Friday, 29 May 2009
What a great term. I heard it for the first time the other week when being shown around Hall and Woodhouse (right) in Dorset by head brewer Toby Heasden, who said they weren’t one. A ‘wet brewery’ used to be one where there was a barrel of beer (usually the weakest in the range) set up for staff to enjoy — though I don’t know if that was all day or on a special day. Probably not all of them, especially the lorry drivers and fork-lift operatives, but it was one of those perks that are slowly disappearing (one of the bigger breweries used to give their workers a ration of cans). When I went round Palmers in 2001 (I think) there was a barrel of their now defunct ‘Boys’ Bitter’ Bridport PA set up in one area — that’s no longer the case. Meanwhile, the old Wandsworth Young’s brewery had a tasting room where the brewery’s pensioners used to go for a pint or two, and sometimes be joined by the head brewer (the last Wandsworth head brewer Ken Don showed me the place on a visit in about 2001) and probably Sir John Young. And over in the Czech Republic do Skoda car workers still have non-alcoholic beer available, as was related to me in 2005? There are obviously issues about your staff on the sauce all day, but disappearance of the ‘wet brewery’ is yet another sign of the decline of beer at the centre of people’s lives, along with the changing nature of the pub and the marginalisation of mild (btw: which genius thought up May as the ‘month of mild’ — it’s sunny out there and the last thing I want is a mild).