Monday 14th November 2016
The story of this pub is completely intertwined with that of Oakham Brewery. So, please forgive me as I give you with a short résumé of their history so far. As indicated by their name they started out in Oakham, then in Leicestershire but now rightfully back as the county town of Rutland. That was in 1993 and looking at the photographs of the original plant I would guess that it was of around 5 barrels (bbls) capacity, although the fermentation vessels look as if they could handle two brews.
The Brewery Tap in Westgate was once Peterborough’s Labour Exchange, or in modern parlance, a Job Centre. In many respects it is an ideal building but there must have been a huge amount of work done to make it suitable for brewing, eating and drinking. The move from Oakham was made in 1998 and a 35 barrel (bbls) brewery was installed. It was a quantum jump in capacity and was an immense leap in faith.
Eventually it paid off as Oakham beers were increasing in popularity year on year. Although it seems hard to believe, the equipment at the brewery tap could not keep up with the demands placed upon it.
The brewery made one more major move. This time the location of the company’s main brewery became Maxwell Road, Peterborough, to the south-east of the city centre.
This new brewery is of 75 barrels (bbls) capacity and it opened on Friday 13th October 2006. The 35 barrel plant at Westgate was only used three times in 2007 and the decision was made to sell it to the Green Jack Brewery in Lowestoft.
In December of that year a brand new brewery of 10 barrels (bbls) capacity was ordered and it was installed and working by the late summer of 2008. It is made of stainless steel and is very shiny indeed. It is used for small run brewing and one-offs.
I must say that I am not a great fan of the Brewery Tap as a pub. The company promotes it as the largest Brew-pub in Europe. Well I know that not to be true, as I have been to larger ones in Russia.
But that claim is the crux of the matter for me as this pub is just too big. That is a personal opinion and what do I know anyway. I know for a fact that it is immensely popular but to me it feels like a nightclub, even at lunchtime!
Anyway, any reservations I have about the pub are blown away by the beer. I am an unashamed fan of Oakham beers which is why I was in the pub and why I’m writing about the visit. Of course, if I was really intent on drinking Oakham ales in a traditional pub I could have stayed in Birmingham that morning and gone to the Bartons Arms in Aston. It’s one of the top pubs in the country and also operated by Oakham.
A striking feature of the entrance door of this pub is the canopy above it made from an old brewery copper. Once through the glass doors I had to blink to adjust my eyes to the light.
This place is simply enormous. I settled at an upright table near to the bar counter on the left. This is quite long and extends around a corner where a second bank of hand pumps is located.
As it was quiet that lunchtime I took a quick look around. Beyond the curving bar on the left I found a corridor that lead to another, smaller room. Further along this left side of the main room is the gleaming brewery. Actually it is by far the most impressive part of this massive room. Further round I found the “comfy” area with sofas and armchairs.
Nearly every wall in the pub is covered with certificates and awards, such is the esteem that Oakham Brewery is regarded within the trade and by many organisations including CAMRA. There are a few more leather sofas near the large full-height windows facing to the outside world on the right of the building which is the only side that has natural light.
The remainder of this side is occupied with many tables, some normal height and others with tall tables and chairs. The floor is tiled around the counter area, carpeted near the sofas and laid with stone in other places. In the middle there are stairs that lead to a balcony that extends to three sides of the structure. It’s not my kind of pub, but I bet it is quite lively in the evenings. Anyway, who cares? I was here for the beer!
There were five from the home side on offer: JHB (3.8%); Inferno (4.0%); Citra (4.2%); Bishop’s Farewell (4.6%) and a special six month aged ale: Oblivion (5.7%). The pub has space for a guest beer on the bar and on this day it was Grainstore (Oakham, Rutland) Daniel Lambert (4.3%).
There were also five still ciders and a perry to be had, all from Weston’s (Much Marcle, Herefordshire) and they were Wyld Wood (6.0%); Old Rosie (7.3%); Old Banger (4.0%) with raspberries; Hand Brake (4.0%) with Damson and Flat Tyre (4.0%) with Rhubarb. Finally, the perry was Country Perry (4.5%).
This pub offers a popular authentic Thai cuisine with chefs from that country. There is a DJ every Saturday night from 21.00 and sometimes there is a live band on Friday nights. The first Sunday in each month hosts an Open Mic night. Go there for the beer!
Brewery Tap, 80 Westgate, Peterborough PE1 2AA. Tel: 01733 358500
Monday-Thursday: 12.00-23.00; Friday-Saturday: 12.00-02.00; Sunday: 12.00-22.30
From the railway station turn left in front of the Great Northern Hotel.
Follow the approach road as it veers to the right. You will see a Waitrose supermarket on your left.
Turn left into the main road and you will see a crossing that has been built to access the supermarket.
Cross this and you will find the Brewery Tap on the left side. The Bus Station is on the right.