Whilst staying in the Green Dragon of the last post I got to taste some great beers that I had heard of but had not yet tried. Wadworth Brewery was a name I was seeing very frequently on establishments in the area.
The beer had a great reputation in the south of England from Wiltshire and beyond the surrounding counties. Beers such as 6X and Henry’s Original IPA. I had gathered it was still a family run brewery from the heart of Wiltshire in Devizes. That was just down the road.. time to take a tour.
At this point I would like to give a big shout out thank you to some remarkable kindness. It was a very hot day and I had the hounds, I could not leave them in the car for 3 hours at all but to the rescue came a genuine offer of help via the local community and Rangebourne Pet Care. A nearby pet shop that took the hounds in for a rest in comfort, truly marvelous and thanks so much again.
You cannot miss the Brewery in Devizes. A grand Victorian building standing proudly, a place that has produced lots of fine quenching of thirsts throughout its time. upon entering before you even start the tour there is the visitors centre. Full of information, history and items explaining from where it came to where it is now.
Henry Wadworth formed the brewery in 1875 and it became such an instant hit the premises you see today still in use had to be built in 1885. The bicycle above is a hint that Henry was a man for challenges in his time. He was one of the first people to own a bicycle, a ‘bone shaker’, with no saddle and iron tyres! Upon that he became the first to cycle from London to Bath in 1869. A comfortable 3 days you think?
The tour starts… at the very top of the building. Without the electricity of today the beer brewing process was helped by gravity. As you move from room to room, down and down, you get a real sense of how the building feels like it was formed around the process.
So much thought in each stage. John Smith Bartholomew became Henry’s business partner and and brother-in-law whom being the only one of the two with a heir it has been passed down through the Bartholomew family tree to this day, keeping Wadworth truly in the family. priding on using only the finest malt, hops and yeast. Secret recipes, original machinery and processes are still used and can be seen. fascinating.
Above is the original open copper from 1885. Of course modern ways have enhanced the process but every so often the original comes into use, still working.
Another great thing about the tour is the proudness of all things original you find. Those in the industry along with beer lovers can i am sure have long debates about barrels, wood, metal or plastic? Hand made barrels made of wood have come from specialists known as a cooper.
After the explanation of how each barrel was made with such expertise it was a shock to hear that you can count the number of coopers left in Britain on one hand! Some of the Wadworth pubs still get wooden barrels even today.
Delivery is no ordinary thing for the streets of Devizes and the local pubs too. For they get delivery via a true traditional method. Horse and carriage no less. Prince, Monty and Max are three gorgeous Shire horses that can be seen pulling they’re wares through the streets of Devizes most mornings.
If you have seen a few Wadworth pubs then you cannot have missed the individual signage around the facades and above the doors. This was another part of the tour that left me mouth agape. A room full of signs ready to go and in process.
Each and every one of them individually hand made and painted in the traditional way. To see the minute detail that goes into it was astounding. a British icon is the pub sign. The picture tells the story, from days when not many could read the picture had to tell what the pub was named.
After taking in the history, the smells, the process and the skills involved it was of course time to have a tasting session on the finished products with some expert tuition. My personal favourite besides Henry’s Original IPA was Swordfish, a very Naval affair as it is blended with Rum! lovely. Cheers!