Mandy Morello And The Beer Brewery

January 9, 2015

 This month Mandy Morello looks back on her the first time she met the love of her life – alcohol.

If I look back on my life B.D. (before drinking) it’s hard to say that it was completely devoid of alcohol. Without ever passing my lips, the dark crimson stain of drinking is blotted all over the sheets of my childhood.

On my short walks to school in Swindon I could smell the crisp fragrance of wheat. My friends and I used to describe it as a Weetabix-type pong. It hung in the cold air every morning whilst we gossiped in the playground before lessons. This strong odour was escaping the grand chimneys of the Arkell’s Ale Brewery. It was the scent of brewing beer.

This smell poured into my school and home, which was also in a close vicinity. As the brewery was a building that had opened in 1863, my school gave history lessons on the Arkell’s which educated me in both Victorian brewing and ale. It was a hard place to ignore due to the community spirit of the founder John Arkell (Honest John) and its size which seems to cast a shadow over the Stratton area.

Outside of my area, which revelled in the essence of Arkell’s Ale, the brand built an empire. They own pubs all over the industrial town and in the Wiltshire region. The bitter taste has won awards and the hearts of the Swindon people who still fill the Arkell’s pubs. The pubs are lively and warm unlike the many public houses that are left to rot after rather taxing government policies on pubs.

When I started to drink in my early teens, I began to hang out in one of the local pubs, The Bakers Arms. It was an upgrade from my previous nighttime park-and-can gatherings. It was owned by Arkell’s and it had this kind of warmth no London pub could emulate. A giant dog would sit in the corner unfazed whilst a leathery barmaid stood behind the pumps, caked in makeup and with what I could only describe as two mandarins tumbling out of her blouse. She was always on hand to serve an ale and a conversation to any stranger who entered through the creaky doors. My friends and I would meet here in all seasons, to enjoy the beer garden in the summer or to stand under the heated lamps in the snow. This is where I tried my first pickled egg and crisps – a delectable pub snack that I will enjoy for the rest of my life.

Many moments were shared here like my first New Year’s as an 18 year old by the crackling fire. Or the first time that I discovered that I really can’t sing by having a go at the karaoke. My favourite memory was when my friend had a pint tipped over his head for his hilarious accent impersonations. This is the place where I met my neighbours, new friends, and enemies. A pub that was loved by the community, and I have Arkell’s to thank for that.

My lifetime with Arkell’s came to a climax when I travelled back home in the summer of 2013, when the the brewery were celebrating their 170th birthday. They invited the public behind the locked gates that I used to peer into when I was a girl like an alcoholic Charlie Bucket. They offered discounted half pints of a wide range of ale including all of their own. Beer bellys were filled as barrels were emptied. This was the first time I had seen men queuing for the toilet whilst women slipped in and out. So refreshing to see. There was a selection of vintage classic cars, steamrollers and buses on display whilst people engaged in tours around the buildings.

As I sipped on my 7th beer, my friends began to warn me that the next day I would feel the revenge of the Arkell’s (aka the Arkell’s Arse). I felt a pang of fear but I continued drinking the smooth cold beverage that was quenching my thirst. It was a hot summery day that seemed to breeze by with the sounds of bands playing and the BBQ sizzling until eventually my mates and I found we were the last ones left. We drunkenly got up as the security began ushering us out.

After the festivities, I sat in a dusty old armchair in the nearest Arkell’s pub, The Kingsdown. I sat reminiscing with my old Swindon buddies thinking of all the memories I’ve shared in Swindon, the brewery’s playground. These traditional British pubs have set a paradigm from which I judge all other pubs on. If there is anything that growing up with beer has taught me it’s that it’s not just about the flavour. It’s about the memories and the way a good pint can bring a whole community together in a way any other type of produce can’t. In this way, the Arkell’s began my relationship with alcohol, and it was also Arkell’s who brought me up.


Mandy Morello

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    1 comment

  • Terry Townsend
    January 9, 2015

    Piss up in a brewery, brilliant.

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