Narrowboat AREandARE

From the 2009 & 2010 tantalising tales, traumas and stunning photographs of Barry (photographer) and Sandra (writer) from New Zealand aboard NB 'Northern Pride', to the stories of their 2013 return journey, purchase of 'AREandARE', progress on sustaining their live aboard continuous cruiser lifestyle, and Barry's quest to gain residency and 'Indefinite Leave to Remain' in UK ...

Wednesday 16 June 2010

A brewer's delight - The National Brewery Centre


We thought we'd visit the Bass Museum in Burton today as we couldn't remember why we didn't go there last year.  Having moored out of the town to get away from the busy main road, we had a bit of a treck to get back in, foolishly believing we'd be able to catch a bus fairly easily - little did we realise until the return journey that the only buses along the road were those travelling directly to Derby 'non-stop'!  We missed one on the way in as we'd given up waiting (hence my harassed stance) and thought we'd walk to the next stop; then on the way home we waited for half an hour only to see the bus sail merrily past us without stopping!  Ah well, the four mile plus round trip was good exercise for us!


The railway runs straight through Burton, parallel to Ryknild Street


There are still some old brewery buildings standing

P1230232A And the new brewing towers are also apparent

P1230231A   So far this would be the largest English flag we've seen, on the side of the brewery - appropriate I guess!

Barry visited the Waterways World offices to talk about photos and books and things, while I went into the shops for a few bits and pieces - not least some Piriton as I'm on my last couple and don't wish to repeat last year's experience when I ran out in July (in the mistaken belief that the hay fever season had ended) and my eyes were so bad I could hardly open them!

We discovered the reason we didn't visit the 'Bass Museum' last year even if we'd wanted to, was because it'd closed down!  This year however, they've opened 'The National Brewery Centre' which is just on the edge of the centre of town.  We had a coffee and scone for lunch and pondered whether or not to spend £7.50 each on admission charges - it seemed a lot and that was £1 cheaper than weekends and bank holidays.  It's difficult to comprehend what's in the museum from the entrance which doesn't do it justice somehow, neither does the information leaflet given out.  We were persuaded by the girl on the front desk - mostly due to the fact that there was beer tasting included in the price I think!


The brewing process is brought pictorially to life - including a holographic show

P1230248A One of the beer tasting stations

We were astounded at the expansive range of memorabilia from Burton's brewing history to be found in the centre and museum and had a fascinating afternoon strolling around - being almost the only visitors there.  We were told that there'd been another three boating couples in previously, so they must be getting lots of business from 'the cut'!



Horse and carts - without the shire horses sadly, who are only there weekends and bank holidays



Barry learnt to drive in a Morris Cowley - a version just a little later than this one


Part of an old steam boiler


Roll out the barrels


The chemist in his lab - apparently the windows would have been painted out to prevent industrial espionage




The canals are featured as the main means of transport that revolutionised the beer industry in 1777, prior to the railways in 1839, to distribute supplies around the country

P1230275A William Bass, a carrier, was travelling to and from Burton frequently when in 1777, he saw a small brewery for sale and purchased it.  The Bass Brewery was to become one of the largest in the city.  The workers had one week off a year, plus a few days for Christmas, and there would be the annual brewery 'day out' on the railway to London or the seaside in June or July.  In 1900, 11,241 employees were taken on 17 trains to Blackpool for the day!  Imagine the scale of that!  Sadly the world war put a stop to these excursions for all of the breweries and they were never brought back.


An amazing scale model of Burton (complete with working railways) as it would have been at 10:30am on a particular date in 1921 - reconstructing the events of that day from old newspapers and historic records 


Barry in his element!

A few shots of the authentic public house, examples of bar games played, and the workers, found in the museum ...











Some of the many traditional old pub games you could try in the pub (there was a very old dart board but no darts due to health and safety concerns!)


The harmonica player

Talking of saying 'cheers' or 'proposing a toast', apparently toasting is from years gone by when a large loving cup would be filled to the brim with a piece of toast floating on top.  This would be passed round at banquets with the host eventually draining the cup, swallowing the toast in honour of his guests.



A very old engine - the compartment in the middle was originally used to transport the officials inspecting the Manchester Ship Canal many years ago



Vintage transport



The 'Brewery Tap' bar and restaurant on-site is open from 1100 - 1800 Sunday and Monday and 1100 - 2300 the remainder of the week.  We completed our tour there and had another sample of beer and a bar snack.  Unfortunately it was empty apart from us and one other person and is struggling to get custom - they've only been open since 1 May so hopefully business will pick up soon.  It's a very tastefully decorated place with an extensive menu - a bit pricey for a family day out at the museum but would be well worth a visit for an evening meal.

All-in-all we were more impressed with Burton this year than last - but then last year it was pouring with rain on our visit so that always leaves a more negative impression.  To make up for it, here's five fascinating facts about Burton on Trent:

  1. Burton upon Trent is the largest town in the National Forest, and is internationally known as the capital of British brewing.
  2. It's the water in Burton that makes it such a special place for brewing beer - but not from the Trent as you would imagine - the local water in the gravel beds contains a high proportion of dissolved salts due to the gypsum in the surrounding hills, meaning more hops, a natural preservative, can be added to the beer.
  3. Marmite is a by-product of the brewing industry, and there's a factory in the town. This in turn generated the production of Bovril.
  4. Burton will be the location of the planned English National Football Centre, due to be opened in 2010.
  5. Burton was home to the Peel Family, who played a significant role in the industrial revolution and founded the Peelers, which became the modern day police force. The family home is still visible in town as Peel House on Lichfield Street.

We didn't after all watch the NZ Slovakia match - though Barry did catch a few minutes of the first half in a pub in town.  Spookily enough, when we left the Brewery Centre, the only other man who'd been in the pub was just walking past and informed us that New Zealand had scored in the final minutes to make it a 1-1 draw!  So we've still a slim chance of getting through to the next round ...


Waiting for the bus that never stopped






P1230321A Sorry no flower shot today - Barry had a couple of beers at the museum and forgot to take one!


  1. hi guys,glad you are back,followed you last year.Barrys photos are superb,what comes across is your love of life.all the best neil

  2. You two look very out of place with those little sample glasses of beer in your hands! Barry looks as though he should be lifting a little finger with his cup of tea! I'm following your blog every day now, waiting for you to visit the Thames and Wey Navigation. Hope you manage that, so that we can meet up for a beer or two.

    Ray Oakhill

  3. Just spent a happy day here based on your recommendation :) Would you believe we conincided with the International Beer Awards Festival so we didn't a get a tour like yours but we did have a marquee with about 200 beers to choose from for trying!!