Visit to Hook Norton Brewery – September 2022
A party of 15 travelled across the North Cotswolds to the village of Hook Norton and the brewery which bears its name. After a good lunch, for some of us, we were ready to meet Leon our guide and start on our tour. For some of the tour the highlight was our first stop. You may be thinking this was the beer tasting, but it was the sight of three Shire Horses, on their day off and grazing in a field nearby.
The tour now began in earnest and we entered the five storey purpose built brewery building of 1898 and constructed by the premier brewery architect of the day, William Bradford. It was built over the original farmhouse of the founder of the brewery John Harris who purchased the 52 acre farm in 1849. His great great grandson James is the current Managing Director and Chief Brewer.
Passing the 1899 steam engine, which is still used on special days, we started to climb steps to the different floors where Leon gave us a full explanation of the brewing process. We began with creating malt from barley, which after grinding is called Grist, adding water (known here as liquor) and heating and cooling to produce a product known as Wort. The majority of the equipment used in the brewing process was original to the Victorian founders, with modern replacements often for health and safety reasons. Other processes involve hops and yeast with all parts combined in the fermentation vats and finally, after some weeks, some of the 5 million pints a year have been brewed.
It was remarkable to see a building from the Victorian era provide the space for the plant and machinery able to achieve such a quantity of finished product. Only 8 brewing staff out of a total of 50 employees brew the different beers for which Hook Norton Brewery is rightly famous.
We ended our tour in the beer cellar of the brewery with tuition and tasting of the different beers and, for those who went to see the horses, Brigadier aged 3 and still in training to pull the dray was brought to the shop entrance to see us on our way home.