If Kew Brewery was compact, crowded and slightly chaotic, By The Horns Brewery was the complete opposite. The brewery is situated on an industrial park, just off Garratt Lane, in the Summerstown area of South-West London, between Earlsfield and Tooting. It was founded in 2011 by Alex Bull and Chris Mills, and whilst it is still on the same site, the brewery has expanded into adjoining units on either side of the original.
Sharing the site with the brewery, is a tap-bar, open from Thursday through to Saturday, and a bottle shop, open from Monday to Saturday. There is also a function room, plus additional storage facilities. So all in all somewhat different from Kew Brewery, but despite the expansion experienced over the past six years, the brewery might still have to relocate to even larger premises, such is the demand for its beers.
All this is good news for local beer lovers, and By The Horns seems very much a part of the local community. Several of the beers have a London-themed name, and these include Diamond Geezer, Lambeth Walk, 2 Tone London Lager and Wolfie Smith. The later of course, is a reference to the 70’s sitcom, "Citizen Smith", which starred Robert Lindsay in the role of the self-styled Marxist leader of the Tooting Popular Front.
We arrived at By The Horns at around 4pm; after leaving the Express Tavern in Brentford, where we had stopped for lunch. Our journey involved taking a train from Kew Bridge to Clapham Junction, and then taking another for just one stop down the line to Earlsfield. It was then a short bus ride to Summerstown, although we could have walked it, as our chairman Craig and his son James did.
I know Earlsfield quite well; the result of a romantic attachment, back in my student days, to a girl who came from the area. Her parents lived locally, and I have fond memories of Sunday lunchtimes spent at the Leather Bottle, in Garratt Lane, knocking back pints of Young’s Ordinary or Special. I saw the pub from the bus window, as we journeyed along towards Summertown, and had time allowed, it would have been good to call in to see what the Leather Bottle is like, 35 years on.
The brewery tap was ticking over nicely when we arrived, but we were earlier than expected, and our hosts weren’t quite ready for us. Instead we ordered ourselves a beer each. There were three cask beers on sale, plus 11 craft-keg offerings. I went for a pint of the 3.8% ABV Stiff Upper Lip, a cask pale ale.
I don’t remember that much about the brewery tour and accompanying talk. I had stopped taking notes by then, and I confess I wasn’t overly interested in technical data, such as brewing capacity etc. I didn’t even note the name of the brewer who showed us round; but neither, it appears, did anyone else, as despite posing the question amongst our WhatsApp group, I drew a complete blank.
The presentation of the runner’s up certificate was made after the tour, and this took place outside for photogenic reasons. I remained outside afterwards, enjoying the fresh air and the sunshine. I parked myself at one of the bench-style tables and sat there finishing my beer. The combination of an early start, a busy day, lots of good beer and the warmth of the spring sunshine, was sufficient to send me to sleep. I don’t know how long I dozed for, but I don’t think anyone missed me; certainly no-one came looking! I awoke with a start, and after getting my bearings, wandered back inside to find my friends.
Deciding that more beer was in order, I opted for a three glass “tasting bat”, and selected Sour to the People (another "Citizen Smith" reference), 2 Tone London Lager and Lambeth Walk London Porter. I enjoyed them all, including the Sour beer, but by the time I’d finished most of the group were getting restless, and the consensus was we should start making our way back into central London.
We thanked our hosts and retraced our footsteps back to Waterloo. Several people wanted to visit the Waterloo Tap, so I tagged along. I didn’t really need any more beer, but I was curious to see what the place was like, and it was pleasant sitting inside the large railway arch, which is home to the Tap, watching the world go by outside, through the large, plate glass windows.
A glass of 11º Bernard Lager 3.8% ABV, from the Czech Republic, was both refreshing and sufficient to keep me hydrated. The drinking rate of most of the group had also slowed down, so we made our way back to Waterloo East for the train home.
It was an interesting and most enjoyable day out, and this coming Saturday we are due to do it all again; with a further two brewery trip to hand out certificates for awards picked up at the Spa Valley Railway Beer Festival. The journey this time will be by mini-bus, so keep an eye out for details of yet another beery day out.