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Bucket-list builder: British brewery tours

PUBLISHED: 09:00 06 June 2020

A tour gives a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at where beer comes from. Tthis copper kettle is in the Black Sheep Brewery

A tour gives a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at where beer comes from. Tthis copper kettle is in the Black Sheep Brewery

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Brilliant breweries to visit when lockdown is lifted.

The pride of Southwold - Adnams is a modern brewery with lots of traditionThe pride of Southwold - Adnams is a modern brewery with lots of tradition

For everyone who loves a proper pint, there’s something special about seeing where it comes from. Breweries have long known this, tapping into the enthusiast’s passion for a pint by providing tours and tastings. But ladies, don’t be put off: these aren’t the preserve of long-bearded chaps in Fair Isle sweaters (apart from the occasional hipster).

The best brewery tours genuinely offer something for everyone, with entertaining and knowledgeable guides showing you round charmingly historic buildings and explaining the thoroughly modern process. There may be some drinking of beer to be done – but only after learning to appreciate the subtle play of hops on the palate, the deeper sugary flavours, the maltiness... it does add to the fun.

All of this makes a brewery tour the ultimate “pint with friends you haven’t seen since before lockdown” (just make sure someone else is the designated driver... Or support the local taxi drivers). Where should you go to make it truly memorable? Here’s our pick of Britain’s best breweries tours.

The Black Sheep Brewery in Masham - made with reclaimed materials and five generations of brewing expertise   Picture: Mark Newton Photography/Black SheepThe Black Sheep Brewery in Masham - made with reclaimed materials and five generations of brewing expertise Picture: Mark Newton Photography/Black Sheep

Adnams, Southwold, Suffolk

Southwold’s a wonderful destination anyway, but it gets even more appealing when there’s the chance to spend an hour and a half exploring 650 years of brewing history and Adnams’ current state-of-the-art modern brewery. It produces a huge range of delicious beers – from the citrus-hopped Ghost Ship to the rich ruby Broadside, with a wide selection of the currently fashionable IPAs. Naturally, there’s an opportunity to taste them at the end of the tour. And if that’s not enough touring for the one day, Adnams also has a distillery producing a range of gins, vodkas and whiskeys.

For further information click here.

The Fullers Griffin Brewery in West London is one of the best brewery tours aroundThe Fullers Griffin Brewery in West London is one of the best brewery tours around

Black Sheep, Masham, Yorkshire

The Theakston name had been on beers for five generations by 1992, when a national brewer bought the family firm and Paul Theakston chose to strike out on his own. He set up the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham... just round the corner from the T & R Theakstons site. He built his brewery with reclaimed equipment and for nearly 30 years has been producing a range of award-winning beers using a range of different techniques. That’s the fascinating bit for beer-nerds, but the important thing is there’s a range of great, traditional bitter to sample in the atmospheric tasting room, in one of the quaintest villages in the scenic Yorkshire Dales.

For further information click here.

The Grade II listed Hook Norton Brewery in the Cotswolds is every bit as special as it looksThe Grade II listed Hook Norton Brewery in the Cotswolds is every bit as special as it looks

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Fullers, Chiswick, London

The Fullers has been making beer in West London for hundreds of years and the tour of the traditional Victorian Griffin Brewery is widely acknowledged as one of the best in the business. For all the history, there’s a lot of modern brewing know-how here. Fullers was a family-owned brewery until last year, when it became part of the Ashai group, but the character of the place hasn’t changed and nor has the quality of the beer – and a well-kept pint of London Pride is a wonderful thing. As with any London-based bucket list excursion, there’s the additional bonus of all the capital’s other attractions to enjoy once you’re finished. Plus you won’t need a dedicated driver with London’s public transport.

For futher information click here.

Norfolk's own Woodforde's may be a relative newcomer but it turns out a classic pintNorfolk's own Woodforde's may be a relative newcomer but it turns out a classic pint

Hook Norton, Oxfordshire

This is a gem of a brewery, tucked away in a quiet Cotswold village halfway between Chipping Norton and Banbury. This is one where you’ll need a dedicated driver as there’s not much in Hook Norton beyond the brewery - but reward them with one of the home-made pork pies and they’ll be more than happy. The Grade 2 listed, five-storey tower Victorian brewery is like something out of Harry Potter, full of beautiful wood and copper equipment, as well as a steam engine. It even has shire horses and a horse-drawn dray. But never mind the olde-worlde charm, just look at the brews: Hooky, Haymaker, the original and refreshing Red Rye, and many more... This is a small brewer punching above its weight and it’s a real contender for the must-visit entry on the list.

For more information click here.

Shepherd Neame, Faverhsam, Kent

It might be Britain’s oldest brewer - with a characterful visitor centre in the heart of the Kent town of Faversham – but the Shepherd Neame brewery is startlingly up to the minute. Move past the antique mashtuns to discover an array of gleaming modern equipmen that produces everything from traditional favourites like Bishop’s Finger and Spitfire, to American-style IPAs under the Bear Island label, as well as the Whistable Bay range - and more. The 80-minute tour explains the process and finishes with a guided tasting to help navigate the large range. After which the town-centre location makes it an easy stroll to a comfortable restaurant, pub or hotel.

For further information click here.

Woodforde’s, Woodbastwick, Norfolk

Like Black Sheep, Woodforde’s is a relative newcomer to the brewing game beside the Victorian stalwarts on this list. But modern thinking and a bit of practice means you can learn a lot about making top quality beers, especially if you started in the Sixties. You can acquire a bit of the know-how that goes into these Norfolk beers when you join the brilliantly interactive tour. With Wherry, Nog and many more brilliant pints, it’s a great visit – especially as you can take what you learnt about brewing and one of the brew kits from the shop and have a go at home. Better have another taste first though, just to make sure you know what you’re aiming for...

For further information click here.


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