by Jörgen Nilsson
Just along the Thames, in the area known as Chiswick lies the old and famous Fuller’s Brewery. With brews like the London Pride, ESB (Extra Strong Bitter) and the Honey Dew that I’ve mentioned in my previous post about organic beers it was an absolute delight to finally get the chance to visit them and take part in their guided tours.
The following is a short story about my visit and for me to urge you all to do the same. Bookings are made through their webpage, and cost around 10 pounds with an estimated length of about 2 hours including a free sampling at the end of the tour.
The guided tour starts of at Mawson Arms, the local pub where many of the employees grab a pint of their own before going home for the weekend. A lovely man named Des in about his 60’s gathered us up and immediately led us down to the Thames to let us get a short introduction as of how it came to be that the brewery started and the important location near the river to get all the ingredients and exports when it all started in the 17-hundreds. Back then it was healthier to drink beer than the local water as beer got heated and killed many of the most dangerous bacteria’s.
Following this introduction we were then presented to a Chinese wall plant they took great pride in as it was the only one that survived the harsh English conditions probably because it was regularly watered with beer.
Once fitted with reflex vests we were then led through the brewery where Des took us through the
different parts of brewing a beer: from where they took and stored their water, and then to how the malt might taste very differently and give different colors depending on types.
Of course he handed out different types of malt grains so we all could taste the difference on our own. After the malt we talked about the hops and how it give a beer so many different types of smell and flavours and how they always use more than one type of hops, all up to their ”brit hop” consisting of eight different types.
It ended with a mentioning of their own yeast culture which they have copyrighted and store in refrigerators. He also told us about their annual Vintage Ales and how a little of the yeast are left in each bottle to make it suitable for ageing for another 10 years before it is perfect to drink compared to the normal beers that get their fuzz from carbon dioxide. Once leaving the brewery we passed my personal high point: a couple of barrels where Brewers Reserve no5 currently lies in resting and maturely soaking up the smell and flavor of aged whisky for when it is intended to be sold in the middle of next year in limited batches.
The tour ended in their Hock Cellar where a lot of memorabilia, awards and a small pub was set up. For about half an hour Des became our personal barkeep and happily served us anyone of Fuller’s products so what we were able to try different kinds of beer or maybe get a taste of one of those seasonal beers that we just never had gotten our hands on before, all to get a feel for what Des had been talking about for the last hour and a half.
As I (with pride) could proclaim that I’ve tasted them all before I and Des instead had a conversation about the small batches of Brewer’s Reserve, and the series Past Masters where the brew master look through their old black book containing all recipes since they started and make new version of old recipes. It just goes to show how much Des knew outside of what he told us during the tour.
Finally we all took a quick pop through the souvenir shop where we could purchase many of the beers or other kinds of memorabilia to take home. Of course many of us headed back to the Mawson Arms to enjoy a bit of food after this two hour tour. I strongly suggest you try the Vintage Ale Toffee with caramel ice-cream.
All in all I had very high hopes on Fuller’s since it is my favourite brewery and I wasn’t disappointed at all. I cannot emphasise enough how charming Des was and how welcoming all the personnel were when we walked through the brewery. Sure, it might pay of better if you already know a thing or two about Fuller’s or beer making in general but it is not crucial at all and for that I salute them.
So the next time I enjoy a pint of ESB I will be able to say ”I’ve been there, I’ve smelt and felt the legacy behind this fine ale”