Monday, 15 June 2015

June 15th 2015: Hook Norton: Brewery visit

Monty the Motorhome is basking in the evening sun on his second day at The Gate Hangs High.

Today we walked into the village of Hook Norton to visit the brewery that bears the village's name. What an idyllic little place the village is. Big enough to have a defined community, but small enough to be called a village. Set in the heart of Oxfordshire, on the edge of the Cotswolds, it is a jewel; thatched cottages, with tumbling gardens of roses and perennials, honey coloured stone buildings, little shops and stores - it all seemed to be just unpacked from a English Tourist Board promotional video.

However the crowning glory of this village must be the brewery. Built in 1849 it is now a listed building, and the last brewery in the country to use steam power for some of it's processes. We arrived with a couple of hours to spare before our conducted tour and rather fortuitously found there was going to be a celebration of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, which involved a quick speech by the Managing Director, a photo opportunity with Shire Horses (still used for deliveries in the local area) and a small glass of beer for everyone present to make a toast.

The horse drawn dray

Even the horses joined in with the toast

Then a spot of lunch, served by very friendly lady who took lots of time and trouble to tell us about the various bits on offer, together with a tasting of each one. Top class lady.

Our tour started with the brewing plant itself; a traditional Victorian tower brewery in which all the stages of the brewing process flow logically from floor to floor. Mashing at the top, boiling in the middle, fermentation and racking at the bottom. We got a chance to taste the malted grains, scrunch up  in our hands the various varieties of hops used (sticky and vaguely reminiscent of cannabis) and peer into the huge brewing vats.
Then back to the Visitor Centre, for a tasting session with eight different beers on tap. For a real ale lover like myself this was something close to heaven.

Fairly obvious why this is called a 'tower' brewery

One of the mashing vats

We chose our favourite's to purchase - (Lion - a premium pale ale), stilton and pear pate and hooky cheese (beer and wholegrain mustard), which we had enjoyed for lunch, and laboured back to Monty in the strong afternoon sunshine.

Evening meal tonight was taken in the pub - fish and chips for me, while Ruth enjoyed Sea Bass. Good food and generous quantities. Bonus points as this is a Hook Norton Ales tied pub, so more Lion ale to finish the day.

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