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.
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.