Wadworth Brewery Tour
The Home of 6x Beer Devizes
Wadworth - a family-run brewery
I love visiting places where I can watch things being made, whether on a large scale or by a single craftsperson. Here I am taking you on a tour of Wadworth Brewery, where we can see beer being brewed on a large scale and artisans working individually in the same business. Let me tell you more during the tour.
It’s a few years since I visited, and with Wadworth looking to relocate to a new site, I thought now was the time to record my visit there. The brewery is in Northgate Street, Devizes, a very attractive and historic Wiltshire market town.
The tour started in the visitor centre and museum, where our guide explained how the brewery began in 1885 by the founder, Henry Wadworth, at the age of 22. The business quickly grew and moved to the current site, Northgate Brewery, in 1887. In 1914, John Smith Bartholomew, Henry’s brother-in-law and friend, purchased a quarter share in the brewery for £6,000. Today, Wadworth is still a family brewery, and John’s great-grandson is the current Wadworth chairman. The Wadworth family had no male heir.
The brewing system at Wadworth is based on starting the process on the top floor and using gravity, which was typical of breweries at the time. We climb to the top of the building, see the raw ingredients, and get to feel and sniff the hops and barley samples. Going around the building, we must be careful and mind our heads on low beams. Back in the days when this brewery was built, health and safety were not always thought through as carefully as today.
Originally water came from a well below the building, but these days, it’s good old Wessex Water Company’s tap water. The essential ingredients of beer are water; a starch source, such as malted barley, which can be fermented (converted into alcohol); a brewer's yeast to produce the fermentation; and a flavouring, such as hops, to offset the sweetness of the malt.
The brewery has a stationary steam engine which was once used for power. Today it is in working order but only fired up for special occasions. The beers are no longer bottled at the brewery, and road tankers deliver the beer to a bottling plant.
On the ground floor of the main building, there is the cooper who makes the wooden barrels, not just for Wadworth; whisky distillers also purchase barrels. The cooper is the last Master Cooper in Britain and the only one who can train apprentices to become coopers. Barrels can last for decades, and as the ends get damaged, the cooper can make them smaller until they reach a point where the minimum size has been reached.
Wadworth Brewery Signwriters
Going outside, we cross the busy A361, Bath Road, to visit the signwriters and Shire horses.
Wadworth owns over 150 pubs, and it is a tradition in the UK to have well-designed pub signs. Pubs have some great names, and many have retained names going back to their opening many years, even centuries ago. The signwriters are true artists and produce some great pub signs, as seen in the photos.
Wadworth Shire Horses
Next to the signwriters is the tack room and stables for the Wadworth Shire horses, who do a great job delivering the beer and bringing publicity to the Wadworth Brewery. Each horse on the round gets a tipple of beer - they love it! Today, on our tour, a Polo mint from the hand of our tour guide was a tasty treat and reward for seeing the visitors.
Wadworth Beers - the taste test!
We finish the tour by going back to the main building, where the visitor centre has a mini-pub, and here we sample the fine beers. Wadworth is well-known for its beer, 6X, first made available on December 12th 1939. It was called 6X because it was 6% abv (alcohol by volume). World War 2 brought rationing, and the abv was reduced to 4.1%, which has remained at this level today.
One of my favourite beers is Swordfish. Originally made as a special for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm centenary and named after a famous aircraft used to deliver torpedoes. This beer is 6X with a mix of Pusser's Navy Rum (a rum rationed to the Navy in WW2) and tastes fantastic.
The full range of beers can be found on the Wadworth website.
Looking at the website, as I write this, Wadworth no longer offers brewery tours. They offer a ‘Pub and Ale Tour’ around Devizes on Saturdays, and booking is essential. I hope you have enjoyed this tour; please subscribe to receive new articles directly in your inbox.
Please get in touch with me if you are a manufacturer or artisan and would like me to visit and write about your business.
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