Marketeer Attempts Brewing!
17th February 2012
I love the unique opportunities my job brings.
Yesterday morning I was up with the lark and at the beautiful Donnington Brewery, near Stow on the Wold in the heart of the Cotswolds, at the invitation of James Arkell. Whilst the brewing process is not new to me – the opportunity to actually brew cask beer was one I couldn’t miss.
Donnington has been run by James for the past 5 years, and it is James himself who brews twice weekly, predominantly for sale into the brewery’s 15 tenanted pubs. It has to be the most beautiful brewery in the country – set down a single track lane just 3 miles from Stow, surrounded by hills and adjacent to the river which feeds the lake and mill race, and the spring from which the beer is produced. It was built in 1865, and is a wonderful example of tradition being maintained, and a lack of modernisation – which just adds to the charm and beauty of this old brewery.
James had fired up the boiler to heat the water – which come from a spring only metres from the brewery – before I arrived, so when I pulled up I was greeted by the sight of steam pouring out of the vents on the roof, with a resident peacock sat adjacent to the steam keeping himself warm.
First job was to open the sluice to get the water wheel turning – all the brewing machinery is wheel driven – and then, once the water was up to the optimum temperature of 160 degrees, we were ready to start. I was allowed to be completely hands on – James has the patience of a saint, clearly explaining everything we were doing as we went along. I used a very technical implement – called a broom handle – to lever the canvas belt over the rotating wheel, which was to be used to drive the malted barley from the hopper above down into the mash tun. Then the other end of the broom was used to push the malt down into the hopper quicker to fill the mash tun. Mash completed, it was time to set up the sparge arms, through which hot water is passed to pass down through the mash and emerge as wort.
This was as far as my brewing morning went – time for breakfast. But I will be back to the Cotswolds next week to taste some of my SBA!
Sadly, Donnington is not open to the public. But if you are in the area do check out their pubs – these can be found on their website www.donnington-brewery.com