May 17, 2014 by Kay Byrne
An early start was made using one of the NPT Community Transport minibuses. The plan was to arrive as soon after 12 as possible at the Hopback Brewery, which is located a few miles south-east of Salisbury.
On arrival we were greeted by Hopback head brewer, Steve Wright. Appreciating that we’d all had a long journey he invited us to help ourselves to a brand new Hopback pint glass (which he said we could keep) and a choice of four barrels of Crop Circle, Summer Lightning, etc. I almost got trampled in the rush! What a welcome!
Once suitably refreshed we started the brewery tour and Steve happily answered questions about the brews’ recipes, hops used (at which point Aaron Jones got quite animated, he likes hops!) etc.
We were also shown the brewery’s bottling plant and were delighted to be given, (yes given, free) some of the 5-litre ‘supercans’ also produced by Hopback. Suitable contributions to the brewery’s charity – the Salisbury Hospice – were made in lieu.
Leaving Steve to lock up the brewery for the rest of the weekend and promising to meet him at the Hopback brewery tap, the Wyndham Arms close to the Salisbury city centre later in the afternoon, the group then made their way to a pre-booked lunch at the 15th century pub, the Haunch of Venison. Its menu specialised in, yes you’ve guessed it, venison dishes. Delicious – and a must for any visit to Salisbury.
Once further refreshment had been achieved it was time to make the short trek to the Wyndham where all of the Hopback brews were on offer. Shock horror – we had to pay for the beer this time! We again met up with Steve the Hopback Head Brewer and shared a few more beers and stories with him throughout the afternoon.
All too soon it was time to leave Salisbury and hit the road back to Wales as darkness started to fall. Anyone who thought that the day’s enjoyment was over was mistaken as having reached the M4 turning to the A470 we diverted in the general direction of Castell Coch and entered the village and its namesake pub, the Gwaelod y Garth. Some of the party were flagging at this point but the sight of the pub’s welcoming lights seems to invigorate them.
Despite being a busy Saturday night, once Sub-Branch Chair, J Skinner Esq., had announced our arrival the 14 weary travellers were quickly found seats by landlord Richie and wife Barbara and nuts and nibbles were on the table. Their own brews from the Violet Cottage Brewery or “The Brew with a View” were a popular choice to round off the day’s drinking, before we headed back to the M4, J45 and the Swansea Valley.
Thanks to John Skinner for his immaculate organisation of the whole outing as well as to patient NPTCT driver Colin for his endurance and driving skills over a very long day, especially the necessary 200 yards reverse in the narrow, crowded roads of Gwaelod y Garth!
Roll on the next branch ‘outing’.
By Colin Rees – Publicity Officer – Neath Port Talbot CAMRA Sub Branch