Unlike some previous milestone trips, Merideth and I were quite sure that we would visit our 800th brewery while in London. Such confidence made the trip much more relaxing. Able to check our completist tendencies, we had maybe our slowest paced trip in years.
Our lazy 800 milestone day got a late start while Merideth slept in and I finished the first trip travelogue. Finally managing to leave our apartment around noon, Merideth and I headed for London Bridge and Borough Market for some lunch to fuel our day.
By the time we arrived, Borough Market was already mobbed with Londoners and tourists, flocking around the myriad of food stalls looking for lunch. Pies, soup, and oysters were among the many choices that were before us. After much soul searching, I went with the pork sausage with onions and Merideth the pork burger with blue cheese.
Lunch done, we walked a few yards over to the Rake. With a great beer selection and WiFi, The Rake had become our unofficial London headquarters. Like days previous, we popped in to get warm, drink a few halves, check email, social media and most important, plan the afternoon’s activities. With a 5pm tour for our 800th, Camden Town, we still had a whole afternoon. Looking at my list of breweries and pubs, the nearby Dean Swift jumped out as our next stop.
Joined by our friend Paul, we set out on to the windy and cold streets of Southwark. Leaving London Bridge behind us, our trio walked east along Tooley Street. Paul pointed out various landmarks such as City Hall. More interesting to us, we passed the historic Anchor Brewhouse.
The Anchor Brewhouse began as a small brewery purchased by John Courage in 1787. The current structure, a very impressive, massive, brick building, dated from the late 19th century. While it has long ceased being a brewery, on our big day, it was nice to see some London brewing history.
Located down the street and around the corner from Anchor Brewhouse, the Dean Swift was a brightly lit, airy pub. It’s bistro-like feel made it all the more confusing when Paul said this used to be a rough neighborhood. Mid afternoon, it was very quiet, only a singular customer pecking away on his laptop in the corner.
The Dean Swift had an excellent selection of beer, both real ale and keg. Though we were going there next, Merideth was happy to see Camden Town’s 7 Hop Lager on keg. I started with Big Chief from Redemption, a delicious 5.5% ABV Kiwi-hopped IPA.
One of the unexpected highlights of our Dean Swift stop was meeting Spizz for the second time. One of the many entertaining characters in Teachings from the Tap, Spizz, with his punk band Spizzenergi, had a #1 hit on the Indie chart in the late 1970s, “Where’s Captain Kirk?“. Quite a characer, Spizz was just as charming and humorous as we remembered him from 2008.
We also learned a valuable lesson. There is a big difference between our English and English. The term “spastic” apparently has a slightly different meaning in England than here in America. If Merideth writes another book, she won’t make the same mistake again. Thanks for understanding, Spizz!
We took an alternate route to our 8ooth, Camden Town Brewery. Occupying a number of railway arches below Kentish Town West Overground station, we ended up on the Tube on our way up from the Dean Swift. Disembarking at Kentish Town, we walked the ten minutes to the brewery. Turning down Wilkin Street Mews, we saw five shiny, huge fermenters sitting outside of the brewery. It was kind of a ‘wow’ moment as I’m not sure we expected such a large setup, especially since all of our other brewery visits had been significantly smaller operations. Passing the fermenters, we entered the tasting room already buzzing with early evening drinkers.
We quickly found our guide, Mark Dredge, who was kind enough to give us a private tour for our 800th brewery. As Mark took us from the brew kit to the bottling line, two things stood out for me. First, the large amount of brewing equipment they squeezed into a few railway arches was quite amazing. Second, we saw no casks. Camden Town is part of the keg revolution in England. Merideth couldn’t have been more excited!
After the short brewery tour, we retired back to to the red light-bathed tasting room. Set up with a six beer flight, we each took a quick sip of the Helles. And 800 was officially in the books. Focusing back on the flight, the other five ranged from a couple of Wheats and Pale Ale on the lighter end of the spectrum to a Stout and Doppelbock on the darker side.
The star was the wonderful crisp 4.6% ABV Helles. Probably Merideth’s favorite beer of the trip, my only disappointment was that I didn’t get to try it next to US Helles, Camden Town’s American-hopped version of the same beer. Also of note was Ink, a roasty 4.4% ABV Stout poured on nitro.
Given that we celebrated 700 this time last year, we were quite proud of reaching 800 breweries. It was extra special that Merideth and I shared the milestone moment together, I think for the first time ever. Thanks to our London friends who helped us: Paul for being a great tour guide, Mark for letting tag along for his visits to Pressure Drop and Brew By Numbers, and Tanya for being fun to have a pint with. It’s now time to focus on 900!