Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Last Saturday saw a small group of beer enthusiasts travelling down to darkest Sussex, in order to visit the 1648 Brewery. Originally set up back in 2003, in out-buildings attached to the King's Head pub in the small village of East Hoathly, the 1648 Brewery has since gone from strength to strength. Today, as well as supplying the adjacent pub, 1648 now supplies around 30 local pubs, and even sends its beer further afield via wholesalers such as Flying Firkin.
For most of us, it was our first visit to this attractive village, and although it involved a couple of changes of buses, it was surprisingly easy to get to. Our first port of call was the King's Head itself; a classic village local that dates back to the 17th Century. Three 1648 beers were on sale, alongside Dark Star Hophead and Harveys Best. Several of us opted for the 1648 Ruby Mild, a fine reddish-coloured mild, with an abv of 3.6%, before being invited to walk round to the brewery at the side of the pub.
We were met by brewer, Dave Seabrook, who took us inside the old stable buildings which house the neat and compact brewery. The plant was designed and built by Rob Jones of Dark Star Brewery, and is unusual in that it doesn't have a hot liquor tank. The brew length is unusual too, at 4.25 barrels (72 firkins). The old hay loft, above the brewery, acts as the malt and hop store and the way everything is shoe-horned into the available space is a marvel to behold. Dave brews four times a week during busy periods, turning out an impressive range of beers, which includes regular monthly specials.
After thanking Dave for his time, we returned to the pub where we were able to sample the other 1648 beers, as well as some excellent home-cooked pub food. I particularly enjoyed the 4.4% Signature, a very pale and well-hopped bitter, alongside the seasonal 4.6% Bee-Head, a golden coloured summer ale, brewed using local Sussex honey. The Cumberland sausage and mash I had for lunch was also extremely good.
We left the pub mid-afternoon, in order to catch the bus back home. Most of us though broke our journey at Crowborough and walked down to the Cooper's Arms; one of the best pubs in the area, and one that specialises in beers from Sussex breweries. Two Dark Star beers were on sale; Hophead and Best Bitter, alongside a beer called Red Ale, from Pitfield Brewery. A wide range of Pitfield's unusual bottled beers were also on sale at the pub, but as I didn't fancy having to carry them home, I made a mental note to return there another time. I have been to the Cooper's on a number of occasions, and its location down a quiet side road on the edge of Crowborough, and the stunning views from the garden at the rear make it the sort of pub I would like to have as my local.
All in all it was an excellent day out in the Sussex countryside, which saw us visiting a couple of really good pubs. A final word though about how the 1648 Brewery acquired its name. Quite simply, as previously stated, the brewery is attached to the King's Head pub. The monarch depicted on the crooked sign that hangs outside the pub is the unfortunate Charles the First. 1648 was the year in which Charles lost his head, so 1648 is the name of the brewery. So now you know!