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Wiltshire Breweries

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Arkell's Brewery Limited, Kingsdown Brewery, Swindon, SN2 7RU
Tel. 01793 823026  Fax. 01793 828864  email  website


2B  3.2% ABV
Formerly called BB or John Arkell Bitter, this is our lighter beer, described as "Fine quaffable session bitter" in the 'Real Ale Drinker's Almanac'. Made from 92% pale malt, 6% crystal malt and 2% sugar, it has a light, hoppy aroma and is a thirst-quenching beer with a slightly tart taste and a dry hop finish. 2B is a low gravity drinking beer which is nevertheless full of flavour. It has been brewed constantly since the early 1900s and was Arkell's most popular brew until it was overtaken by 3B in the 1970s. 2B is also available in bottles when it is known simply as Light Ale.

3B  4.0% ABV
Arkell's Best Bitter Beer, as it was originally known, was first brewed in 1910 and has been affectionately known as BBB or 3B by customers ever since. (One Swindon landlord will tell you that 'BBB' stands for "Big Boy's Beer"). Today, 3B is renowned by Britain's beer lovers as a superb, amber brew with a very distinctive taste and a sweet scent of malt beneath the hops. Pale malt makes up 88% of the dry ingredients along with 10% crystal malt and 2% sugar. According to the 'Real Ale Drinker's Almanac', 3B has "delicate, beautifully balanced malt and hop with lingering dry finish and hint of nut".

Kingsdown Ale  5.0% ABV
Kingsdown Ale is the strongest of our regular beers but is a brother to 3B as it comes from the same mash. It retains a strong character of its own, however, with its rich colour, ripe fruit 'nose' and that traditional Arkell's hopiness. You can taste the malt too, along with a bitter-sweet finish and fruit notes. 'Kingsdown', which is named after the area of Upper Stratton where the brewery is situated, was originally brewed as a special beer to commemorate Swindon Town Football Club's League Cup triumph in 1969 and went into regular production in 1976.

Smooth  4.0% ABV
Satisfying the modern demand for 'smooth' beers, what better to call one of the smoothest beers around than simply "Smooth"? This is the newest addition to the Arkell's range and retains that characteristic Arkell's flavour while also delivering the silky texture that many of our customers enjoy. Its lower alcohol content makes it a lighter alternative to other 'smooth' beers which are available.

NoŽl Ale 5.5% ABV
Launched in 1987 and named in honour of the present chairman's father Sir Noel Arkell, who was born on Christmas Day. The strongest of Arkells Ales, this full-bodied beer is cleverly disguised by its distinctive light colour, and slides down very easy, leaving drinkers with a warm, tingling feeling.

Bee's  ABV: 4.5%
Launched in October 2001, Bee's is Arkell's first organic ale. Organically grown malted barley, hops and, unusually, organically produced honey are used in the brew. These give this golden premium bottled ale a light, fresh taste - with the organic honey providing a delightful and surprising flavour.

We also offer a range of Seasonal Ales. See our website for details.


Anyone visiting Arkell's Brewery for the first time could be excused for thinking they have walked straight into a time machine.

The beer is still brewed in much the same way as it was when John Arkell first made it in 1843 and the brewery buildings seem untouched by the passing years. If you speak to any of the staff about the company it is clear that everyone is still as fiercely proud of its local and family roots as John Arkell was himself.

But Arkell's has not achieved its unique position as Swindon's oldest company and one of the oldest traditional breweries still operating in Britain today, simply by standing still.

The company has remained true to the principles of loyalty, quality and tradition set down by its founder, John Arkell 158 years ago, but it has also adapted brilliantly to the changing world around it. Some things never change at Arkell's, but it is the ability to change effectively when change is necessary that has been at the cornerstone of the brewery's success story over the last 158 years.

Arkell's became a private limited company in 1927 with all shares owned by the family - as, indeed, is the case today. Now at the helm were brothers Thomas Noel (later Sir Noel), James Graham and John Oliver Arkell.

By now the brewery was over 70 years old and it was time to modernise, so the 1930s saw the closure of the maltings and the opening of a high-tech bottling plant which employed up to 25 people. The period also saw the foundation of a mineral water plant which gave birth to the fondly-remembered Ace brand of soft drinks. Meanwhile, the new brewery chimney was added to the Stratton skyline for the first time.

Despite the slow recovery period after the Second World War, a handful of new pubs were added to the Arkell's estate and, in 1954, Peter Arkell, the eldest son of Sir Noel, joined the company as a director.  A war veteran who had seen service with the RAF in Burma, Peter had spent a year in hospital after crashing behind enemy lines. He brought valuable brewing experience to Arkell's as a former director at the Tadcaster Tower Brewery.

The late Peter Arkell, who was awarded the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 1997, once said: "My initials are 'PA' - Pale Ale. I was born in the brewery and I married a brewer's daughter. I'm in it up to my neck!"

With Sir Noel, Graham and Peter as a board of directors, the Sixties was to see another groundbreaking era in the history of Arkell's as it took its first steps in the wine and spirits market, buying out local firm Brown and Plummer's, which was actually owned by one of Peter's cousins.

It was another example of Arkell's adapting to shifting fashions in the drinks industry while still applying the same business methods that had served them so well for over a century. It would ensure Arkell's Vintners of its current status as the leading wine merchants in the area under Sales and Vintners Director, Nicholas Arkell.

 Further diversification came in 1967 when Arkell's formed a partnership with Derek Austin to supply the growing demand for amusement machines in pubs and in 1979 it also secured a 50 per cent interest in Edmont's Joinery, a company employing 70 people which carries out much of the refurbishment of Arkell's pubs.

There were changes, too, back at the brewery, where the mineral plant was closed in 1962 and the cooper's shop - made redundant by the introduction of metal casks in 1960 - sadly followed in 1968.

In the boardroom, Peter Arkell became chairman in 1971, a year before the death of Graham Arkell and ten years before Sir Noel, Peter's father, passed away. Meanwhile, a new Arkell generation - the fifth - was being groomed to help lead the business towards and beyond its 150th anniversary.

James Arkell (pictured right) was born in 1951 and by the time he became a director in 1973 he had already learned the art of brewing at the Donnington Brewery near Stow-on-the-Wold, owned by second cousin Claude Arkell, and with spells at Baird's the maltsters and Bass. James is now managing director and deputy chairman.

The Seventies and Eighties saw Arkell's secure itself an enviable reputation among lovers of traditional beer as the consumer revolution set off by the Campaign for Real Ale left the company well placed to take advantage of beer drinkers' discerning attitude towards the quality of beer.

If the 150th anniversary celebrations in 1993 were a time for looking back to Arkell's magnificent past, the 1990s were also a time for the business to look forward to the future with confidence.

A wholesale disposal of Whitbread pubs saw Arkell's buy up and breathe new life into eight pubs in Gloucester and Cheltenham in 1991 and this was to herald an expansion even more rapid than the one masterminded by John Arkell in the last century. The brewery now has pubs in places as far away as Oxford, Newbury and Ascot and a busy free trade, mainly through the Thames Valley and into London.

Meanwhile, the original bottling store, which closed in 1983, was replaced in 1997 by a new, high-tech plant which is ensuring that Arkell's customers can once again enjoy their beer at home.

Now with 97 pubs under its wing - many of them extensively refurbished - Arkell's is not only ready for whatever changes the 21st century will bring to its business and its products, but it is relishing the challenge.

The late Dave Backhouse, chairman of the Swindon branch of CAMRA, said: "Given its combination of tradition and efficiency, we can hope for a long and prosperous future for this well-run local company."

We'll drink to that.


All of our regular beers rely on Goldings and Progress whole hops for bitterness, while Fuggles hops provide that magical hoppy aroma.

One of the main reasons why our beers have such a distinctive flavour is that we are still using the same strain of yeast that we introduced in the 1930s. We have four main beers which we brew all year round, four seasonal beers - for spring, summer, autumn and winter - plus a magnificent Christmas ale. We also brew special commemorative beers. Arkell's is a year-round beer festival for the discerning drinker.

Text and images copyright SwindonWeb


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