From Victorian brew house to award-winning pubs: Arkell’s Brewery’s legacy of craft beer excellence 

With nearly 100 pubs spread across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Hampshire, Arkell’s Brewery Ltd (Arkell) is one of the UK’s oldest breweries. Arkell’s multitude of pubs offer fantastic food, award-winning ales, hand crafted beer with all natural ingredients, and even first-class accommodation. In addition, the company’s iconic brewery shop, The Grape and Grain Wine & Brewery Warehouse (The Grape and Grain), is open to the public to buy a wide selection of beers, wines, and spirits. Alex Arkell, Head Brewer, shares further insights into Arkell’s history. 

“Established in 1843 by our founding ancestor, John Arkell, the company Arkells beer pumpsremains a family owned and run brewery to this day. George Arkell, Managing Director, and I are the sixth generation of our family to run the business, still brewing beer within our original Victorian brew house. We supply our own managed and tenanted pubs, which currently total 93 establishments, along with serving local free trade customers. Furthermore, we operate a bottling line at the brewery, enabling us to sell our bottled beer online, at The Grape and Grain, and through select local stores. I oversee the brewing operations, and as well as working at the brewery with my brother George, our father James Arkell serves as our chairman, while our cousin Nick is our sales director. We are a true family team,” he affirms. 

Pub portfolio 

Focusing specifically on the brewing side of the company, Alex describes Arkell’s process and reveals which products are his personal favorites. “As we still use our ancestors’ original techniques and the same Victorian brewhouse built in 1861, our brewing is unique. In fact, we are one of only nine breweries left in the UK that continue to brew beer this way. Although we take pride in being a traditional manual brewery, we have also expanded our range of beers over the past decade to cater to a wider variety of drinkers. Our oldest brand, 3B, was first brewed in 1910 and remains available in cask today. Additionally, we have seven keg beers that are permanently available. Among them, we have our award-winning Malthouse Lager, an American pale ale named Voyager, and our latest addition, Haze, which is a cloudy, vegan, and gluten-free pale ale. Whilst I personally love each one of our beers, I believe that the enjoyment of a beer depends a lot on the time and place. For example, in a sunny beer garden in August, I would prefer a pint of our Malthouse Lager. Meanwhile on a dark January day, nothing beats a frothing pint of 3B in a cozy pub. Every day brings a unique experience, and that’s what I love about great beer,” he expresses. 

Arkell’s mouth-watering beers are available in numerous locations throughout the UK’s Southwest. Alex uncovers the reasons behind the company’s chosen geographical footprint. “John, our founder, began investing in pubs in 1861 when he built The Kingsdown Inn in Swindon, right across the road from the brewery. Since then, we have been steadily growing our collection of pubs without ever looking back. Nonetheless, our general idea has always been to keep the pubs as close to our brewery as possible. Hence why we do not plan to expand beyond a 50-mile radius from the brewery and strive to keep most of our beer sales within this area,” he informs. “We prioritize selecting pubs within easy reach of the brewery to ensure that our team can quickly respond to any concerns or issues that licensees may have and to keep the beer as fresh as possible.  Being accessible allows us to provide prompt support, maintain quality standards, and foster strong relationships with our licensees.”    

Arkells pubCommitment to quality 

Managing Director, George Arkell, discusses the company’s new, award-winning pub in Swindon, the Strawberry Thief. “This new addition to our portfolio was built in the freshly developed neighborhood of Tadpole Garden Village, located on the edge of Swindon. Alex and I were keen to invest in a new venue for our hometown and to be part of the first new pub construction in our generation. Thus, we thought the site was perfect to create a pub that could strike the balance between being a destination pub and a modern community hub. Substantial thought and effort went into the design, layout, and fenestration of the building. Our goal was for the pub to complement its surroundings, with natural materials used throughout to provide a sustainable building that will stand the test of time. Arkell’s Strawberry Thief is a stunning building looking out onto green spaces and lakes, and it stands as one of the largest pubs we have ever built. As we have invested over £5 million to create it, everyone was genuinely thrilled when it won the New Build Category in the CAMRA National Pub Design Awards 2023,” he emphasizes. 

Turning to the future, George details his vision for the long-term future of the company. “As a family business we have always looked at the long term and believed in steady growth. Over the next five years, we see ourselves remaining rooted as a local brewer, ingrained in the community we serve. Our focus will be on nurturing and expanding our relationships with customers, taking care of our licensees, and looking forward to the next generation of our family joining the business. Additionally, we aim to continue crafting exceptional beers that reflect our heritage and unwavering commitment to quality. At the same time, Arkell’s will stay open to exploring innovative ways to keep up with changing trends. By staying true to our roots and values, we strive to maintain Arkell’s reputation as a cherished local brewer for many more generations to come,” he ends. 

With family at the helm for six generations, Arkell’s is poised to continue building upon its key pillars of delicious craft beer, pub hospitality, and local pride to further its long-term growth.