POST-LOCKDOWN (NOT QUITE) LOCK-INS: In his never-ending quest for the perfect outdoor pint, or even two-thirds of a pint, KEN TOWL hopped on the tram to prove it is possible to organise a piss-up at two breweries
Someone at Anspach and Hobday – it may have been Mr Anspach, it may have been Mr Hobday – let Inside Croydon know that they would be opening their Taproom , or at least the forecourt in front of it, to sophisticated and urbane drinkers from 1pm to 7pm every Saturday afternoon for the foreseeable future.
They made a point of mentioning their latest wheeze, fresh lager (“direct from our horizontal lagering tank. Tank fresh lager!“), and also let slip that their neighbours, the Signal Brewery, might be doing something similar.
I recruited three friends to help me fill up a table (you can book for between two and six people) and after getting off the tram at Therapia Lane, we entered Stirling Way from Beddington Farm Road. As soon as you turn into Stirling Way you see what looks like a mini-Oktoberfest going on in the suntrap that is the A&H forecourt at Unit 11 of the Valley Point light industrial estate.
Claire, the welcoming and thoroughly competent maîtresse d’, showed us to our table and asked us what we wanted. I went for a schooner (2/3 pint) of the fresh lager. It was only at this point that I became aware that all three of my companions were off the booze. For the record, I am led to understand that the Fentimans ginger beer was of the highest quality.
I am not a lager drinker by habit but, if the A&H fresh product is anything to go by, I may well make it my al fresco summer drink of choice. Clean and hoppy, it was a world away from the bog-standard canned or bottled stuff and, at 4.7 per cent, packed just the right amount of punch.
There are plenty of draft beers on offer, but you will have to try these for yourself.
The Table Beer, at 2.7 per cent is, according to Claire, something of a triumph, a low alcohol ale with plenty of flavour “for the health-conscious”, while The Imperial Porter carries an impressive (daunting?) 9 per cent.
On the other hand, you might prefer The Pale Ale (4.4 per cent) or the Smoked Brown (5.5 per cent).
It is worth noting at this point that, just as at many beer festivals, to give customers the opportunity to try as many of the different brews as they are able, you can order drinks in four sizes: one-third, a half, two-thirds of a pint and, of course, an imperial pint.
I would strongly recommend a visit, and I would strongly recommend booking in advance (https://www.anspachandhobday.com/bookings). The place was busy on the first Saturday, and according to Claire, had been busy all afternoon with returning regular customers and word-of-mouth recommendations.
After the retro-reggae-fuelled mellow ambience of A&H, we crossed over to Unit 8 and the slightly smaller concrete beer garden in front of the Signal Brewery and took a circular table for four where we sat on cushioned metal beer casks and were treated to what Ashley described as “happy house” beats and what Richard described as a “pre-club vibe”.
He is a younger and wiser man than me, so I will take his word for it.
Given the limited size of the place, it is probably worth booking a table here too. Contact details here: https://signalbeerco.com/get-in-touch/.
Barbara showed a huge amount of self-sacrifice in the interests of research and suspended her abstinence, deciding to have a beer in order to provide Inside Croydon readers with more information.
She asked for “a weak beer”, perhaps hoping for something like A&H’s Table Beer. Our friendly host, Freddie, recommended the Kranok. Barbara ordered a half, tasted it and pronounced it a “floral and refreshing” lager.
I asked Freddie what the ABV was. Four point three, he said. I had a pint of the pale ale, a little stronger with a lot of American hops, which went down well as the sun set over the National Windscreens unit opposite.
Read more: Masks and casks: good to be back in the open at The Oval
Read more: Our guide to some of Croydon’s better covid-safe beer gardens
To read Ken Towl’s previous articles, on pubs, restaurants, shopping during the covid-19 lockdown, or just getting lost on the North Downs Way, click here
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Journalism at its finest! hic!
Anyone who thinks that our bold correspondent is able to claim his bar tab as “research expenses” is very sadly mistaken