I met the guys from By The Horns Brewing* and their excellent ales at last year's LBA Showcase at Vinopolis, so when I heard that they were having a couple of open days over the weekend my interest was piqued.
Like so many others these days, the brewery is tucked into one of a row of uniform industrial units, in this case just around the back of Wimbledon dog track. I guess the dogs keep the Wombles from nicking the casks... The five-barrel brewing kit looks good - managing director Chris Mills, who set up the brewery along with Alex Bull, says it's mostly ex-Amstel vessels, converted by Oban Ales up in Argyll. They currently have three fermenters and are planning to add a fourth, along with a conditioning tank.
Interestingly, all the bottles are 330ml, rather than the 500ml I would have expected. Alex says that as well as reflecting how he and Chris like to drink (out of half-pint stemmed glasses), he feels the smaller bottles have "more of a young, contemporary look" that fits well with the bars they target.
The regulars are: Stiff Upper Lip, a 3.9% pale ale with Sonnet and Pioneer hops and a nice balance between a biscuity body and dry-bitter citrusy hops; Bobby on the Wheat, a 4.7% cloudy pale wheat ale with faint lemon and lactic tangs; Diamond Geezer, a 4.9% red ale with lots of sultanas and other fruit on the nose and then a nutty almost pecan pie body; and the newest addition Lambeth Walk, which is a tasty 5.1% dark porter with notes of treacle toffee, ginger and cocoa.
They're also doing specials and seasonals - I came away with an as-yet unopened bottle of Jolly Fatman, their winter spiced oatmeal stout, and they had a 6.4% 'double' version of the Diamond Geezer red ale in both bottles and cask. If you just thought Double Diamond I guess you're old like me - being younger, they called it Diamond Geezers instead.
I was driving, so after buying a few bottles and thanking Alex and Chris for the hospitality and the tasty samples, that was my limit. Fortunately the trip back was equally pleasant - a walk on Wimbledon Common and then coffee at the snack bar by the windmill, as the sun was setting. All Saturday afternoons should be like this!
Facebook page, which is a bit more helpful - as long as you have a Facebook account, I suppose... There's also the brewery's RateBeer page which lists the beers.