Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A visit to Donnington Brewery

Through work I got to meet someone from the Donnington brewery recently. Though mention of Donington immediately makes me think of metal bands playing at the Monsters of Rock festival this was a different Donnington and the only heavy metal was the gleaming copper. That the copper was made of copper was enough to get me excited, but when I heard the brewery was powered by a waterwheel I was amazed. It makes Hook Norton with its occasionally used steam engine sound positively high tech!

I was lucky enough to be invited to visit so at the first available opportunity I leapt at the chance. Built in 1865 in old farm buildings sited by a lake it must surely be one of the prettiest breweries in Britain. It was founded by Richard Arkell, the bother John Arkell of Arkell’s brewery. When the grandson of the founder, Claude Arkell, died in 2007 he left it to his (second or third?) cousins at Arkell’s and both breweries are now owned by the same family.

They were graining out when I arrived, shovelling from the mash tun to a trailer on the back of a tractor.  The peacock on the tractor was an added bonus.

 As it’s a tower brewery we started at the top where the boil was taking place in an open copper.

Our visit had been timed so we’d get to see the casting out to the hop back. I got a bit over excited at this point.

The water wheel inside the building was in action, though the back-up wheel on the outside was more photogenic.

Fermentation takes place in open vessels and the beer is available in 15 pubs owned by the brewery, the free trade and bottles. And of course in the brewery cellar which is where I got to try it!



  1. Waterwheels -- the definition of craft.

  2. I'm envious, Ed. Back in the mid 1980's, whilst on a camping/cycling holiday in the Cotswolds, I cycled past the brewery, whilst on a ride to one of Donnington's excellent pubs; the Plough at Ford. My companion and I got no further than the lane leading down to the brewery. Our way was blocked by a chain, hanging across the road, complete with a "No Admittance" sign.

    We could have passed under it, but that would have been trespassing, and intruding on private property. A shame, really, as I would loved to have seen the brewery close up.

  3. I was lucky to get invited to visit. It's a lovely setting and the brewery is like a working museum, but with the bonus of not actually being a museum!