02.07.18 Richard Robinson

Coachmakers’ inspection of Hook Norton dray wagon gets side tracked

On a perfect day in May, Coachmakers and guests met in the Cotswolds to tackle the arduous task of inspecting a dray wagon, owned and operated by the Hook Norton Brewery, writes Liveryman Richard Robinson.
Nestled in the Cotswold hills, the Hook Norton Brewery was built in 1898 and is the finest example of a Victorian tower brewery in the world. The group got straight to the task in hand and carried out an inspection of the dray wagon, complete with two Shire horses in full harness. The draymen, Roger and Elizabeth, had turned them out impeccably, to the agreement of all.
Coachmaking duties over… the group decided to take a look around, and under the guidance of Chris and Nick, were given a fascinating tour of one of the world’s oldest working breweries, witnessing the original steam engine at full power. This engine is still used (on occasion) to drive all the machinery. The group was treated to an informative walk through all the stages of brewing beer.
Having worked up a thirst inspecting the dray wagon and climbing numerous stairs (tower is an accurate description), the group retired to the cellars for lunch and the chance to taste a wide range of Hook Norton’s award-winning beers. The old favourites won the day, but the new varieties, in particular the Red Rye, challenged some long-held preferences.
Suitably refreshed, the group decided to see what else the Cotswolds had to offer, and when the Cotswolds Distillery was mentioned, it seemed too good to miss. Established in 2014, this small but perfectly formed distillery squeezes all the apparatus needed to produce whisky, dry gin, a range of small-batch spirits and liqueurs in a cosy Cotswolds setting. The group was shown the production areas and warehouses, where the numerous barrels transform with time into the well-balanced spirits for which they are gaining world renown. Not wanting to leave ill informed, the group settled into a very serious tasting session, comparing a number of the different spirits and liqueurs produced there.
In high spirits, the group journeyed onwards to the Master and Mistress’ home, where they enjoyed some lighter refreshments and a wonderful tour of the Master’s collections of classic cars and aviation art.
The day concluded with a drinks reception at Mallory Court Hotel, kindly hosted by the owner, Sir Peter Rigby, followed by dinner, where more of the Cotswolds’ produce was put to excellent use by Mallory Court’s head chef.
Special mention must also go to the coach driver, who, despite a few interesting route choices, got the group from start to finish without incident, completing some manoeuvres in tight country lanes that seemed to defy the laws of physics, much to the delight of his passengers.