Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Sambrook's find a new home

I was somewhat taken aback to read that south London independent brewers Sambrook’s, are upping sticks and moving to a new site in the heart of Wandsworth. Their new home will be in the “Ram Quarter, ” a mixed-use development centred on the old Young’s Brewery, which closed in 2006.

Sambrook’s new brewery will be set within the restored Grade-II listed brewery buildings which were once home to the much-loved, and greatly missed, Young & Co. Alongside their new brewery, Sambrook’s will operate a tap room, with outdoor seating, set around the Ram Quarter’s central square. There will also be  a visitors’ centre housing a brewery museum, showcasing the history of brewing in London.

The new facility will be opening in Spring 2020, after which Sambrook’s current site in Battersea will close. The company has operated there since it was founded  in August 2008.  There have been lots of changes in the London brewing scene since then, but Sambrook’s has remained at its heart, and is now the second oldest independent brewer in London.  

Duncan Sambrook, founder and managing director of the company, said: “Our move to the Ram Quarter feels like a homecoming. Wandsworth has had a rich brewing heritage and we’re excited to be able to continue this and secure the future of Sambrook’s brewery. It’s a fantastic location for us to expand our retail offering and is just metres from the River Wandle after which our most famous beer takes its name.”

Sambrook’s first beer was the award winning, Wandle Ale, and since its launch the company has expanded to brew a well-regarded range of British inspired cask and keg beers, which are distributed throughout London.

Returning to the Wandsworth site, brewing has been taking place there  since at least 1533. Famously the site was home to Young’s until 2006. During redevelopment the Ram’s brewing legacy was preserved by former Young’s master brewer, John Hatch, who maintains a nano-brewery at the site. The relocation of Sambrook’s will re-launch the commercial brewing from the site and continue its brewing heritage.

I mentioned at the beginning of the post that I was surprised, about this recent, and most welcome development, and that surprise is centred around Young’s decision to leave their home at the Ram Brewery in the first place.

It’s water under the bridge now, and whilst like many others I was shocked when Young’s announced they were leaving Wandsworth, with hindsight this was not such a surprise, after all. Two years prior to the closure decision, Young’s had announced a “Review of the options for Ram Brewery,” and given the size and central location of the Wandsworth site, the move was perhaps inevitable.

Wandsworth was a boom area for property developers, and selling up no doubt made millions for Young’s and its shareholders. The company’s colourful former chairman, John Young, was not a well man by time the move was announced, but whether he could have prevented the deal is open to speculation.

John Young sadly died, just six weeks after contracts were exchanged on the Ram Brewery, but earlier in his career he won fame for his stubborn refusal to stock keg beer in Young's pubs, keeping faith with traditional draught ale. This was back in the mid-1960s, when all the major brewers were converting their pubs to keg beer.

The Ram Brewery officially closed at the end of business, on Monday, 25 September 2006. At the time of its closure it was a mix of ancient and ultra-modern plant, including a steam engine which had been installed in 1835 and had been in regular use until the 1980s. I visited the brewery during the early part of that decade and would agree with the assessment above.

The brewery was famously home to a dozen working draught shire horses, which were used for local deliveries of beer to locations within a mile or two of the brewery. There were other animals as well, including a ram - the brewery mascot, plus a number of geese.

The Greenland Group, who are the current owners of  the site, are now working on their  £600m master-plan to transform the historic 4.5-acre Ram Brewery site, in a development that brings together a mixture of retail and residential properties.

A spokesman for  Greenland said,  “We have always recognised the importance of Ram’s brewing legacy, and safeguarding its heritage has been crucial to our development plans. We’re proud to be keeping Wandsworth’s beer tradition alive, while creating an exciting new destination, in partnership with a local business.”

So watch this space. In the meantime let's offer congratulations and best wishes to Sambrook’s on their expansion plans, and look forward to seeing the new development on the banks of the Wandle.


Etu said...

Thanks for posting a picture of my erstwhile local, the Richard I, Paul.

I lived on Royal Place for a year or so in the late 1970s, about thirty metres opposite. I was peer-pressured into drinking "Spesh" back then, but far and away prefer Ordinary now. I was enjoying a pint of that at the Woolpack on Bermondsey St., when England took their winning stump the other night, incidentally. I actually exclaimed. And at a sporting event.

It's hard to compare tastes over a forty-year time span, but the Bedfordshire contracted-out version doesn't seem jarringly different from the Wandsworth one to me.

It's good to see that "the Tolly" looks much the same as it always did too, or from the outside at any rate.

paul said...

Sambrook’s has remained at its heart, and is now the oldest independent brewer in London.

I think that Twickenham Fine Ales might have something to say about that:
Twickenham Fine Ales is London’s oldest micro-brewery. Founded by Steve Brown in 2004...

Unless I'm not up to speed with all the latest developments in the London beer scene (and neither would be the Twickenham website in that case) - the former being eminently possible.

Paul Bailey said...

Paul, it depends on whether Twickenham is part of London or Middlesex? After checking up, I discovered that whilst it was historically part of the latter former county, it has been part of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames since 1965.

Thanks for pointing that out, and apologies to Twickenham Fine Ales. The post has been amended to read Sambrook's are now the second oldest independent brewer in London.

Paul Bailey said...

Etu, I was always a "Spesh" man, but not impervious to the delights of the occasional pint of Ordinary. The previous Mrs Bailey came from Earlsfield, just up the road from Wandsworth, so I spent many a night knocking back Young's on its home territory.

It's a long time since I had a pint of either beer, and whilst we sometimes see Ordinary in some of our local pubs, I don't think I've seen the Special apart from in a Young's pub.

retiredmartin said...

Well done on congratulating Sambrooks. They deserve their success.

I finally made their little Tap Room a few months ago and found the best barman in Britain there. Their 10% stout was astonishing.

Wandle has become almost ubiquitous on my visits to London pubs. It's a decent beer, though I reckon volumes per pub are far below what you'd have found in a Wandsworth Youngs local 15 years ago.

As with ETU, I think the new Youngs beers are a good copy, though what you'll taste depends on throughput.

Paul Bailey said...

Sambrook's certainly do deserve their success, Martin and it's good to see them stepping into Young's old shoes, and indeed their old home as well.

Call it serendipity, but after my conversation with Etu on the subject of Young's beers, what should be on the bar of the first pub I stopped at on my NDW walk, but both Ordinary and Special.

The Ordinary was anything but, and I'm not just saying that because it was it was my first and, as it happened, only pint on a very hot day. It was truly excellent. I didn't try the Special, as I still had a lot of miles to cover, and was also afraid it wouldn't be anywhere near as good as what I'd just sampled.

More details to follow