When I say that I visited a windmill yesterday, I’m sure you will immediately picture a tall wooden tower with four sails, but Heckington Windmill in Lincolnshire, has eight. Towering over the village, Heckington Windmill is the only surviving eight-sailed windmill in Western Europe, and it looks quite magnificent. It was originally built in 1830 as a five-sailed windmill, but after a severe storm blew the cap and sails off in 1892, it was repaired with eight sails salvaged from a windmill down the road in Boston. In 2010, with seven of the eight sails in dire need of repair, the mill had to stop working, until thankfully in 2013, it was awarded a Heritage Lottery grant. Now all eight sails have been replaced, and an extensive regeneration project has been initiated, including a proposed new visitor centre, and reinstating the old bakehouse.
Next door to the windmill is the 8 Sail Brewery (immediately to the right of the windmill in the picture above). Brewing was actually taking place as we arrived, and the warm, moist aroma of malt and brewing pervaded the whole building. In between the strictly timed addition and stirring in of the hops, Tony showed us around, clearly explaining the brewing processes. The brewery, with a 6 barrel brew plant, was set up in 2010, in the old sack and grain store next to the Windmill. It produces about a dozen different craft beers, including Bramling, Millstone, Black Widow, and of course, 8 Sail Ale, using English ingredients, including locally grown barley. Up until now, barley has been purchased ready to use from the maltsters, but within the next few days the windmill next door will begin milling all the barley needed by the brewery. Dried hops are usually added, but just as we arrived, a sack of green hops from Herefordshire was being tipped into one of the barrels. (Green, or fresh hops, need to be used within 36 hours of picking!) When Tony had given the barrel a good stir, I climbed the ladder and peered into the swirling mass, and a pungent cloud of steam engulfed me! After being shown around so well, I felt it would be very rude not to buy any beers 🙂 So I came away with a bottle each of Damson Porter, Gee, John Barleycorn and Flour Power – I’ll let you know which one I like best!
For more info about Heckington Windmill: http://www.heckingtonwindmill.org.uk
For more info about 8 Sail Brewery: http://www.8sailbrewery.co.uk