Wadworth Trade Quality Brewer Adrian Wood is retiring after 44 years in the brewing industry. He has been at Wadworth for the last 61/2 of those years, working with Publicans to ensure excellent storage and delivery of cask ales.
The brewing world that Adrian leaves has changed in character since he first joined it, and in his opinion much has improved. The business is less formal – the Head Brewer is no longer routinely addressed as Sir and the sales reps no longer wear bowler hats – however the brewing process itself remains fundamentally unchanged.
“I think the attention to detail is much better across the pub estates than it used to be, and so the quality of the beer we drink has improved enormously,” he explains. “The beer companies have put major investment into pubs to raise cellaring standards, encouraging cleaner, smaller lines so that beer doesn’t sit around and has much better keeping qualities.”
The range of beers kept by pubs is much greater now than it used to be, with Adrian noting that the standard offering used to be two cask ales – one mild, one bitter – a national keg brand and one of two national keg lagers. Pubs now stock more cask ales and much more is expected of them in terms of cleanliness.
The poor quality of cask ales served in the 1950’s and 60’s resulted in the virtual extinction of cask ales in the 1970’s, but Adrian has been gratified to witness the revival of cask ales over the last two decades, with these ales now leading the pubs, and bringing in the customers.
While the number of breweries fell significantly during the difficult years, Adrian is delighted that in his role of South West Treasurer for the Society of Independent Brewers, he now has 90 breweries registered in the South West alone. “Of course one of the main things that has changed is the price of a pint,” says Adrian. “When I started it was 1/10d or the equivalent of 9p. Now a pint is well over £3.”
Adrian’s interest in beer began at Exeter University where he started brewing his own, and his chemist’s brain was intrigued by the brewing process. His first job in the industry was at Starkey Knight and Ford, a local brewer in Tiverton which was part of the Whitbread empire. He stayed with Whitbread through three more postings before moving to Eldridge Pope at Dorchester where he was Second Brewer for ten years.
His longest stint was at Palmers in Dorset where he spent 16 years as Head Brewer, and he and his wife Christine made their home in West Dorset, where they still live.
“I love traditional hop flavoured beers, and from the Wadworth range Henry’s IPA and Swordfish are my favourites,” he says. He has also much enjoyed brewing the latest Brewers’ Creation to mark his retirement. The innovative Brewers’ Creations range from Wadworth sees the individual brewers experimenting with new techniques and flavours, to brew diverse, different beers to challenge customers.
These are brewed in very small quantities, and a new one is created each month. Adrian’s brew is a 5% ABV traditional amber bitter with malt and biscuit flavours. It is well bittered with Challenger hops and the late hop aroma is delivered from Styrian and Epic hops.
“Epic is the code name for a hop variety found growing wild in a hedgerow on a farm in Kent. There is only a tiny amount currently available so I am delighted to have been able to include it in my brew” he comments. “It is probably a survivor from an old local variety.”
Although Adrian is retiring, he still plans to work as a consultant in the beer industry, as he enjoys his work too much to leave altogether. “There is great pride in producing a good product, and a real buzz when people try your beer and like it,” he explains.
“But I will have plenty of time to enjoy the new love of my life, a 57ft narrow boat which we keep in Devizes at the Caen Hill Marina,” he smiles. “Christine and I have many plans for her, so I won’t be sitting still for long. Luckily there are lots of good pubs situated alongside canals…!”
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