Tim Hampson's Beer Blog

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Archive for November 2015

The Cat’s Back – A welcome London survior

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Can there be a better street corner pub? There is something endearingly attractive about this pub. Even its name is eccentric. Built in 1865, it was called Ye Olde House and Home, and provided a place where lightermen from the Thames and Wandle could drink pints of liquid Cat's Back Exterior - Cat's Backbread. But at some time the landlord’s moggy went walkabout – and after a month’s absence it returned – and the rest they say is history.

The pub is a survivor, standing shoulder to shoulder with row upon row of luxury apartments. It was bought by Sussex brewer Harveys in 2012. This backstreet boozer is a hidden gem amidst the high rises of Wandsworth. Recently refurbished the bright and airy, front bar is cosy and comfortable with a bohemian community atmosphere, which is in keeping to the pub’s local, communal and traditional roots.

It is a Victorian survivor which now nestles in the new riverside quarter between Wandsworth and Putney in South West London. The pub recently won Joint first Place for the Campaign for Real Ale’s Joe Goodwin Award for the Best Corner Street Local National Pub Design. Upstairs allows for more space and privacy away from the front bar area with a dual use function room.

A small, decked beer garden is out the back and it is only a five-minute walk from the ever moving Thames.

The food is wholeheartedly pubby, rather than foodie, but that doesn’t stop it being it being memorable. Home-made pies and tarts, hearty sandwiches, seasonal soups, daily specials, traditional desserts and Sunday roasts are the order of the day. And for anyone who likes ale, what could be better than a glass of Harveys Sussex Bitter. Full bodied and golden brown, its aroma of swirling Goldings hops is in near perfect balance of with the barley malt in the beer.

The pub will feature in a new edition of London’s Riverside pubs which publishes next year.

86-88 Point Pleasant, SW18 1NN





Written by timhampson

November 24, 2015 at 10:43 am

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Article from the OC HC

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Go to http://oxhc.co.uk/Straight-talking-wine-Jack-Rayner-talks-to-Tim-Hampson.asp to see the article in full

Straight-talking wine: Jack Rayner talks to Tim Hampson

As the author of a considerable portfolio of alcohol-based literature, including The Beer Book, Whisky Manual, London’s Best Pubs and Great Beers, Tim is an authority on all things brewed and distilled


“I’m trying to show that wine is fun, or should be fun”

The world of wine is often difficult to wrap your head around, and experts in the field are rarely as friendly or straight-talking as Tim Hampson

Haynes Wine Manual

When we learnt that he’d published a “down-to-earth” Wine Manual, we thought it was only right that Jack Rayner spoke to Tim about the confusing world of wine, as well as Oxfordian breweries and his attitude to buying the right bottle.

How does a man come to accumulate such vast knowledge of alcohol?

It takes a lot of sitting in bars.

Sounds like a hard life.

Yes, it does mean that I’ve spent a long time travelling around, going to wineries, distilleries and breweries, but the thing that links them all is that these drinks have social and economic history in most areas, and also the fact that they are usually run by really wonderful, creative people who like nothing more than to talk about what they do.


Right. So in terms of where you’ve travelled, is there a particular place that exemplifies that attitude?

To be honest, if we can talk locally, these jewels exist everywhere. In terms of wine, there’s the Bothy Winery which is not far outside Oxford. When you go there, it’s quite clear to see the link between the earth, the rhythms of the seasons and the wine they make. As importantly, and this is something that features in my book, they link wine with creativity very much. They put some really nice sculptures actually within their vineyard itself once a year and I’m not sure if the artists are influenced by wine itself, but it’s something that’s really interesting to see.

I’m more of a beer drinker myself, and I know about the differences in process in how you can use different malts, hops and techniques to create different flavours, but I’m not so knowledgeable about wine. Is there similar scope for creating different flavours whilst using a single variety of grape?

I could argue that making beer is more difficult, because there are more raw materials involved. Beer-making is a continuous process. Most brewers are making beer throughout the year, whereas with wine, you have a harvest and you squash the grapes. There are certainly different skills needed within wine making: You need the skill of the people in the vineyards who know how to grow and prune the grapes so that you achieve the maximum growth for the type of grape you’re looking for. Then, there is a skill which you don’t see as much in beer brewing, which is the ability to blend wines of different grapes. If you’re using more than one grape variety, you’re looking to marry them together to make the one wine. At that point, the person who is assembling the wine does need a lot of skill.

Is it a similar idea to blending whiskies?

I guess so, yes. That’s a fair thing to say.

Moving towards the study of the drink, tasting wine is considered a much more high-brow pastime than with beer, but is it a similar discipline?

Well yes, whatever you’re judging, whether it’s porridge, cheese, wine or beer, you look at it, you sniff it, and you taste it. What I certainly try to do in the wine book is to avoid mystifying wine tasting, which I think is something that often happens. You can go to parts of Spain or France and wine is the same as we regard beer or lager in this country: it’s the working person’s drink. You make it in your farm or in your kitchen, and you drink it. You either like it or you don’t, and it’s as simple as that. I do think we can over-mystify wine.

Certainly. You touched earlier on the more local vineyards and wineries. Did you grow up in Oxford?

No, I didn’t, but I’ve lived in Oxford for about 25 years.

Well as Oxford is renowned for its pubs, has the city influenced your career?

Well, we were talking about brewers earlier, and in Oxford I think we probably have around 30 brewers now. In this county we have one of the oldest craft brewers in the country at Hook Norton, who are a fantastic example of how an old-style brewery can convert to a modern craft brewer.

Absolutely. I was at Hook Norton not 2 weeks ago, and their operation is astounding.

Isn’t it? They’re constantly looking at their beers and adapting their beers… To progress, you have to understand your past, I think. They are continuing to progress and develop new beers which are classics of this age, rather than replicates of beers from another age.

What are your thoughts on the microbrewery and craft beer scene? Do you welcome the surge in producers?

I think it’s absolutely brilliant. Whether it can continue or not, we’ll have to wait and see. Probably within a 30 or 40 mile radius of Oxford there might be 60 or 70 breweries, and it’s still growing. Whether we can continue with that rate of growth, I don’t know. Another fantastic example is Shotover Brewery, another local brewer who are exemplars of modern brewing style married with absolute top quality. They have a different business model from others, which I think is to only sell within 15 miles of the brewery. You’ve got quality, you’ve got class, and it’s something which is really very local.

Going back to your wine manual, what should we look out for in the book that might not be included in other wine-based books?

What I’ve tried to do is – people often ask – probably two things – one: the best wine probably isn’t the most expensive one you see on the shelf, but it’s to do with the company you’re with, the location you’re in, the conversation that’s going on, and the interaction between you and the people you’re sharing the bottle with. If that’s the cheapest bottle of wine you’ve just gone out and bought from your local supermarket, and you’re enjoying it for what it’s meant to be: a drink that encourages conversation and encourages thinking, then that’s the best bottle of wine in the world.

What a great attitude.

If someone says “Oh I never buy a £10 bottle of wine, I only buy £30 bottles of wine”, I just think “why?”. With a little bit of extra knowledge, or different knowledge, you might realise that something has a rarity to it, and perhaps that’s worth trying because there isn’t much of it available. What I haven’t tried to do in the book is give endless lists of grand cru estates from France, which you find in many wine books. I’m trying to show that wine is fun, or should be fun.

That’s definitely a welcome attitude. What are your plans for the future?

101 Beer Days out 2

I’ve just finished another book, London’s Riverside Pubs, that’s due out next year. I’ve also just had another book published almost at the same time as the wine book, which is 101 Beer Days Out, which is a collection of beer adventures that people can have over different parts of the country. Some are brewery tours, some are train trips, some are big carnivals…

You must have a great time putting these books together.

Haha! Well it’s like any other bit of research, isn’t it? I have to do the same graft as any person involved in the media, and I have to stay sober enough to remember what I’ve done! It doesn’t always happen but I try to.

Wine: 7,000BC onwards (all flavours) Enthusiasts’ Manual is out now, published by Haynes.


Tim’s Hampson is hosting a beer tasting at 7pm on 11 December, at Blackwell’s, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford. To make sure you get a place, buy tickets in advance from the customer service desk in the Norrington Room or by calling 01865 333623.



Written by timhampson

November 23, 2015 at 3:08 pm

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Talking local at Blackwell’s book shop

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101 Beer Days out 2

I’ll be talking local when I host a beer tasting event at Blackwell’s book shop in Oxford on 11 December at 7pm, drawing the bookshop’s food and drink festival to a close.

I’ll also be talking about my book 101 Beer Days Out, recently updated and republished by the Campaign for Real Ale.

101 Beer Days Out celebrates many Oxfordshire pubs and breweries, including the historic Hook Norton brewery (and nearby Pear Tree pub), the fabulous views from the Castle Inn in Edgehill, and the wealth of pub offerings Oxford itself boasts – from the Bear, to the Eagle to the Lamb & Flag to the Turf Tavern.

The tasting starts at 7pm, Blackwell’s, 48-51 Broad Street, Oxford. To make sure you get a place, buy tickets in advance from the customer service desk in the Norrington Room or by calling 01865 333623.

Blackwells events page: http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/stores/events/

Buy the book at the CAMRA shop: https://shop.camra.org.uk/books/101-beer-days-out-194.html

101 Beer Days Out ISBN 9781852493288, RRP £12.99, published by CAMRA Books.

Written by timhampson

November 23, 2015 at 9:04 am

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Brewery trust saves thousands of at risk pub photos

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_DSC6831I am immensely proud to have played a small part in the completion of the first major project by the National Brewery Heritage Trust (NBHT), of which I am trustee.

London Local Pubs: Past and Present is a new book written by Adrian Tierney-Jones, which contains many historic, once at risk, photos of 52 pub, in the London area, which has just been published.

It includes a selection of some of the finest pictures from a stunning collection, not seen for more than a quarter of a century, some dating back to the 1900s which has now been digitised and put online.

_DSC6736 The book was launched last week in London at the Magpie and Stump pub, in the presence  Burton MP Andrew Griffiths and community pubs minister Marcus Jones (pictured above).

And it could all have been so different, as in the late 1980s, the entire collection was only moments away from destruction.

The collection’s saving started when NBHT trustee Robert Humphreys, who then worked for Charrington’s brewery in East London, rescued the photographs, which had been thrown into a skip.

Humphreys arranged for the photos to be donated and sent to the Bass Museum in Burton (Now the National Brewery Centre), where the pictures were safely stored.

In 2014, the National Brewery Heritage Trust (NBHT) http://www.nationalbreweryheritagetrust.co.uk/working with Historypin http://www.historypin.org and Heritage Assets began the project to digitise the historic photos with the intention of making the collection available to online researchers and to anyone who wanted to commercially use the images.

The on-line collection includes more than 3,500 images, dating from the Edwardian period to the 1970s, which depict more than 1,250 pubs from the now long gone Charrington. While many of these pubs survive and prosper under a range of new owners, others have been lost to WWII bombing or redevelopment.

Now, some of best photos from the collection have been included in London Local Pubs: Past and Present published by Halsgrove. Publishing.

London Local Pubs: Past and Present juxtaposes the historic pictures with contemporary shots taken from precisely the same spots as the originals, enabling a fascinating comparison of the changing times through which the buildings have survived. All the pubs featured in the book are still open.

To find out more about London Local Pubs and to get your own copy, visit www.londonlocalpubs.com

Go to http://www.nationalbreweryheritagetrust.co.uk  to find out about the NBHT.



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November 22, 2015 at 6:41 pm

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