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12th March 2012

Arkell’s Head Brewer celebrates 20 years and retirement

One of Britain’s longest serving head brewers will celebrate twenty years with his brewery this week and then step down from his day job to become Arkell’s consultant brewer.

Don Bracher, head brewer at Swindon based Arkell’s Brewery, decided to round off two decades of work last year and will finally pass over the mantle of Head Brewer to Alex Arkell who has spent the last two years with the brewery learning from the best.

Don said: “I won’t miss getting up at the crack of dawn to do an early morning brewing, but I will miss all the people – there is a huge sense of camaraderie across the brewery and our landlords which is infectious.”

Don left university in 1972 with a degree in Zoology.   However, when he started job hunting he changed tack and wrote to every national brewer across the country, and to the RAF.

Mann Crossman Brewery, which closed some years ago but which operated out of Whitechapel Road in London, offered him an interview – and so did the RAF.   The Brewery interview came first so he cancelled his RAF interview and sealed his fate forever.

“I spent four and a half years with Mann Crossman and it was fantastic,” said Don.  “I learned everything and every aspect of brewing.   In those days it was 24-hour brewery brewing 20,000 barrels a week.”

Don decided to return to university – this time to do an MSc in Malting and Brewing Science at Birmingham.   On completion of his degree he was employed by Whitbread Brewery on Chiswell Street, London and soon seconded to Morlands Brewery in Abingdon for two years.   He ended up staying there for over fourteen years before Arkell’s came calling when their Head Brewer, Don Kenchington, was looking to retire.

“I’d never visited Arkell’s at that point but when I did I realised what a great opportunity had fallen into my lap and I moved here in 1992,” said Don.

“I’ve always been a traditional mash tun brewer, but while respecting the traditional techniques I’ve adopted the best of the new brewing techniques to produce consistently good beer.   Arkell’s has supported my innovations and we’ve now got a range of beers of which we are all very proud indeed.”

As consultant brewer, Don still plans to be involved in Arkell’s future but is very happy to see a member of the brewing family take up the challenge.

However, he also has career ambitions of his own.   “I rather fancy training to be a butcher,” he said.   “Perhaps it’s a way of finally making use of my Zoology degree.”

His wife, Margaret, probably has other ideas.   With two children and very young grandchildren (aged 2 ½ and 1), he is also being reserved for babysitting duties.

Brewery chairman James Arkell, paid tribute to Don’s enormous contribution in evolving Arkell’s into a 21-century brewery while still based on solid traditional family brewery traditions.

“In 1992 we didn’t think that a new ‘Don’ could ever replace our first ‘Don’ Kenchington as head brewer,” he said. “I am absolutely delighted that we were wrong and over the last 20 years Don has driven the development of beer at Arkell’s Brewery like no-one else could have done.   I know we are the envy of many family brewers in having him and we are delighted that he has agreed to stay involved as consultant brewer.  I am sure the lure of babysitting is enticing, but nothing excites a brewer more than the smell of beer being brewed.”


Nicky Godding
Tel +44 (0)1285 653006
Mob +44 (0)7966 510401