Coming to Europe has truly given me a new appreciation for beer because in America, this popular alcoholic drink is also known as watered-down shit in red Solo cups. Since being here, every beer I’ve had so far has been smooth. Every beer I’ve had so far has had its own depth of flavor. Every beer I’ve had so far has had its own personality. Every beer I’ve had so far has won its way to my heart:
I love beer.
Yes, I said it.
Before Europe, I have never finished a bottle of beer (drunk moments don’t count). Here is the truth: if handed a bottle of beer, I would drink half, stash it in a corner because I didn’t like the taste of it, then wait for it to be discovered the next day during clean-up time or force a friend to finish it for me. (Please do not hate me if you have ever given me a beer!) Now, however, I gladly finish a pint, a bottle, a glass - I am proud to say I have not wasted a drop of beer since I’ve been here!
So to be more acquainted with my newfound love, I went to a beer tasting at Griffin Brewery. Part of the tasting was a tour around the brewery where I learned the history of the brewery, the brewing process, the ingredients, and the different terminology used by brewers.
Griffin Brewery is most famously known for Fuller’s London Pride. It has been a family business since its opening, and has stayed that way since. Brewers are trained like understudies and each beer has its own unique recipe. Although from the outside, the brewery still looks old and traditional, at one point in time, they took the roof apart to replace all the machinery with newer, modernized technology. The beautiful synergy of old and new.
There are four basic ingredients in beer: water, malted barley, hops, and yeast.
- Breweries in the past had to be near water sources, usually underground, because the water had to contain specific sulfates and minerals. Nowadays, breweries mix the water with minerals instead of obtaining it directly from the source.
- There are many different kinds of malted barley. Each one gives a beer its unique flavor. The grain has to be steeped, dried, then allowed to germinate.
- Hop cones, the flower that provides the bitter taste to a beer, used to be harvested on HUGE stilts from the hop vines, then ground finely.But now, hop cones are turned into pellets to make it much easier.
- The brewery has a laboratory that takes care of the yeast. The yeast has been perfected after much bioengineering to yield the best fermentation. In case there is an infection at the brewery, there is also a yeast storage bank so the brewing won’t be interrupted.
I was given the grand tour of the brewing process, but I think “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
THE TASTING the best part
The beauty of beers from the tap is the difference between live and pasteurized beers. Griffin Brewery is very proud of its live casks because there are still active yeast cultures and everything is only filtered once it comes out of a pub tap. Pasteurized beers are anything in cans or bottles that do not have a short expiration period, which explains the carbonation.
I was actually impressed with every beer, each had its own interesting taste, but my top favorites were the Chiswick Bitter, the Honeydew, and the London Porter. The Chiswick Bitter is a simple 3.5% beer that’s extremely drinkable and a good pick for a “conversation beer.” The Honeydew is a light and golden beer, and when swirled in the glass, one can smell the aromatic honey. The London Porter, 5.4% ABV, is the darkest of the Griffin Brewery brands. It uses Chocolate malts (named “Chocolate” for its dark brown color) and has an interesting coffee aftertaste. Our guide said that the Porter is usually an end of the night kind of drink because of its high alcohol content, but I was in love with it (probably my top favorite), and I would drink it any time of day!
The tour and tasting were extremely enjoyable and educational, I would highly recommend it if you ever get a chance to wander out to the Chiswick area of London. Here were some more photos from the trip:
There is a wonderful selection of wines in the shop as well. For more information on the tours and shop, definitely check out their website.