beer. “Sean was bit worried about brewing with rye because he’d not done it before, and it has this ability to really clog up your mash tun so the maximum that people usually brew with rye is about 20-25%. He decided to err on the side of caution and do about 12%.” So how do Sambrooks approach a new and potentially troublesome ingredient such as rye with no experience of brewing with it before? “With all our beers we do a lot of research and spend a good 8 weeks working out what ingredients to use and talking to our suppliers. We understand that our suppliers know an awful lot about brewing. Certainly if you go to a specialist rye supplier they know what kind of flavours you are going to get.”

powerhouse-porterAnother popular seasonal is Sambrook’s Powerhouse Porter (4.9%), named after the iconic Battersea Power Station. Once Duncan has relocated one of his wandering bottle openers, we crack open a couple of bottles. “The porter is not out in cask yet, but it is a lot better in cask,” he says. “That’s the beauty of cask ale – you get the secondary fermentation and it changes the flavour. For the last two years we’ve kept a cask of porter back from the last brew for the whole eight months in between and then taste-test it alongside the first brew of the following year. It mellows the flavour so much and makes it a lot more rounded and you lose a lot of the harsh edges that some of the hops provide when you age it for that long. It’s unbelievable how different it is.” Hops are not the first thing ICIP thinks of when we drink a porter, so we are stunned by Duncan’s revelation: “you wouldn’t know this from the taste, but this has more hop in it than the pale ale. The reason for that is, the sweeter the beer becomes the more hop you need to balance it out.”

Bitter, pale ale, porter… Sambrook’s seem to be going down the traditional route with no super-strong triple-IPAs or gimmicky flavours in sight. “I think a lot of other guys in the brewing in London in the moment have come at it from a brewers’ perspective, and they want to brew the best possible beer, the most eclectic mix of flavours. To me that’s almost a game of roulette because you don’t know if it will be a success or not. When we release a beer we do a lot of research to work out if this is something we can sell. We have to because if we don’t sell this it’s two or three grand down the tube.” Does this mean the brewery is adverse to trying anything new? “Our plan is to use our bottled products as our more experimental area,” says Duncan. “The problem with cask ale is that not only do you need to sell it into a pub, but that pub needs to sell it on. You have a tight window. If it’s not popular, the beer goes off, and if that happens regularly they won’t take any more beer from you. It gives your beer a bad reputation. So for cask ale I would always err on the side of caution and try to make something that will appeal to the majority of people. If you’re doing bottle you can do whatever you want, because a bottle will keep and get better.”

To prove this point, Duncan brings out some bottles of Sambrook’s No 5 Barley Wine. At 8.2% this is a big departure from Sambrook’s usual session ales. They produced it for their fifth anniversary and intend to make it every year from now on. ICIP asks what is involved in making a barley wine as opposed to a standard cask ale?

“Barley wines are usually at least 8%. The British style is lighter, whereas the American styles are much darker. So it’s one of those styles which is more defined by its alcohol content than the the ingredients,” Duncan tells us. “It has a longer fermentation and different yeast to a normal ale. We can get up to 10% on our own yeast. We fortified this so we ran the mash tun and then added some brewing sugars to give it enough sugar to keep it going. Sean decided he wanted to get a very earthy, grassy character to the beer, so he used Northdown and Challenger to get this aroma. I think this will be fantastic in a couple of years.”

Sambrook’s are obviously looking to the future. They have just invested in a bottling plant in Kent with two other breweries – Ramsgate and Westerham – and now bottle their whole range. As Duncan has already intimated, this will free them up to try more experimental recipes such as the barley wine. They have also scored a deal with Tesco to sell Wandle in selected stores in the capital. Does this mean they’re going to make a move from local boozer to supermarket supremacy? “Draught ale is still 90% of all our our production. We’ve gone from bottling 2% to now almost 10% but that’s a big step change for us. Having our flagship product somewhere like Tesco supports our marketing initiatives. I’m thinking about the people who aren’t necessarily that engaged with beer but like to go to a pub and drink a local beer. Having Wandle not just in their local pub but also their local supermarket reinforces that we are your local brewer and that’s an important message for us.”

Read on for part two…

– PS

Down the hatch: beer goes underground

CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide 2014, published this week, revealed that the number of breweries in London has doubled in the past year. How local can beer get? And are micro-brew-pubs the latest way to get in on the craze? 

What’s bubbling away beneath the bar at your favourite boozer?


If you’re lucky enough to live near one of England’s more ambitious pubs you could be waiting for your pint on top of the next beer phenomenon: pub-run microbreweries. This weekend It Comes In Pints went underground at The Queen’s Head pub in Kings Cross, central London, to discover the future of local drinking beneath an unassuming hatch behind the bar.

DSC_0006Pausing but briefly to put away Redchurch Brewery’s Shoreditch Blonde and Weird Beard Brew Co’s Black Perle, ICIP gamely scramble down the cellar ladder after pub owner and brewmaster, Nigel Owen. It’s jacket-discardingly hot in the small underground brew room, around which various enormous vats bubble and gurgle alluringly. We’ve timed our visit just right: with barely concealed excitement, Nigel opens the lid on an enormous plastic fermentation vessel. The yeast has dropped – a sign, he tells us, that the brew is almost ready.

DSC_0002“That’s really exciting,” he explains. “Because the temperature has been quite variable in here it’s taken a little bit longer. When you ferment beer, the fermentation is usually on top, and when it’s ready, it kind of drops down to the bottom. So that beer is now ready. We can take the yeast out and it will be ready to serve after it’s spent some time in the keg.”

The Queen’s Head hopes to launch this – the first of its range of single hop beers – this week, at £3.50 a pint. They have used three new world hops – known for their citrus-y kick – think frosty, Californian Pale Ales – Citra, Cascade and New Zealand’s Pacific Gem.

“They all have distinct flavours, they are full of flavour. Pacific Gem isn’t really used that much in brewing, you don’t get many single hop varieties of Pacific Gem pale ales. So we’re just trying it to see how it goes, to see what happens,” Nigel adds, as ICIP spends a bit too long inhaling the smell of delicious post-fermentation beer. Because our own experience of home brewing extends to blowing up a vat of stout in the kitchen at university by drunkenly having at it before it was finished, we ask Nigel to take us through the brewing process step-by-step.

DSC_0004The brewery’s main equipment takes the form of three metal vats, sat in a pyramid against one of the walls. At the top stands the kettle, where “London’s finest” water is heated up, sometimes with the addition of tablets to de- and re-mineralise. Then grain is added – a crystal malt for a lighter beer, with some dark roasted malts for a ruby red colour. Water – to which hops has been added – “sparges” – mixes – with the grain to make wort. The wort boils, and hops are added at different stages – sometimes after 45 minutes, sometimes after five, sometimes after the boil (“dry hopping”).

That’s a lot of hop, ICIP observes.

“We want to get that killer pale ale,” Nigel explains. “That’s what it’s all about really. One really nice pale ale and we’re there. We want to make a really good pale ale and then we’ll crack on and try something else.”

Once the wort has been cooled it’s transferred to the fermentation tank for that all-important yeast-dropping-moment we intruded on earlier. We leave the heady warmth of the brew room for the cool of The Queen’s Head’s cellar to ask Nigel why he’s decided to make the jump from beer fan to brewer.

“I think little neighbourhood breweries are the way forward as more brewpubs pop up in London,” he tells us. “You don’t really want to be selling it off off-sales, because it’s so labour-intensive you’re not going to make any money out of it. So having on-sales and doing interesting stuff with it makes sense. We’ve got the pub, we’ve got the space. You know, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Well, it could explode, ICIP reflects. But this professional kit is a million miles away from our grotty kitchen set-up. About £10,000 worth of kit away, it transpires. And Nigel is right – a handful of London pubs, including The Cock Tavern and The Botanist, are already brewing and selling their own, very popular, beer. Local produce is certainly on-trend and more environmentally friendly – and you can’t get fewer “drink miles” than the 20-odd feet from pub cellar to glass.

“If people can make good beer in their cellar and sell it so it’s at a more accessible price, I think that’s a positive,” Nigel agrees. Brewing currently takes up about a day-and-a-half of his week, but could become more of a passion when his enthusiasm for landlording’s antisocial hours diminishes. “I’m quite sure my girlfriend would like to see me sometime. Not actually 100% sure, but I just presume,” he adds.

What’s inspired him?

DSC_0013“The guys from The Southampton Arms [Highgate, north London], back in the day,” he answers immediately. “They were brave enough to do such a stripped-back offering and it’s worked so well. They were the ones, when we were looking at taking the pub on, we thought, d’know, if they can make this work, we can make this work. That they made it work means there are people who are willing to go somewhere that’s all about good beer, not about fish and chips. That was quite reassuring, really.” For the time being it’s IPA all the way – “It’s not about being left field. That stuff’s fine, and I’m sure that there are people out there who actually like all the random sour beers and chilli beers out there… but having a really good pale ale would be the goal”. A traditionalist, Nigel is philosophical when we ask if he’s thought of adding peaches, nectarines, digestive biscuits or essence of badger. “What’s the point in doing that if your base product isn’t great? Are you trying to mask something? What’s wrong with just trying to make a good pale ale? If that is not an honourable task then I don’t know what is.”

Up the ladder we scramble to catch a glimpse of the proposed branding. We can’t reveal much, because we promised we wouldn’t, but these bottles will nestle well – but stick out from – other well-known labels. They’re designed with the drinker in mind, with thought put into how identifiable they’ll be from the other side of the bar.

This is certainly the most local brewery tour ICIP has ever done. As we toast the IPA’s future success with a shot of their homemade (scrumptiously orange and juniper-y) gin, we ask Nigel one last, crucial question. Has he created a beer he wants to drink himself? A definitive, emphatic, yes.

We look forward to raising a glass of The Queen’s Head’s own IPA to that.

DSC_0015– ED

Camden Town Brewery tour – report

Camden Town

Like most of the breweries who are part of the recent beer boom in the capital, Camden Town is a relative newcomer. The brewery was established in 2010 after Jasper Cuppaidge grew tired of sourcing beers from all over the world for his pub, The Horseshoe in Hampstead. Why shouldn’t we be able to get great beer made right here in London? He began brewing in the cellar of the pub and in the same year Camden Town Brewery was born, moving into the railway arches by Kentish Town West station in north London.

Camden Town Brewery TapThree years on, the brewery is thriving; its brand one of the most recognisable in the London craft beer scene, it can be found in bars across the capital and they have just scored a distribution deal with Waitrose supermarkets across the country. The brewery boasts a small but popular brewery tap which opens Thursday to Saturday and sells branded ceramic “growlers” – bottles – for beeraways.

Like many breweries, Camden Town has begun running tours of their facilities for interested beer fans. I was a little apprehensive about the tone, as at the last brewery tour we went to – Meantime Brewing Company, in March this year – I was referred to as “my little princess” the whole afternoon, and the tour guide dropped in casual date-rape jokes between beer tastings. I was pleasantly surprised by my experience at Camden Town. 

We were early for our 6pm tour, so we grabbed a drink in the bar first, giving us an opportunity to try their USA Hells – a variation on their flagship lager, Camden Hells, made with American hops (crisp with a citrus bite). Before long our guide, Mark, gathered the tour group together. There were ten of us on the tour – eight guys, two girls. I asked if this was a typical ratio but he said it was usually a fairer split and we just happened to have two guy-girl couples and then two groups of guys in our contingent.

Great beer

We started with a chat about the history of the brewery and a frosty jug of Camden Hells. Standing beneath one of the six huge fermentation tanks, we learned that each one can hold 12,000 litres. As it stands, Camden Town’s brewing capacity is currently 2,000 litres, so they have to brew the same beer six times to fill a tank. I asked if this made it difficult to invest time and resources in new beers or collaborations with other breweries. Mark told us this was very much the case, and that this was part of the reason why they have a relatively small core range of beers, but they are considering expansion in the next couple of years which could see them branch out.

Camden fermentation tanks

Tasting hops

Next we chatted malt and hops, trying the pilsner malt that is used in both Camden and USA Hells and some roast barley malt, used in Camden Ink. It was interesting to learn that even in dark beers like Ink (a stout), no more than 7-8% dark malts are used. We also passed around sacks of hop pellets, and it was incredible how much the hops from different continents vary in aroma and strength. The German hops used in Hells were mild in comparison to the distinct citrus tang of the American Citra and Cascade. This gave us a real taste of how different elements come together to create the range of flavours and aromas we are used to when tasting beer.

Moving through the brewery, we learned about the filtering process. Camden Town is one of few breweries who do not use isinglass – a collagen substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish – for filtration. They have a machine to do the filtration fishy-free, but they also experiment with leaving some of their beers unfiltered – such as Unfiltered and USA Hells. Mark told us that the filtered product is considered more aesthetically-pleasing, but actually the unfiltered version had an added depth of flavour.

Next we came around to the packaging area. Camden Town has recently invested in their own canning facilities to complement the bottling they already do on site. They were canning Camden Hells for sale in Byron hamburger restaurants during our visit but it will be interesting to see what else they bring out in cans in future.

Our tour complete, we headed outside to perch on empty kegs and polish off what was left of the pitchers of beer that had accompanied our tour. We had the opportunity to chat to Mark and ask questions – first thing I wanted to discuss was this image from the marketing for Camden Ink.

Using a male ICIP spy (my husband), I only discovered this because he reported its existence in the mens’ toilets. What did Mark think of this campaign, and did he think it alienated female drinkers? Apparently an ad agency were given a brief which played with both the name of the beer and Camden’s anarchic reputation, and they delivered a different design originally (with no female body parts). The R-18 version was actually a last minute addition that was only used for the launch party at Our Black Heart in Camden in 2011, but it hasn’t been used for any other publicity. Even the Facebook event for the launch, still visible on Facebook, uses the original artwork – which suggests that Camden Town were aware that the crotch-shot approach could put off women drinkers. I appreciated Mark’s honesty, but raised an eyebrow at the presence of the picture in the Gents’ – there was certainly no cock-shot with a “Camden Hells” tat down the shaft in the Ladies’. I also spotted this ad on the wall in the bar showing a woman quite literally being treated like a piece of meat. Oh well, one step at a time…


Leading on from our report on the number of women at the Great British Beer Festival earlier this week, I asked Mark what the gender split was like at the brewery tap. He reckoned it was pretty much 50-50, which was interesting to hear. There were certainly plenty of women in the bar that night and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. After my experience of rape culture in action at Meantime earlier in the year I was pleased to see there was no such bullshit at Camden Town and I wasn’t made to feel like a pariah for asking questions or showing an interest.

After Mark had called it an evening, we ended up chatting into the night with two fellow tour-members. We talked about the beer revolution, we talked about women beer fans, we shared notes on favourite breweries. And when one of my new friends went up to the bar to get a round in, he got me a pint – no questions asked. Bloody brilliant.

USA Hells

The Camden Town Brewery tour runs on Thursday evenings at 6pm and costs £12 per head. You have to book in advance on the brewery’s website.

– PS