If you only do one thing in Wiltshire: Visit Wadworth Brewery

How you doing, brew?

Cringey pun aside, if you’re thinking of visiting Wiltshire, going on a Wadworth brewery tour is a great place to start.

I booked the tour 2 weeks in advance in January, it’s gets booked up pretty quickly. Tickets cost £12 for a large group (about 20 people), it’s not advertised on their website but you can also book a special private tour for 2 with Virgin Experience Days.
Outside Wadworth brewery in Devizes WiltshireSo, to fill you in on some history: Henry Wadworth bought the brewery aged 22 in 1875, for £5,000. In 1885 the brewery had already grown so much it needed a new site, so Henry designed and built the Northgate Brewery (now a grade II listed building, which used to house a mineral water company), which is where the brewery is today.
Wearing a high-vis jacket during the Wadworth Brewery Tour in Devizes
Back in the day, Henry used to ride around Devizes on his penny farthing bike visiting each of the 35 pubs to check the beer, drinking half a pint at each one. Doubt he cycled back about that! You can see his original bike in the Wadworth shop, sadly it’s not available to take turns on.. He once cycled on it from London to Bath, good effort!

It came to a ‘bitter’ end for Henry when he passed away in 1927 after falling off his horse during a hunt, and the brewery business was passed to his nephew Charles Bartholomew.

Sign inside Wadworth brewery
Good to see the staff have a sense of humour!
The more alcoholic a beer is, the more tax you pay. It costs Wadworth about 85p to brew a pint, plus overheads and taxes. World War II rationing of raw ingredients resulted in their signature 6X reducing from 6% abv to the 4.1% it is today. Incredibly 6X has been brewed for over 93 years!
It used to be a requirement that every customs officer needed office space in breweries to check the alcohol in beers and ensure the right tax was paid. Obvs breweries didn’t like the customs officer very much, so used to make the officer as small and uncomfortable as possible!IMG_7869

On the tour we sniffed and tasted everything in the pots, while hearing all about Wadworth’s past.

Incredibly, the yeast in Wadworth beer has been kept alive for 40+ years, there’s even a special ‘yeast library’ in London which keeps a sample of every breweries unique yeast.

We got to dip a finger in and try some of the leftover yeast, mmm!
In 2017, Wadworth delivers within a 101 square mile radius and has 240+ pubs. They brew from Monday – Thursday, starting at 4.30am and one brew is finished 7 hours later. Their giant mash tun can hold 86,400 pints, and for one brew of beer it needs 240 bags of malt. Wadworth produce 13 million pints a year but can produce up to 20 million. Beers are bottled in Burton upon Trent and canned in Bedford, the containers shipping the beer contain around 29,000 pints of beer. If you were every planning to hijack a vehicle, that would be a pretty good one…!Sign painting workshop at Wadworth Brewery in Wiltshire
They hand-paint each of the signs for all of their pubs, a big old job that’s done by just 3 skilled artists. The painters are amazingly self-taught and don’t use any stencils, everything is done freehand or with a ruler. They also try and feature as much local barge/canal art as possible.Sign painting workshop at Wadworth Brewery in Wiltshire
Look out for some subtle sneaky differences on some pub signs, like a glass full on one side and empty on the other… Wadworth use real gold leaf on signs as it doesn’t tarnish and shines nicely in the sun, the gold alone costing about £250 per sign. Each pub may need up to 20-50 hand painted signs, such as for the wifi, loos, car park etc.Sign painting workshop at Wadworth Brewery in Wiltshire
In 1933 it became the law that every ale house selling alcohol had to have a swinging sign outside. During that time most people couldn’t read, so the picture on the sign had to describe the pub name. A lot of pubs have the same name but a different picture.Fermentation room sign at Wadworth Brewery in Wiltshire
Lager than life beer facts:
  • Beer is 95% water.
  • Did you know that the carbon dioxide in beer quenches your thirst more than water?
  • The different colour of beer is due to how long and at what temperature the wheat is roasted for.
  • Colder beer has less flavour, the correct cellar temperature is between 11-13 degrees celsius.
  • One should never drink a cloudy beer!
  • When beer’s in a  cask, it should be drunk within 5-7 days.

    Malt for digestion hops for appetite sugar for energy yeast for vitality, beer is best sign

  • Back in the 1800’s it was safer to drink beer than water, even babies were given beer! They used to say the secret to life was health, wealth and hoppiness.

Going outside to see the famous Wadworth horses was my favourite part, it was hard to take pictures of them through the barred stables and I was a bit worried they’d knock the phone out of my hands! They are HUGE up close!

If you live in Devizes, you’ll see the horses plenty of times trotting around town doing their daily deliveries (Wadworth horses still deliver beer within a 2.5 mile radius around 3 pubs a day, taking 2 hours).

Wadworth shire horse signThere are 3 horses: Max age 14, Monty age (not sure!) and Archie age 5. They weigh around a TON each and need new shoes every 4 weeks. Every August the horses are given 2 weeks holiday in Poulshot to run free around in the fields, they’re even poured a pint of beer during their summer break!

The horses are retired at 16 years, though most are put down shortly after due to may getting bad arthritis. You can see some of the old and current horse carriages and spent a good amount of time in the yard.

Wadsworth horses delivering beer in Devizes
This is an old photo I took in 2014.

They’ve recently updated their shop which looks fab! And have a whole range of merchandise, including cool-bags, t-shirts, mini Wadworth horse teddies, books and more…Old is the new cool Wadworth 2017 advertising campaign poster

They even have an in-house pub so you can pop in for a super fresh pint!

The tour lasted around 2 hours 15 mins, it went into the nitty gritty about how beer is made and in-depth info about all the equipment used, as well as the brewing process. The groups are quite big and there’s a lot the guides need to get through (plus hardcore brewing jargon), so if you want to keep you’ll need to pay close attention!

Seeing the horses was especially unique and the beer tasting was very generous, I lost count how many we tasted! When tasting they had a handy on-screen guide to help you identify flavours and it was entertaining seeing what others made of the taste. You could order a pie in advance (DO IT!) which I’d absolutely recommend, partly to soak up some of the booze, also because Wadworth hold an annual pie competition in March and know a thing or two about tasty pies.

Compared to other tours, Wadworth could use some better visual aids to help explain technical terms, limit tour groups to smaller numbers and modernise the tour.

There are a low of steep steps and narrow staircases, so it wouldn’t be very suited to elderly or less abled.Wadworth brewery shop in Devizes

You can purchase Wadworth beer online here and please get in touch if you have any questions! :)


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