Brewing has taken place in the county for over 800 years, many fine breweries have prospered here producing some fine and well loved ales for the thirsty people of the town, today that tradition continues with many small artisan brewers recreating some of the beers from yesterday and also creating new takes on old idea's.
The water found deep underground in the centre of Northampton is particularly well suited to brewing and has been used over the centuries and on to this day with Carlsberg using it in its own brewing operations.
Come with us and visit some of the breweries and meet the brewers whose passion is reflected in the quality of the beers produced, sample for yourself from the wide variety of beer types, my particular taste is for a nice porter, but there are pale ales, IPA's, bitters, stouts, and many others to try.
During the course of excavations for a new building currently being constructed in the centre of Northampton a 13th century malting oven was uncovered. This was dismantled and reassembled not too far from its original location and can be viewed today.
The 13th Century malting oven
Wooden Walls of old England
Public Houses linked to the war
Civil war ghosts in Northamptonshire
The Worlds End Public House, Ecton Village, Northamptonshire.
The name is an interesting one for a public house, and one suggested reason for the pub having the name The Worlds End is that a temporary prison compound may have been there for royalist prisoners taken at the 1645 Battle of Naseby.
The pub is said to have got its name from the time when it was used as a temporary prison for those captured at the Battle of Naseby in 1645 on their way to face trial in London. Because of the fairly primitive medicine available at that time many soldiers on both sides died of wounds suffered during the fighting and just as likely from the ill treatment they received from their captors, hence the name The World's End.
The cellar its is said was used as a mortuary and over the years many landlords have reported the sound of footfalls and shadowy figures in the basement. I often used this pub as a young man but at the time was completely unaware of its connection with the war, now whenever I pass it I think back to what it may have been like to those unfortunate individuals who spent their last days on earth imprisoned within its walls.
As well as its connection to the war Ecton is best known as a place of pilgrimage for visitors from the United States, being home to the family of Benjamin Franklin for over 300 years. A blacksmith by trade, Franklin's father was born here in 1655 and is buried, with many of his ancestors, in the churchyard.
The Falcon, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
The Falcon is a 500-year-old Cambridgeshire pub believed to have been used by Oliver Cromwell and thought to be the oldest pub in Huntingdon, this 16th Century inn was reputedly a Civil War headquarters for Cromwell, who was born in the town in 1599. Believed to be where Oliver Cromwell had his headquarters and also where he recruited his New Model Army. The English statesman's army defeated King Charles I's forces at the Battle of Naseby in 1645. Cromwell later co-signed the king's death warrant. Cromwell addressed his troops from the upstairs window of the Falcon when they were stood in the market square.
Renaissance in brewing in Northamptonshire.
In the dark days of my largely misspent youth the beer available was with a few notable exceptions uniformly bad, there were some shockers, beer that had no right to call itself beer by any definition of the word, which is why is those far off days I drank lager.
Since then in line with the rest of the country we have seen in Northamptonshire a rise in the number of small breweries from something like eight a few years ago to twenty two, all producing a variety of it has to be said mostly very good brews. The people that started these enterprises are passionate about beer, its quality and its availability to the widest spectrum of beer drinkers.
A few years ago I discovered a dark beer "Beijing Black" being served on draught in a pub I had gone into for a meal, and dark beers are what I favour, Porters, Stouts, Milds, these are my beers of choice and this particular beer is brewed by PotBelly Brewery.
I made a note of the breweries details and contacted them the next day and I asked if I could meet the owners and take a look around the brewery fully expecting to be told they were too busy, so imagine my delight when Ian one of the owners said "come over tomorrow and I'll show you round".
So on a Saturday morning I travelled over to meet Ian and chat with him about the business, Ian can be seen below removing the yeast from the top of the latest brews in the three fermentation tanks.
Conditioning vessels Pinky and Perky
I got chatting to Ian about how the business has started, and about the building the brewery was located in which looked very much like an old factory, and an interesting story emerged of how three work colleagues had worked in the same building when it was a leather factory making belts and other leather items, sadly competition from abroad eventually caused the company to stop trading.
Before this happened Ian had with another of the lads Tony tried to keep the business going while Glen experimented with small scale brewing, with a view to seeing if this could be another business for them.
Glen also touted round the local pubs to see if he could raise any interest in their fledgling beers, and their success was such that I'm told that now Potbelly supply hundreds of outlets with their products.
Indeed you can see some of their beers not only in pubs but also in local supermarkets which is proof that locally produced drinks and foods are now taken a lot more seriously.
The Potbelly story I'm glad to say is only one of many tales of how enterprising individuals have revitalised brewing and provided to the great British drinker a wonderful variety of beers which beer drinkers 30 or 40 years ago would have died for.
At the weekend I went to one of my favourite country pubs -
And above you can see all the local producers they use including PotBelly, if you are ever visiting Northamptonshire I would highly recommend this pub / restaurant, the food is excellent and very reasonably priced and the service is superb, I know a lot of places can talk the talk when it comes to customer service but here they can walk the walk, and they do it consistently.