In this day and age we’re used to seeing new breweries pop up on a seemingly weekly basis, so it’s something of a milestone to note that this year Arkell’s Brewery — Swindon’s oldest business and one of just 29 old family breweries left in the UK  — is celebrating its 175th anniversary.

The brewery was established in 1843 as an offshoot to the family farm, near Swindon, at the same time as Isambard Kingdom Brunel was building his Great Western Railway. Arkell’s beers helped quenched the thirst of workers in the hot locomotive works.

Swindon’s historic railway works may have closed in the 1980s, but Arkell’s Brewery continues to thrive, with four members of the family currently at the helm: chairman, James Arkell; his cousin, Nick Arkell, who is head of sales; and James’ sons George and Alex Arkell, who are managing director and head brewer respectively.

The Arkell family work at the brewery alongside generations of other local families, brewing real ale and looking after nearly 100 pubs across Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire.

The brewery is planning a year-long celebration, including a beer festival at its Kingsdown brewery, on September 15, as well as its now annual Christmas Market, scheduled for December 1.

New development

Kicking off the celebrations, this month the brewery will be announcing a new development at the Kingsdown brewery site (details to be revealed soon).

Chairman, James Arkell, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be celebrating our 175th anniversary. It’s an incredible achievement for everyone involved in the brewery and in our pubs.

“Arkell’s pubs sit at the heart of our local communities and we thrive on maintaining that close link with our customers. They are at the heart of everything we do, and everything we brew. It’s that personal, individual connection that makes a family brewery such as Arkell’s as essential in the social media-driven world of the 21st century as it was in the 19th century when my great-great-grandfather, John Arkell, began brewing.”

Arkell’s ale portfolio includes award-winning beers such as Wiltshire Gold, 3Bs, Kingsdown and Hoperation. The brewery also brews an award-winning lager, 1843. Special ales are brewed regularly, with head brewer Alex keeping the art of craft ale alive.

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