When I’d reached the legal drinking age I found myself drawn to wine. Intrigued by the many varietals of wine I searched out as much information as I could. I enjoyed visiting wineries for tastings and to learn how wine is produced. Even years later I am still finding new and exciting wines to sample. Although wine production shares many qualities with beer, for many years I wasn’t interested in beer. Over time, I realized it was because I had tried nothing beyond the basic light name brand beer. Once I’d made the conscious decision to expand my beer horizon a whole new realm opened for me. Similar to wine, beer is produced through out the world with many brands and types of beer to try. On my last trip to England I was excited to see what beers the country offered. I looked forward to treating my taste buds to what the English refer to as ‘bitter’ beer.
One city I planned on visiting while in England was Windsor. In researching which sights to see in Windsor I read that the city has a brewery. Windsor & Eton Brewery is a fifteen-minute walk from the famed Windsor Castle. The brewery’s website mentions that in the past Windsor created fabulous ales. In 1931 the last brewery in the city closed its doors. That is until 2010 when Windsor & Eton Brewery opened. Without hesitation I added the brewery to my list of places to visit. I found the prospect of visiting an up and coming brewery steeped in tradition exciting.
I arrived in Windsor by train via Windsor & Eton Central Station and opted for the scenic route to the brewery. From the train station I made my way to Barry Avenue, with Alexandra Gardens to my left and River Thames to my right. A left at Vansittart Road led me away from the River Thames and into a residential section of Windsor. Continuing on to Duke Street, I passed quaint two-story homes, a group of residences known as the Gardner Cottages. These homes are along Arthur Road, Vansittart Road, and Duke Street. The homes form a square shape with a field in the middle shared by the tenants. The Duke Street section of the square takes up two sides of the square and across the corner of the Duke Streets is the Windsor & Eton Brewery.
Windsor & Eton Brewery offers tours twice a week, with tour dates and times available on their website’s event page. I wasn’t in Windsor on a tour day but figured I’d try my luck and stop by the brewery to see if it was open. Windsor & Eton Brewery is in a one-story building. The building’s nondescript outside resembles more an office building than a brewery. A sign on the wall shows that you have arrived at Windsor & Eton Brewery. I entered through the main door into what appeared to be a receptionist space. An employee of the brewery welcomed me and led me into the Windsor & Eton Brewery store. The store has for sale beers, growlers, and merchandise ranging from shirts to key chains.
While perusing the beers on sale another employee asked if I was interested in tasting a few of the beers the brewery was producing on site. I said yes, and they ushered me into an adjoining room. This immense space was the section of the building where the beers are brewed and bottled. Large brewing tanks and stainless steel beer barrels took up most of the room. One section of the room had a counter set aside for beer tasting.
Each of the beers that Windsor & Eton Brewery produces is named in homage to the royal city of Windsor. For example, they have the Knight of the Garter Golden Ale, the Guardsman Best Bitter, and the Conqueror Black IPA. When Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, married Catherine Middleton the brewery created the Windsor Knot Pale Ale. During the tasting the employee told me the history of the brewery and the brewing methods used by the brewery. Of particular note was how beer brewed in England differs from the way beer is brewed in America. To illustrate the point the tasting included a traditional English ‘bitter’ beer. English refer to pale ale as ‘bitter’ beer. This beer is cask ale, which means after brewing in the tanks it goes through a second fermentation in barrels. Due to the cooler climate of England ‘bitter’ beer is served at room temperature but still tastes cool and refreshing. In contrast are keg beers, beer that is pressurized in tanks and kept cold and how most American beers are made. Windsor & Eton brewery makes an American IPA that is served chilled, and it was interesting tasting the ‘bitter’ versus the American IPA. Afterwards I sampled a couple other light and dark beers the brewery produces. Every beer was crisp, full bodied, and wonderful.
After tasting a few beers I went back into the store and purchased bottles of beers I hadn’t had the chance to sample. As I left the Windsor & Eton Brewery I felt humbled. Even though I showed up unannounced, and not at the brewery during a scheduled tour, the employees treated me with such hospitality. In retrospect I wish I had attended a tour. The tours run for ninety minutes, allowing for a more in depth tutorial on the actual brewing techniques used. If you are a fan of beer, or want to learn how beer is produced in England, be sure to visit the Windsor & Eton Brewery.