The Duchess toured the brewery, met dozens of Arkell’s staff and unveiled a plaque to officially open the brewery’s new shop and heritage centre, The Grape and Grain.
The Duchess Ale, brewed in her honour, has been made using barley (a variety called Plumage Archer) from Prince Charles’ Highgrove Estate near Tetbury.
It’s the first time Arkell’s has brewed a beer using Plumage Archer, which gives a dark malty base to the beer. This is balanced by using tropical, fruity New World hops from America.
'Swinging the valentine'
The limited-edition bottled beer will have an ABV of 4.2% and will be available at Arkell’s Brewery’s Grape and Grain Warehouse from around the second week of February, priced at around £1.90 a bottle.
Arkell’s chairman James Arkell said: “We were thrilled to welcome The Duchess, who met our family, many of our staff, shareholders and members of the local community. She toured the brewery and helped ‘swing the valentine’.”
‘Swinging the valentine’ controls the flow of wort - liquid extracted from the mashing process during the brewing process - from the mash into the underback. It’s an essential part of the brewing process at Arkell’s, and the Wiltshire brewery is believed to be the only one in the country which still has a swinging valentine.
Family run brewery
Arkell’s brewery was established in 1843 as an offshoot to the family farm near Swindon, at the same time as Isambard Kingdom Brunel was building his Great Western Railway. Arkell’s beers helped quenched the thirst of workers in the locomotive works.
The Arkell family still work at the brewery alongside generations of other local families, brewing real ale and looking after nearly 100 pubs across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire.
The brewery is also planning a year-long celebration of its 175th anniversary year, including a Beer Festival at its Kingsdown Brewery, on 15 September.
James Arkell added: “Arkell’s pubs sit at the heart of our local communities and they are at the heart of everything we do.”