As well as debating as to whether West Kent needed another brewery, and the impact its appearance would have on the performance of other local breweries, I also advised that Constellation had plans to open a taproom at the brewery. This was planned to coincide with the easing of pandemic restrictions, even though at the time, the PM’s “roadmap out of lock-down” hadn’t yet been formulated, let alone published.
I was altered to this by a message on social media, that flashed up on my phone, and had every intention of paying the place a visit. Unfortunately, Mrs PBT’s had other ideas that included a shopping expedition to Sevenoaks. To cut a long story short, by the time son Matthew arrived home from work, and we’d had our evening meal, there was insufficient time for a visit.
I’m not exactly sure where the idea of a brewery taproom first came from, because when talking about such a space, I’m not referring to what us older drinkers would think of as a “brewery tap.” This, by definition, should be the nearest pub to the brewery, and examples which spring to mind include the Ram Inn, in Wandsworth, the George & Devonshire in Chiswick and the John Harvey Tavern in Lewes.
Given their proximity to the parent brewery, all three pubs acted as convenient meeting places for brewery tours, plus the opportunity of a generous sampling of the brewery’s products, at the end of the visit. I certainly have fond memories of enjoying a few, pre-brewery tour beers, in all three pubs.Beer & Pubs Forum, at the beginning of March last year, and enjoyed what turned out to be some of my last, pre-pandemic pints.
A completely different concept is that of the brewery taprooms, and these are the prime focus of this article. The main difference is they normally form part of the brewery itself, rather than being a stand-alone building, such as a pub, and with the bulk of the new wave of micro-breweries housed in industrial units, this makes perfect sense.Bermondsey Beer Mile in South London. Son Matthew and I undertook this crawl in June 2014, when it consisted of only a half dozen breweries the majority housed in railway arches. Today’s participants will need a lot more saying power, as there are now fifteen of them!
The first “proper” brewery taproom I experienced was that of
By the Horns Brewery, which I
visited three years later. The brewery is situated on
an industrial park, in the Summerstown area of South-West London, and was founded in 2011. The brewery has since expanded into adjoining units on either side of the original. Sharing the site with the brewery, is a tap-bar, and a bottle shop. This is good news for local beer lovers and the brewery has now become a much-valued part of the local community.
Cellar Head Brewing Company was founded by Chris and Julia McKenzie in 2017. They were joined by Dave Berry, whose previous brewing experience included stints at both Old Dairy Brewery and Tonbridge Brewery. Cellar Head's cask beers are un-fined, which means they carry a natural haze and are also vegan-friendly. In addition, they do not filter or pasteurise their bottled beers and neither do they artificially carbonate them.
Cellar Head’s premises are housed in a small industrial-type unit, situated down a rather narrow lane, and with all the parked cars belonging to other visitors, our driver found it rather difficult to squeeze the coach past and find a suitable parking place, but all credit due, he managed it without any scrapes.
The whole brewery-taproom set-up, along with the al fresco drinking, reminded me of the Vanish Farmwoods Brewery in Leesburg, Virginia, which I visited whilst attending the Beer Bloggers & Writer’s Conference in the United States, the previous August. With its stunning rural setting with views over the local countryside – this time across to Bewl Water, and the families there with their children, enjoying a few beers, I could have been back in rural Virginia. There was even a duo blasting out country and western music in the bar!Vanish Farmwoods Brewery, involved a coach ride deep into the heart of rural Virginia, with the brewery acting as our hosts for the evening. The event showcased not just their own craft beers, but also brews from some of the other Virginia based breweries. Vanish had also laid on an amazing barbeque for us, which included some of the most delicious and tender roast beef it has been my pleasure to have experienced.
What I liked about the place was it was very family oriented, with a large outdoor play area for the kids, plus a large off-sales section where visitors could load up with bottles and cans to take away, as well as filling up their "growlers" with freshly brewed craft beer.Lost Rhino Brewing, Stone Brewing and Triple Cross Brewing, and all were good, in their own way.
You probably get the picture by now, so I will end here, and report on Tonbridge’s effort once I have made that promised visit to Constellation Brewing.