In 1845, John Bird Fuller, Henry Smith, and John Turner created a partnership of brewers and together took over the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, on the banks of the River Thames. Fuller, Smith, and Turner, now known to everyone as simply Fuller’s, is London’s oldest still-operating brewery —and it’s a liquid icon of the city, especially their best-selling beer, London Pride.
United Kingdom And Ireland Tour Fuller’s Griffin Brewery The Oldest Brewery In London And Drink Their Wonderful London Porter Photo Gallery
Go on the public tour of Fuller’s Griffin Brewery because it’s a wonderful place to explore. It’s part museum and part working brewery, often side by side, and you’ll walk all around, past copper tanks from the 1800s and dented old mash tuns, as well as the current stainless-steel tanks and robot-powered kegging area. The tour ends in the Hock Cellar where you can taste everything they have on cask and keg—you’ll have a choice of around 16 beers. Start with the four members of the “Pride Family.” This makes up around 75 percent of the brewery’s output and includes Chiswick Bitter, London Pride, ESB, and Golden Pride. London Pride is their bestseller and it’s a marvelously malty ale, with a toasty-biscuity depth and a deep, peppery hop bitterness. What’s most fascinating about these four beers is that they’re all brewed with exactly the same ingredients—pale ale malt, chocolate malt, and crystal malt, plus English Target, Challenger, Northdown, and Golding hops, the latter giving the aromas, plus Fuller’s distinctively marmalade-y yeast. Simply put, the difference is essentially the amount of water used, the aging time (the stronger the beer, the longer the aging), and that Chiswick and ESB are both dry-hopped. Try them all and see if you can spot the family resemblance.
Next to the casks you’ll find their next-generation beers, including Frontier, an ale-lager hybrid (it’s an ale yeast with a cold maturation and a zesty New World hop aroma) that’s become their second bestseller, despite only being released in the summer of 2013. There’s also Black Cab Stout, Montana Red, and Fuller’s IPA, which is a proper English-style IPA that’s robust with tangy English hops.
There’s also a store on site selling bottles, and you should look for Past Masters, a series of one-off historic brews based on retired Fuller’s recipes—they’re a liquid time machine. Buy a couple of bottles of Vintage Ale as well—one to drink now, one to enjoy in a few years.
If you’re really lucky, you’ll get London Porter on cask. It’s inspired by the great Porters of London’s past (but it probably doesn’t taste like an 18th-century dark ale). Although it was only introduced in 1996, it’s already one of the defining beers of the style: so smooth, so rich with dark malts, but not bitter like coffee; you’ll get caramel and cocoa, yet it’s never too decadent that you couldn’t drink a few. The intensity of malt is what makes this beer special; there’s a roundness that’s like a warm cuddle compared to the cold kick of a kegged IPA. You usually find it in bottles and on keg, but search for the cask version, as it’s world-class.
The site is still known as The Griffin Brewery (the griffin is the mythical creature that’s regarded as the guardian of great treasures and prized possessions). Look closely at the Fuller’s logo and you’ll see a griffin with eagle’s claws protecting a cask of ale. The brewery in Chiswick is definitely one of beer’s best treasures and the ales you can drink there are legendary.
WHAT: Fuller’s Griffin Brewery Tour
HOW: Monday to Saturday (11am-3pm, hourly). Tours last up to two hours, including drinking time (www.fullers.co.uk).
WHERE: The Griffin Brewery, Chiswick Lane, London W4 2QB