Brewer Richard Masters is taking the idea of traditional beer, both brewed and drunk as it once was, in a novel direction at his brewery on Greenham Business Park, just off the A38 west of Wellington. Not only does he brew all of his 21 different ales on the premises but he’s also built, decorated and equipped a traditional Victorian pub inside a drab modern industrial unit.
Richard’s aim is to ‘give customers an ‘authentic Victorian experience’. And, despite the inauspicious surroundings of an industrial estate, he’s succeeded.
All of the fixtures and fittings in this delightful, cosy gem of a pub have been reclaimed from demolished premises: bar, canopy and hood came from The Hill Park Inn in Plymouth, speakers from a theatre on London’s Edgware Road, pews and an old flat iron from the Oxford Inn in Taunton, local bricks from Wellington Brickyard in the hearth of an old fireplace and pumps and vintage photographs from the Railway Inn in Liskeard. He has a genuine Victorian till that registers the cost of beer as 1d a pint – and even the floor came from the house where he grew up in Taunton.
But inviting customers to step back 100 years at The Woodyard Inn is only part of what’s available at the brewery. Richard Masters’ aim is ‘to offer visitors a day’s experience of brewing, from assisting in making the mash and learning about the process of beer-making to sampling the end product in the welcoming environment of an ‘old world’ pub.
“I’d like it to appeal to different social groups – celebrating weddings and engagements or birthdays and Christmas for example, or from businesses and sports’ clubs.’ Said Richard. His licence allows him to serve alcohol from 11am until midnight – and his customers will certainly not risk disturbing the neighbours when they leave.
This new concept works alongside his extensive experience – both locally and abroad – as a brewer. It was in the US that he began to visualise a brewery that ‘had connections with local people and acts as a focal point for an area’. At the heart of his enterprise is a quality ‘quintessentially English product’ that begins with English Pilgrim hops from Newton Abbot. Even his brewing equipment is local – hand-made by S W Fabrications in Dunkeswell.
At present, he only supplies his beers in casks to pubs within a 30 mile radius but hopes to start bottling by the end of this month. In addition to mainstay brews – Spypost and Whiteball – he’s adding a Christmas beer – Crimble Pud, flavoured with Christmas spices – which will be available in bottles. He’s producing 800 litres – or 16 casks – per week and, whilst he has had contact with Waitrose, is reluctant to sell to supermarkets which he sees as one of the causes of the demise of the English pub. It is worth noting that his beer at The Woodyard sells for less than pub or supermarket pints.
As his idea of ‘brewing experience days’ takes off, he hopes to include appropriate food – bangers and mash or pie and gravy, for example. At present, he has a fine product, a delightful cosy pub – uniquely, inside a brewery – and a vision. The immediate environment of an industrial estate is unprepossessing but you really don’t care once you’re inside.