Hook Norton Brewery

Hook Norton LogoNestled in a small village in the heart of the Cotswolds Hook Norton has been brewing for over 150 years. The brewhouse, built out of the abundant local ‘ironstone’, is an imposing Victorian Tower Brewery and still operates much as it did when remodeled at the turn of the 20th century.  Not being one to miss a beery adventure, I managed to squeeze a visit in during my recent holiday in the Cotswolds.  Myself and a friend were greeted jovially and informed the tour should last around an hour and a half with a 30 minute compulsory tutored tasting at the end, definitely my kind of tour!

Hook Norton Tower Brewery
Hook Norton Victorian Tower Brewery

Monty, our tour guide, treated us to a fabulous potted history of the brewery which is still family controlled, now brews around 20,000 barrels a year and has an estate of 40  tied pubs. The brewery itself was originally built by an enterprising farmer, maltster and hop merchant who wanted to cut out the middle man (the local pub) when paying his own workers in beer.  In striking parallel to the original demand for ale at The Thatchers, the early success of the brewery was cemented by the thirsty navvies who built the nearby railway and supped the local ale after work. The 300 or so workers laid tracks to towns in the Midlands to transport Cotswold Stone for Iron Ore extract. Eventually demand for Hooky beers led to the original farm cottage being demolished to make way for, what was at the time, a state of the art six storey Tower Brewery still in use today. It seems not much changed in the brewery over the next 100 or so years, but since the turn of the 21st century a few efficiencies have been implemented. The most notable change is the reluctant retirement of the 25 horsepower steam engine that ran the entire brewery due to its thirst for oil. We were also shown an open copper cooling bath or ‘cool ship’ on the top floor, surrounded by louvered windows which could be opened to allow the breeze to chill the beer before it was dropped in to the fermenting vessels below. Amazingly this method was used to cool Hooky beers up until 8 years ago when modern efficient heat exchangers were installed making the beer more consistent without the unpredictable nature of open air cooling. Apparently some people say Hooky beers aren’t what they used to be, pointing to the debris that had built up in the recently cleaned cool ship, Monty politely informs them what isn’t in the beer anymore…

Hook Norton Brewery Bar
Hook Norton Brewery Bar

Our informative guide covered a vast amount of local and brewery history as well as the brewing process itself. The witty tour was kept light-hearted though and we also saw @HookyAlbert and the other drey horses still in employment today grazing in the fields. To see a Victorian Tower Brewery in operation is  a rare treat, tasting the beers at the end of any tour is always enjoyable, to see staff with such passion is heart warming, but at Hooky there seemed to be something extra gelling everything together. It isn’t possible to do this tour justice on a blog so I’m afraid you’ll just have to visit and see for yourself. When you do make sure you get a taste of Hooky Double Stout and their true IPA Flagship, with Admiral hops, stunning. Oh, and if you mention Twitter you get 10% discount in their shop!

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