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GES081 - Courage Brewery, Berkshire (Demolished)

August 2010

The Berkshire Brewery opened on the Worton Grange site in 1978, and closed in April 2010. The Brewery was owned by Scottish & Newcastle who made the decision to close the 6,000,000 litre plant in 2008. This signalled the end of Reading’s brewing heritage which began with H & G Simonds’ brewhouse in Broad Street in 1785. The chief brands manufactured there were Fosters, Kronenbourg 1664, John Smiths, Strongbow and Courage Best. The plant is now waiting to be decommissioned. Source: Various

Early on a Sunday morning, I wearily scooted up to Hammersmith Mall, to pick up GE077 and we headed up the M4. I was a bit worried about GE077's sleepy state, and had a few checks as we shot up the M4 at a maximum 62mph, on the flat. I tried to bury the memories as I passed Jct.10, so often i'd whizzed off to Lower Earley where I lived for a while with an ex. sob. At Jct. 11 i battled through the mass of traffic cones and saw the chimney of the Berkshire site. Parking up at a local mini mall, our tough and hardened explorer skillz were proved weak and shite, as we failed to find a way out the back end of the mini-mall, hampered by a moat and noisy heras. So we walked the long way round and into a spinney. Soon we were observing the site and discussing ways in. A few cars were parked up to our far left, so going right seemed the natural option. Using what cover we could find, and legging it across open ground. We got to a typical 70's style office building surrounded by countless kegs piled high.

A grassy bank at the back of the site provided some minimal cover as we crouch ran to behind some skips, and got an eyefull of the main manufacturing buildings.

Nipping behind more outbuildings, we were now close enough to the main buildings to contemplate entry. I was amazed at the lack of cctv covering the place, just as GE077 pointed out that there was one we just passed. Balls. Although luckily nothing came of it. Looking across the way, there appeared to be a very obvious way into the buildings. A little too obvious, a door left wide open. I remained suspicious, but GE077 was game, so we dashed across and carefully checked out the door. Didn't look like anyone was about. So in we went.

We whipped up some steps and onto a higher level of the factory, in order to keep an eye out for anyone who should be there. Looking over the edge.

Satisfied, we dropped back to the main floor. This is below where we just were.

A production line

And more production line!

I spent some time trying to capture this 'production line river' as it snakes down and then divides in front of the camera. My first chance to lightpaint with my P7 torch, cheers to GE031 for the introduction.

The production lines from above as they head towards the distribution bay.

The back of a large chiller area. I quite liked the repetitiveness of this shot, but as always, sadly haven't captured it right.

What I would call a chiller unit (from previous pic), but most likely wasn't. The whole unit is sealed unlike the rest of the floor.

From the level the camera is on, the beer/cider cans funnelled along and down the shoot (bottom right). The line below would presumably attach those plastic ring things that hold cans together, and they'd be chucked in boxes.

Finger on the pulse, the control box for the despatch lanes.

The intrepid explorer on despatch lanes.

While trying to find a way into the next building, we passed what looked like a chiller unit, with a two way insulated door. Nothing prepared us for what we saw inside, we were expecting a low ceiling room, instead these gigantic 3 storey high vessels.

The tops of the giganticon vessels. Conveniently here there was also a way onto the roof.

Looking over the packing and production lines of the brewery.

The seemingly unnecessary large round tops on the roof of the giganticon vessels. Oops, caught in GE077's field of view.

Walking around, we found ourselves in a room with more huge container vessels, all identical.

Pipeage, in the room above.

Still in the same room as the above two pics, some vats off to the side of the main containers. A tiny GE077 in the background.

Walking through by the vats above, we found ourselves in a corridor with various offices, and a bridge over to the next part of the complex. Very handy for avoiding detection. We entered a bit of the building with 3 identical floors on top of each other for something called 'cold conditioning'. A large cooling grill.

One floor of cold conditioning tanks, there was another above, and one below like this.

Proper willy waving. This area sat between the cold conditioning tanks, there was a set on the other side of the left and right walls. This area was replicated on the floor above and below.

After walking past some offices and labs, we entered some more areas of the brewing production line. The vessels on the left were all heated as they had hot warning stickers.

A room of centrifuges, not Saddam Hussein's missing weapons of mass destruction uranium refining area, but it was close to an area with yeast processing.

Rooms with a distinctive yeasty goodness smell, mmmmm!

From here it was onto another roof. Looking West across the plant.

Across the packing and production lines, one can see the vast amount of kegs stacked up on the site. In the background the home of crappy Reading FC.

In front of us lay a bizarre warren of fibreglass huts, like some sort of quick build Ewok* village. It was at this point we started to hear sporadic shrill alarms. That lasted 30" each blast. They went off a few times from here onwards and for the life of me I couldn't see anything that was triggering them. Still, I did some quick aerobics, and continued into the fibreglass huts.

More posing inside the tunnels. They were used to access the tops of the huge vessels beneath.

As we crossed into the brewhouse, yet another alarm went off when we were in a stairwell. Yet again, there was no sign of an alarm. So after hotfooting it down a few flights, we found the control room and some more brewing vats.

Inside the brewhouse control room.

Another alarm went off in this area, and we decided it was time to quit the building. As we walked on the upper level of the control room area, we heard footsteps and the jangling of keys. Security had clearly woken up and came to find the intruders. We didn't hang around to see him, and descended to the ground floor and came across some empty dull rooms. We did pass this room, which I quickly stopped to snap. The bottom (I think) of the huge vats with the fibreglass *Ewok village on top. Then kept on walking quickly out.

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We speed walked (that's speed walking as in the Olympic sport, not how fellow explorer GE010 walks!) back past the cold conditioning tanks and over into the production line and packing building. I wanted to see what the other side of the huge warehouse like building offered. After passing along an admin corridor with bland offices, some still in use. My eyes befell the glory of below. My jaw dropped.

Nothing could have prepared us for that, 3 warehouse stuffed full of b, b, ba, boooozzeee! Not sure Fosters is a brand people love to drink, but fair play. Strongbow used to be brewed by Bulmers of Hereford, where I grew up. It was bought out by Scottish & Newcastle. Globalisation, the unstoppable beast.

Finally we descended some stairs and cautiously entered the boooooozeee warehouse. We crept around, surely there would be security here, cctv, infrared devices? There was something in the brewhouse. But nope, nada. Even so, I resisted the temptation to touch a single can and enter alcohol poisoning hell. A 4 pack of John Smiths is £3.50, a criminal record costs a lot more.

And with that, we left via a fire exit door, and legged it across to the mound at the back of the site, and re-traced our steps out. A call to GES043 proved nothing more than he wasn't answering his phone due to a state of concious called 'asleep.' So we hopped back on the green demon, and fired off down the M4 to civilisation.

* (c) George Lucas TM

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