AMID the gloom afflicting the pub industry right now, one chink of light has been the relative success of real ale. Perhaps due to the way its homely, hearty image seems more attractive in recessionary times, ale has increased its share of the beer market and grown its drinker base in the past year, according to the Cask Report, a survey published in September. In particular, independent, local breweries have been seeing business increase as drinkers turn away from the mass produced stuff and search out more interesting, better-quality pints.
One notable success story has been Sambrook’s Brewery, a business set up in Battersea by former Deloitte accountant Duncan Sambrook in 2008. Despite launching into the teeth of the recession, Sambrook’s turned over £1m in the past year, and started making a profit for Duncan and his 20 investors – mostly made up of family and friends, including some former City colleagues – six months ago.
If you frequent quality pubs across southwest London (and further a-field – the brewery now serves over 200 pubs inside the M25) you may well have come across the brewery’s flagship ale, Wandle. A hoppy, light beer with only a 3.8 per cent alcohol content, it compares favourably with what used to be the local favourite, Young’s Bitter (now, sadly, brewed in Bedford). Having launched a second ale – Junction, named after nearby Clapham Junction station – earlier this year, the brewery is now launching a porter beer – the dark, strong ale style that’s synonymous with London.
“Porter is such an iconic London drink, it’s what made London the centre of the brewing world for a long time, and this is our modern take on it,” says Sambrook. A deep, chocolatey concoction, it’s a beer that’s perhaps not for the feint hearted, but will be just the thing for settling into a cosy pub as the temperature plummets this weekend.