Anspach and Hobday Brewery Opening
The Bermondsey Beer Mile is going from strength to strength these days. With Kernel and Partizan firmly established and Brew By Numbers and Fourpure up and running, it’s always exciting to hear about a new brewery taking charge of an arch and adding to what must be London’s (or maybe Europe’s?) most interesting beer crawl.
The new brewers on the block, Anspach & Hobday, resides in Druid Street, close to Kernel’s old stomping grounds and the tasty bustle of Ropewalk, a great alternative to Borough Market’s Saturday foodie options. Their neighbour St John’s Bakery bangs out donuts and eccles cakes that are things of legends. Within a light and homely arch sits their one barrel kit. It’s a fairly meagre start, but their plan is to start small and brew regularly to learn their craft, leaving them room to grow later.
The name Anspach & Hobday conjures up images of heritage, monocles and pipe smoking, so you might be surprised to hear that these lads are actually some of London’s youngest brewers. Having been home-brewers for a few years they found their eureka moment in the rather odd form of Oz Clarke. They had the chance to let the celebrity wine & beer buff sample their home-brewed porter. Oz liked it. A lot. He gave enough praise for them to realise they were onto something good. After a Kickstarter campaign, which got them some much needed start up money, they were also approached by a design company, who’d help them with the branding, and a brewer (Bullfinch Brewery) interested in leasing brewing space with them. John Hobday told us that the kickstarter was the real catalyst that got them going.
After a few months of doing a soft launch, including an encouraging win for their porter at the International Beer Challenge, they’ve officially opened the doors to their brand spanking new brewery to the public. We were invited a few days before to try their beers, with a few food matches thrown in.
The first beer we tried was their IPA. The beer is US hopped but is definitely not competing with what we know as an archetypal American IPA. The beer is dry as hell and has a fairly prominent bitterness, with an interesting nose that’s not all sweet tropical fruits but rather peppery with a grapefruity tang. The beer was matched with a chicken curry and mango chutney, the latter giving a sweet kick that worked really well with the beer.
The second beer up was their Smoked Brown, a twist on a classic that still has a traditional vibe. It’s not too smokey and is aged a little on oak chips to round the beer out. The beer was paired with a beautiful cheddar from their neighbour Neal’s Yard, and a smoked sausage with bacon. John explained it took a while to find the perfect match for this specific beer. He was hoping to go with a smoked cheese, but alas, that’s pretty much the only type of cheese Neal’s Yard don’t supply. Thankfully one of the employees came to the rescue, trying the beer and instantly finding the perfect cheese. The guys should give said employee a pack of Smoked Brown, because they pretty much nailed it. Nutty and rich cheese with the smokiness and little bit of oak? You know it works.
The final beer of their opening trio was the already award winning porter – the beer that started this journey off for them. It was combined with a shot of coffee, some dark chocolate and a rich fruit cake. All were there to compliment different aspects of the beer, but the coffee worked the best, bringing out the porters deeply dark and fruity depths. Coffee and beer, who would’ve thought it worked so well. Not a bad show at all.
Their beers show a style that’s most definitely British-centric. Combine that with their branding, and their name, and you’ve got a brewery that feels like it’s got some age. We also heard a little about some new beers that will be making an appearance, such as a Table Porter and a Stout Porter, which again seems to fit in with this direction. There was also a family vibe about A&H, with the brewers being childhood friends and their parents milling about the brewery, as well as being investors.
Being situated in one of London’s main brewing hubs it will be interesting to see how Anspach & Hobday will differentiate themselves from the ever competitive London pack, and whether this more traditional approach will hit the right note. Starting small could also be one of their strengths, with both Brew By Numbers and Pressure Drop starting out in this way and developing distinct styles that helped them becomes some of the best London has to offer. It’s also obvious that having just a core range can sometimes lead to a fairly stagnant brewery, so being able to knock out specials and more experimental brews makes good sense. In this department we’ll have to wait and see what A&H can achieve.
As the night wore to an end, John spoke of their dream to have a large brewpub, his exact words were ‘Cathedral Of Beer’, with the ultimate dream to create an international location of beer. It’s great to hear breweries with big visions beyond the arches and industrial estates that most are housed in, and hopefully A&H will be ones to watch in the future.
For more images from the night, check out our Flickr page.