Thursday 1st June 2017
For the past two years or so whilst on trains going to Bristol or London I have noticed the premises of the Exeter Brewery on the right side just after departing from St David’s station. I had often drank their beers in the nearby Great Western Hotel, especially Avocet, which is a regular there. Then I read that they’d opened a Tap Room and I wanted to visit, but it only opens on Thursdays. However, I patiently bade my time till the opportunity eventually arose.
The story of the Exeter Brewery starts in the summer of 2003 when it established in Exminster at the Lion’s Rest EcoPark as the Topsham and Exminster Brewery.
The move to the present location and the brewery’s renaming to reflect this occurred in 2013.
So here I was walking through their car park to the right side of the building. I went up the stairs and found myself in the brewery’s shop.
When this is open I’m not sure. Maybe it is only open when the Tap Room is. And the hours for that, by the way, are 17.00 to 23.00 on Thursday only. However the room is available to hire at other times.
I continued to walk through the building noticing that the brewing equipment had been taped off on either side to provide a sort of path to the Tap Room which is at the other end. The Tap Room is very welcoming, not least because of the attention I received from the bartender; Richard was his name, I seem to remember.
As the room is situated on a corner, light was flooding in on two sides on this early summer evening. The bar counter is on the right and down the left side are four large wooden tables with benches. The bar top sports four hand pumps and either side are more tables. There’s a door out to a small balcony overlooking the railway tracks. Do train-spotters ever go to pubs? Unfortunately it is surrounded by a heavy metal fence and toughened glass. Unnecessary, but no doubt a stipulation in the planning permission.
On one wall is a painting of a Victorian gentleman. This is explained by the following, also on the wall: “Benjamin Salter - Original founder of the Exeter Brewery. Benjamin was born in 1797 and died in 1857. In 1834 he founded the Exeter Brewery in partnership with Thomas Owen, senior, and Thomas Owen junior, and also acquired the City Brewery, remaining in the partnership until 1845. In 1843 whilst still with the brewery, he was elected High Sheriff of Exeter for the normal one-year term.”
“In 2012 we were contacted by the great-great-great grandson of Benjamin Salter who was disbursing his mother’s estate, the painting formed part of the collection of family portraits and the family wished the painting to be returned to the ‘new’ Exeter brewery for our collection. We were delighted to purchase the portrait which now hangs in our new Tap-Room.”
There were four cask beers from the brewery offered that evening, all were from the regular range and were Lighterman (3.5%), Ferryman (4.2%) their first beer brewed back in 2003, Darkness (5.2%) a Port Stout and finally, their flagship beer, Avocet (3.9%) an organic bitter named after the beautiful bird the frequents the Exe estuary; it is depicted on the logo of the brewery. Finally, there was Green Valley (Clyst St George, Devon) Cyder (5.5%).
An interested development with Avocet is that quite a lot of it is exported to France in quite a novel yet practical way; by sailing ship. It is done in conjunction with TOWT / Fairtransport, who move goods around the globe by sail. The first consignment left Brixham Harbour in October 2009 aboard the square rigger Tres Hombres. Since then the beer has been forwarded from Plymouth and Falmouth. More recently the lugger Grayhound has been used.
Although they only open once a week quite a lot goes on those Thursday nights. Apart from the aforementioned cask beer and cider there are wines and they have a full section of spirits. Pies of several varieties along with mash, minted peas and gravy are served. These come from Tom’s of Clyst St Mary, Devon and are award-winning. On the last Thursday in the month curries are offered.
So, if you are in Exeter and are at a loose end on a Thursday night you could do a lot worse than to visit here. Actually, I would recommend you make a positive effort to be here on that night.
Exeter Brewery Tap Room, Unit 1, Cowley Bridge Road, Exeter EX4 4NX. Tel: 01392 823013
Hours: Thursday 17.00-23.00; Friday-Wednesday Closed
The brewery is quite close to Exeter St David’s railway station. From the exit cross the station’s car park.
You are heading towards the excellent Great Western Hotel. Resist the temptation to go in, maybe later.
Walk around the building into Cowley Bridge Road. It’s safer to cross to the other side of the road.
You will soon see the brewery. The entrance is beyond the building. Cross and walk through the car park.
Exeter St David’s station is easily reached from most of the country. From London with Great Western. From the North and Midlands with Cross Country trains via Birmingham and Bristol.
Southwest Trains run hourly from London Waterloo via Salisbury.
Local and main line services run to many destinations in Devon and right down to Cornwall.