A huge thank you to Alex Arkell, 6th generation of the Arkells brewing dynasty, who led a tour of BFBi Members.
Founded 180 years ago by John Arkell (his farmhouse is still in situ, forming part of the brewery), John Arkell was certainly a family man, with 12 children (2 working in the brewery; 2 moving to New Zealand and building 5 different breweries).
John Arkell emigrated to Canada in 1810, building a settlement in the middle of Canada, which is still in existence today (google it). After 15 years, John returned and built the tower, steam brewery seen today. The original steam boiler was bought from Brunel and the same belt and wheel system is used today.
The tour started in the the old wine store, converted into the new visitor centre pre covid.
John was keen on brewing manually and this has become part of Arkell’s identity. Local is also a king pin of Arkell’s brand. The first pub (Kingsdown) was established in 1861, with the estate now at 100 pubs (80% tenanted; 20% managed), all within 40-50 miles of the brewery. Off trade sales also remain local, other than a small amount sold in London.
The 100% family owned, 50 barrel brewery encourages mutigenerational input, bringing a depth of knowledge and expertise to supplement the contemporary views and drive of younger Board members.
The water used for the beer was originally spring (hard water, so good for dark beers), then well and now mains, which is carbon filtered and treated, depending upon the beer being brewed.
Barley/malt is all sourced from the UK, the brewery originally malting its own barley onsite until the 1930’s. The malt mill, bought in 1908 runs 5 days a week.
Hops are sourced from around the world to deliver authentic flavours to the styles being brewed.
The Arkells house yeast is used in 90% of their beers. Other yeasts are used to produce beers such as their Belgian style Saison.
Traditionally a cask beer brewery, the post covid move to keg is now reflected in Arkell’s volume. However, having been brewing since the 1860’s the family has seen trends come full circle and expects cask to make a resurgence at some point in the future.
The brewery retains a core of traditional brewing methods. The “Swinging Valentine” is believed to be one of only two in the country and the only one in regular operation.
The fermentation room contains a mix of open, square copper; open, square stainless steel and conical stainless steel tanks.
Finishing our tour in the packaging hall, 40% of draught packaging is currently cask; packaged and stored for a week to aid secondary fermentation before it goes out to trade.
As well as bottling their own beers, Arkell’s contract packs. Asked if they are looking at canning, the response was that it was under consideration but not in the immediate future.
The tour finished with a buffet and sampling of the range of Arkell’s beers at their founding Kingsdown pub.
Arkell’s concentrates on sessionable, sellable beers, many brands built on brewery back stories, including some speciality beers such as Saison and Rauch.
- Voyager is a US style Pale Ale, brewed with North American/Canadian hops
- Pioneer IPA – a New Zealand style IPA using New Zealand hops to drive a tropical/fruity flavour
- BBB – originating in 1910 comes from the fact that staff brewing the beer were probably illiterate, using B for low abv beers; BB for medium and BBB for strong.
Alex, trained at Siebel, Chicago and Domens, Munich gave a very passionate and interesting tour. We all left with a great appreciation of a brewery who is effectively mixing the traditional with contemporary. Thank you Alex!