Wadworth Brewery, Devizes
One of my favourite beers is Wadworth 6X, possibly only second to Timothy Taylor’s Landlord bitter, and so when TOWT suggested that we started off my 60th birthday celebrations with a tour of the brewery, I jumped at the opportunity like a shot. So the first stop on our mini-tour of the Cotswolds was the Wiltshire market town of Devizes.
It is fair to say that the Wadworth brewery dominates Devizes, the building being a tall sandstone construction and when the brewing takes place a distinctive aroma settles over the town. Wadworth have been in situ since 1875 when Henry Wadworth bought the old Northgate Brewery. However, so successful did his brews become that he quickly outgrew the original site and moved about a hundred yards to the current site.
Henry was a bit of an eccentric, being a pioneering cyclist and balloonist. On one occasion he rode from London to Bristol on a bone shaker which was both iron-wheeled and sans a saddle. Must have been excruciatingly uncomfortable particularly over cobbled and rutted roads. Needless to say, he didn’t sire any children so on his death from injuries sustained from falling off a horse, the brewery passed to business partner and brother-in-law and it has remained in their hands ever since.
6X was first brewed on 16th June 1923 and takes its name from the tradition in the mediaeval times, when literacy was rare, of marking barrels of beer with xs to denote the strength of the beer, both to aid the publicans and the excise men. The more xs a beer has the stronger it is. At one stage, Wadworth brewed a XX mild, a XXX ale and a XXXX pale ale as well. Now their range of beers have more market friendly names such as Swordfish and Old Timer.
The tour around the brewery, which lasted about 90 minutes, was very interesting and we saw all four levels of the brewery and brews in different stages of fermentation. The original open copper brewing vat with its gas-fired heating coils was astonishing – it is still used by request, although the regular Wadworth ales are now brewed in stainless steel German vats.
As well as the brewing process we had the opportunity to see the two dray horses which are stabled on the site of the original brewery. Wadworth still use the horses to deliver barrels to pubs within a couple of miles radius of the brewery. Pub signs, both the external signs and all the internal signage for food, toilets etc are hand painted on site and we saw examples of the works in progress. A fair amount of gold leaf is used on the external signs and the painters take great delight in incorporating the faces of friends and foes into the design. Coopering, the making and repair of wooden barrels, also takes place on the site.
Having built up a thirst we then went to a mezzanine bar where, supplied with a third of a pint glass, we were invited to consume as much as we could in half an hour. As well as 6X, we were able to sample (and did!) )Henry’s IPA, Swordfish, Horizon, their seasonal brew made from fresh hops straight from the bine and their stout, Corvus. I particularly likes the Swordfish which is 6X with Pusser’s Navy Rum added!
Inevitably, there is a shop on site and, inevitably, we filled the car up with bottles of their hooch.
If you have never been on a brewery trip, go on this one – you won’t be disappointed!