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Cyclists stop off at Fuller's Brewery along their journey.

Exploring the Rich Histories of London's Breweries on Two Wheels

Cyclists stop to admire the view of Palace of Westminster along the Thames.On a crisp, autumnal day last Saturday, 7th October, an adventurous group of beer enthusiasts, historians, and casual cyclists alike embarked on a remarkable journey, tracing the legacies and tales of London’s brewing past on the London Breweries Cycle Ride. The route took them on a delightful sojourn from Mortlake to Woolwich, not only offering picturesque views of the Thames and its vibrant towpaths but also weaving through some of London’s most historic brewing landmarks.

Will Calvert, of Windsor & Eton Brewery, who masterfully organised the event, aptly mused,

“Cycling along the Thames towpath, passing morning rowers, and witnessing a glorious sunset over the Thames Barrier, there's a sublime joy found amidst the wheels and kegs, exploring the rich narratives of London’s brewing history.”

From the illustrious tales at Watney’s Stag and Whitbread’s Chiswell Street to the resonant histories of Truman’s Brick Lane and Courage Horsleydown, each stop became a page of a living history book. Cyclists navigated past a medley of emblematic animal figures – two stags, a lamb, a griffin, a ram, a lion, a hind, a black eagle, and a cockerel – each tied to a unique story of London's brewing past and present.

A notably enchanting moment on the ride was John Hatch’s tour of Young’s brewing heritage at Sambrook’s in Wandsworth. His tales ranged from their well, the salvaging of the stables’ clock mechanism, to the distinct shaping of wort receivers, all of which were received with avid interest and appreciation by the cyclists.

John Hatch gives a tour of the brewing heritage site at Sambrook's Brewery.

While every stop along the ride unveiled a unique chapter of London's brewing tapestry, insights into the economic shifts within the brewing industry also came to light. Will shares,

“Hearing from Steve Wilkinson about the cost of renting the Porter Tun Room at Chiswell Street was particularly enlightening. It underscored the evolutions within the industry, illustrating how its current hospitality use is indeed more profitable than brewing.”

Lion Statue at Westminster BridgeMoreover, Derek Prentice showed the group the site of Sich’s Lamb Brewery, which stood beside Fullers until its closure in 1920, and revealed how Truman’s used a tunnel under Brick Lane to transport casks to the racker.

As for the lion statue on Westminster Bridge, it had once vigilantly overseen the operations of the Red Lion Brewery from 1836 until its demolition in 1948 to pave the way for the construction of the Festival Hall. Meanwhile, Jacob the Dray Horse, another notable figure, remains commemorated near the IBD’s Curlew Street office, a nod to the shires that once laboured out of Horsleydown.

The 27-mile tour was graciously fuelled by the hospitality provided at Fullers, Sambrook’s, Fourpure, Small Beer, and Meantime, to whom the participants extend their hearty thanks.

Reflecting on the day, the intertwining of leisurely cycling and the exploration of brewing histories offered a memorable experience, one that perhaps can only be summed up in the enchanting scenes of a sunset over the Thames Barrier, witnessed on two wheels, with a heart full of stories and a spirit touched by London’s timeless brewing soul.

27-Mile Cycle Route. Travelling from East to West