Sunday, 17 October 2021

A visit to the tomb of Eldridge Pope brewery

I started feeling sad as soon as I got to Dorchester South station. Ornate tiles on the wall proudly proclaim "Dorchester Home of Eldridge Pope brewery". "Not any more it isn't" I thought. 


Though Eldridge Pope are now best remembered for their bottled barley wine Thomas Hardy's Ale, I can remember enjoying their cask beers too. 

I was in Dorchester for  a pre-Brewery History Society AGM event. We were taken on a tour round the brewery buildings, which still dominate the town centre, by Adrian Woods, an ex-Eldridge Pope brewer. 



The brewery produced 80,000 barrels a year.

Brewery offices

The brewery

They made ales and lagers (both own brand and brewed under licence). Thomas Hardy's Ale had an Original Gravity of 1.125 and had a primary fermentation with ale yeast before being pitched with Carlsberg lager yeast and left in a conditioning tank for six months. 


Various plans have been put forward over the years for what to do with the brewery site but it's finally being turned into flats. 



They had two coppers (150 and 75 bbl) which they used to parti-gyle four different beers. 


Thomas Hardy's Ale was all malt made from strong wort, the rest of the weaker wort going to make a rather indifferent bitter. The maltings building is still next door to the brewery site, though they hadn't done their own malting for years. 






The owning family weren't particularly involved in the company and managed to make some poor business decisions that lead to them selling the brewery and then later the site which caused its closure. The company continued as a pub company for a few years before they were also sold. 


5 comments:

  1. Interesting stuff. I always though the last years of Edldridge Pope were a textbook example of how not to run your family brewery.

    None of what happened was inevitable but the family just went along with it.

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    1. Apparently at one point they tried getting into computer distribution using the brewery drays, which unsurprisingly didn't work very well.

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  2. Although not the best beers in Britain, Eldridge Pope's Huntsman Ales, enjoyed a good reputation within their native county, and a little way beyond that too - including London.

    I have fond memories of a camping holiday in the New Forest c. 1977, and enjoying a few Eldridge Pope beers.

    Comments about poor management, made by yourself and John Clarke, tie in with the involvement of a certain Michael Cannon - the same "entrepreneur" who sealed the fate of Devenish - another well respected, West Country brewer, that is no longer with us.

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    1. That reminds me of another story I heard that day: Tetley's and Eldridge Pope once had the same huntsman logo, with rights for the North and South of England being split. Eventually Eldridge Pope sold their rights to Tetley's and got a new huntsman drawn!

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  3. From the records I've seen, Hardy Ale was parti-gyled with several different Pale Ales: various combinations of BPA, BAK IPA and DB.

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