It’s been heralded as one of the best pubs in the country by drinkers, it’s been in the same family for more than 250 years and now The Bell Inn, is about to start brewing its own beer.
The West Berkshire village pub has a lengthy list of awards to its name and proudly supports and serves the community, but a chance conversation between grandma and grandson means that the pub will also start to produce beer on site. James Macauley, son of landlord Hugh, has been granted permission by West Berkshire Council to turn a storage shed in the Aldworth pub’s garden in to a microbrewery and a queue of willing taste testers is already forming.
Speaking to BerkshireLive, Hugh gave some background on the project that is a passion of his sons: “The micro-brewery project is being led by my eldest son. He’s trained over at West Berks Brewery and since moved on. He’s always had a passion for brewing beer and he was talking one day about wishing he had a space to do it.
“My mum [Heather Macauley], who’s part of the team here said ‘what about that shed, if we clear it and sort it out you could use that’. The shed was just a storage space, it’s nothing special but it’s a good enough space. This is James’ passion, and he’s said we’ll soon be pouring a Bell Beer!”
The long-serving landlord was keen to stress that there weren’t going to be any visible changes to the pub which won CAMRA Pub of the Year in 2020 and is a regular in the Good Beer Guide: “There’s still some steps to go, a few hoops to jump through but there haven’t been any objections and James is taking it all in his stride. We aren’t altering anything on-site, it’s all very plain and simple, a bit like me!”
‘I look forward to it strengthening the community hub’
West Berkshire Council approved the plans for the building which has been used as a storage unit, and has been attached to the pub since 1903, agreeing that the in-house production of beer would both reduce carbon footprint by removing transport needs to supply the pub with beer, and also be of benefit to the rural economy.
Henry Burgoyne-Probyn wrote in to support the application, saying: “This wonderful and award-winning pub adds so much to the local community and the rural fabric of West Berkshire. To make use of an existing building to have a microbrewery to produce locally made produce aside from any benefits of the taste of small batch beer must have several benefits in terms of reducing the carbon footprint of the supply chain of this pub. I fully support this application and I look forward to it strengthening the local community hub.”
‘I’m head of the queue to test the beer’
Landlord Hugh revealed the news has caused a bit of interest locally with a number of willing volunteers coming forward to try James’ product should the development get the go-ahead: “A few volunteers have come forward to test the beer before we pull it through the pumps but I’m absolutely head of the queue.”
He revealed as well that despite global events, little had changed at the pub which sits off the junction of the Reading Road and B4009 in West Berkshire: “The pub itself is still ticking over, the little old Bell. We’ve had to reduce our food menu a little bit due to Covid.”
He jokingly added: “We’re resolutely refusing to move with the times!”
Supporting the community is what we do
Described by CAMRA in 2020 as a ‘perennial gem of a pub‘, and by Pub of the Year organiser Ben Wilkinson as clearly a place valued locally as a community centre and a place to drink, Hugh added that being able to help and support local producers was a clear focus.
He said: “The beer James is going to brew, for the moment, it’ll be in the Bell, but we’ve not really talked about what might happen if it’s a success. We’re doing our best to support local producers, we’ve got beers on brewed really locally in Delphic from Thatcham, Indigenous in Newbury and Amwell Springs up in Cholsey. We want to help local producers as much as possible.”
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