We chat to Wimbledon Brewery to tell us all about how they started and some history on this quintessential English brand.
Wimbledon Brewery – how it all began and some questions to its founder, Mark Gordon.
Wimbledon has a long and illustrious brewing history. The original Wimbledon Brewery was started by one William Cook in 1832, in the heart of Wimbledon Village. By 1880, it had been taken over by William Quartermaine, who built a five-storey tower brewery – the highest building in Wimbledon at the time. Subsequently victim to a dramatic fire in 1889, the interiors of the building were all but obliterated and the brewing equipment and machinery destroyed.
The modern day Wimbledon Brewery emerged, phoenix-like in 2014, under the steam of entrepreneur and Wimbledon resident, Mark Gordon, who left his job in banking to revive the historic British brand.
Now based on the site of Merton Priory – which dates back even further to the Middle Ages – its elegant logo honours the heritage of its namesake predecessor by combining the image of the tower and the phoenix, with the barley and finest English hops of today.
The brand’s philosophy is refreshingly simple – to marry the best brewing traditions with modern innovations and place the finest English ingredients in the hands of one of the outstanding brewers. After all, ‘it’s not just beer,’ says Richard Coltart, Sales Director of the Wimbledon Brewery, ‘it’s beer for the discerning drinker, who appreciates and understands the subtleties and delights of great craftsmanship.’
They’re extremely proud of what they’ve have achieved in such a short time. Wimbledon Brewery’s co-founder and master brewer, Derek Prentice, recently received the SIBA Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to brewing, as well as The Guild of Beer Writers’ ‘Brewer of the Year’ in 2013.
The resurgent interest in beer provenance and flavours has naturally led to a wide appreciation of beer and food matching.
Some questions to Mark Gordon:
You really emphasise the importance of ‘Englishness’ to the company, from the ingredients to the traditional brewing processes. What inspired you to create an American-style pale ale?
The roots of the brewery are English. The original brewery that burned down in 1889 was a brewer of cask conditioned beer and our Master Brewer Derek Prentice has, over almost 50 years in the industry, specialised in producing excellent beer in cask format. Cask conditioned ale is our national beer and is at the core of what we do. That said, this is the most exciting and innovative time in brewing history. The range of malts and hops now available to brewers, present great opportunities to be creative. Bravo is a good example of a beer used to showcase new world hops. The hop variety is called Bravo and it brings a floral aroma and blackcurrant and tangerine element on the palate.
Cans of beer used to be seen as a bit ‘cheap and cheerful’, but appear to be enjoying a resurgence, as in the case of your American Pale Ale. What are the benefits of canning as opposed to bottles and draughts?
The negative associations with canned beer, started in the 70’s, but there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the canned format, in fact it’s quite the opposite, but of course only if the beer inside is good. Cans are airtight (more so than crowned bottles) and don’t let light in, so provide a more stable environment for the beer, keeping it fresh for longer. It will take a few more years to see it more widely accepted.
Describe your perfect way to enjoy Bravo.
For me the perfect environment for a Bravo, is to be in good company, so perhaps a BBQ with friends, a can straight from the ice bucket, poured into a tulip glass. Cheers!
The range available to purchase in Bayley & Sage:
Bottle: Gold Lager 4.8%: The crisp palate of this lagered golden (Helles) beer, is overlaid with a blend of classic and contemporary German hop varieties.
Bottle: Tower Pale Ale 5%: As a nod to the original Wimbledon Tower Brewery, this very English pale ale is brewed using the best Maris Otter malted barley. It is golden amber in colour with a floral spice and orange aroma, a full rounded middle palate and a satisfying bitter sweet finish.
Bottle: Quartermaine IPA 6.2%: Quartermaine IPA is a traditional English IPA. The initial palate expresses the spiced orange notes. Balanced with spritzy carbonation, the beer finishes with crisp hop bitterness leaving a satisfying mouthfeel. Named after William Quartermaine who built the original Wimbledon Brewery Tower.
Can: Bravo APA 5.5%: Brewed to celebrate the American craft beer renaissance – showcasing American hop variety – Bravo. A pronounced blackcurrant, citrus aroma. Fruity & crisp on the palate, with a refreshingly bitter bite to finish.
Can: Copper Ale 4.5 %: Burst of citrus, floral and tropical flavours from American and British hops overlay the complex malt characters of rye, caramel and spice. A refreshingly dry finish complements this American Red Ale.
(Longer version of this report can be found in Great British Brands/Country & Town House)