itting in its beautiful Cotswold Hills landscape, Hook Norton Brewery is a proudly independent and passionate family business that takes the very best of its handcrafted brewing heritage and combines it with a thoroughly modern approach, to create a range of real ales for today’s drinkers to enjoy.


Celebrating it’s 170th year and still operating out of its original Victorian building, said to be, ‘the finest example of a Victorian tower Brewery in the whole country.’ In fact, Hook Norton Brewery is one of only 32 family owned breweries remaining. “The brewery cherishes its home and its heart still very much lies in supporting the local community”, says the Brewery’s National Accounts Manager, Serena Williams who manages the Shire Horse Team alongside her Sales responsibilities, is a member of the family and has been with the Brewery for 12 years. “From sponsoring the local cricket club to supporting the Hook Norton Brass Band, the brewery has remained committed to community life, just as it has been ever since its earliest days.”

The brewery’s journey began way back in 1849, when farmer and maltster, John Harris, bought 52 acres, complete with a malthouse in the village of Hook Norton. “Commercial brewing can be traced back to 1856, when ‘Brew no.1’ was recorded and described as ‘mild’ in the archived brewery books”, explains Serena. “The original malthouse is still here today, but has been developed into the Malthouse kitchen where visitors can indulge in our range of delicious, homemade, locally sourced produce and enjoy one of our many delightful beers”

Within ten years of Johns founding, the brewery saw the beginnings of its brewery tied estate, by purchasing a beer house at Down End in 1859. “Ten years on from that, the brewery invested in The Pear Tree Inn our Flagship site located at the end of Brewery Lane”, explains Serena. “By 1907 the brewery had 14 tied houses and 4 beer houses, today we have a flourishing estate of pubs located across Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire including the original and thriving, Pear Tree Inn.”

With depression hitting many rural areas back in the 1880’s, it was the construction of a new railway line, linking Hook Norton to Chipping Norton that saved the village from following suit and to subsequently, positively flourish. “The ‘Navvies’ building the line were a discerning bunch and developed a strong liking for our beer!” laughs Serena. “Short term, the Navvies kept the pumps flowing but there was also long term prosperity from being able to transport equipment, raw materials and the beer by rail.”

Horses and Beer

at Hook Norton Brewery Article by Charley Snowdon

It was with John’s passing in 1890, and with the succession of his enterprising nephew, Alban Clarke, that saw the business expand further. Within four years of taking the reins, Alban doubled the size of the brewery and built the brewery’s existing, and rather spectacular stable block and installed a 25 horsepower steam engine, that through a series of belts, cogs and shafts managed to supply most of the motive power the brewery needed to pump water from its well below. The engine is still used today and is thought to be one of the last steam engines of its type still being used for its original purpose.

Shire horses were put to work from day one at Hook Norton Brewery, their job to deliver drays loaded with beer and they were the backbone of the brewery’s delivery system. During the 1920’s the brewery purchased it’s first lorry, a 30cwt Morris and real horsepower and mechanical horsepower would work alongside each other until the 1950’s when the brewery finally closed its stable doors and made way to its expanding fleet of motorised delivery vehicles, Serena explains, “The horses were reinstated, back into their original stable block in the 1980’s when they were mainly used for light duties, PR and marketing before being reunited with their original purpose of delivering beer to our local pubs, the traditional and we think, the very best way of delivering our beer.”



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