Within the confines of Chiswick sits an array of high-end specialist shops, cafes and brasserie style restaurants. Anything from speculative health food products to French inspired haute cuisine are provided for the affluent area with a staggering amount of choice for what is still essentially, a London suburb.
It is within the depths of this area where one will stumble upon the Lamb Brewery. Decked out in a style half-reminiscent of a German Bier Keller and half-reminiscent of an English pub, the influences of the place are made evident.
We enter the premises, long, bright, low ceilings and with the micro-brewery directly to the left, all on show. The bar (also very long) boasts a selection of guest cask and keg beers. There is a pride of place at the front of the bar though, for the beers brewed on site, cask and keg, the keg beers served via tall, handsome taps.
After asking for Johannes Lux (head brewer) at the bar, we are escorted to the beer garden preceding the bar, decked with benches and bags of spent malt to a huddle of three gentlemen laughing jovially with pints in their hands.
Rapturously, we are greeted by the multi-national group of men, one Irish, one German, one Russian (sounds like the beginning to a crap joke doesn’t it?). After a quick introduction, Johannes polishes off his cloudy wheat beer and retreats in doors to finish off cleaning the brewery. This leaves us in the welcoming company of Rory Dempsey (Manager) and Kirilc (General Manager) whilst the brewer sets about spraying the floors, head phones in and a Teutonic look of concentration on his face.
Rory proceeds in explaining to me, Johannes’ past in the brewing world. Born in Bitburg, the man started brewing when he was 15, a fact that partially explains his maturity in brewing despite still being in his early twenties. Along with periods in German breweries, notably Bitburger Braurei, Lux has worked in breweries from all over the world including the U.S.A and Africa. Johannes also worked for The Botanist Brewery at Kew Gardens where Rory argues that the young German honed his trade. Small catch though, Johannes whilst admiring the British cask ale methodology and products, wished to revert back to making the German style brews of his youth.
Though he was granted this when he joined Lamb Brewery, the selection of Lamb beers on offer, almost serve as a retrospective of the brewer to date. We start with a couple of beers from Johannes’ homeland. Served in long glasses we start with the Hefeweizen 5.5%. Whilst there is the characteristic freshness and slight sourness on the nose that one would expect to find in a German Weisse, there is a slight earthiness at work also that works well in cutting through the other two powerful fragrances. In taste, there is that freshness again only with notes of banana and ginger tingling the taste buds. As I look around the room, I see that the Hefeweizen is a popular order here and I am reminded of the increasingly popular demand amongst the younger crowd for this type of beer. It is no mystery as Johannes has made a very good example of a German Weisse in this beer.
Next up, we move on to the Pilsner 4.8%, with an added twist, a nod to Johannes’ brewing days at Bitburger. That twist is the addition of honey to the beer. Standing handsomely and clearly in the glass, there is indeed a strong pang of honey in the aroma of the beer that manifests itself in to the taste of the beer in a sweetness that does take one by surprise. It is though, not a sickly sweet rather than a natural-tasting, zesty one that enables the raw ingredients of the beer to survive. It is a beer that is thoroughly refreshing and one that is enjoyed tremendously well with the delicious minted lamb burgers with raita that we are
We then move on to Johannes’ American Pale Ale 5%, a very popular genre these days rendering myself interested in seeing what his is like. The beer is reddish amber and on the nose has all the hallmarks of a zesty, sweet-tasting pale from the North American continent. After a bit of chitter chat with Rory, the beer is left by itself for a while and as can often happen, the elements start to tinker around with the beer which is a wonderful thing. With this time to settle, it assumes subtle notes of strawberry and toffee both on the nose and in taste. All in all, it’s a solid and reliable take on a beer with a growing fan base. It is enjoyed especially well with the herb baked cheese and bread that we are offered, a pairing that you can see yourself enjoying on a regular basis.
Finally, we move on to the Lamb Dark Ale 4.5% which entices me greatly, myself having a strong interest in people from different brewing cultures having a stab at cask ale. A real London beer, the dark ale can almost be seen as an homage to the original Lamb Brewery that closed its doors originally in 1922. It is a very good English best bitter with an element of cress on the nose, a savoury note that I have always noted upon in other earthy bitters of its type. There is also a scent of countryside soil and peat that is reflected in the colour, a dark amber. Whilst a lot of these odours are translated in to the taste of the beer, there are also added notes of rustic granary bread with a very slight bitterness towards the end.
This beer was enjoyed greatly with yet another generous offering from the kitchen that was a hearty plate of belly pork, mustard and cream sauce and cabbage, hearty fare for an Autumn evening.
The original brewery having been bought out by Fullers, to then rise from the flames 90 years later in 2012 makes the Lamb story a resonant one. Having been one of the big ‘players’ during the 19th century, the brewery is yet another in the movement against the behemoths of corporate beer. Most micro-breweries that can be described as such have either looked to the English past of cask ale, have looked overseas for inspiration in new brewing techniques or have done both. When asked whether they at Lamb are looking towards doing the same in creating tasty ‘gateway ales,’ for new, younger punters, Rory says no. Instead, he insists that there are still the solid offerings of cask ale for those that wish to have it, otherwise, with the exception of the American Pale Ale, they intend to create lagers and Weissen to take on the big boys with.