Review: Sambrook’s Beer by the River Festival


By Joe Short

Sambrook’s brewery celebrated its fifth birthday in style on Saturday with a feast of music, food and real ale at Morden Hall’s Beer by the River Festival.

Hundreds of ale revellers came down for the evening session that boasted a range of high quality local brews and bands ranging from new wave to Turkish folk frenzy.

There’s certainly nothing mainstream about a beer festival but these one-time niche events are becoming increasingly popular across the country. One glance around the two marquees and stage between and you notice that for every grey, bearded face pensively sampling a fresh brew, there’s a 20-something equivalent relishing this new experience.

We were just two of these quaffers, who received a couple of drinks tokens on arrival, a pint glass and a free food voucher to boot. Vic, my colleague for the day, was also handed a token to sample Sambrook’s Number 5, a barley wine at 8.2% that went down a treat.

Real ale festivals require a balance of atmosphere, eatables and beer – otherwise people don’t stay long. Thankfully, Sambrook’s put on a good spread with London butcher The Ginger Pig and chippy Fish Club on hand – and with 16 beers to choose from there was no reason to leave early.

Certainly the best on tap was Sambrook’s stalwart, Wandle – a light beer but with strong hops characteristic of many London breweries. With a pint glass in hand its always tempting to fill it to the brim but the art of drinking at a beer festival is to try as many as possible – so halves it was for us!

The party, an annual event in the Sambrook’s calendar, has grown bigger each year to the extent Duncan Sambrook, managing director, decided to take the celebrations up a level.

Morden Hall’s grounds are the perfect setting for a festival – be it beer, music or both. No roads or cars to interrupt this muddy field fit for its purpose. Although the event did feel quite sparse – in all there were two marquees and four stalls on a patch bigger than Borough Market – that meant punters could enjoy the fresh air and live bands without interruption.

On the flip side, it also took quite a while to fill up and the event felt more like a village fete than a festival until darkness descended and The Turbans began their self-titled ‘gypsy klezmer’ in front of a packed house.

For ale and music lovers Beer by the River was perfect, even if a little steep at £19 a head. But, as long as you had strong shoes and beer, you didn’t really care.

Sambrook’s is located in Battersea and the brewery is open for tours. Check out for more info.

Photo courtesy of James Cridland, with thanks.

Follow us @SW_Londoner

Related Articles