Horselydown Denied

Anchor Brewery building, Southwark

As Des de Moor points out, beer geeks got very excit­ed last year when news broke that Wells and Young’s were to start brew­ing Courage Impe­r­i­al Russ­ian Stout again.

We’re still sulk­ing that the first brew dis­ap­peared to the states, except for a few bot­tles sent to beer writ­ers and indus­try types.

What we find par­tic­u­lar­ly frus­trat­ing, how­ev­er, is that it’s pos­si­ble to dis­em­bark from a boat on the south bank of the Thames not far from the build­ing which still bears the words ANCHOR BREWHOUSE HORSELYDOWN; to walk past the site of the old Bar­clay Perkins brew­ery; and to a Young’s Pub with a view of St Paul’s Cathe­dral, with­out find­ing one drop of IRS.

Lon­don is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly spoiled for beer, and odd­ly neglect­ed — out-of-the-way loca­tions are increas­ing­ly stuffed with craft beer bars while more tra­di­tion­al brew­eries use their flag­ship loca­tions to sell burg­ers and Per­oni.

If you want to drink a his­toric inter­pre­ta­tion of impe­r­i­al stout in South­wark, Harvey’s at the Roy­al Oak is your best bet. Plen­ty of oth­er British brew­ers are also sell­ing bot­tled beers inspired by Courage IRS, includ­ing the Old Dairy Brew­ery whose Tsar Top is based direct­ly on a his­toric recipe.

18 thoughts on “Horselydown Denied”

  1. I have to say Wells & Youngs seem to have a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent take on the British beer mar­ket than any oth­er brew­er I know – they seem stub­born­ly deter­mined to keep believ­ing that there’s no mar­ket for stronger and/or more eclec­tic brews, when even their peers such as Greene King and Marston’s are look­ing close­ly at what small­er brew­ers are doing and start­ing to do more inter­est­ing stuff.

    Hav­ing said that, it is my under­stand­ing that Courage IRS will be avail­able here lat­er this year.

  2. Pete — and yet they dab­ble in ‘nov­el­ty’ beer — e.g. Banana Bread and Choco­late Stout. (Both of which we quite like, though the for­mer is often skunked all to hell.)

    The Young’s pub on Regency Street in West­min­ster (the Roy­al Oak?) used to be the one place we could ever get their Oat­meal Stout, pack­aged for the US mar­ket, bot­tle redemp­tion price in cents etc..

    1. John — yes, we must check those two out next time, although we were specif­i­cal­ly sug­gest­ing the Roy­al Oak for Harvey’s Impe­r­i­al Stout.

      1. I’m not diss­ing the Oak!

        But you said: ‘If you want to drink a his­toric inter­pre­ta­tion of impe­r­i­al stout in South­wark, Harvey’s at the Roy­al Oak is your best bet.’

        And I sus­pect the Dean Swift is a bet­ter bet if you want it a stone’s throw from Courage, as Kernel’s efforts are large­ly Courage clones, if I recall cor­rect­ly.

        1. Ah, I see — hadn’t made the Ker­nel con­nec­tion. (And [whis­pers] not sure we’re that con­vinced by Ker­nel based on what we’ve had so far…)

          1. Inter­est­ing – please elab­o­rate…

            For my part, I love Ker­nel when on form but: a) find the *huge* amount of sed­i­ment in the IPAs a lit­tle off-putting; b) don’t think every beer is a suc­cess (and while Evin is charm­ing enough to admit this, there will be some who say it is a use­ful posi­tion that every batch is dif­fer­ent, avoid­ing the require­ment to be con­sis­tent. I think this is a lit­tle unfair, but con­cede it’s annoy­ing that just as a gor­geous beer is released you have such a short win­dow before they’re off mak­ing some­thing else); c) I think the dark beers – par­tic­u­lar­ly the porters and stouts – are excel­lent (less sold on the brown porters, etc.)

  3. Lon­don is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly spoiled for beer, and odd­ly neglect­ed — out-of-the-way loca­tions are increas­ing­ly stuffed with craft beer bars while more tra­di­tion­al brew­eries use their flag­ship loca­tions to sell burg­ers and Per­oni”

    Yes, it’s dis­gust­ing the way these suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies pan­der to pop­ulist tastes.

  4. Zak — sigh. Yes, that’s exact­ly what we’re say­ing, because we’re dread­ful snobs.

    Our point is that brew­eries that make inter­est­ing beer than fail to stock it in their pubs. In oth­er words, inter­est­ing beer is being ghet­toised while big brew­eries fail to recog­nise a grow­ing mar­ket. We want to drink beer they make in their pubs while eat­ing burg­ers; they won’t sell it to us.

    Sigh again.

  5. Con­sid­er­ing the size of the Amer­i­can beer geek mar­ket it’s a mys­tery why it took Wells & Youngs so long to brew Courage Impe­r­i­al Russ­ian Stout. Though they’ve obvi­ous­ly caught on now as they’re only sell­ing the first batch in the states at $15 a bot­tle.

    And speak­ing of Bar­clay Perkins the next time Tsar Top is brewed I’m going to go fur­ther back in time and do it to a Bar­clay Perkins recipe.

  6. Fun­ny, I was at Cask today talk­ing to a reg­u­lar about the Young’s Roy­al Oak in Regency St. A rare tied lock-up pub. The Mor­peth Arms used to sell a lot more Young’s bot­tles until Youngs (at that time) pret­tied it up and drove most of the reg­u­lars out. Still an OK pub, just lost its soul in the refur­bish­ment…

  7. Ed — how much!? That does help to explain why they’re tar­get­ing the US mar­ket. Most peo­ple here would prob­a­bly be reluc­tant to spend more than, say, £4 a bot­tle. (And they’d grum­ble at that.)

    Sid — the Roy­al Oak is one of those pubs that just ‘has it’, what­ev­er mys­te­ri­ous qual­i­ty it is that makes a pub work. It’s the wrong shape; it’s too small; and the beer’s only usu­al­ly fair-to-mid­dling but, nonethe­less, it’s a great place to spend Fri­day night with mates. Vic­to­ri­an build­ing doesn’t hurt.

  8. jesusjohn — I guess we’re warmer towards the Ker­nel project than towards those of their beers we’ve tried so far (dark and pale). Oth­ers seem to love them, but we keep drink­ing them and think­ing, real­ly, is it meant to taste like that?

    Maybe it’s that we don’t like his­tor­i­cal recipes as much as we think we do, or per­haps it’s just that they’ve got a dis­tinc­tive flavour (from the yeast?) that we’ve just not got the hang of yet.

    After all, it did take us sev­er­al attempts before some­thing clicked and we real­ly start­ed to love Harvey’s Impe­r­i­al Stout.

    1. The one thing that Ker­nel have def­i­nite­ly got right is loca­tion. Being close to Malt­by St, where the know­ing food­ies now go, as opposed to Bor­ough Mar­ket, which is now being ruined by the satanist nazis who run the place, has been a great move. Peo­ple love wan­der­ing about, pick­ing up some olives here, some cheese there, and going and get­ting their week­end beer direct from the brew­ery.

  9. Rod — Bor­ough Mar­ket is one of those places which is so over­crowd­ed, it’s hard to think about any­thing but sur­viv­ing. Shud­der.

    1. Which is anoth­er rea­son the food mar­ket insid­ers now go to Malt­by St, leav­ing Bor­ough Mar­ket to the plebs. I wish I’d thought of open­ing a micro­brew­ery there, and had the sense to realise that sell­ing the beer direct to the pub­lic on Sat­ur­day morn­ings would be such a bril­liant (cost­less) mar­ket­ing device.
      It was either a lucky acci­dent or a stroke of genius to realise that the sort of peo­ple who do their food shop­ping round there would regard a total lack of con­sis­ten­cy as a mark of the arte­san, hand-craft­ed nature of the prod­uct.

  10. The last time I drank Courage Russ­ian Stout in a pub, it was in a grot­ty place on the Roman Road in Beth­nal Green. There was no cask beer and just a few dodgy-look­ing old blokes drink­ing Light Ale.

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