Topham Arms House and Brewery

Topham Arms House

Topham Arms House used to be a farm and was also the village pub. It closed as a licensed premises around 1960, the last landlord being Lawrence Stockdale. The photographs below show the house as it is now and the last signboard  - it was found in the adjoining stable during renovation of the house. (Click on any of the small photographs to enlarge them).

The house was probably built around the early 18th century (it is shown on the 1790 map) and has an internal stone staircase. There is a very large stone fireplace in what was originally the bar, although in its latter days as a pub, this was hidden behind a “modern” tiled fireplace. The cellar was filled-in during renovation work, although the house retains the original stone and slate shelves in the former larder. There are several outbuildings, one of which now houses the brewery.

The Brewery

This was set up by Tony Keates in 2000, in one of the outbuildings at Topham Arms House. Having tried brewing beer from malt extract, I was keen to try brewing using the whole mash technique, which is the way the commercial brewers do it. It is a very small-scale, non-profit making enterprise – the maximum brew size being 5 gallons!

The equipment consists of an insulated mash tun (a modified coolbox, fitted with a rotating sparging arm), a 25 litre thermostatically controlled boiler, a 30 litre primary fermentation vessel and a 25 litre secondary fermentation vessel (both of which are basically large polythene buckets) and a 5 gallon polypropylene barrel fitted with carbon dioxide injection and safety valves and a flip-tap. The mash tun, boiler and fermentation vessels are also fitted with perforated strainers in the base and drum taps. All the beer brewed is dispensed as draught beer straight from the barrel. The photograph below shows the basic setup.(Click on the small photograph to enlarge it).

The brewing process takes about 8 hours, from mashing, to pitching the yeast into the primary fermenter, followed by 3-5 days primary fermentation then 3-5 days secondary fermentation, before the beer is transferred to the barrel for conditioning. It is usually drinkable within 7-14 days and will keep for several weeks (if not drunk earlier!). The majority of beers brewed are pale to golden, well-hopped English bitters and pale ales, although Belgian spiced wheat beer and "real lager" have also been tried.