There is nothing quite like sitting by a roaring log fire during the winter months with a pint of real ale in hand.

The rise in popularity of micro-breweries in the last couple of years has been quite staggering and whether you like a golden ale for the summer or a Chilli Porter for the winter, there is a real demand for locally made ale.

South London and Surrey has a range of top breweries including The Cronx Brewery and Clarence and Fredericks in Croydon, Adventure Brewery in Chessington, Sambrooks Brewery in Battersea and the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich.

If drinking quality, locally made ale is not enough, many beer fans are starting to create their own home brews.

Homebrewing may sounds a bit niche but it is something that has been done for thousands of years both as a hobby and for other non-commercial reasons such as parties.

Mark Russell, one of the Cronx brewers, said he and fellow brewer Simon Dale both started making their Cronx beer with a home brew kit.

He says there are a range of different methods to make a homebrew.

Brewers can get malt extract kits which have extracted the sugars from the malt already so it is thick liquid, you then mix it with water and beer is made.

The other method is the all-grain method which is what brewers normally do.

Mark says: “We still have the 40 litre set up that we started on when we set up the brewery. We then went on to the full size equipment.

“We still use it for smaller brews and at the moment our German apprentice Alex is brewing a spiced winter beer on it.

“We use it to pilot new ideas and try new recipes.”

He adds: “The problem with using the malt-extract is you cannot mould it the way you want it. You are stuck with one style and one style only.

“With the all grain method you can do a lot more but it doesn’t require that much more work.

“People use big cooking pots, empty beer kegs, all sorts of things to brew so it is not that difficult to get the equipment together.

“More people are turning their back on the mass produced products that are out there and they are getting back to locally produced things whether that is beer or getting produce from your local market.

“A lot of people get interested in real ale as there different styles and a much wider range of beers out there so people are keen to find them out and try new things.”

To find out more about the Cronx Brewery go to

COMPETITION: Do you think you can brew South London’s finest home brew?

If so, then send in a beer sample to the Cronx Brewery.

The maker of the best will get to brew their beer at the brewery using the Cronx’s pilot kit and get tips and advice from Russell and Dale.

Send in your homemade brew or pay a visit to The Cronx Brewery, Unit 6, Vulcan Business Centre, Vulcan Way, Croydon, Surrey CR0 9UG. Russell, Dale and reporter Andy Bloss will judge the best samples. The deadline is Wednesday, January 1.

Your Local Guardian:

Mark Russell with a case of Cronx beers