When Asahi bought the Fuller’s Griffin brewery in April, there was a collective intake of breath – a big Japanese multinational taking over a traditional English brewery with 200 years of family history attached to it? What next?
Well nothing much, it would appear. The big boss, CEO Akiyoshi Koji came over from Japan to assure the assembled workforce that he’d bought the company because he liked it exactly the way it was. Far from changing the name or dropping beers off the sales list, Asahi say they want to take the well-loved Fuller’s brands and market them better, across their extensive worldwide network.
A cursory glance round the brewery shop reveals it to be much the same ‘visitor experience’ it was when it opened last year, except for the odd bottle of Peroni Nastro Azzuro, which Asahi also owns, and number one Japanese lager Super Dry, nestling alongside London Pride ale and Cornish Orchards cider in gift packs. There are racks of beers, ciders, wines, food and merchandise at very competitive prices (even more so if you take advantage of your 10% discount with your Club Card). See the Fuller’s offer here.
But the best thing about it is the ‘Growler Bar’ where you can take your glass flagon and refill it with the beer of your choice for about half the average bar price in London.
Beer among the cheapest in London
A ‘growler’ is a glass flagon which takes three and a half pints, which you can fill up with the beer of your choice and take home with you, then bring back for a refill. The first one is full price, but after that when you bring it back they charge just the fill price of between £2 and £3 per pint. When the average price of a pint in London is around £4.57, that’s a pretty good deal.
Why is it called that? According to Adrian, the shop manager, ‘growler’ is an American term. When beer is transported across the country in the US and the containers are jiggled about in the process, CO2 escapes, making a kind of growling noise.
Wine, Champagne and Porter smoked salmon
The brewery calls its on-site shop a ‘visitor experience’ because it has the Pilot Brewery at the back, where small batch beers are brewed, in batches of 1,500 litres, trying out new recipes in collaboration with other brewers, as well as the tasting bar within the shop. Being able to bring your growler in for a refill is in some ways going back to the old days, but in other ways the shop is very 21st century, reminiscent of a Disney or a theme park shop with everything you could possibly want that could conceivably be associated with Fuller’s – all the beers and ciders but also wines exclusive to the Fuller’s shop, spirits and food from the Fuller’s kitchen.
The brewery shop sells a Black Porter smoked salmon, black pudding and a breakfast pack of ham and sausages from the artisanal butcher Owtons, all of which have some beery ingredients. “There’s a massive range of goods” says Adrian, including T shirts, hoodies, tote bags and satchels, beer mats, bottle openers, key rings … you name it. It may surprise you to find what an extensive choice of wines and Champagnes are on sale.
Free tour of the brewery with a Chiswick Calendar Club Card
It’s also where the tours of the brewery start and finish. The tours take place every day of the week except Sunday, departing from the desk at the entrance to the shop. The tours are well worth doing, as the history and the process of brewing is really interesting and you are plied with samples. The Fuller’s brewery tours attract quite a lot of foreign tourists to Chsiwick. The tasting tour normally costs £20 but is available free to Chiswick Calendar Club Card members. Go here to see how to get your discount, then go here to book. The shop is open Monday – Friday 10.00am – 8.00pm, Saturday 11.00am – 6.00pm and is closed on Sundays.