Congratulations to Surrey Hills Brewery, which today was awarded the bronze medal at the Great British Beer Festival, where its Hammer Mild was judged to be the third best beer of the year by the Campaign for Real Ale.
It could be boom times for such small breweries, if enough of the public believe the press puffery put out by CAMRA today that suggests that drinking beer can help you lose weight. Hmmm.
CAMRA’s winning beer of 2010 – or “Champion Beer of Britain” – is Castle Rock’s Harvest Pale (actually brewed in caves under Nottingham Castle; Robin Hood would be proud).
The Hammer Mild, unsurprisingly, took the best Mild category prize for the Guildford brewery, ahead of bigger rivals including Greene King. We will seek out Hammer Mild to give it a try, though we can’t remember when we last saw a Mild pump in any of the local pubs we visit.
I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to recover from the shock of Young’s Brewery being moved from Wandsworth, where it once used the waters of the River Wandle in its brewing process.
Now brewed by Charles Wells at Bedford, I find Young’s Ordinary to be tasteless beyond endurance, the beer so pale as to be nearly lager-like transparent. So when I pop into the Dog & Bull these days, it has to be for a pint of Special.
Beer brewing and bottling used to be a major industry, and employer, across south London. No more.
Even when the micro-brewery fad kicked off 30 years ago, there was a fashionable – and enjoyable – Firkin Brewery pub in South End. That went long ago, sadly, and the old boozer is now on its third (or is it fourth?) reincarnation as some uber-trendy themed restaurant.
I suppose that’s a better fate that the Swan & Sugarloaf, the South Croydon landmark which has been closed for the last three months, its future uncertain.
The overall decline in London brewing is reflected in CAMRA’s annual gongs today, with only the ever-dependable Fuller’s getting among the prizes, with a silver for its Gales HSB strong bitter.
CAMRA’s proselytising on the weight-loss qualities of beer suggests a degree of desperation on the real ale lobbyists’s behalf, as they seeks to capture column inches in the “silly season” of slow news August.
Together with something called “the Beer Academy” (so this is not necessarily a piece of entirely “independent” research), they have found that half a pint of beer has fewer calories and alcohol than a medium-sized glass of red or white wine, or the dread alcopops.
“Beer, when drunk in moderation, can help you lose weight, cut alcohol consumption, and more generally, help supplement a healthy lifestyle,” they say, earnestly, apparently defying the evidence of generations of middle-aged men’s beer bellies.
They do make some serious points about the health giving properties of beer, and its composition as a natural product. The survey findings can be read by clicking here (so you don’t need to read the inevitable news feature on page 5 of tomorrow’s Daily Mail).
All the winning beers, and nearly 500 others, can be sampled – obviously in sensible half-pint measures – at the Great British Beer Festival which continues at Earl’s Court, a 20min train ride from East Croydon, until Saturday. More details can be found here.
The award-winning Surrey Hills Brewery is soon to relocate even closer to Croydon, to Dorking, making them the fourth small brewery in the Dorking and Reigate area. We think they might be ripe for a visit sooner than later.
Our favourite nearby brewery for a visit is Harvey’s, home of one of the finest traditional ales in the south-east, which almost beckons you off the Brighton-line train when you pull in to Lewes.
But if you are looking to try out the health-inducing, weight-loss characteristics of beer, an article in Surrey Life magazine from a couple of years ago might prove useful, detailing the half-dozen small breweries to be found all within less than an hour of Croydon.
Or you could try the award-winning Green Dragon pub at the top end of Surrey Street, which routinely has Hog’s Back Brewery beers and other real ales on tap every day.