CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Exeter Brewery

PUBLISHED: 12:12 23 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:12 23 February 2016

Alan Collyer, owner of Exeter Brewery

Alan Collyer, owner of Exeter Brewery


The Exeter Brewery’s organic real ale is so popular it’s exported to France via sail boat and rebranded for the Army, discovers Rachael D’Cruze-Sharpe

Greyhound lying in Brigham, just after the brewery had loaded her - taken by Alan.Greyhound lying in Brigham, just after the brewery had loaded her - taken by Alan.

“Some ales get their character from the grains, others from the hops,” explains Alan Collyer while I take in the different tastes and smells of the ales brewed at The Exeter Brewery.

I learn that the different colours of ale are a result of the use of different grains and I’m keen to know more about brewing, but first I learn a little about Alan and his business. The Exeter brewery was set up as it stands now, in Cowley Bridge Road, by Exeter St Davids railway station in 2003 and Alan took over in 2004. They now brew six ales on a full-time basis and also introduce seasonal specialties on top. The whole process is done on site by Alan and his expert team of seven. Their ales are a popular drink in the pubs around city and the bottles are a popular choice at Exeter Picturehouse and the theatres. The brewery’s own vans deliver the ales throughout Devon and into Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset and distributors take them right around the country and further afield.

Back to the pressing issue of ale, which I discover is essentially a mix of water, sugar – which comes from malted barley and turns into alcohol and smaller quantities of different grain and hops. Alan walks me around his brewery, which has a deep, heady, earthy smell, as he talks me though the brewing process. Hot liquor, the brewers term for water, and grains is added into the mix in the mash tun, which is a huge brewing vessel. This mixture is called the mash and it’s here that the sugar is released from the grain. The sugary mix is now called wort. From here the hops are added and then the wort is cooled and fermented. Cooling to below 20 degrees means that the yeast eats the sugar, turning it into alcohol and CO2 and it spends a week doing so in a fermenting vessel – also huge and imposing.

“Brewing is all about precise timing and temperatures,” says Alan, who goes on to explain that over this fermenting week he and his team will be monitoring and controlling the temperature to stop the yeast going crazy and spoiling the flavor. It’s important that the wort becomes alcohol slowly. The next step in the brewing process is called ‘final gravity’, which is specific to each ale. Here the brewers rapidly stop fermentation, cooling the ale to 6 degrees and pouring it into casks, which go into the cellar.

Real Ale is live, working ale – this means that there’s still enough residual sugar and fine yeast cells that, once it’s in the cellar where it’s warmed back up to 13 degrees, the yeast wakes up and secondary fermentation starts. This keeps the ale live and gives a lovely foamy head. The length of time an ale stays in the cellar at The Exeter Brewery depends on its type. For example, the stout, Darkness, is made from seven different grains and can take three weeks, but the brewery’s blonde ale, Avocet, needs to be in there for just five days.

The majority of ales that The Exeter Brewery produces have won awards. Alan is most proud of the award they recently won from Craft Brew Alliance for their newest ale, Lighterman, because at 3.5 % it’s a fairly weak ale but it still packs a punch and the award recognizes that. Avocet is the brewery’s original organic real ale, created by Alan and his team in 2008 – and it’s been a favorite from the offset. This pale ale is made with three varieties of organic hop. It has a distinct modern flavor, which is refreshing and has a slight citrus taste.

As well as being popular in Devon and throughout the country, Avocet, being blonde, also suits the continental market. So, for the last six years Alan has been exporting Avocet to France, the whole time championing sustainable transport by sending it via traditional sail boat. The first shipment left Brixham harbour in October 2009 aboard the 150 foot square rigger, the Tres Hombres. Since then there have been other shipments from Brixham, Plymouth and Falmouth and sales continue to grow. Avocet ale is now available in cafés and shops from Brittany to Paris. “I never imagined I’d be selling English ale to the French,” says Alan jollily.

The Exeter Brewery supports the city’s Armed Forced Parade and the first time they supplied Avocet, they were asked if they could rebottle it for the army. So they rebranded Avocet as Rifleman for them and it’s drunk by the army in the UK and in Northern Ireland and Germany, where we also have bases. The Exeter Brewery is an inspirational local company that flies the flag for Devon and our artisan food and drink far and wide. Brewing a storm indeed!

In the Tap Bar sits a grand portrait of Benjamin Salter, the original founder of The Exeter Brewery. This piece was the first that Alan acquired to form the collection of memorabilia that makes the quirky bar space even more inviting – it was brought from Benjamin Salter’s great-great grandson when he disbursed his mother’s estate. w

The Exeter Brewery’s Tap-Room bar is open to the public every Friday from 5pm, where you can try the brewery’s award-winning ales and also indulge in a pie and mash dinner. Once a month, on a Friday, the Tap-Room opens for a curry night too. Group tours of the brewery and private hire are also available.



Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Devon Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Devon Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Devon Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Tue, 16:33

With breathtaking beaches, rolling countryside, stately homes and unique villages, it’s no wonder high-profile film productions flock to Devon - how well do you know the movies that have set up camp here however?

Read more
Tue, 15:17

Whether it’s on our beautiful beaches, in our magnificent moors or within our stunning stately homes, film productions are constantly setting up in Devon. Here are 16 that you might not know used the county as a filming location

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

From angry spirits to headless horses and ghoulish monks, Devon has more than a few supernatural stories to get your skin crawling. We have picked 11 haunted places in the county

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October is the perfect time to discover the joys of Exmoor. Jennette Baxter of Visit Exmoor suggests five great ways to enjoy autumn on the moor

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Wild camping can be one of the best ways to escape the crowds for a night or two and lose yourself in the landscape - SOPHIE PAVELLE chooses her five favourite places to ‘wild-life’ camp in Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

From sandy beaches and lighthouse-topped cliffs to views of the Jurassic Coast, the Devon coastline offers many perfect locations for a seaside walk. We pick 10 of the prettiest routes to take

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Take our quiz to find out how well you really know Devon

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As the weather starts to warm up and the Devon countryside beckons, LIZZIE JANE of the National Trust in the South West offers plenty of walk ideas for you to try. Whether you want a relaxed Sunday stroll or a more strenuous hike, here are 10 walks across Devon (and beyond) to help you escape the crowds and head off the beaten track

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The South West Coast Path is celebrating 40 years by calling on people to help raise £40,000. To show their support, teams from Devon’s top tourist attractions are preparing to take to the trail. CHRISSY HARRIS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Away from the hustle of places like Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, North Devon is peppered with tiny coves, empty beaches and wooded walks leading to secluded bays that feel a million miles away from the tourist trail. BECKY DICKINSON reveals her pick of the best kept secrets on the North Devon coast

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

As part of her regular series where she visits Devon’s best places for 24 hours, Lydia Tewkesbury has this time been to Sidmouth

Read more
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Ranging from rocky and windy walkways along the South West Coast Path to the sandy beaches on the picturesque coastline, the district of North Devon is one of the prettiest coastal areas in the South West of England. In no particular order, here are 10 of the prettiest villages in the district of North Devon

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

In Devon’s towns and cities there’s an awful lot you can do in just 24 hours. For her regular feature, Lydia Tewkesbury travels to see what you can do in a day in Kingsbridge

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Villages in Devon are some of the prettiest in the South West. From beautiful little hamlets on the outskirts of the moors to seaside communities, we pick 10 villages in Devon you need to visit

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search