When I booked the accommodation for GBBF, Fuller’s Griffin Brewery never entered my head. Yeah, course I know that Fuller’s brewery is in London, somewhere. But, as I did a reciprocal on the A4 at the Hogarth roundabout, trying to get into the hotel car park, I hadn’t realised that I would be staying within a few hundred yards of it. Be rude not to have a look while we’re here wouldn’t it?
An enquiry about a tour at the brewery shop, prompted a chorus of the old Yorkshire war cry. Twenty quid? Each?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no cheap skate, it’s just that I’m used to loosely organised group tours of small and micro breweries with CAMRA colleagues. You know the ones, where someone knows the brewer, you all chip some cash in (nothing like twenty quid), get a quick guided tour and then mill around for the rest of the afternoon chatting and drinking wonderfully fresh beer.
They told me the tour took around two hours and culminated in a tutored tasting session from a wide choice of Fuller’s finest ales. Not bad value if you were a curious tourist. I decided to give it a miss, they were fully booked up anyway that day. Undeterred, I had a gander at the pretty impressive shop, not just ales neither, they’d a good stock of decent wines and spirits. My eye was soon taken by the Fuller’s Vintage Ale stand which produced another exhalation of the Yorkshire war cry! Eighty quid? A Bottle? And that was only for the 2009 edition!
Some careful interrogation of the helpful sales assistants was required here;
’So the 2016 edition is just £6 a bottle?’
‘And in eight years it’s worth £80?’
‘What do you mean there’s no buy back facility?
I’m looking forward to sampling my Vintage ale, and several were purchased to consume in … ? Not sure when actually, but I reckon the longer I keep them the better value for money they’ll be! It says until 2026 on the bottle, but I think they’ll do longer than that. I’m none too sure about limited edition though, the numbers on my bottles begin 59 – – – , Where I come from, close on sixty thousand isn’t classed as limited edition. Single batch, when it’s gone, it’s gone, I’ll buy into, but not limited edition.
The brewery itself is quite impressive. Well built, sturdy, evolved rather than designed. If Willy Wonka ever built a brewery then this just might be it. It’s a relic from another age that’s been marooned next to the brutality of an urban corridor. You could actually stand on the pavement outside, turn your head from side to side and instantly switch between conflicting experiences; A4 all noise and hell, Griffin brewery serenity and silence. Amazing.
The next best thing to the full blown tour had to be the brewery tap. The lad behind the bar said it wasn’t actually the brewery tap, just the pub at the side of the brewery? To confuse things further there were two pubs, with two signs, in one room? The Mawson’s Arms and The Fox and Hounds. If Fuller’s ever sell it, they won’t, I hope, then some clever young twit will ‘rebrand it’ as ‘The Pub with Two Names’.
There is a tale to the nomenclature, I will however refer to the establishment as The Mawson’s arms, which was, in true London pub style with it’s hanging baskets of flowers, resplendent. Single room, public bar at one end morphing into a larger area at the other end which would suit diners.
Reassuringly half a dozen brewery workers were stood at the bar, and one of them was drinking Carling! Eight hand pulls on the bar, all Fuller’s. Got to be London Pride, no argument there, it was my beer of choice when I lived down here for a while and Oh! What a surprise. Far better than what I remembered. No wonder it got that name. Definitely something to be proud of. Quality? Top drawer, I gave it a clear NBSS 4, Very Good, no questions. Mind you, when all they’ve got to do is roll it across the brewery yard?
I also tried a half of Sticky Wicket and Beachcomber, both were of the same high quality. Cost £6.15 for three halves, or just over £4 a pint at my reckoning. Worth it? For beer of this quality, in London? You bet.
Just to rub it in, some guy in a hi-vis jacket asked us if we were here for the brewery tour. I told Colin that a) we weren’t, they were fully booked and b) we wouldn’t have been gong anyway at £20 a throw. He explained fully what we were missing, and told me I should have contacted them in advance, which then got us back to the bit about me never realising I would be staying across the road from the brewery, which is how this tale began in the first place. Anyway, if you do go on the Fuller’s brewery tour, I can vouch for the fact that the tour guide, is a genuinely nice, entertaining and knowledgeable bloke.
After an interesting wander and a bite to eat (Ngon [Delicious], 195 Chiswick High St, authentic Vietnamese and no Yorkshire war cry!) I returned to The Mawson’s Arms, despite the temptation of an amazing purple pub on King St in Hammersmith, that had a truly amazing exterior.
I purposefully didn’t want to have a drink, plus I wanted to watch the Rhinos on TV at eight, but the lure of the London Pride was overwhelming. At 6.30pm it wasn’t busy, the brewery workers had gone, but there were just enough people in to make an atmosphere. The ale was still spot on and the landlady was behind the bar, although she obviously didn’t want to talk, and was more interested in a spread sheet on her lap top. Having said that, there did seem to be a language barrier, I’ve always encountered problems with being understood down South.
This time, Mrs C decides to have a go at the Honey Dew, a pleasant drink which put the bill up to £6.75 for a pint of London Pride and a half of the keg beer. Having previously plumbed Sky Go into the hotel’s wall mounted TV, in readiness for the football, a further three pints were lovingly consumed. If you want a decent pint of ale then this West London GBG (2016) boozer has to be a must, the food looked nice and was reasonably priced too.
Further investigation of the pub proved a little problematic. If you go to the lav, make sure you turn left or else you’ll end up in the broom cupboard like I did! Once I had escaped the entanglement of mop buckets, the actual facilities were well appointed and spotless, with added luxuries like soap, and lotion!
There’s a nice line in Fulleriana around the walls, and some fake oil paintings of brewery dignitaries, even the eight inch floorboards looked original, or at least original from somewhere. So, I sat there watching the London traffic (going nowhere) thinking, overall a nice little pub, when a Marston’s (other shite mass produced beers are available) articulated dray comes slowly cruising East down the A4 with the driver doing a keen eyes right, at the pub?
Ten minutes later, said driver, replete in Marston’s liveried black polo shirt walks into the pub.
‘Are you still doing food?’
‘Do you take cards?’
‘Can I have a pint of … please?’
I’ll not tell you what he had a pint of, but it reminded me of the old adage of the dray men always knowing who served the best pint. Even a Marston’s dray man in London!