03 July 2014

Wadworth brewery tour, Devizes, Wiltshire, UK

Wadworth (Northgate) brewery, Devizes
The Wadworth brewery tours at 11am and 2pm from Monday to Saturday are interesting and good value.
Book ahead to assure a place on the tour that starts from the visitor centre of the historic Northgate brewery in Devizes, built in 1885 after the original brewery, dating from 1875, became inadequate. If the tours are fully booked or at an inconvenient time it is still possible to make a free visit to the visitors centre, which is open from 10am until 5pm.
Visitor centre with introductory displays and merchandise
Talitha conducted the tour I was booked on with visitors from USA, France and the UK donning orange high visibility jackets at the outset. Her wide knowledge of the brewery and her friendly and natural approach made the 75 minute tour interesting and the time passed quickly.
Talitha (right) stands next to the old Customs office
After climbing the first of several flights of stairs we reached the floor with an old Customs office (last used in 1994) and brewers offices, where we had the chance to taste some malted barley and smell some hop pellets.
The two Mash Tuns were located on the highest level that we would climb to. The oldest one dates from 1885 and together they can hold 300 barrels.
Old copper with steam coil visible
The old open topped copper is used every September, early in the hop picking season when Malt & Hops is brewed as this relies on the addition of hop flowers rather than hop pellets. It is also used occasionally at other times of the year. It was originally heated by fire but in 1938 a steam coil was added to provide an alternative heat source. A hood was added in the 1960's to funnel the steam out of the building. The historic copper is one of five in the country and can hold 25000 litres of wort from the mash tuns.
Foil packs of hops stacked next to the Hopback.
Fresh hops can be added when the hopped wort reaches the Hopback.This vessel needs to be manually cleaned out after every use.
New brew house with holding vessel on left and new 'copper' on right.
A new, fuel efficient, brew house with vessels manufactured by Steinecker is now used for most of the brewing. In this set up a Whirlpool (partly visible in lower right corner of photo above) replaces the Hopback of the Victorian brew house and has the advantage of being self-cleaning.
The cooper's shop provided a chance to view oak casks in various stages of completion and the tools used by the cooper. Less than 3% of Wadworth beer is now served from oak casks but these are still supplied to certain pubs so a master cooper, Alastair Simms, can be called on to produce new casks and maintain the old ones.
Yeast overflowing from a fermentation vessel
It was fascinating to see the fermentation vessels where the yeast was working and causing the top surface to move around with surplus foaming yeast sliding over the top leading edge of the deep rectangular vessel to be collected on the floor below. The surplus yeast is killed off and can then be supplied as a foodstuff for pigs.
Talitha led us out from the brewery and across Northgate Street to visit the sign workshop. Here we could see the artists at work painting pub signs and notices.
Max the shire horse - keen for a minty treat!
Monty and Max, the shire horses, are stabled in an adjacent building and we stopped to greet them. Talitha gave the horses a minty treat and Monty entertained us by insisting on more by kicking on his stable door!
Wadworth drays
We passed the drays that Monty and Max haul around the pubs of Devizes, on our way back to the visitor centre where we handed in our high visibility jackets. This was not the end of the tour as we now had an opportunity to sample beers from Wadworth brewery.
Talitha described the beers available from the Mezzanine bar inside the visitor centre - Ipanema, 6X, Bishop's Tipple, Swordfish and Horizon. Soft drinks are also available for younger visitors. Tour visitors were given a half hour to sample as many beers as we liked, served in one third pint glasses. It was a hot day so I started with Horizon, a refreshing beer brewed with pale ale malt and Styrian Goldings, Fuggles and Cascade hops. My second beer was Ipanema, the seasonal beer for the 2014 World Cup that is brewed with four malts and includes American hops. There was also time for a third of a pint of 6X, first brewed in 1923 and now brewed at 4.1% ABV.
It was now time for me to catch the 49 bus to Swindon, via Avebury. Devizes does not have a railway station but is also served by direct buses from Bath and Trowbridge.

Click on Link for more details of the Wadworth brewery tour.

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