09 April 2012

West Berkshire Brewery - A Jolly Day Out

West Berkshire Brewery organised a couple of  'Jolly Days Out', in February and March 2012, for the benefit of friends of the brewery. These days provided a good chance for everyone to see the brewery's new premises after the move from the Old Bakery in Yattendon to Home Farm in Frilsham.
Tom Lucas (left) from West Berkshire Brewery and Tim Wale (right) from Tutts Clump Cider were behind the bar in the Brewery Shop to give everyone a pint of beer on arrival. The monthly beer Pig and Tea, Dr Hexter's Wedding Ale and Good Old Boy were the beers available on handpump for the March day.
Pig and Tea is a dark beer with rich flavours of roasted barley with hints of coffee and chocolate and a fruity finish from the Bramling Cross hops.
The shop and office are now light and spacious. Prize certificates, awarded since the brewery was started by Dave and Helen Maggs in 1995, are displayed on the wall that divides the office from the shop.
Bottles of beer from certain other breweries are stored on the low shelves of this dividing wall.
On the opposite wall of the shop there is purpose built shelving to create a 'wall of bottles' and this is where a full range of beers from the West Berkshire Brewery can be found including Full Circle, Dr Hexter's Healer,
Maggs' Magnificent Mild and Mr Chubb's Lunchtime Bitter.
On arrival we had been split into groups for brewery tour purposes. While one group chatted and looked

around the shop the other group were led out of the shop and across the yard to the brewery in another barn.

Brewery Tour

Brewer, Will Twomey, gathered the group by the hot water tank which supplies water for cask washing. He explained that a condenser is now used with the result that the traditional smell of brewing that Yattendon residents had become accustomed to is now a thing of the past.
Our next stop was the main area of the brewery where Will pointed out the main vessels to us. In the photo below the hot liquor tank is on the right, the mash tun is in the middle with a hopper above and the copper is on the left.
Will explained the stages of the brewing process which includes a boil in the copper using a gas fired heating element. The hot liquid is finally transferred through a heat exchanger into one of several fermenter vessels.
The old Courage brewery at Reading was the source of the storage vessels which have been adapted for use as fermenter vessels in Frilsham, as shown below.
A further photo shows our group standing between the two rows of fermenter vessels with the main brewing vessels beyond.
Will now led us up the metal stairway to a gallery area where bags of malt and boxes of hops are stored.
He explained how these ingredients are sourced and how they are used in various proportions to produce 
individual West Berkshire Brewery beers. We had a chance to taste some of the malts including Maris Otter Pale malt and Crystal malt. Only English hops are used including local hops from Kingston Bagpuize. Different hop varieties are used for different beers with Bramling Cross used for 'Good Old Boy'.

Vintage bus trip to the Rising Sun, Stockcross

After both groups had been on the brewery tour and drained their pint glasses it was time to get on board Tim Wale's vintage AEC Regent 111 double decker bus for the next stage of our jolly day out. (In the photo
the main entrance to the brewery, in the long barn building, can also be seen.) The seats on the top deck of the bus were quickly filled and as we set off the party mood took hold and there was some enthusiastic singing of 'We're all going on a Summer Holiday!' As the bus tackled the uphill gradient on Everington Lane, Tim was obliged to engage first gear and we could admire the stately progress through the Berkshire countryside from our elevated vantage point. We passed through Hermitage and then onto the A34 before arriving at the Rising Sun in Stockcross.    The Rising Sun website
The Rising Sun is a traditional pub owned by the West Berkshire Brewery and managed by Stuart and Nicola  Bagley. It was a sunny day so the tables in the garden were soon taken once everyone had been to the bar and exchanged a ticket for a pint of beer.
On the March day, the handpumps were supplying (from left to right): Tutts Clump Farmhouse Cider, Mr Chubbs Lunchtime Bitter, Dr Hexter's Healer, Pegasus (guest ale from Milton Brewery), Tilting Charlie (February's monthly beer) and Good Old Boy.
A row of  heated food containers occupied a long table inside the pub. It was soon time for everyone to exchange a further ticket for a turn at helping themselves to the prepared food which catered to all tastes and was of the good quality which supports Stuart's reputation as a chef.
The remainder of the afternoon gave people time to try another beer or two before it was time to get back onto the bus for the 4.15pm return journey to the brewery.
Everyone agreed that it had indeed been a jolly day out as promised by the brewery.
It was a great way to introduce friends of the brewery to the new premises and their pub.
The brewery will continue to support Brewhouse Music events at Yattendon Village Hall.
It is likely that the Rising Sun will introduce some brewery visits in the future as a new venture that will ensure that friends of West Berkshire Brewery who were not able to enjoy one of these jolly days out will still be given the opportunity to see around the brewery that brews the beers that are served at the pub.
To become a friend of West Berkshire Brewery send an email to info@wbbrew.co.uk with the subject as 'WBB friends list'. West Berkshire Brewery events are also mentioned on twitter (@westberksbrew) and on facebook (West Berkshire Brewery).