Thursday, 11 February 2010

Redemption Brewing Company

The Gunmakers
13 Eyre Street Hill
London EC1R 5ET

I ended my first evening at The Gunmakers, which was playing host to an ale sampling event, with at least twice as much beer knowledge as I had on arrival. Which probably reveals more about my ignorance of brewing than it does anything else.

The best thing about being schooled in beer is the beer - we were given free reign over the first pair of ales from a spanking new outfit in north London called the Redemption Brewing Company. They were introduced to us by the brewer himself, Andy, with support from Jeff, The Gunmakers' spirited landlord.

I refuse to be embarrassed to admit that I'm often a little bewildered by some of the language used to describe real ale (which, for total beginners, refers to unfiltered and unpasteurised beer that is matured by secondary fermentation in the cask or bottle and served without extraneous carbon dioxide). Those free of bewilderment can skip the next bit.

Beer school basics: what I know now

1. Malted barley (malt) is used in beer for its sugars, which are converted into alcohol. Thus, when someone describes a beer as "malty" they may be describing a certain sweetness, fullness, earthiness, or the flavour of toasted grains. This stuff tastes like cereal.

2. Hops are flowering plants used to contribute either bitterness or other aromas and flavours, depending on when they are added to the brew. "Hoppy" might therefore be used to describe a bitter tasting ale, or one with plenty of bite.

3. How to make beer: Add water to malt and extract most of the sugars from it, boil the brew then add hops at the beginning of the process for bitterness to balance the malt, and at the end for flavours and aromas. Add yeast to convert the malt sugars into alcohol. A secondary stage of fermentation occurs in the cask, which is why it's important landlords know how to handle real ale - most poor tasting beer is apparently the fault of the pub, not the beer.

Andy, who described the brewing process as "a little bit of science and a little bit of art", had been brewing his Redemption beers (in Tottenham) for barely a month before he came to share them with us at The Gunmakers, where both beers have been put on tap. He chose the name Redemption, if I remember correctly after a fair few pints of the stuff, to signify his intention to make amends following several years as a banker. On the basis of these beers alone he is already saved.

Redemption Pale Ale (3.8%): This was the session beer, made for chugging. Light, slightly citrusy and incredibly sociable. A fellow drinker suggested it was too light, with a quickly disappearing finish. I say it was refreshing and moreish.

Urban Dusk (4.6%): A beer that evokes twilight in the city - that ephemeral period between light and dark; pregnant with potential. The lightness here comes from Bramley Cross hops, which add a spicy, fruity feel; the darkness from pale chocolate malt, which produces a mild coffee flavour. I began the evening treating Urban Dusk as a slow-sipping, full-flavoured beverage but by the end was downing it with glee with everyone else. Remarkably quaffable, given its intensity.

Pleasingly, Andy spoke of his desire to continue making "reasonably balanced" beers rather than "extreme" beers, which often taste like they are brewed to challenge rather than delight the drinker. It is said that London used to be a hub for smaller-scale craft ale brewers, before entering a long period of decline. Redemption is a welcome sign of progress and it seems to me that everyone in London should get down to The Gunmakers sharpish and treat themselves to a couple of good drinks.


    SOunds good, I'm up for trying these!

  2. Andy tells me his Redemption ales are, or will be, available at the following pubs:

    Charles Lamb, Angel
    Bree Louise, Euston
    Prince Albert, Camden
    Southampton Arms, Kentish Town
    The Pineapple, Kentish Town
    Market Porter, Borough Market (March)
    Wenlock Arms, Shoreditch (soon)
    The Old Fountain, Old Street

  3. Ahem, I didn't suggest it was *too* light - I thought it was nicely drinkable, and was just a little surprised about how short it finished. I thought they were a lovely couple of beers (hence my enthusiasm at drinking more of them!).

  4. Apologies if I misreported your tasting notes, Jason. How about I buy you a pint of Redemption to make amends?