“Don’t have that. It’s horrible.” Said the the friendly James May lookalike behind the bar. He was right. The sampler of Brodie’s Kosher Rye Ale he gave me smelt like gloss paint, and tasted like grass clippings. His recommendation of Old Hopper was right on the money though.
It was saturday evening and pouring with icy rain. Mrs TIW, my brother and I were warm and snug in the William The IV in Leyton. This is the tap of the prolific Brodie brewery, which produces its beer in what looks like a big stone shed round the back. The pub is a large former gin palace, with original mirrors for Truman and Charrington on the walls. It looks and feels like a mash-up of the Cross Keys* in Covent Garden and former TIW saturday night favourite The Old George (AKA Kempys) in Bethnal Green, and the place was bustling. There was some sort of fraternal organisation having a black tie do in the back room, footy was showing unobtrusively on an enormous projector screen, watched by leather-jacketed geezers. The other punters were a mixed salad of East End hipsters, couples, locals and beard-stroking beer-o-nauts. Staff were zipping around clearing glasses and wiping tables, and one of the barmen kept interrupting his roast dinner to leap up and help out on the pumps, which were everywhere you looked – about twenty of them.
Brodie’s are very active, as anyone who follows them on Twitter will know. They currently produce about 12 regular beers, as well as seasonals and what seem to be experiments, like the Kosher Rye. We only tried two out of the battalion of pumps – the smooth and bitter Amarilla and the Old Hopper, brewed with hops from Cable Street down in Whitechapel. Both beers tasted rather green and young – like they often do at beer festivals. Still perfectly enjoyable, especially the Hopper which was miles better than the version served at another Brodie outlet, the Old Coffee House in Soho, home of the most miserable barman in London.
The William’s certainly had its ups and downs in recent years. Never quite knowing if it was on an up or a down is the reason that i’ve never taken the short journey to visit until now. Brodie’s is in fact the resurrection of the pub’s old Sweet William micro, brought back to life in 2008 by James and Lizzie Brodie, and the pub’s new ascendency is clearly down to their hard work (and maybe helped by their £1.99 a pint pricing). We certainly felt instantly at home – it’s that kind of place – and I’m looking forward to going back.
Disclaimer: Our lad and me had spent a good chunk of the afternoon in the Euston Tap getting acquainted with Fyne Ales’ Vital Spark. So don’t take my word for it, go and have a look. Leyton’s really not that far from Zone 1.
*I’ve heard the Cross Keys and the Old Coffee House is are run by the owners of the William IV. Can anyone confirm?
>The staff at the William are unbelieveably friendly, including running down to the celler to get a pint of a beer which wasn't yet on the pumps. Quite lovely food too.
>It certainly smelled lovely, though we were strictly ale on our trip. I did notice that the cheese boards being taken through to the 'do' were pretty generous!
>Thanks, Wheeler. Another beer-pit goes on the list. Sounds good, and I've not tried any of Brodie's wares yet.
>They do bottle their beers, so you might get it at BeerRitz, Leigh.
>They are better than they used to be at bottling but beware that the bottles can be rather lively. I would open them in the sink just to be on the safe side.I had the stout explode on me once, rather like a bottle of champagne that had been shook. Impressive.However the stout was gorgeous so my only tears were because half a bottle was everywhere else in the kitchen but my glass.
>Do you know if they do their own bottling Meer? I'm amazed by what they get up to in that shed. They appear to have an output that would put some regionals to shame.
>I've been popping into this pub on and off for years. It is, as you say, always friendly. Catch it at the wrong time and it can feel a bit lonely — it is huge! They make slightly too many beers, in my opinion. I wish they'd concentrate on a slightly smaller selection of the best ones. On which note, their bottled Ho Ho Ho is brilliant: subtly spiced, and not a gusher, even at a year old.