The Vermin Brewing Research Team's first stop was at Jennings Brewery in Cockermouth, Cumbria, England. The price of the tour cost around US$6 per person, but that included a "free sample".
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We arrived a bit early for the tour, so after visiting the small gift shop, we walked about outside and tried to get a glimpse through the trees of the castle next door, for which the brewery was famous. The delicious smell in the air was of the beer being brewed.
Our tour guide was a very friendly woman who led us around the various rooms, brewing equipment and tanks, told us plenty of information and stories, and allowed us to sample some of the grains and smell some of the hops. The brewery was an actual working brewery which meant there were yards of hoses to step over, narrow steel staircases to climb, low hanging doorways to be wary off, delivery trucks to keep out of the way of, etc. Most of the brewing equipment itself was quite traditional in style and had been working faithfully for many years.
At the end of the tour, we entered the tasting room where we first watched a short video about the brewery. We then each got five different samples of VERY delicious beers after which we were entitled to choose a half pint of our favorite. While we were all tasting and discussing the beers, the head brewer himself even showed up to sample the beer with us. All in all, it was a very pleasant, very personable experience.
The second stop was at Black Sheep Brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire, England. Again the price was about the same and included both a tour and a sample.
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This brewery was very different from the previous one. It was much larger and even contained quite a substantial restaurant. We occupied our time in the large gift shop until the tour started.
The tour began by way of an introductory video. Then the tour guide, a man with a rather thick accent, told us some history of the place. He even had a black rubber rat to represent the previous residents of the building. We then got to look at some grains, smell some hops, and wander through the more modern brewery. The large copper kettles were in the traditional styles, but the fermenting tanks were quite new. Unfortunately the rather large size of the group made it very difficult to see or hear, especially in such a noisy place like a working brewery.
Just like at the previous brewery, after the tour came the tasting... but just a half pint of only one type of beer. It was also far less personal since one just got the beer at the bar by the restaurant and was unable to ask many questions about it (although the tour guide was more than generous with the amount of handouts available to the public). The restaurant did, however, have a variety of foods made with their own beer, such as the fruitcake (made with their Riggwelter beer) and Riggwelter toffee.