“I think I will be dreaming of this tour for years to come!” said one attendee.
We were delighted to organise a joint visit on a sunny autumnal Saturday afternoon by the Salisbury and South Wiltshire branch of CAMRA and the CAMRA Members Investment Club (CMIC) to the Hop Back Brewery (in which CMIC is a major investor) and the Downton Brewery, which are both located on the Downton Industrial Estate near Salisbury.
CAMRA and CMIC members outside the Downton Brewery Tap.
A band of beer-loving members from across the south of England and South Wiltshire convened at the new Downton Brewery Tap for their complimentary welcome drinks before setting out on separate tours of Hop Back and Downton breweries.
At Hop Back, a full range of their core beers were set out in racked pins for further complimentary tastings – two further Hop Back pins, one containing the new seasonal Green Hopped beer, were also available back at the Tap. The core range of Downton beers were also available at the Tap for complimentary tastings.
Pins of Hop Back beers awaiting tasting.
Head brewers Jamie Ferguson (Hop Back) and Martin Strawbridge (Downton) gave fascinating insights into their beers, tours of the breweries, and fielded numerous questions from attendees.
Brewing royalty John Gilbert and Steve Wright, the former head brewers of Hop Back, were also on hand back at the Tap.
Hop Back head brewer Jamie Ferguson (right) explains their operation.
Martin Strawbridge, head brewer at Downton Brewery, fielding questions.
We were made extremely welcome and everyone enjoyed tasting outstanding beers in supreme condition, good company and conversation.
The hospitality was indeed exceptional: we had originally expected a pay bar but were delighted to be provided with beer and to have the closing time extended by an additional 45 minutes to 4.45pm! Our thanks to all the brewery staff who turned out on their weekend and to the various in-laws and babysitters who allowed that to happen.
I think I might be dreaming of this tour for a while too.
Report by Neil Beagrie
With thanks to Neil Beagrie, of the Salisbury and South Wiltshire branch of CAMRA, for organising and arranging the tour, and for allowing CMIC use of his article from the December 2023 – February 2024 edition of the Barrel Organ magazine.