Truman’s Brewery. The function took place at the Eagle, in Ladbroke Grove; a pub which has only been open a few weeks in its present guise. It was chosen as a suitable place to launch the new Truman’s beer, as it was originally a Truman’s pub. This was back in the day when the Black Eagle Brewery of Truman, Hanbury & Buxton, in London’s East-End, was one of the largest in the world.
The original Truman brewery, at Brick Lane in Spitalfields was founded in 1666. It grew steadily and during the 18th Century, under the management of Benjamin Truman, it underwent a period of rapid expansion, driven by an almost insatiable demand for porter, to become one of the largest brewers in London. This growth continued into and throughout the 19th Century with the expansion of the brewery and the enlargement of the company’s pub estate. In 1873, Truman’s purchased the Philips Brewery in Burton-on-Trent and became, for a while, the largest brewery in the world.
|Truman's "tank system" - at the Eagle|
Truman’s managed to avoid these destructive forces for quite some time, so much so that by the end of the 1960’s they were the last major independent brewery left in London. Unfortunately this happy situation did not continue into the next decade, because in 1971 Truman's became the centre of a bidding war between hotels group Grand Metropolitan and Watney Mann. Grand Metropolitan eventually emerged as winners and then immediately turned their attention to Watney Mann. After taking over the latter, Grand Metropolitan merged the company with Truman's, and from then on the company’s fortunes declined rapidly. Despite a series of management restructures and a major re-branding, Truman’s continued to go downhill, and in 1989 the inevitable closure of the brewery was announced.
After trialling various test brews, under contract at both Everards and Nethergate breweries, a new brewery in Hackney Wick was completed in August 2013. The brewery officially opened a month later and Truman's beer once more rolled out of the East End to be gratefully received by a number of discerning London pubs.
|Eagle- upstairs dining room|
The system used is similar to those used by Czech brewers Pilsner Urquell and Budvar, where the beer is contained in a large “bag” within the tank, and dispensed by either gas or air-pressure applied from the outside. This means the beer never comes into contact with either, and therefore remains as fresh as it was when it left the brewery.
|A pint of RAW|
Once seated we were give our first taste of RAW, and it is here that the surprise comes, because the 4.5% ABV RAW is a Kölsch -style beer, rather than a true bottom-fermented lager. Now I’m sure many people know that Kölsch is a beer which developed in the city of Cologne. It is a top-fermented beer with a similar bright, straw-yellow hue to other beers brewed from lightly kilned malts, such as Pilsner. Somewhat unusually, Kölsch is warm fermented at around 13 to 21 °C before being cold conditioned at traditional lagering temperatures. Kölsch is also a product with protected geographical indication, as defined by the Kölsch Konvention; an association of Cologne breweries formed to promote this distinct style of beer.
Kölsch apparently, requires less lagering time than a true, bottom-fermented beer such as a pilsner would. This is good news for breweries such as Truman’s, which have a limited fermentation capacity and maturation facilities. My fellow writers and I certainly enjoyed the beer, which had a malty and slightly sweet taste.
|A rather large pork knuckle|
Without wishing to sound churlish, it was actually a roasted ham hock, as later confirmed by the pub’s chef, who gave us a brief talk about the Eagle’s food offering, and the philosophy behind it. There was rather a lot of meat on my knuckle, irrespective of whether it was pork or ham, but fortunately one of my fellow diners helped me out with it. There was also a selection of “sharing” desserts to follow, including mulled pear and apple crumble, with custard plus bitter chocolate fondant with cherry vanilla.
Halfway through the meal, we were given a short presentation from Frazer Timmerman, who is Truman’s Business Development Manager. I have already covered some of the point he told us, but amongst others of interest, is the size of the brew-kit (40 barrels), and the fact that Truman’s only sell their beer within the area bounded by the M25. They are currently looking to treble their fermentation capacity, in order to cope with increased demand for their beers. RAW is currently only being sold in a few “flagship” outlets, of which the Eagle is one. This may be down to the high “up-front” costs of the tank system.
It was an interesting evening, and it was good to meet up with representatives from Truman’s, as well as members of the pub’s team. Special thanks go to event organiser, Kristel Valaydon of KV Communications; and yes Kristel I know I said I would include some of my personal recollections about the original Truman’s beers, but there just wasn’t sufficient space to include it here. I will however, be writing a separate article about Truman’s in my “Old Established Family Brewers of Britain” series, so watch this space.
Finally, as if I didn’t have enough Kölsch -style beer at the presentation, I’m off on business to Cologne on business, this coming Monday, where no doubt, I’ll be able to enjoy a few glasses of the genuine article.
ps, Special thanks to Kristel at KV Communications for the photos.