There’s a new brewer in town, and KEN TOWL couldn’t wait to visit
When Walter White realised that the cotidian lifestyle was not for him, he ended up breaking bad. When Messrs Anspach and Hobday decided to strike out on their own, they ended up, just like White, in charge of an industrial unit full of shining metal vats, following a meticulous process in order to create a product that was the best on the market.
Fortunately for Croydon, Paul Anspach and Jack Hobday are brewing beer rather than cooking meth. Fortunately for Croydon, they are brewing beer a stone’s throw from Therapia Lane tram stop, rather than Phoenix, Arizona.
I had the good fortune to attend their Croydon brewery preview party, an opportunity to meet the brains and brawn behind the operation and, inevitably, and for purely journalistic purposes, try the beer.
I asked Hobday what his plans were for the new brewery. We sat at benches among happy consumers of his product, creating a kind of mini-Oktoberfest vibe, a contrast to the innately industrial setting. He said he plans to develop the front of the unit for retail sales, in the form of a tap room – a drinking outlet attached to a brewery – and for takeaway sales.
They already have a tap room in Bermondsey, close to where they were first set up. Their website doesn’t actually give you the address, but rather places it in the “Bermondsey Beer Mile”, a rather intriguing amalgam of beer outlets that probably deserves further investigation.
Hobday talks with palpable enthusiasm about expanding his business in Croydon, employing people, becoming part of the community. He was pleased that a contingent from CAMRA had visited that morning.
He tells of the first beer he and Anspach made commercially, The Porter. All of their beers are prefaced by the word “The”.
All of their beer bottle labels feature two characters, one contemporary and one classical, reflecting both the modern and traditional elements of today’s beer. The Porter, for example, features a hipster with a mobile and an Edwardian gent who differ sartorially but share a penchant for finely managed facial hair.
Hobday tells us about the beer tanks, how the new lager should be ready early in the new year and the canning machinery will be installed, and he talks about the pigeon logo. They were searching for a symbol that reflected their London roots. The skyline and the red bus seemed too obvious, too cheesy. They came up with the pigeon that adorns all their bottles, a pigeon in a bowler hat, “a smart pigeon”.
That pigeon also gives name to their pub on Camberwell Church Street, where they usually have “10 lines” of draft beer on the go.
And what of the beer?
At this stage I should declare an interest. I like beer. I like Croydon. I like the work that CAMRA – the Campaign for Real Ale – has done and its influence on the industry. I like the idea of young entrepreneurs adding life and creativity to an historic trade.
So when Anspach and Hobday settle on Stirling Way, off Beddington Farm Road, to open up their brewing, bottling and canning plant, and when they plan to open a tap room and employ a handful of people in admin and brewing and serving beer, I am going to like the idea, and I’m probably going to like the beer.
So they really didn’t have to give me a bottle of The Porter (6.7%), a bottle of The IPA (6.0%) and a bottle of The Cream Ale (4.5%) to take away, but it is nice that they did.
The bottles remain unopened, sitting on the table accusingly as I write this. Even for purely journalistic purposes, I am not going to open them at nine in the morning.
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