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A long promised branch visit to Wakefield's oldest established brewery at last reached fulfilment on Thursday 9th February 2003. It was principally intended as an opportunity for members who had joined recently to see the brewery, but we weren't turning anybody away who'd come for the branch meeting and Pub of the Year vote and the numbers kept growing and growing. In the end it was a real gathering of the clans and it was a case of shoe-horning over 40 of us in to the hospitality suite at the back of the brewery yard. Our hosts were Paul Senior, head brewer and Phil Owen, cask ale development manager, along with assistant brewer Jon Chapman. Our numbers were so great that we had to be shown round in two groups. The ales we were offered as hospitality were "Mulberry Tree"- seriously close to the gaol walls as we were, and a chewy new trial brew "Woodhead Line" celebrating the old DC electric railway that used to run from Rotherham through the Woodhead Tunnel to Manchester.

Phil Owen explained to us that the brewing operation was really a very small sideline for Clark's who are now the country's largest independent beer wholesaler, maintaining their position in a very competitive market by supplying the publican's every need, one-stop shop style, right down to light bulbs.

Paul showed us this, the hopper end of the only mechanical piece of kit, apart from the pumps, in the brewery.

Here's Paul as monarch of the mash tuns. Heating is electric and cooling water recovered from the Paraflow (heat exchanger) and now hot, is stored for use in the next brew so as to keep the lid on fuel costs.

The well insulated fermentation vessels:

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