Fuller's Griffin Brewery, Chiswick
Des de Moor writes: “To my mind Fuller’s is one of the best breweries in the world.
"London Pride was one of the first real ales I tried, back in the late 1970s, and was an early beer epiphany. It’s still a fine example of a traditional draught bitter, but it’s since been supplemented by exceptional specialities like the bottle conditioned barley wine Vintage Ale with its remarkable ageing potential.
"So it’s doubly delightful that the brewery itself is also a fascinating place to visit, and puts on a great welcome for guests.
"It’s right next to the Hogarth Roundabout with traffic roaring past on the A4 – not a promising location even though Hogarth's House (now a museum and recently reopened after substantial refurbishment) is nearby and you’re only a short walk from the river.
"Go round the corner of the brewery into Chiswick Lane South, though, and you’re in a different world. The site has been home to the Griffin Brewery since 1701. Fuller, Smith & Turner took it over in 1845 and much of the red brick complex you see today dates from the 1870s, but there are earlier buildings too.
"The former head brewer’s house is celebrated for its thick coat of Chinese wisteria, which has been growing since 1816 and is probably the oldest example in England.
"Tours usually start in the Fox and Hounds on the corner, also known as the Mawson Arms, the de facto brewery tap. Once you’re inside the brewery, the interior doesn’t disappoint. Much of the kit is bang up-to-date, but there are reminders of how things were done – old mash tuns and fermenters, for example – and there’s the quirkiness that comes with age and an artisanal approach.
"You might well see wooden casks occupying spare corners, used for maturing relatively new speciality Brewer’s Reserve.
"You’ll likely end up in the famous Hock Cellar, a former store room that’s now a tasting and reception area, decorated with memorabilia including souvenirs of the company’s ill advised and thankfully averted attempt to become a keg brewery in the early 1970s.
"I’ve spent many delightful hours there in the company of brewers John Keeling and Derek Prentice tasting aged Vintage Ales – ask them to crack one open for you!
"Numerous vintages of these beers, as well as others in the range, are on sale in the exemplary brewery shop round the corner, which is worth a visit even if you’re not on the tour.”
Writer and beer critic, Des de Moor won the 2011 British Guild of Beer Writers' award for his book, the CAMRA Guide to London’s Best Beer, Pubs and Bars.
The longstanding bottled beer reviewer for BEER magazine, he also publishes the Beer Culture website and regularly judges beer in international competitions.
He’s also a walking writer and advocate.
Thanks to Gillian Evans for the photo of Des.