Tag Archives: Camden Town

When a plan comes together: Camden Town and Adnams collaborate

In the distant future, as robots pour space pints of synthahol in bars run by a be-hatted Whoopi Goldberg (is the top line too early for a Star Trek reference?), people will look back on the beer boom of 2013/14 and wonder why everyone got so het up about cask vs keg. Why couldn’t we just get along? Camden Town brewery (hip hopsters based in North London) and Adnams Brewery (established alesters from Southwold) have had enough of the fight. They’ve collaborated over a new ale – called South Town – and decided to throw it a party at Camden HQ.

That’s on ICIP’s doorstep, so on a balmy Saturday afternoon we meandered through the North London sun (no, really!) to visit Adnams in their new, temporary home. And hadn’t Adnams made themselves at home. We were greeted by the sight of Camden’s long beer garden, sandwiched between gritty industrial plots, dotted with Adnams’ deckchairs; something of a change of scene for them, used as they are to sunset behind a lighthouse rather than sunset behind a graffitied Amy Winehouse tribute.


South Town (would you believe it’s taken me this long to realise the beer is a mash-up of the locations of the two breweries) was served at a dedicated cask bar, accessible only if you shelled out £12 for a six-stamp card (a half was one stamp, a pint two, so at three pints for £12 a bargain in this part of town) (also fun because stamp cards, like loyalty cards, make me inexplicably competitive and OCD along the lines of: WE’VE GOT TWO AND A HALF STAMPS LEFT IF WE ADD UP THESE TWO CARDS YOU CAN’T LEAVE NOW I DON’T CARE IF YOU CAN’T SEE).


South Town pours a long, amber pint. It’s approachable and drinkable, and at 4.9% the perfect pint to go with the hours of rugby with which the party happened to coincide. A first glug gave way to SO MUCH much hops (Topaz, Summer, Ella and Galaxy), which resolved in the kind of mellow sweetness you expect from an ale. This was achieved by using four different malts – Pale Ale, Light Crystal, Crystal Rye and Golden Naked Oats. I could drink pints of South Town (I did drink pints of South Town!) and not get bored (I didn’t get bored!) which is more than can be said for many ales.

“Camden are cool in a very cool way and we’re cool in a cask ale way” – Adnams’ Fergus Fitzgerald

South Town was brewed at Adnams’ brewery in Southwold. They picked up the cheque and agreed a retail price with Camden, who buy up and sell stock as they see fit. Beer nerds that we are, we wanted to know more of the story behind the brew: why did Camden, who don’t do cask, want to brew with Adnams, who exude old english ale from their idyllic seaside brewery? We tracked down head brewers Alex “Camden” Troncoso and Fergus “Adnams” Fitzgerald to find out more about what brought these two together.

“We’re both cool in different ways,” Fergus explained. “Camden are cool in a very cool way and we’re cool in a cask ale way. So it was a good way to get together.”

Ideas and recipes flew back and forwards across the interwebs. An idea for a stout and a porter eventually evolved into a hoppy ale.


Alex Troncoso

“We used a huge amount of hops,” Alex agreed. “More than two times the amount Camden’s pale ale is hopped.” Of course, this made the brew expensive – those hops don’t come cheap.

We were delighted to hear (I MEAN OF COURSE WE COULD TELL JUST BY TASTE) that South Town was brewed with Adnams’ famous yeast. “Part of the collaboration is that we both add something to it, so most of what we add is the yeast,” Fergus tells us. “With our own yeast we’re relatively confident what it’s going to do. Then you can use it as a base and paint a new picture on top.”

“It’s like making 20,000 litres of soup and hoping it will taste OK!” – Camden’s Alex Troncoso

Fergus Fitzgerald

Fergus Fitzgerald

Using a familiar yeast, Fergus added, can be a helpful constant in a nerve-wracking project. “You’re changing so many other things – you want something that you possibly could rely on. If you do enough one-offs, eventually something will go wrong and you’ll end up dumping it. You can’t do that many experiments and not expect to have a failure. You have to accept that’s going to happen.”

“Because South Town was brewed at Adnams, most of the stress was there,” Alex says. “This end … we’ve been in this situation before. It’s like making 20,000 litres of soup and hoping it will taste OK!”

Well, ICIP is happy to relate that this batch of soup definitely turned out ok. Were Fergus and Alex happy?

“Stoked,” says Alex. “It tastes like I’d hoped,” Fergus agreed. “This was more stressful for Alex because I could test it! It’s got elements of Camden and Adnams.”


Channelling Paxo, ICIP lands the difficult final question: What’s your favourite beer from the other’s brewery?

“My trip to Southwold changed my opinion,” Alex admits. “My favourite used to be Ghost Ship – now it’s Adnams’ Oyster Stout!”

“Camden Hells Lager,” says Fergus, without missing a beat. “It’s the one I’ve drunk most, but you learn with brewing there are a couple of difficult things to brew: low alcohol beer and good lager. It’s really difficult to brew, technically. You’ve got nowhere to hide – you haven’t got enough flavours to hide the little inconsistencies. You’ve got to get everything right.”

South Town gets a lot right, so we were excited when Alex and Fergus left the proverbial brewery door open for another collaboration brew. Come winter, I’m holding out for a Camden Wold stout.

You can buy a mini keg of South Town from Adnams or try it at any of the pubs listed here, or at Nicholsons Spring Ale festival.

Want more? Check out our posts on the Camden brewery tour and our day out brewing with Adnams.

 DSC_0022– 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