Britain’s love affair with beer goes back centuries. Like every long-term relationship, it has had its ups and downs, but right now things are going well and there has never been a better time to find a quality British beer. Even Devon and Cornwall, the traditional heartlands of cider production, are experiencing a brewery boom and beer-loving holidaymakers visiting here can expect to sample pint after flavourful pint. In fact, the regional beer scene here is hopping. Brewers are working tirelessly to get their tasty craft products from grain to glass and the casks flow freely with artisan brews.
So if you’re taking a trip down to Devon or Cornwall, don’t restrict yourself to those widely available beer brands. Instead, take your taste buds on a voyage of discovery by hopping around the breweries of the West Country. Whether you’re staying in a holiday home in Paignton or Barnstaple, Shaldon or Torquay, you won’t be far away from a delicious locally made frothy pour.
Bays Brewery, Paignton
This award-winning brewery quickly established itself as a regional leader in Devon’s revamped beer scene after launching its first two beers, Best and Gold, in 2007. These days, the brewery continues to produce Gold (a light golden ale), as well as Topsail (a well-balanced amber beer) and Devon Dumpling (a strong golden brew with a fresh hop character) year-round, in addition to an eclectic mix of seasonal beers. Visitors can gain insight into the brewing process on a behind-the-scenes tour of the brewery, which is set in an old 465-square-meter (5,000-square-foot) steel fabrication unit in Paignton. Tours are scheduled weekly and should be booked in advance. If you fancy picking up a few brews to bring back to your holiday home, call into the brewery shop, which is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm.
Teignworthy Brewery, Newton Abbot
This brewery claims to make “Devon’s finest traditional ales”; many local ale drinkers are inclined to agree. You won’t have to look very hard to find a Teignworthy ale as a fair few establishments around Devon and Somerset stock their brews, which vary in style from light to dark, bottled to cask. Teignworthy use traditional, time-honoured brewing methods with delicious results. The brewery, which is located Newton Abbot, Torquay, doesn’t offer public tours, but beer enthusiasts can visit and tour the neighbouring Tuckers Maltings instead (between Easter and Halloween), one of only four malthouses in England that still produce malt in the traditional way. The tour incudes a tasting of real ale from Teignworthy. Tuckers Maltings also has a speciality beer shop on site, where shelves are stocked to the brim with beer from small-scale British manufacturers, including some of Teignworthy’s finest pours.
Bridgetown Brewery/Albert Inn, Totnes
Bridgetown Brewery is the brainchild of a beer enthusiast-cum-publican who set up a microbrewery in his pub, the Albert Inn. After refining the beer recipes, the Albert Inn began selling its homemade brews to patrons. The pub itself (represented by a sign of Albert Einstein’s face) is an independent establishment with bucketloads of character. There is a friendly pub dog, regular events, a welcoming country pub atmosphere and a drinks offering that will please even the most discerning drinker. Tuck into home-cooked pies and choose from a selection of ales, including ones that are brewed on the premises. When it’s not too busy, ask for a tour of the on-site brewery.
St Austell Brewery, St Austell
Many of the breweries we’ve mentioned so far are relatively new ventures, but the St Austell brewery is long established. This independent Cornish producer has been in operation since 1851 and it has the Victorian brewery to prove it. You could make the journey down to St Austell (under two hours from Dartmouth) for a brewery tour and tasting, but you’ll need a designated driver. We recommend staying in one of our two luxury rooms — The Schooner and The Sloop — instead, which will put you just a flight of stairs away from the family-run Buccaneer Inn in Babbacombe, Torquay, where three of St Austell’s renowned real ales can be found on tap. An added bonus: knockout vistas across Lyme Bay that will only enhance your drinking experience.
Red Rock Brewery, Bishopsteignton
Light, dark, amber, golden, cask and bottled — this family-run venture has been brewing all kinds of delicious beers since 2006. Red Rock brews are stocked in several pubs, but to ensure you get to taste one, your best bet is to visit the Old Workshop, a unique bar and event space adjoining the brewery. Here, there are always at least two Red Rock real ales on pump, as well as other beers, a large patio and views across Dartmoor.
The brewery is located in a renovated barn in Bishopsteignton, close to the Teign Estuary and easily accessible for anyone staying in Teignmouth, Shaldon or Newton Abbot. Brewery tours are available for larger groups and take place on Friday afternoons, but should be booked in advance.
New Lion Brewery, Totnes
In its heyday, the New Lion Brewery was an extremely popular brewery that once claimed ownership of more than 20 drinking holes in the area. Alas, it closed in 1921 and remained out of action for decades. That is, until a group of passionate beer-lovers revived and re-launched the venture in 2013.
Now, it’s back up and running with a vengeance. There are three regular beers to try — Mane Event (a modern session bitter), Pandit IPA (a well-hopped pale ale) and the dark, oaty Totnes Stout — as well as experimental one-off specials including pumpkin ale, chili beer and mushroom stout. You can taste New Lion beers at local establishments, including the Bay Horse Inn in Totnes.
A novel way to experience the best of Devon and Cornwall’s rural pubs, this rail line takes passengers through the heart of the scenic countryside. Expect a warm welcome at atmospheric country pubs and village inns, as well as ales with local credentials.
Choose from several train lines that run through Cornwall and Devon, including one that runs from Barnstaple to Exeter, showcasing the best of the Devon’s hinterland and stopping at some of the most characterful village pubs en route to sample a fine selection of regional brews and food.