Helmets off to you, our local heroes
The Park Brewery cycle club ride – 13.06.20
This week we ride to Kingston upon Thames to visit The Park Brewery and sample a can or two of their fine pale ale. On our journey we encounter hordes on the Kingston riverside, a special sort of two wheeled beer barge and some of the friendliest locals around.
Our first week saw two riders, myself (Haydn) riding a tan 2017 Charge Plug 3 and Harry, riding Katie’s white Dutch bike from Gazelle - complete with dog basket. Maybe not the classic cycle club setup, but they do say it doesn’t matter what you’re riding, as long as you ride.
This week we ride 25km around Kingston and the surrounding areas at an average pace of 15.6km/h, read on for some of the highlights….
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door…”
“You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
The start of a journey can be hard. You’re shaking off the rust of a few lazy days (especially through lockdown) as you meander along streets that you know like the back of your hand. Often, you find yourself asking, should I have stayed at home?
Now, unlike Frodo, we’re not going on an epic journey across middle earth to cast a ring into the fiery pits of Mount Doom. No, we’re heading out on a short ride to discover wonderful beer in South West London.
The only similarity between us? When all of this is done we’ll have a glass of ale in our hands.
And it’s that thought that keeps us, and Frodo, going forward.
Anyway, the ride from Wimbledon to Kingston is a flat and straight road through New Malden. There’s not much to see other than Kingsmeadow football stadium - home to Chelsea Women’s FC, AFC Wimbledon and Kingstonian FC.
We ride a few hundred metres past the stadium, take a left, and find The Park Brewery nestled amongst an estate of garages.
Helmets off to you, our local hero
The brewery is so unassuming that it’s almost invisible. In fact, if not for a blue flag adorned with their logo and a smiling chap sitting behind a wooden pallet, it’s easy to miss.
We’re welcomed to the brewery by co-founder Frankie Kearns who chats to us about beer and where our first Tour de Hops ride will take us. As we discuss Richmond Park and which of the hills are our favourite (Broomfield Hill by the way) we’re friendlily interrupted by a local key worker who advises us that the park is still closed.
"If not for a blue flag adorned with their logo and a smiling chap sitting behind a wooden pallet, it’s easy to miss."
This sends us back to the drawing board. It’s been a few years since visiting Kingston and our local green spot knowledge ain’t what it used to be. Luckily our newfound friend offers up some alternatives – Ham Common, Kingston Riverside and Teddington Lock to name a few.
Hats (or helmets) off to you our local hero. Frankie really was telling the truth when she said that they have “the best local community!”
Now, back to the beer. We’re given a thorough rundown of the beer selection and are recommended the 4.5% ABV American Pale Ale: Gallows.
“I always recommend Gallows to new customers.” “It’s our best seller and the first beer we ever sold to customers. It’s packed with tropical flavours, mainly mango from the US hops (Simcoe and Mosaic).” Frankie tells us.
We opt for a mixed box of 12 – Gallows, Killcat and Field Haze – load up the puppy basket and continue with our ride.
The charge of the beer brigade
All in the valley of death
Rode the two
“Forward, the beer brigade!
Charge for the horde!
As we turn onto the High Street in Kingston and pass The Ram and Woody’s bar (two great bars), we witness a scene from Day of the Dead. People, upon people, upon people drinking takeaway pints at only a social distance of 1.8m… the horror.
We cycle on, along riverside walk and up the Thames to Canbury Park Gardens. This is one of the most beautiful stretches of the river and is home to the Kingston Rowing Club and the popular Boaters Inn pub. It’s usually a wonderful place to sit and watch the boats go by, but as it's closed, we ride on a little further.
We emerge from the shade of Canbury Park Gardens to the riverside sunshine of Lower Ham Road. This is a great bit of quiet flat road where you can pick up a bit of speed – unless you’re riding a Dutch bike with a crate of 12 on the back of course.
10 minutes later, we arrive at Ham Common ready for a few cans of The Park Brewery’s best.
Drinking as close to Richmond Park as possible
Ham Common is a stunning little green in the small village of Ham between Richmond and Kingston. It has a pub on each corner, a bustling duck pond and is just a stone throw from Richmond Park.
With Richmond Park off limits, we want to be as close as possible – for authenticity of course. So, we choose a nice spot among the willow trees, kite flyers and dog walkers, lay our bikes down and open up our first can.
Gallows American Pale Ale ABV – 4.5% IBU - 10
Gallows is one of those beers, it takes its name from the Gallows that stood by Kingston Gate – the original location of The Park Brewery.
Gallows is a sweet golden ale hopped with Simcoe and Mosaic. It has a tropical mango flavour and a fresh juicy aroma. Despite its sweetness, there is an underlying but well balanced bitterness that grounds it. It’s a crisp pale ale and a great refreshment when you’re halfway through a sunny ride.
ABV – 3.9% IBU - 35
Killcat takes its name from the sinister sounding Killcat corner on the east side of Richmond Park. To this day no-one knows the origin of the name.
Despite its low ABV, Killcat is a bright and punchy pale ale that has a wonderful bitterness and bite. It pours a warm amber orange colour with a little haze. The mix of New Zealand, Australian and American hops give it a floral aroma and taste that places it closer to an IPA than a session pale ale.
The Beer Barge is born
Every story needs a hero. They’re not always the fastest or strongest, but they’re there when you need them the most.
Our hero, is more of an anti-hero. The Gazelle fights Harry up every little hill, it lugs around our beer with ease but on every incline above 2% it fights back.
Once we hit the top of Kingston Hill, Harry gives it a name, the Gazelle will henceforth be known as The Beer Barge: carrier of fine craft beer.
The final leg of our journey is a pretty uneventful stretch, circling back through Kingston into Raynes Park and finally Wimbledon. The only memorable moment comes as a passer-by shouts compliments at Harry's beer basket. As we ride into Wimbledon we stop and celebrate our completed ride with one final beer.
As we're about to take our first sip, we notice the Beer Barge’s seat is at its lowest. Harry’s been riding it set up for someone a foot shorter than he is… no wonder those hills have been so difficult.
Field Haze New England Pale Ale ABV – 4% IBU - ?
Field Haze is named after the mist that sits on the lowlands of Richmond Park.
As soon as you pour this beer you understand its name – it’s hazy. Very hazy. Once the haze settles, it turns to a warm peach glow. The aroma is peach with tropical mango and pineapple, this gives it a big and juicy mouthfeel. The addition of oats thickens the body while keeping the ABV low.
All in all, a solid sessionable beer that bridges the gap between classic pale ale and New England IPA
I highly recommend checking out The Park Brewery if you’re in Kingston (or cycling past). They're a super friendly team with a collection of great beers.
I’m personally looking forward to paying their taproom a visit in winter to try their White stout, (brewed with wheat, oats, cacao and cold brew Guatemalan coffee) and Cinnamon Doughnut Stout (brewed with actual doughnuts and cinnamon).
Here at Tour de Hops we run small group cycles to independent London breweries and post about it every other week. Each write-up includes ride highlights, beer reviews and snippets from an interview with each brewery.
We visited The Park Brewery on the inaugural Tour de Hops cycle club brewery ride on Saturday 13th June 2020.
To go alongside our ride, we interviewed Frankie Kearns, co-founder of The Park Brewery. You can read that full interview here.
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