ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!
ʼʼ

Monday, June 27, 2016

Lost Breweries: B is for Brew Wharf

London's thriving beer scene of the last decade has seen a few casualties and suffered some collateral damage. Some might argue that the biggest loss was Young's merger with Charles Wells and subsequent move to Bedford.

I didn't care much about that. What I did care about was the loss of Brew Wharf, a brewpub that pretty much kick-started a revolution in my view.

And so, I give you this obituary I penned a while back - reproduced from the April/May 2015 edition of London Drinker - which summed up my thoughts at the time.

Since I wrote it, I've learned that the brewing equipment is now with Breakwater brewery in Dover, and some of the same people seem to be involved too, which may be cause for optimism even though they're taking a long while to get up and runni
ng. The Brew Wharf bar itself hardly ever seems to be open these days, however...




Brew Wharf - London's unsung brewing hero

Take a look in the current Good Beer Guide at the list of breweries that have ceased brewing in the past year and you might find yourself thinking ‘Hmm, really? I thought they were still going?’

The doors are closed
With so many new breweries springing up in London over the last few years, we tend to have a bit of a blind spot when one of them closes its doors, but for me the loss of Brew Wharf last year left London a lot poorer.

Indeed I’d argue that Brew Wharf played a major part in kick-starting the microbrewing upsurge in the capital, paving the way for the revolution that has given London more than 70 new breweries in under ten years.

When they began, back in 2005, you could pretty much count the number of breweries in London on one hand, and their original beers, Wharf Bitter and Wharf Special were more or less unspectacular imitations of very similar Young’s beers.

But over the next few years things at Brew Wharf began to get interesting with the arrival from the USA of a head brewer who famously never brewed exactly the same beer twice.

They became pioneers, and were one of the first (if not the first) London brewers to brew the sort of pale, hoppy, American-style ales that are commonplace today. Not absolutely everyone will thank them for that(!) but  for me ‘Hoptimum’ and ‘Reaktion’ were particularly memorable examples of the style.

Brew Wharf was doing single hop beers long before they became an everyday sight. They brewed a hoppy 3% beer (‘abc’) before Kernel down the road made table beer fashionable. It was, in all likelihood, the first brewery in London to produce Cream Ales, Black IPAs, Saisons and Breakfast stouts - and in cask too, which isn’t always the case.

Almost everything interesting that we associate with the ‘craft beer’ movement was being brewed at Brew Wharf a year or two earlier, and by consistently pre-empting the bandwagon, Brew Wharf were about as cutting-edge and exciting as a brewery can be.

Their beers were seldom available outside of their Borough Market home and they never went down the bottling route for wider distribution.  I don’t know if it was a lack of ambition from his Vinopolis paymasters that drove brewer Angelo to move across London to Brodies, but he left, he wasn’t replaced and Brew Wharf was no more.

It went quietly and unceremoniously, without splendour or parade, and while Brew Wharf bar lives on, it sells only changing guest beers and Meantime keg.

A sad loss.


This article first appeared in the April/May 2015 edition of London Drinker

Brew Wharf 2005-2014

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