• Haydn Williams

Tour de getting dropped... in the Surrey Hills

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

The picturesque village of Reigate in the Surrey Hills is the destination for our next Tour de Hops ride. We’re exchanging the busy London backroads for quiet country hills as we head out to try a few beers from the wonderful Pilgrim Brewery.

We’ve had a number of late dropouts but are delighted to welcome three riders for this one.

Firstly, i'm riding my ever trusty Charge and donning a jersey and no rucksack for the first time on a ride. Second up is Paddy joining us after a brief two ride hiatus and sitting bravely atop his hybrid Cannondale.

Finally, we welcome Stu, northern powerhouse and Reigate resident who pointed us in the direction of Pilgrim in the first place. Stu rides out to Epsom on a classy Felt F3 to meet us and show us the ropes in the Surrey Hills.

Kick it to Epsom Racecourse

Let's get things straight, when we talk about climbs, we're not talking about the Tour de France alpine routes. We're talking about those hills that we ride up every day. TdH welcomes cyclists of all abilities so don't let a few hills put you off joining us in the future.

Our first hill is the climb up Ashley Road to Epsom Downs racecourse. Stu quickly takes the lead and I sit on his rear wheel as he spins up on his big ring and I battle my way up in my granny gears. Last night’s beers sit heavy as we approach the summit. I’m pushing, but Stu drops me and takes a 10m lead.

Stu rides past our turn and I have to put the legs down to catch him and tell him he’s gone too far. Paddy isn’t far behind, relentlessly pedalling away on his Hybrid, slow and steady but taking the hills apart one metre at a time.

We swing a right down Langley Vale Road for a brief hill, allowing the legs a well-deserved rest before a sluggish 2 km, 4% chug toward the Headley Road T Junction.

The M25. We’ve made it out. We’ve made it.

“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged”. Those are the words made famous by Ellis Boyd Redding “Red” in the movie The Shawshank Redemption.

Now, I know this is melodramatic, but after a long year confined within the radius of the M25 it’s fantastic to escape it, even just for an afternoon.

So, the minute we ride underneath the M25 towards Headley I let out a whoop of joy. I love you London, but I’ve seen too much of you this year.

And there is nothing better than breaking free from the restraints of the M25 and onto those free-flowing hills that is Surrey.

Lodgebottom Road, Headley Lane and a busy Box Hill

There isn’t anything more satisfying on a road bike than a fast and quiet road. Lodgebottom Road and Headley Lane are exactly that. Turning away from Headley we ride down these hills across to Zig Zag road.

There’s something infectious about Surrey and riding fast that puts a smile on your face. And this basically car free route left all three of us with smiles from ear to ear.

The zigzag road at Box Hill was made famous during the 2012 Olympics where it featured in the Olympic Road Race. Since then it has been a mainstay in the yearly London Surrey 100.

The positives are that it is a great hill to ride and is one of the only switchbacks around London. The negatives are that it gets incredibly busy on weekends. I’ve been here on a weekday before and it’s bliss. Today however it wasn’t. Once you’ve battled your way past the impatient car drivers, you've got the army of picniccers up top to deal with.

My advice to you? Visit on a week day and enjoy the sites across the Surrey Hills. But on a weekend? Just get up and get through it.

On to Reigate. On to beer

We took the right at the bottom of Box Hill Village and descend Pebble Hill towards Betchworth, through Buckland and into Reigate.

On the right hand side of Reigate Road, through a small archway and into a mews sits Pilgrim Brewery.

We pull up just after 2pm (as close to opening as possible of course) and are welcomed by the taproom staff who show us to our table for a well earnt beer. Or two. Or three. Or… well we lost count.

Longhorn Texas Brown Ale

ABV: 5.5%

I kick things off with a Longhorn Texas Brown Ale, part of Pilgrim’s blue star progressive range.

Longhorn is a beautifully smooth brown ale that has a nutty maltiness. It’s got a little bit of sweetness and a little carbonation that gives it a long lingering almost chocolatey flavour.

As a first beer in from a cycle it may not be the smartest of choices at 5.5% but, hey, we don’t make the rules and we definitely don’t stick to them.

As the beers continue, co-owner Adrian Rothera pops his head over to have a chat about everything from the Surrey cycle routes to how he and his business partner, Rory, came to own the brewery.

"We heard that the owner of Pilgrim Brewery was looking to retire. I was on holiday when I heard so I immediately contacted Rory who drove round to Pilgrim, spoke to the owner and we in effect bought the company there and then."

You can read more from Adrian in our interview here.

Great bar staff are dead. Long live the bar staff

Pilgrim’s beer is fantastic. Their story is brilliant. The ride out is one of my favourite so far.

But one thing stands out.

Well two actually.

Firstly, Winston.

Winston is a beautiful Rottweiler who was rescued from the states where he was involved in dog fighting rings. Winston’s owner saved him and brought him over to the UK to live a happier life. He’s a gentle giant and one of the best dogs we’ve ever met.

At the brewery he pops over to say hello and earn himself a little bit of fuss.

The big stand out for us is how brilliant the Pilgrim bar staff are. Adrian, you’ve got some great guys working for you - look after 'em.

Both knew the beers back to front and welcomed us to the taproom like old friends. They put up with our terrible jokes and came back for more.

An extra big thanks to @tiger.jpeg who bought us a round to top off a thoroughly brilliant visit to Pilgrim.

Cheers guys. We can’t wait to come back.

We almost forgot… the ride home

It’s inevitable isn’t it? Run a cycle tour out to Surrey to drink great beer and get carried away.

We’re advocates for safe and sober cycling so we made the decision to get the train home to Wimbledon.

So, with some makeshift face coverings, a couple of bikes in tow and a bagful of Pilgrim takeaways, Paddy and I boarded the first train to Clapham.

Gold Spice ABV: 4.6%

We did try this one in the taproom - we promise. We wouldn’t be able to make a true judgement of the beer in a slightly warm bottle on the train, that just wouldn’t be fair.

Gold Spice is part of Pilgrim’s green star seasonal range. It's an eastern fusion Golden Ale hopped with Slovenian hops that give it a lager like crispness. While it’s marketed as a winter beer it’s just as enjoyable in intermittent sun and scattered showers.

Gold Spice is sessionable, light and easy drinking - it's a great alternative to a lager if you’re looking for that crisp first pint.

Thanks to Adrian and the team at Pilgrim for welcoming us to their taproom, talking us through their beer and giving us an all round brilliant experience.

And thanks to Stu for dragging Paddy and I through Surrey. We can’t wait to have you on another ride!

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