Sambrooks Brewery, Battersea Rye
Sambrook’s Brewery is the brainchild of Duncan Sambrook, a former city boy (an accountant not a banker) who decided to become a brewer after attending the 2006 Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court and deciding there weren’t enough local brews on offer. A lot of effort, a couple of mistakes and a bit of help later, and the brewery opened its Battersea doors in the winter of 2008.
We last featured a Sambrook’s beer in the summer of 2013, so when I caught up with their senior sales guru and all round nice chap Mark Kelly earlier this week I started by asking him what the brewery looked like now.
“We are a 25 strong team including draymen, brewers, bar staff, office team and two salespeople. Not forgetting, of course, Duncan who counts for two people at least. Whatever we brew - be it in cask, keg, bottle or can - we pride ourselves on high quality and completely free of some of the more pretentious aspects of craft beer. We get awards for our beer, Not our beards.”
Touché and definitely tongue in cheek as Sean Knight the former head brewer did have a rather impressive beard. There's a rumour that his replacements, Ralph Bartley and Craig Buddle are working on their facial hair to keep up with the stereotype.
As Sambrook’s approach nine years old they must have seen a lot of changes in the London beer scene. Mark again;
“The London brewing scene has changed immeasurably since Duncan hung up his calculator in 2008 and began here in Batterea. He was viewed as a complete lunatic by many at the time but he knew there were only two other brewers in central London making beer. Nine years on and the number of brewers has grown to well over 100. Craft brewers are no longer viewed as lunatics but as par for the course in every area of London. The sheer amount of beer being brewed means that Londoners are always being told that ‘craft’ is the way forward without actually being given a definition of what ‘craft’ even means. To us - craft beer is brewed on a small enough scale to ensure its done with care by actual humans with great knowledge and passion for their job, with ingredients that are of the highest standard and most importantly that the beer tastes consistently better than the average pint of macro brewed ale or lager.”
It’s great to catch up with a brewery a few years after you last featured them and still get the feeling that the original values are still in place. Sambrook’s remains a London brewery for Londoners. Many of their ingredients are sourced from as close to London as can be achievable in brewing, and they distribute all the beer themselves to pubs in London. This means that they get to employ local people and support the sort of campaigns that matter to them.
They’ve recently modernised their branding, but it’s still very much the same Sambrook’s.
“Our branding has always tried to reflect quality, trust and the family name. It that sense we've always tried to steer away from the overly trendy design that everyone seems to use. Having said this, in today's market you have to respond to changes and we're getting more and more people drinking our more ‘pointy’ products - such as Battersea Rye.”
Which conveniently brings us on to this week’s beer. By which point Mark was on a roll;
“Battersea Rye is one of my absolute favourite beers that Sambrook's produce. The main reason being is that I don't think there's a single beer like it in the UK today. That sounds like a bold claim so I should explain myself! We took the basic concept of an American Rye beer and thought how do we turn this into a Sambrook's product?. The answer for us lay not in the use of massively acidic American hops that get thrown into every other rye beer on the market. We're making a Rye beer? Let's focus on the Rye! This is a grain with a spicy, peppery note which warms the palate and acidic hops and citrus flavours don't seem like a natural match to us. We decided to use three British hops in this beer which doesn't give us citrus but more of a hedgerow fruit style. Think blackcurrant, red berries and other jammy flavours. This fruity finish complements the spicy Rye and for me, makes this the best possible match for any BBQ meat over a ‘Rye PA’ style any day of the week. An American idea is given a British twist.”
We’re keen to come and try this at the brewery taproom which is open Thursday to Saturday each week. It’s always fun to drink the beer at the place it was made and talk to the people that made it. Especially when there’s excellent pizza from Flour to the People to be had too. Mark is keen that you all come too. So much so he’s asked us to tell you to email him if you are visiting and he’ll make sure that there’s pint waiting for you (on him) when you arrive. Now form an orderly queue.