‘We’re the Pride of South London’ Crystal Palace fans sing as we enjoy a prolonged stay in England’s Football PremierLeague. These days South London also has a lot to be proud of beer wise too.
I remember not too long ago admiring the Brewery Tap rooms in the States and being a tad jealous we didn’t have so many here in the UK. Not only providing great places to enjoybrewery fresh beers, tap rooms like breweries provide employment and are often family friendly; during a trip to the Brooklyn Brewery four years ago I was amazed when my New York friend was able to meet me in the tap room with her two-year-old son in his buggy.
Tap Rooms also help demystify breweries making beer attractive and accessible to a wider range of people.
Happily, things are changing with more and more breweries opening tap rooms nationwide.
In South London The Bermondsey Beer mile has long been a pilgrimage for beer lovers. There are also tap rooms at the Brockley Brewery and Gipsy Hill Brewery.
Slightly closer to where I live two more Brewery Tap rooms have sprung up so I decided to visit a couple of Fridays ago.
I kicked off my evening at the Ignition Brewery Taproom in Sydenham which opened in September.
What makes Ignition a brewery to be truly proud of is the fact that it is a micro-brewery set up to train and provide supported jobs for people with learning difficulties in the area.
I met the founder of Ignition Brewery, Nick O’Shea a few years ago through mutual friends. At the time Nick was busy trying to win funding and support for the Brewery.
Fast forward three years and Ignition Brewery have a brewery and tap room in Sydenham High Street.
In my opinion surpassing Nicks’ original mission ‘To increasethe number of jobs for people with learning disabilities and to produce great beers’ the Tap room also provides a community hub. It is bright and welcoming with a relaxed feel. The staff cheerful and helpful, and the choice of beer satisfies all tastes. Ignition’s core range of three; Lewisham Pale Ale ‘South of the River’ 4.2% abv, ‘Jumpstart’ IPA 4.6% abv and ‘Well Oiled Machine’ Porter 4.8% abv are all available in bottles. On tap the night I visited were South of the River andJumpstart plus specials Blood Orange IPA 4.5% and Lewisham Brown Ale 3.8%.
I had a bottle of the Well Oiled Machine, a sumptuous Porter, followed by a pint of Lewisham Brown Ale. Not normally a favourite beer style of mine, the Lewisham Brown was great; rich and full bodied.
Other drinks including the ever-popular Gin are available so fear not if you have friends who have not yet been converted to the hopped beverage.
As well as drinks, there is a good selection Ignition merchandise for sale so opportunities to support this great business abound!
I was lucky enough to be shown round the gleaming brewery by a member of staff. I always love a nose around a brewery – maybe I’m just a bit of a beer groupie! The guy’s pride when showing us around was evident.
The ultimate plan is to provide a model that can be replicated nationwide. I hope to hear of similar projects in the future.
This is such a great idea so keep up the good work Ignition.
Down the hill from Sydenham, is Penge Hight Street. Like Crystal Palace Football club, Penge is also enjoying somewhat of a renaissance.
With an emphasis on community not for profits community group the Penge Tourist Board are working hard to enhance life if this corner of South London by engaging with residents and local businesses.
One of the events on their website is a late night at the Alexandra Nurseries in November with beer from Southey Brewery.
On the site of the now defunct Late Nights Brewery, Southey began life a few years ago and later opened their tap room
Tucked away down a tiny side street Southey Brewery’s tap room is charming and characterful . Vintage fixtures and fittings, book shelves and a comprehensive drinks menu, this tap room is a little gem.
Another great selection of beers were on offer the night I went with six on keg including Penge Pilsner 4.8% and a Belgian Wit 5.5% with Session Bitter and Pale Ale on cask.
I enjoyed a couple of pints of keg Black IPA which is always a favourite of mine but managed to resist the tempting packs on monster munch and the bowls of peanuts on the bar.
For non-beer drinkers or if you perhaps simply fancy a change there are wines and spirits including Tequila available as well as soft drinks if you have the misfortune to be the designated driver for the night!
The cosy atmosphere of the Southey Tap room made it an absolute pleasure and I was sorry when it was time to get my train home .