Brakspear Beers history

Following the closure of Brakspear Brewery in Henley in 2002, a £1million redevelopment of the Wychwood Brewery site was undertaken to move the brewing of Brakspear beers. This included moving and re-installing at Wychwood much of the original Brakspear brewing equipment, including the original Brakspear Copper, dating from 1779, and the famous Brakspear ‘Double Drop’ fermentation vessels, used to brew Brakspear Bitter and Brakspear Triple.

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Brakspear 'Double Drop'

The Brakspear Fermenting Room, at Wychwood Brewery houses six original Brakspear square wooded fermenters lined up along the room, and two circular vessels, situated above these up in the roof eves. This arrangement of vessels is called the “double drop” system and gives Brakspear beers their unique character. Cooled beer coming from the brewhouse starts fermentation in the top-fermenting vessel.

After 16 hours the beer is then allowed to fall naturally or ‘dropped’ into the vessel below. In this process any protein or solid material is left behind in the top-fermenting vessel. In addition the beer is gently aerated. The fermentation then continues in the bottom vessel for a further 24-48 hours. The temperature of the fermentation is controlled and the beers regularly checked. When we judge that the fermentation has reached the right point, the brew is cooled down to stop fermentation at the desired strength and gravity. This cooling and maturation process takes a further 3-4 days.

Brakspear Beers are one of the very few beers in the UK to continue to use the ‘Double Drop’.

Brakspear’s ‘mass’ appeal

Did you know that Nicholas Breakspear (also spelt Brekespear and Brakespear) is, as yet, Britain’s only Pope, ruling under the name of Pope Adrian the Fourth from 1154-1159 as the Vatican’s 170th incumbent?

Nicholas Breakspear’s father, Robert Breakspear, had been a priest in the diocese of Bath before moving to the monastery of St Albans in Hertfordshire. The future Pope is believed to have been born nearby at Abbots Langley and was educated at the Abbey School in St Albans (now St Albans School).

From there, he moved to France to become a monk, an abbot, the cardinal bishop of Albano near Rome, and the papal representative to Scandinavia.

A second Robert Brakspear, a descendant of the same family, formed W.H.Brakspear and Sons Brewery in Henley, Oxfordshire in 1779 after a period as landlord of a coaching inn in Witney. In a quirk of fate, when the Henley Brewery was closed for re-development in 2002, a new site was found back at Wychwood Brewery in Witney for the re-establishment of the historic Brakspear brewing tradition.

Pope Adrian IV used the symbol of a bee on his mitre - the tall tapering headdress worn by senior churchmen - as a reminder of the ‘B’ at the start of his original surname; and a bee remains as the main element of the brewery’s logo and on their beer labels.