What is your favourite tipple? I know I like something warming in the winter and something cool in the summer. Once I moved to London, my summer tipple has tended to be cider or a chilled cocktail.
I love ginger beer, but was not very happy with the selection available in the market, so I often have a ginger ale mixed with vodka or a white rum.
London is amazing in terms of craft beers, but I'm not much of a beer drinker. So imagine my surprise when Joanne of Love Pop Ups London told me about Umbrella Brewing which makes Craft Ginger Beer. Matt the creator/founder of Umbrella Brewing had invited her to a private tour of his brewery on Holloway Road and told her she could bring a few other bloggers along.
I don't think I've ever been so excited about any other event as I was for this one.
When we arrived at the brewery on Holloway Road, we were greeted by Matt Armitage - who used to be a bartender until he decided to create drinks rather than just mixing them.
While we were waiting for the group to assemble, Matt mixed us some cocktails with Umbrella Ginger Beer and I have to say that the combination of gin, lime juice and ginger beer was simply fantastic.
2 degree temperature weather aside, with the Barbeque going, and the gin cocktail in my hand, one could believe that Spring was almost here. The sausages marinated in jerk sauce were finger licking good and the Ginger Beer paired wonderfully with Grilled/Barbequed food.
After tasting the Ginger Beer, we were now invited on a tour around the restored Victorian industrial building to see how it was made. As is the case with most craft beer operations, the size of the brewery isn't large, but it is sufficient for two 3800 liter drums in which the beer is brewed as well as space to carry raw materials, the finished product (pre-bottling) and crated bottles.
Umbrella Ginger Beer is made with Lemons, Ginger and Cane Sugar. Yes, fresh, natural Lemons and Ginger, not essence or flavour! With nearly 75 kilos of ginger going into each 3800 liter tank. All these ingredients are fermented together with yeast.
Then comes the highly scientific testing of each batch. Given that the ingredients are natural and flavours can vary based on the time of the year and where the ingredients come from, this is an extremely important step to be able to keep the quality and flavour uniform across batches. Chemistry and Mathematics are definitely subjects worth paying attention to in school.
They are also experimenting with ageing ginger beer in whiskey and rum barrels.
We were lucky enough to try the first batch of cider - the next product that Umbrella Brewing is hoping to bring to the market. This fits into their vision of being a British Brewery making British drinks other than beer and wine. The cider was lovely and crisp. I'm a sucker for the sweeter Swedish Ciders and find British ciders quite dry and tart, but this was a happy middle ground.
While they initially bottled their own Beer, the process has now been outsourced. At this point, I have to mention their labels. Each one is painstakingly designed and is either inspired by a record label or part of a collaboration with brands like Dewar's, Studio Ruuger and Dead Rabbit. Behind each label is a bar code and if you are so inclined, you can head to their website, key in the code and read more about the inspiration for that particular label.
We ended the tour with another taste of pure unadulterated ginger beer. It is very fiery and reminded me of my favourite ginger ale (non-alcoholic): Luscombe's Hot Ginger. This pairs well with spicy food or Barbequed food. If you have a lower spice tolerance, you may prefer it over ice or mellowed down with gin or lemon juice.
As this is a Craft Beer Operation, it is not easy to find this product everywhere, but they are available in most Odd Bins They are also available in some independent bars. Check this page for more information. If you can't find it easily, you can also buy a 12 pack online, directly from Umbrella Brewing.
Do try them out, if you are looking for something new, something different, something fiery, something natural and completely vegan.