beer reviews london real ale

At the end of the learning curve

Barrels outside Brodie's Beers brewery, from their website.

When we heard in 2008 that brewing had begun again in the small set up at the back of the William IV pub in Leyton, only a few minutes from our house in Walthamstow, we were very excited. We were only more excited to discover that Brodie’s planned to brew a wide range of beers, from traditional milds through to fruit-flavoured beers, via imperial stout. At that time, London breweries were few and far between, and this was right on our doorstep.

In those early months and years, however, we were painfully aware that these were brewers on a learning curve and others (see the comments on that article) agreed. When James and Lizzie Brodie kindly sent us a box of beers to review, of the ten or twelve provided, only a handful were really impressive. The others hinted at greatness but had too much of the plastic-bucket homebrew about them — too much yeastiness, muddy flavours and, er, variable conditioning. (Beery carpets. Joy.)

Well, it seems safe to suggest that, now, three years on, they have reached the end of that learning curve. We keep reading breathlessly admiring comments on their beers on Twitter from all kinds of discerning people, and the pint of their Citra (3.1%) we had at Cask in Pimlico last week was as good as any pale and hoppy beer we’ve had from any other brewery. Crisp, well-defined, clean flavours; sparkling carbonation; and all at barely any alcoholic strength at all. A real knockout.

If you’ve been wary of Brodie’s having been a disappointed early adopter, it’s time to give them another go, and see what all the fuss is about.

beer reviews london pubs

Brewed on the premises – William IV, Leyton, London

The William IV is about 15 minutes walk from our house. We used to go there quite a lot. It was friendly and pioneered poncy beer like Leffe and Hoegaarden before they became ubiquitous. It also had its own beer, which was tasty and cheap. We stopped going around five years ago when (a) the microbrewery stopped producing (b) we were made to feel distinctly unwelcome by some aggressive locals and an indifferent barman. Its fall from grace corresponded with the opening of the Nags Head [sic], and we never went back.

When we were tipped off that the place had started brewing again, we should have been over there like a shot. The fact that it’s taken us a couple of months is testament to the fact that a bad customer experience can really put you off a pub.

Still, we finally got round to it this evening, and we’re dead pleased we did. There are three local brews on tap: an IPA, a mild and a ‘red’. The standout brew is the red. It’s intensely fruity and bitter — think burnt redcurrant crumble, in a good way. We could drink pints and pints of the stuff, and almost did (but got all grown-up and responsible and started thinking about work tomorrow). The mild has nice sour notes, and at 3.6% is a good session beer. The IPA is definitely on the hoppy side, but at 4% is also quite sessionable.

Can we wholeheartedley recommend it? Well, it’s a great Victorian interior, with some fabulous Truman, Taylor Walker and Ind Coope memorabilia inside. There’s a fire, and a cat. But they’d do themselves more favours if the barman was a bit friendlier, and the clientele is currently mostly single men watching the football or reading the paper. It’s definitely a typical white working class East London boozer, albeit one that happens to brew its own beer.

We’ll be going back, though, and bringing our friends.

The William IV is at 916, HIgh Road Leyton, E10 6AE (Beer in the Evening review here).  It’s a 15-20 minute walk from both Walthamstow Central (Victoria line) and Leyton (Central Line) tube stations, and there are frequent buses from both. If you’re going to the Pig’s Ear beer festival in December, it’s about a ten minute bus ride on the 48 and probably worth the trip.