When it comes to English culture, there’s a pretty high chance that beer will come to mind first.
And there’s a good reason why!
In England we simply love the stuff. Lager or ale… we each have our own preferences and as long as it comes in pint form – preferably in a pub that predates any of our living relatives – we’re usually pretty happy.
Whether it’s an after-work pint or an ale in a country pub next to a roaring fire, a significant part of British culture has been formed over a beer. But have you ever wondered how it’s made?
And have you ever visited a brewery?
In 2020, a survey found there to be approximately 2,200 breweries in England alone and it’s sure to have increased since then. While not all of them are open to the public for tours, we’ve rounded up the best of the best for you to visit.
1. Hook Norton, Cotswolds
This brewery is independent and family-owned – one of only 32 family-owned in the country. While you go for the beer, the first thing that will catch your eye is how it’s a fully preserved five-storey Victorian Tower Brewery.
In fact, it’s the best of the remaining ones left in the country right now So, this could be considered a beer and history tour – two in one, you lucky things!
The tour lasts an hour and a half and ends in a tutored tasting session in the brewery’s cellar. Oh, and if you go Wednesday to Sunday, you’re likely to see their very own Shire horses, too.
2. Black Sheep Brewery, Masham
Opened in 1992 in Yorkshire, The Black Sheep Brewery is one of the most well-known brewers in the country so of course it had to feature on this list.
Black Sheep note their top values as quality and consistency, and you’ll see how they’ve stuck to that when you take a look around, and – most importantly – taste their beer Something you should know – beer always tastes better when it’s direct from the brewer themselves!
The site has an excellent ‘tap room’ serving a range of their beers and excellent food as well. It is also a particularly fantastic place to watch any of the Six Nations Rugby games!
Take a look around and see how the magic happens with this comprehensive and interactive tour. You’ll leave no stone unturned, and you’ll come out as experts – and maybe a little inspired to open your own brewery.
3. Cloudwater Brewery, Manchester
A visit to Cloudwater Brewery will make you sure of one thing – these guys mean business.
With over 35 years industry experience between the whole team, this is a brewery that will blow you away with their processes and – you guessed it – their beer. Almost every part of the brewing process happens in house, and the whole thing runs like clockwork.
But that’s just one side of things. Cloudwater’s primary goal is to help you to unwind and relax. And their dedication to brewing the finest quality modern beers is all in pursuit of exactly that.
This is a relatively new brewery (founded in 2014) but they’ve spent every moment since then fine-tuning their processes, honing their skills, and evolving their techniques, all for your pleasure. And boy, do they achieve it!
A tour around this brewery is not to be missed.
4. Windsor and Eton Brewery, Windsor
A tour of the Windsor and Eton Brewery is all about information, learning, and education. These guys want you to come out of this tour with the wherewithal to make your own beer, and after seeing what they have to offer, they might just succeed. Did you know that the Windsor and Eton Brewery brew two million pints a year?! Would you like to drink one… or three of them? Then this tour is for you.
You’ll get to sample both the raw materials and – of course – the end product, while also going through the entire process within the plant to learn just exactly how beer is brewed.
While this brewery opened in 2010, the history of brewing in Windsor goes way back, and this tour covers the closure of the last brewery in 1931 and how the current one came to be.
5. Adnams, Southwold
The Adnams tour promises to show you every part of the brewery process from ‘grain to glass’, and while that’s a tall order, they certainly make it happen.
On this tour, you won’t just be shown the process of brewing their regular stuff, they’ll even give you a behind the scenes tour on any seasonal products they have going at the time. So, if you have a particular holiday favourite, book accordingly.
And if tasting a wide selection of famous Adnams beer isn’t enough for you, after the one and a half hours of the tour has ended, you’ll be given a voucher to claim a free gift from the store on your way out! Beer and gifts?? Sign us up!
6. Shepherd Neame, Faversham
There’s no way we could leave Shepherd Neame off this list. If anything, Britain’s oldest brewer should have an article all of its own, and this tour offers so much more than just a brewery guide and beer tasting session.
In fact, on this tour you’ll see brewery equipment from bygone years, including an old delivery vehicle and hob-picking memorabilia.
You’ll get to taste Kentish ales as well as speciality lagers, so if you’re someone who couldn’t possibly choose between the two, this one is for you.
Oh, did we say tour – as in the singular? No, our mistake. Because this brewery offers several different tours, and believe us you’re going to struggle to choose just one.
The first is the basic tour around the brewery, the second offers that tour taken in the evening and with dinner included – with a pint of your choosing, of course. And the final option is incredible. It’s a six-course meal with a beer each to accompany that has been chosen specifically because of how the flavours complement each other.
7. The Grainstore Brewery, East Midlands
This 90 minute tour concentrates completely on the raw products and the machines that go into making them the beautiful pint you order at the pub. Specialising in ales, you’ll check out the Copper, Mash Tun, and the fermentation system, before sampling three of the best ales on offer.
The pub itself is top to bottom wood and looks exactly like a pub of yesteryear. And if that wasn’t enough to persuade you to visit, it’s recognised as one of the best brew pubs in Britain. In fact, The Good Pub Guide has awarded them ‘Own Brew Pub of the Year’ no less than five times! We’ll meet you there…
8. Thornbridge Brewery, Bakewell
A big part of the Thornbridge Brewery tour encompasses the incredible grounds and estate on which it lives.
Thornbridge Hall itself is reason enough to go, but we know you’re actually here for the beer, so let’s get into that.
This brewery has won so many awards for its beer, and it’s even created something that was entirely new to the beer world at the time in 2005… The Jaipur is an IPA packed with American hops and to say it rocked the beer world is, well, an understatement.
Know where you can try it? That’s right, the brewery tour! Trust us, it’s worth it.
9. Bristol Beer Factory, Bristol
If you’re after a slightly longer tour, this one is for you. Coming in at two hours, this tour is definitely not one you should plan on driving home from. You’ll be given three pints during the tour, but it is highly recommended to get there early for at least one before it starts.
The Bristol Beer Factory is all about renewing its offerings, constantly changing the menu to ensure you’re always getting the most fresh and exciting beer of the moment. This tour will take you around the brewery as expected, but the beer is far from predictable, and that’s what makes this option so fun!
10. Meantime, London
Ever wanted to check out the bottling line of a brewery? Well, you’ll get to see one on this tour!
And the other cool thing is how you might even get to see brewers in action! It’ll be like you’re Charlie in the Chocolate Factory.
The tasting rooms on this tour will provide you with no less than four beers each, with each one new and exciting compared to the last. Sometimes you have to taste them in succession to each other to really grasp just how different they are.
Is There Such Thing As Too Much Beer?
Maybe not if you’re learning at the same time, at least that’s what we tell ourselves.
Each of the above options offers a fantastic opportunity to see the inside of a brewery and learn all about the processes that lead to that first sip on a Friday night after a long week at work.
You’ll get to try a range of lagers and ales, see breweries that have been around for longer than you can imagine, and try beer that’s been made in the exact same room you’re standing in.
What could beat that? Let us know if you visit any and tell us what you think!