Monday, February 13, 2012

Devizes, Day 1

After getting into the UK, Dave and I took two trains to get from Heathrow Airport to Swindon, where we would meet Brian Yorston, Head Brewer at Wadworth.  Brian is both the man who'll get our beer ('Murrican Mild) into firkins and also our de facto host.
Wiltshire, the county where Devizes is, has a very old and very rich history going back to the Druids.  Brian has been an excellent host and tour guide, driving us all around the county.  Our first stop after the Swindon rail station was a cruise through Avebury which has larger, less-known stone circles that are older than Stonehenge.  Right after the center of town is this immense earthen mass, Silbury Hill, the largest man made hill in Europe.  It's 131 feet tall and covers 5 acres of space.  Like a number of things in this area, it's mysterious.


Our car trip ended at a Wadworth pub (there are about 250 of them and they are literally everywhere) called the Waggon and Horses, where we had our first pints of Wadworth beer and a traditional Sunday roast of British beef, carrots and parsnips, green beans, roast potatoes and a Yorkshire pudding.  It was delicious after a long trip.

The Waggon and Horses from the A4

Sunday roast, unchanged for centuries

After lunch, we arrived in Devizes and checked into or hotel, called The Bear (the name made Dave a little nervous).  It's only from the 15th Century but has a great pub full of Wadworth beer.  We strolled around town, had a few pints (all at Wadworth pubs) and then went to a local chippy for dinner.  It was greasylicious and it felt like we'd gone to the Gilly's of Devizes.  Then we slept.

 We met Brian at the brewery at 10am after a tasty breakfast that included delicious pork products and Marmite.  What began as a simple look around the place turned into a nearly 4 hour tour of the entire Wadworth facility.  We saw everything from their old coolship room and their massive cask racking plant to their lab, visitors center and 125 year old steam engine-powered brewhouse that will be used to brew 'Murrican Mild."  We'll share more info about it in another post, but the two most striking features are the open kettle (it's called a copper in the UK) and a tank that sits between the mash/lauter tun and the kettle.  Brian told us this odd vessel is largely pointless these days, but was used for adding sugars to the wort when brewers were taxed on the malt they used rather than volume or beer strength.  

The rest of the brewery was a complex of additions of buildings.  There were so many more incredible things we saw, a master cooper's work space, 100 year old brewing logs, new ideas for our tour at Smuttynose, that I can't possibly describe them all.  Fortunately, this won't be the last blog post, so stay tuned readers, the fun's just beginning!

Dave and Brian check out a square, open fermenter full of beer

This is the top of the historic hopback which will be full of leaf hops and orange peel tomorrow.

The steam coil of the historic open kettle

Wadworth's main mill is from 1932.  It's looks like an antique typewriter and is apparently built to last and last and last.

A small portion of dirty firkins waiting to be cleaned and refilled.

Two operations heads in their natural habitat, the tasting room.

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