Monday, 6 December 2010


Historic Greenwich Naval-College Brewery Revival after 100 Years of Closure: Success?

The Old Brewery, housed in the original brewery building that has been out of use for over 100 years, is a simply spectacular setting. Located on the Thames, squeezed between the majestic Royal Naval College site and the historic Cutty Sark, the revival of this naval college micro-brewery is designed to ‘recapture the glory of a fascinating age’.

The Royal Naval College site, now occupied by Greenwich University and Trinity College, was once the home to the Palace of Plancentia, built in 1447 and birthplace to Henry IIV, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The demise of the Palace over the following centuries lead to the decision to build the ‘Kings House’ to the South of the site. In 1694 the Royal Naval hospital was chartered and built in its’ place, ‘for the relief and support of seamen and their dependants’, and in 1717 the Brew-house was added to supply these pensioners with a strict 3-pint daily ration.

The exciting revival of this historic brewery is not for the faint-hearted: Mean-time ales are brewed on the site and are overseen by award winning Alistair Cook. It also offers a menu that comprises of almost 50 different ales and beers! By day the Old Brewery consists of two sides; the main hall serves as a café serving light snacks, and the barside serving more formal traditional English plates. By night the venue is transformed into a trendy bar and formal restaurant. The modern décor, including a visible brewery and a suspended collage of bottles, give it a 21st century feel, while the cast iron 'fish-bellied beams' restored from the 1830s and the timeline running through the building, give a more subtle reminder of its’ history.

My initial excitement at visiting the Old Brewery faded and I could not help feeling disappointed. The opulent design and lack ambience made me feel like I was in an art gallery tourist-trap, sterilized and characterless, rather than being in a historical brewery dating back to the eighteenth century. The selection of ales was impressive, and the menu was sophisticated (yet slightly over priced), however, its major selling point-‘its character and history’- was not up to scratch.

Worth visiting?

First, I think it is important to identify that the Old Brewery is far from the finished product and there are creases that need to be ironed out. The direction of this establishment needs to be focused on enticing the local punters rather than merely attracting the many hordes of tourists that descend on Greenwich every day. Second, the metallic materials choking the interior need to be replaced with something, enchanting , historic and maritime. However, the general concept of ‘old brewery’ is excellent, from the grand setting to its purpose ‘as a celebration’- this venue is definitely worth checking out. If not solely to enjoy one of the excellent ales at the brewery, as a great excuse to visit the historic, picturesque Greenwich and to explore some of its’ other impressive attractions.

Adam Ashworth

No comments:

Post a Comment