I was in London a couple of weeks ago and made the trip out to Chiswick to do the Fuller’s tour. It’s a great time and I highly recommend it, but it will take up half a day. The view is exciting as you walk from the Tube and I could smell the wort as I got closer
The brewery is almost right on the Thames, and it's rather peaceful out back
There’s been a brewery on the site since the mid 17th century, while the current company was formed in 1845. My guide John has worked there for 41 years and a lot of good anecdotes. They’ve run out of space to expand, so they’ve crammed things in everywhere and left some things they can’t remove, like the old mash tun and a kettle.
The hop store. I believe he said their honey blonde used the Liberty hops seen here
You go right through the working brewery, which gets loud, so I missed some of what John said. Some surprises for me: they have only one mash tun and two kettles, but that makes sense given that they partigyle a lot of their beers. They also had some handy signs explaining their process
They used open square fermenters up until the 1990s, and left one of them in place
There were fewer new fermenters than I had guessed
The tour ends in their tasting room, which had all the regular Fullers and Gales beers on cask or tap. (Don't tell CAMRA, but I could hear the cask breather when he used the Gales Seafarer hand pump) He also opened bottles of 1845 and 2011 Vintage Ale. John was straightforward about Gales and said that Fuller's had bought them for their pub estate, but they do maintain the original recipes and use the Gales yeast strain.
John was also surprised when I asked about the Wyeast and White Labs strains. He was sure Fuller's didn't provide their strain to the companies, and of course neither company actually says Fuller's anywhere.
After the tour, I hit the gift shop, which featured Vintage Ale for 1999, 2000, and 2004 on. A 2004 bottle made it back to my cellar. (2001-3 had much smaller production)
Lunch in the pub finished the trip. It's a really good time but it is a time commitment, so keep that in mind if it's your first time in London. I also suggest just filling out their tour request form. I tried emailing first to see if booking from overseas was going to be a problem, and I think that just complicated things.