My home for a short while, just around the corner from St. George’s Hospital in a flat on Aldis Street.
There was something about Tooting I really loved.
It was dirty and grimy and truth be told, not overly friendly most days, but it was South London and I shared a flat with a close chum and musical associate and on the whole had a pretty good time.
I miss Tooting and I miss my London friends.
And now I miss Tooting even more, because just around the corner from St. George’s Hospital in the other direction is By The Horns Brewing Company, at most a ten minute walk from where I lived, and after discovering their beer I’d be more than happy to live that near to them.
Anyway, I got hold of the main body of their range for review and decided I ought to have a chat with them too.
This is what I found out.
Please introduce youselves
We are By The Horns Brewing Company. We are incredibly passionate about all things beer. We believe in confronting the norm, standing out from the crowd and fighting for what is right. We believe in confronting tasteless beer and strive to brew, drink & enjoy beer that is far superior in taste, flavour, mouth-feel, aroma and appearance.
Why the name By The Horns and why Tooting?
The name signifies our approach to quitting our comfortable but unfulfilling day jobs and starting something we are passionate about – seizing the day, embracing opportunity and taking it By The Horns.
When we were starting the company we both lived in south London so wanted a location where we knew and could call home. We loved what was happening in Tooting, the boutique shops, homely pubs and pop up street food vendors slowly making there mark on SW17. It is such a vibrant, diverse and exciting place to brew.
Have you always been in brewing, or did you have lives before beer?
Our lives are beer, however we have to admit it hasn’t always been good beer. We met at Uni and led the student life drinking mainly branded lagers I won’t care to mention now. We both took a bit of time off after Uni to do seasons in the snow where we had our first taste of beer from North American with flavour, before moving to London and dipping our toes into Graduate positions. Alex worked in Finance and Chris off-shore purchasing (sadly not beer) Brewing was simply a hobby something that we did after work and at weekends. After creating some fairly decent homebrews, doing lots of homework and noting that beer production in London was so unbelievably disproportionate to the rest of the UK, we decided to go for it and start one of our own.
What kind of set up do you work with?
We have kept our original brewing kit from when we started. Instead of upscaling brewing length we preffered to increase our fermenter and conditioning tanks capacity. This means we can brew a large range of different beer and truly start to explore all the styles there are out there. It is not uncommon for us to brew 3 or 4 new beers each month. Since first brew we have been lucky enough to find 3 other beer enthusiasts who share our to join our team.
Your branding is very striking and very cool. How much importance do you put on making your product look right as well as tasting right?
We believe the beer style and taste should match the breweries branding and ethos. We brew exciting contemporary beers with a nod to past and our branding reflects this. We look at beer as a complete package, half the excitement of trying new beers is browsing through the names, designs and bottle shapes. We wouldn’t want to take away from that initial experience with dull designs and unimaginative names.
Any plans for the future?
We have just finished a revamp of our designs and website. This will be rolling out in the next couple of weeks .
We made our first European export at the end of 2013 and intend to grow this market and show the rest of the world what By The Horns is about.
Our brewery bar has been open since Summer 2013 and has been well supported by the community. We intend to host even more events, tastings and parties in this space
With the addition of new conditioning tanks we will be creating more beers on keg as well as Cask and Bottle.
With all this new business we intend to grow our team and start recruiting more craft beer lovers.
And here’s what I thought of the beer.
The Mayor Of Garratt (4.3%)
This is By The Horns’ Best Bitter and it’s very good indeed.
Exactly the kind of beer I’d happily drink all evening in the pub with friends.
It pours a chestnut brown with a good foaming head and smells of toffee and warm dough.
This is a malty beer full of biscuits and cereal bars and toast all glued together with sticky toffee.
There’s a nice fruitiness in the background, bruised apples and red fruit, before the hops give you sharp bitter grass cuttings and dandelion leaves, leaving a finish that’s biter and dry and satisfying.
Hopslinger is an American IPA and it’s hoppy.
But first there’s a malting that’s shortbread and salted peanut brittle, and there’s a smell that’s resinous and woody and lightly varnished.
OK so far?
Because all over this and all over your face are hops.
Big, shouty, pleased with themselves hops.
They’re full of pine needles, sherbet coated grapefruit segments, orange juice and a fistful of herbs.
And what all this means is a finish that twists your tongue into a tight curl and slaps your cheeks with a super dry bitterness.
Wolfie Smith (5.2%)
This is a biscuit rich Amber Ale that smells, well, biscuity.
Biscuity and appley.
But that’s not quite the whole story, because this is a foxy little beer, a faux proto-revolutionary beer brewed to assist the proletariat in their fight towards getting a bit boozy.
And so built on top of this fine biscuit base is a super dry and really assertive hopping that marches you staunchly towards your drunken end, dragging you through bitter woody leafy herbal lime tinged garden flowers.
It’s a beer that goes on and on, won’t stop talking, pestering you into submission.
Power to the People and Freedom for Tooting brothers and sisters.
Lambeth Walk (5.1%)
Lambeth Walk is a London Porter that pours a deep and dark red black and smells of stewed fruits of the forest and coffee.
The malts are thick and bitter dark chocolate, black coffee and plums, they’re warm, rich and sweet with digestive biscuits, beetroot, a hint of mushroom and a bunch of hazelnuts.
There’s some very good crunchy and crisp leafy hops too.
They come on all pithy with mown lawns, but there’s a hint of mint and a woody resinous country lane undergrowth going on too.
All in all a lovely little Porter.
Stiff Upper Lip (3.8%)
This is my least favourite of all the Horns beer that I;ve tried and it’s still head and shoulders above many other Session Ales.
Because that’s what this is, a Session Ale.
Soft and light, the aroma is flowers and straw.
The malting is cornbread and honey, white pepper and shortcake.
The hops are English garden bitterness with dandelions and floral borders and just a hint of mustard that leaves you with a gentle spiky bitterness.
Easy drinking goodness.
Diamond Geezer (4.9%)
By The Horns’ Red Ale is a malty fruity joy.
Pouring a deep chestnut red, the smell is blackberries and cherries and varnished coffee tables.
Taking a swig you get big malted breakfast cereals and rice cakes, black cherries and plums, all rich and round and sticky with toffee.
The hops are warm and bitter, chilli tinged basil, lemon rind and sherbet strawberry laces.
Very good indeed.
Morning Glory (5.4%)
This is a Breakfast Stout, but I’m not that brave and so I’m drinking it just before bed.
Morning Glory is packed with stewed prunes and strawberries and smothered in dark chocolate and espresso.
It’s got a good oaty body, thick and satisfying, the flavours are glued to you by the oats and so there’s no escaping the sweet fruit compote of the malts and the bitter hazel leaf tang of the hops that loiter on your tongue and refuse to leave.
Morning Glory isn’t a big boisterous beast, it’s a handsome gentle giant.