Caught by the River

Pint by the River – Sambrook’s Junction (4.9%)

24th May 2010

Last year, Jeff, Andrew and myself sat out on the back stoop of the Dove doing our usual thing – drinking a few pints of foaming nut brown ale while concocting plans of what we could or should attempt next. We’ve always liked talking about beer. Liked drinking it a bit more than that if truth be told. So we thought we’d start a CBTR beer section. An ongoing conversation about ale, if you will. Hopefully it’ll be sporadic yet seasonal, informative yet slightly sozzled. It’ll be a bit like that conversation we had that day in fact.

Sambrook’s Junction by Nic Flook.

My girlfriend and I had been looking for a pub to run in London, and after meeting with Young’s Brewery we went to take a look at a pub in Wandsworth, South West London. We were both keen to stay in London, we’d heard good things about the area and it was one of the few placeswe could afford. So on a dark February afternoon we took the train to Wandsworth Town and from the junction at the bottom of Old York Road you can see The Crane. The tatty white Georgian cottage an incongruous nod to Wandsworth’s past sandwiched between a small industrial estate and the notorious Wandsworth one-way system. With its snow crusted purple slate roof and colourful stained-glass windows, if you came across it in a forest it would feel like sanctuary. But standing up to our ankles in black slush churned up from the A3, in the bleak gloom of a very British winter this outpost of old rural London looked like it was in its final throws. Despite that, we’d made the trip so ventured inside to an atmosphere that was almost as cold as what passed for day outside. We sat down with our drinks by the unlit fire and tried to be objective. I started to picture logs stacked either side of the fireplace and flames licking their way up the chimney, while Rebecca mentally rearranged the furniture with settles and arm chairs and we both felt the need to bring it back to life.

We’ve been here for almost three months now. The renovations are underway and we’re looking forward to opening our doors again, as The Armoury. The name comes from the steel mill on the opposite bank of the Wandle river that made canon and shot for British Navy battleships including H.M.S Victory and also gives it’s name to Armoury Way. Admiral Nelson captained the Victory at the battle of Trafalgar and enjoyed fishing for trout in the Wandle further upstream in Merton, learning to cast his fly rod with one arm.

I’m sitting in an armchair now by the fire after closing time, the bar is empty, the traffic still flowing past with a hushed whoosh. The residual heat in the logs making them glow and send tiny sparks of gold shimmering up the chimney. The pint I’m drinking is Sambrook’s Junction (4.9%). Named after Clapham Junction and brewed in Battersea, less than two miles away from the pub by the Sambrook’s brewery. This deep amber coloured ale has a nose of wet wood and leather, not unlike autumn leaves but at the same time reminds me of taking the lid off of a tin of dundee cake. It’s full of dark fruit and sweet liquorice with a finish of burnt caramel and biscuit from the roasted malt. It was first brewed as a seasonal ale for autmn/winter, but I find it works all year round as a warmer on a chilly evening, an accompaniment to cheese or a long night cap.