I rarely drink but, oh boy did I enjoy the Ludlow Brewery Tour!
There’s a great line in the movie Bridesmaids where two of the characters Rita and Becca are seated together on a flight in first class.
The rather innocent Becca asks the air hostess for a “glass of alcohol” and the more knowing and jaded Rita takes over and orders "two double seven and sevens". Becca questions Rita hesitantly asking “is that, is that…?” Rita responds, as she takes a sip of her own glass of wine in the manner of an assured sophisticate to a novice and says dismissively: “Don't worry, you’ll like it, it’s sweet.”
That line pretty much sums up my palate when it comes to drinking. I have never acquired much of a taste for any type of alcohol. As a result, my entire adult life whenever I am in front of a bar, I peruse what’s on tap, eyes glaze over and rather sheepishly, order a half of "whichever cider is crisp, dry and sweet."
An amateur and a super fan
As a venue, the brewery is housed in the shed of a former vintage train station. It's a grand space and throughout the year, it hosts a number of music and other performances. It also serves coffees and light bites to eat.
So when the opportunity came up to go on a tour of Ludlow Brewery, in spite of my amateur-level knowledge and juvenile taste, I leapt at the chance. This was going to help me become better informed and fill a giant-size hole in the area of "things one should know as an adult."
Top spot for visitors
Luckily, before the tour, I got a chance to have a quick chat to the owner, Gary Walters. Gary was suffering from a cold and the Brewery was packed for an event. However, he sportingly answered a few questions above the din.
I was curious about what was driving the craft ale movement and the popularity of Ludlow Brewery. Touring the brewery ranks number one on a top list of things to do in Ludlow on TripAdvisor.
Gary's answer was straightforward. People, he said, just want to try different beers. They do not want to come to Ludlow and drink the same ale they can get elsewhere. In fact, consumer choice is driving the growth of craft beer across England and Wales.
Slow food, crafted beer
It's similar to the 'slow food' movement where the trend is to know the provenance of our food. A similar type of passion can be found for both the craft brewers and beer drinkers with the former providing the latter with brews made of high quality ingredients and local hops.
Speaking of which, it was soon time for our tour and we were handed over to Glyn, our guide and joined by another couple from Yorkshire who were first-time visitors to Ludlow.
We were placed in knowledgeable and capable hands. Glyn has a wry sense of humour and was such great company that the time flew by and my interest didn't wane. I was genuinely transfixed plus Glyn had the best anecdotes.
Taste the difference
We learned about the brewing process at this microbrewery and were taken through from mash to fermentation, maturation and the finished product concluding with a sample of the Ludlow Brewery range.
While the tour didn't turn me into a beer lover, I can now appreciate the distinction between the aromas and the complexion of the ales. As it turned out, my favourite was the Boiling Well, which sits at the higher end of alcohol content. I thought I would find it hard to swallow given my preference for crispy sweet ciders, but to my novice palate it was dark, bitter-like and pleasingly dry.
My partner enjoyed the experience immensely too although much more knowledgeable than I about the process, he gained greater detail through seeing it first hand.
Naturally, he enjoyed the sampling at the end of the tour. Ludlow Gold was his favourite beer when we started the tour and when we left, it remained at the top of the list. Also unchanged was his preference for Ludlow Brewery because as he says: it's his local, he likes the beer, he enjoys the whole set up and that's it. Well said.
TRY OTHER EXPERIENCES AROUND TOWN:
Gin tasting at Taste at No 1.
1 High Street, Ludlow SY8 1BS, 01584 879410
Beneath this airy cafe in its cellar is a lovely large space fitted out to host gin-tasting evenings. The cafe serves teas, coffees and other refreshments as well as stocking a wide range of gins and drinks. Call to book.
Wine tasting at The Angel
The Angel, Broad St, Ludlow SY8 1LT, 01584 877062
Sample food and wine at Ludlow's newest entrant to the social scene, The Angel. Situated in the town centre in a black and white building, it has an extensive range of wine and is certainly atmospheric.
Gin Boards at The Church Inn
The Church Inn, King St, Ludlow SY8 1AN, 01584 874034
An exciting, new tasting experience from the newly refurbished pub in the centre of town. The Church Inn claims to be passionate about gin and currently offers four different gin boards: Local, Citrus Dry, Fruity and Super Premium.
The Dog Hangs Well at No. 14
14 Corve Street, Ludlow SY8 1DA, 01584 872381
Not quite the bat cave but...for most of the week No. 14 is home to publishers of Doghouse and Ludlow Ledger but once business is finished the offices are transformed into a parlour pub! Between Thursday and Saturday, the tavern lamp is lit, the front doors are flung open and the Son of Saxon become The Dog Hangs Well.