Thursday, 24 June 2010

London's Secret Brewery

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the now mothballed Ram Brewery in Wandsworth, formerly the Young's Brewery which was sold to property company, Minerva, in 2006 for £69 million.

Much of the brewing equipment has been scrapped during the decommission but there is plenty that remains in situ much of it awaiting review by English Heritage to determine whether any of it should be preserved.

I have also seen the architects models of the planned redevelopment and can say that it intends to make as much of the brewing heritage as possible. The intention is to build two mainly residential tower blocks of 29 - 39 stories at the rear of the site (the stable end for those who know it) while the front of the site will be more open courtyard overlooked by the old brewery. They are restrained to a certain extent by the listed building status on the old brewery, the brewer's house, the beam engines, the chimney and the stable house so will be building the around the existing plant and buildings where necessary. It is intended that there will be a brewing museum on-site and a microbrewery - which may be operated by Young's.

To this end, I can let you into a little secret.

Brewing has been continuous in the brewery since Young's departed for Bedford.

John Hatch, one of the Young's brewing team was retained as site-manager by the owners, Minerva and was charged with making sure that brewing continues in the interim period until any microbrewery or brewpub can be developed.

John set to his task with gusto salvaging any parts of the brewing kit that the scrap merchants refused; begging, borrowing and simply making do to build a tiny brewing plant.

For example the brewing kettle was cobbled together using the cut-off tea urn from the canteen.

John has put together a quarter barrel brewery and has been brewing 72 pints a week. The beer is used by Minerva for company meetings and John sometimes hosts small gatherings for the friends of the brewery.

Sad as it was to see the old Young's brewery disappear and I know that not everyone agrees with me that it was unavoidable, I now raise a glass to brewing in Wandsworth and am encouraged by the enthusiasm that Minerva are showing with regard to the brewing heritage of the site. It is expected that the planning permission will be approved in the next month or so after which we will start seeing the redevelopment.

I hope we will eventually see the pub on the corner re-opening, another new brewery for London and a Ram Brewery museum.


tankard said...

The Ramifications are, well, Bright. We are all Young at heart.

BryanB said...

Not so much a microbrewery as a nanobrewery, eh?

MicMac said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MicMac said...

Re pic.3 - That lad's a real multi-tasker isn't he? - One minute a tousle-haired heart-felt troubadour, the next he's safeguarding the historic brewing plant of the nation's oldest continuous brewing site. Fair play to that man, David Gray.

My daftness aside, it's really heartening to hear that someone has kept a small flame alight under the copper at Youngs.

If you're a Twitterer, @CurdNerd has some info up online about spending a day brewing with John.

(ex Brakspear, Meantime & Zerodegrees Blackheath)

Bill Howell said...

It was a very sad day for me when I read about the closing. Glad to see there's still some hope for a continuation of brewing in Wandsworth.

Bill Howell
2010 Beerdrinker of the Year

Tandleman said...

Interesting that. I once had a tour round and your photo reminds me of how lw the ceilings were /are.

Royce said...

The continuous on-site brewing performed by Mr. Hatch and co. is a really great gesture. Sounds like Minerva is taking the brewing heritage seriously.

I wonder what the fate of the site will be? It will be interesting to see what happens.

Gareth said...


Interesting that.I once had a tour round and your photo reminds me of how lw the ceilings were /are.

Tea Urn

Anonymous said...

We brewed with John last year, details here: