Come and sample some of our beers, they said. Don’t mind if I do, I said back. And that’s how myself and cider aficionado Rene ended up at Hop Burns and Black in the newly refurbished arches by Deptford Station, writes Michael Holland.
Hop Burns and Black is basically a posh off licence that kind of doubles up as a bar, with young Joris behind the counter imparting excellent beer and cider knowledge to anyone who asked. And I had lots of questions. I discovered that Hop Burns and Black is the brainchild of New Zealand couple, Jen and Glenn, who obviously love their beer and, strangely, hot sauce. Along with more beers that you can shake a cocktail stick at, they have a wide selection of sauces concocted from the world’s hottest chillies, and they are not for the weak. They also sell chilli snacks that come with their own warning.
Firstly I concentrated on the London breweries and began my beer journey with a Napa Brut IPA, a refreshing 6.3% abv from Gipsy Hill Brewery. It was not as dry as it made out but whetted my appetite for more. My drinking companion opted for a Telegraph Hill Cider and remarked that every one of its 5% abv was good. Joris gave us a quick lesson on how they combine the hops and apples, which was both intriguing and made the drinking of it all the more enjoyable.
Keeping with the summery, pale ale vibe, I had a Brew by Numbers DDH Pale Ale, No. 3. This was a cloudy, hazy beer (5.8%), with citrussy notes. Very nice, and all the way from Bermondsey. Rene’s next choice was Oliver’s Fine Cider(5.5%). This was quite hoppy as well as fruity, and was almost like a sweet wine.
By now local couple Tom and Sophie had joined our table. Tom was a real beer buff, and Sophie had followed suit rather then become a beer widow. Tom spoke in a language that few would understand, just that select tribe of home brewers who know all the names of hop varieties.
It was now time for me to step out of my comfort zone with an Indian Porter from Kernel Brewery – the catalyst for so many breweries in Bermondsey, and ultimately, the Bermondsey Beer Mile. This was a dark, thick, almost broth-like liquid that had excellent viscosity. Not a drink for the heatwave, really, but oh so nice.
Rene’s London Mead (5.5%) was also a step away from what had gone before. This was rather flat – as it should be – but very tasty.
With the drinks and conversation flowing, and with pleasant company, the talk soon got round to how much Deptford had changed and the link between gentrification and social cleansing.
I moved away from London for a Shattered Dream, a salted chocolate caramel ale from Siren Brewery. The sweetness in the chocolate undertones belied the stout’s 9.1% abv – It had a Wow factor. Rene went for the Revenant Cider (4.5%), that she deemed ‘really nice’.
And so we neared the end of our tour of some of the best breweries around. Tom and Sophie stumbled off to their flat by the creek while me and Rene tried to focus on the job at hand and not see double. She had another Revenant, because it was so nice, while I chose a sensible 4.2% Five Points Field Day Citrus Pale that left a satisfying aftertaste that I took with me on the train home. Rene was last seen pushing her bike down Deptford High Street.
Hop Burns and Black is the connoisseurs’ off licence – With over 350 of the world’s finest beers do not expect to get a six-pack of Carling. In fact, if Carling did off licences it would be like Hop Burns and Black, and each one would have its own Joris.
Napa Brut IPA 5.00
Telegraph Hill Cider 3.50
Brew by Numbers DDH Pale Ale, No. 3 5.35
Oliver’s Fine Cider 6.75
Indian Porter 3.35
Gosnell’s London Mead 3.30
Shattered Dream 5.95
Revenant Cider x 2 6.80
Five Points Field Day Citrus Pale 2.80
Hop Burns and Black, Arch 1 Deptford Station, Deptford High St, SE8 4NS. Phone: 0207 450 0284. www.hopburnsblack.co.uk
Open Wed/Thurs from 3pm-8pm, Friday from 12pm-9pm, Sat from 10am-9pm, and Sunday – 12pm-6pm.