REVIEW: Brewery tour at Windmill Hill Brewing Company

By James Smith

4th Jun 2023 | Opinion

The Windmill Hill Brewery at Victoria Business Centre in Neilston Street (image by James Smith)
The Windmill Hill Brewery at Victoria Business Centre in Neilston Street (image by James Smith)

Regular Nub News readers will have seen me self-indulgently write before about my brewing qualifications, and my interest in craft beer.

So it will come as no surprise that when I was offered the chance to review a brewery tour at the Windmill Hill Brewing Company, I lept at the opportunity.

Having been on quite few tours of breweries across the country, I perhaps arrived at the event with slightly higher standards than your average punter.

But I was not left disappointed!

What struck me from the moment we arrived at the brewery's home at the Victoria Business Centre in Neilston Street, was the personal touch the whole evening had.

Normally when you go to these sorts of events the tour is led by a dedicated tour guide - often a university student looking to pad out their CV - whereas the tour at the Leamington Spa nano-brewery was led by one of the brewers, Keith Stanford.

The tour was led by brewer Keith Stanford (image supplied)

Upon arrival we were immediately given our first beer of the evening - a very (very) drinkable session IPA at 3.8% - as the rest of the guests arrived.

Given the size of the brewery, which is nestled in the arches near Leamington Railway Station, we were all sat down at tables as Keith gave a whistle stop talk on the brewing process, taking us through his day to day work on site.

He then gave us a detailed history of the brewery, all the way from its start in owner Gavin Leach's garage, to its move to the farm near Chesterton Windmill and then to the opening of the new site in Neilston Street.

What was really enjoyable was that Gavin was clearly not just reproducing a prewritten script; it was just him talking about his daily life at the brewery, giving us a real insight into how it actually works.

As the talk continued we were given a second pint - a refreshing pale at 4.5% - another nice touch as normally you have to wait until the very end of the tour to sample the beer you are learning about.

When Keith came to the end of his talk, he opened the floor up for questions, before we were each served a small ploughman's to compliment our drinks.

We were then given our third pint, a crisp, sweet lager at 4.5%, which was very well received on a hot Friday summer evening.

Each guest was given four pints throughout the course of the night (image via Light and Lace Photography)

As we ate our meals Keith came round to each group individually to give more information about the brewery and the industry in general.

He took each group individually around the room to look at the equipment, and gave them more detail on all aspects of the production process.

This was the real highlight for me - to be given a hands-on, personal part of the evening, where your tour guide could speak at length and in detail about all aspects of the industry was a genuine treat.

As the night wound down we were given a fourth pint, the Bitter (4.2%) which many locals may have seen under a different name of 1st XV during the Six Nations. Again, it was another thoroughly enjoyable brew.

And to go home we were each given a can of Nova IPA - a collaboration brew with Boat Lane Brewery. 

I took the opportunity to drink this on a sunny afternoon earlier this week, and it was without a doubt my favourite of all the brews. A sweet body combined with lots of hop bitterness made this 5.9% pale juicy IPA an excellent addition to the range.

Each group was taken around the brewery to get a personal look at the equipment (image supplied)

Back to the tour. The night also struck me as excellent value at just £25 per person. That obviously included the tour as well as four pints and a small platter of food.

And with it running from 6pm to 8pm on a Friday night, it was also the perfect start to the evening before heading into Leamington - perhaps even to the brewery's new venue 44 Café Bar and Bistro on Clarendon Street…

To book your place on the next brewery tour at the Windmill Hill Brewing Company, follow this link to the website.

     

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