My local brewery, Arkell’s, had an open house Saturday to celebrate 170 years in business; however, the brewery tours were all booked up well in advance and the open house sounded like a drag without the tour, so we went to Devizes where the Wadworth Brewery puts on a brilliant, two-hour tour twice a day, six days per week.
That’s the breaks: an old-style sedimentation test of the quality of the boil
Our chirpy but professional and well-informed guide took our cast of Cocoon (we were by far the youngest members of the party) up the steep, Victorian stairs of this Grade 2 listed building to the very top.
The hard part over, we could then, like the brewing process described here, let gravity do most of the remaining work. We stopped briefly for a description of the ingredients in front of the tiny office of the Customs and Excise manager. This could have been brief as the entire content is water, malted barley, and hops but a thorough but pleasant lecture on malting ensued (and we got to smell and taste a few varieties, some sweet and breakfast cereal-like and others smoky like a savoury snack). She also covered hops and we sniffed a few samples of different strains.
Next was a stop by the mash tuns, where the malted barley is mixed to a cereal mash releasing maltases, enzymes that break the long-chain carbohydrates down into simpler sugars so that yeasts can access them as carbon sources (and, in anaerobic ferments, as an oxygen source). There are also loads of micronutrients available and much of the required nitrogen will be supplied by the hops. The older tun shown here is more than a hundred years old and still in near constant use.
The wort, the mash tun contents, is then dropped to a copper which is what they call the enormous kettles. The one shown here is open and quite old (and part of the Grade 2 Listing here) but still gets used once a year for an end-of-summer beer that uses leafy hops and, mostly, the old processes. In the coppers, the mash is brought to a boil with the hops (in the modern processes, pelletized hops are used) for a period and, in some cases, brought to a second boil after a short cooling period.
The coils in the copper carry steam that provides the heat, but at the bottom of this old pot you can still see the outlines of the old coal ovens used in the dark past:
From the copper, the solids are filtered out by sedimentation in what is known as a whirlpool which does essentially the same job as the hopback shown here…the liquor is pulled through the hops and remaining barley solids to extract the last bits of soluble oils, proteins and other flavouring agents:
Now, the yeast is added and the fun begins. When we walked through the open tank brewing rooms I was surprised at how small the tanks seemed although looking into an empty demonstrated they are fairly deep (holding something like 90,000 litres). The ferment is vigorous with geysers of CO2 occasionally spewing forth. They smell is grand.
Next, we went to the cooperage where the wooden barrels are made. These are done by hand and except for complying with the finished sizes and capacities (hogshead, barrel, kilderkin, and firkin), measuring tools are largely shunned in the process. The staves are cut to length by machine, sure, but the curves on the sides and interiors of each are done by hand tools and the master cooper’s experience–to a precision of 0.001 inch: un-fucking-believable.
Jackie’s favourite part of the tour was next: the sign painting shop. This was almost as impressive as the cooperage since every sign in the Wadworth estate of 260 pubs is done by hand without template–even the lettering is all free hand. Gorgeous work.
(The old guy that is memorialised as the Jolly Miller above was a former co-worker who loved beer but hated kitties–the sign painters did this one to take the mickey.)
More tradition lay around the corner at the stables. Unlike the ones at a St. Louis based brewery I toured nearly 30 years ago, the shire horses are more than symbolic (although they are still a bit of a gimmick): they deliver all the local casks to the pubs in Devizes and for a few miles around. Fantastic beasts (and at the annual open house they receive a portion of beer each…my kind of horses).
At long last, we went to the tasting bar back at the visitor centre (open to non-tours, one pound for a 1/3 pint taster, under three quid for a pint). Expecting a sip or two from each tap or, alternatively, a pint of our choice we were instead treated to the full lecture on each beer on offer (there were 6) in 1/3 pint measures. We got one each of
Horizon (the hoppy-bitter blond),
Red White and Brew (still yellow, but a bit tamer on the hops),
6X (their warhorse, dark but not too challenging–Jackie even liked this one),
Farmer’s Glory (formerly known as JCB and kind of splitting the difference between Horizon and Red White & Brew),
Swordfish (which is essentially 6X with a shot of rum in it–a tribute to the naval traditions), and
Corvus (their wonderful, chocolatey stout).
By the way, 6X is shortly to celebrate its 90th anniversary and the brewery is releasing a 6% ABV version which might well be a delight.
← Following on from the Crown Inn:
In town for the Great Bustard 5 Mile Race, I left the Crown Inn at about 3 minutes till 4 because I wanted to see if the last pair of guys was really going to avoid eye contact the full duration while standing uncomfortably at the end of the garden table I occupied (dickheads). So, I was running full speed to the Pewsey Vale School, looking for the check-in desk, and then pinning my number on whilst trotting to the start which happened as I turned to the front of the starting line. Catching my breath before joining the pack of about 70 runners, I realised the pints on the day were taking their toll–excellent.
It was hot and sunny and humid and the roadsides were lush. I couldn’t have asked for better conditions and I used the first mile or so to gain my bearings (we crossed the Kennet and Avon Canal at a familiar bridge) and then slowly picked off those ahead of me for most of the second mile before settling into a leisurely pace that kept me ahead of all I had passed (although I only moved up a few more places as some folks, struggling with the heat, dropped off) and brought me in at 4th in age group.
There are worse ways to spend an afternoon. And, the finishing prize was a local beer.
The treatise before you seeks to introduce the uninformed world to Hashlam, the faith of Hashers worldwide, and to dispel the myths and innuendo that have developed due to prejudices brought on, too often, from the practice of its rites in view of the general public, insh’Gispert (G-willing). The religious aspects are regularly covered on individual hashing sites and on Wikipedia; this entry will try to deal with some of the societal implications.
Most of the misinformation comes from the ambiguity and subtlety between the various forms of practice of Hashlam. Many of you will have heard of the two major sects, the Shites and the Sotties, with the Shites adherents of the PreLay (paths to the True Trail that exist before the journey is taken) while the Sotties believe in Live trails (often a misnomer) that must be discerned from freshly given divine clues. Subtleties in belief and practice all too often result in G-Had as in the one called by a hasher known as Ibn-Love FatWa of the fundamentalist Sottie group known as the Arizona Larrikins (aka, Mr Happy’s) against a less well established Sottie sect known as Bike Hashlam (whose cultish offshoot, the Cycletologists, boasts many celebrity members) culminating in the flour fueled carpet bombing of the Bike Hash’s first Red Dress Run (this rite is described on most Hashing websites and will not be explored here).
Results of the Bike Hash G-Had
It may come as a surprise to many of you that Hashlam has its antecedents in the other two great Western religions, ie, Brewdaism and Trackstianity (which itself developed from the Brewdaic tradition via a more fundamentalist form of the Beer Run). In fact, the path to Hashlam, known as the True Trail, very often involves dabbling in one or both of the older faiths with even observant members of Orthodox Brewdaism taking up running and very sober members of Trackstian sects finding solace in a Brewish Temple.
It is written and widely believed that, having taken up the Way of the True Trail, it is impossible for one to leave. Liberal adherents believe the prescribed death of an ex-Hasher is meant to be figurative, but support groups such as Apostacy Alcoholics, or AA, have taken on many a wayward Hasher and are considered heretical organisations even by the most broad-minded believers. There may even be time to explore the Seven-ish Pillars of Hashlam, most famous of which being the Interhaaj in which every hasher of nearly the financial means is expected to go make an ass of himself in a foreign land.
In future postings, we hope to shed light on how Hashlam has integrated with Eastern religions such as the Budhists (of both the Budweiser and Budvar varieties) and the exotic Tindu pantheon of tinned (and bottled!) beverages.
The Centre for Hashlamic Studies was founded in 2013 by Slowsama-bin-Riden with the mission to examine and explain Hashlam’s place in out increasingly interdependent world. Slowsama can be contacted by the faithful via Hashspace and by the rest of you infidel dogs at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The skies opened and I had two obvious options…continue the run and finish up at the house soaking wet or take refuge in the bus shelter on Penzance Drive and change into my dry kit…and try out the Weighbridge Brewhouse, our newest restaurant and microbrewery. If you guessed the former, you owe me a pint.
It had been the Archers Brewery but closed as such not long before we moved to town and the building had already started to deteriorate when the investors came along and saved it. They pumped an awful lot of cash into it (something more than a million pounds) and it really does look nice and you could probably drop a packet on dinner and drinks. From the looks of the early evening clientele that is precisely what most customers do, but I felt welcome enough and enjoyed the 3 X 1/3 pint sampler of the brewery’s products…Weighbridge Best Bitter is worth a full pint if you pass by.