The hidden Exeter drinking spot with its own former train platform

Award-winning Exeter Brewery has a hidden secret that not many people know about and it is more than happy to share it. Not only does it meticulously craft just a small number of full-time beverages alongside specials from its base in Cowley Bridge Road alongside the tracks of Exeter St David's railway station, it also has a Tap Room bar with its very own former station platform which is open to the public twice a week.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it was extended and renovated and now offers a pub-like feel where people can socialise while sampling its produce every Thursday and Friday from 5pm onwards. Pints can be washed down with a section of award-winning Devon-based Tom's Pies served with mash, minted peas and proper gravy.

The walls of the Tap Room are adorned with rows of certificates celebrating the brewery's award successes which range from Champion Beer of Britain to Taste of the West.

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Its latest award success has been achieved through its 'Fraid Not IPA, said to be its 'hoppiest ale'. It won gold at MaltingsFest beer festival in Newton Abbot. Altogether it picked up six awards, its biggest haul yet at the festival.

However, its most popular and renowned drink is Avocet - Devon’s original organic real ale. It was created in 2008 and is made with three varieties of organic hop and has a refreshing slightly citrus taste. It is said to be particularly nice in the spring and summer as it is really light and it also makes it a good choice to go with food.

Exeter Brewery's Tap Room
Exeter Brewery's Tap Room -Credit:DevonLive

Exeter Brewery has eight full-time beers, two keg products as well as seasonal ales. Its latest is called S'Mild, a limited edition mild ale at 4%. It also produces EX1, an IPA-style kegged beer described as being a 'proper' IPA and a 'bit more crafty', and a stout called Darkness Keg. Cider lovers are also catered for with its Sumasider.

When you visit the Tap Room, there is no chance of forgetting where the brewery is based because of the sound of trains passing by. A hefty door on the far side of the room, complete with an apt brewing tap instead of a doorknob, leads to an outdoor area where you sit with a drink.

Exeter Brewery sales manager Jonathan Carter
Exeter Brewery sales manager Jonathan Carter -Credit:DevonLive

It used to be a station platform and its history is revealed by brewery sales manager Jonathan Carter.

He said: "This building used to be a distribution unit for Cadbury.'s. It's also been a recording studio but originally was a Post Office sorting office for mail coming down on trains and then it would be dispatched into vans."

The history of the current Exeter Brewery dates back to 2006. However, the founder of the original Exeter Brewery was Benjamin Salter. A portrait of him proudly hangs in the Tap Room, donated by his great-great-great grandson.

Exeter Brewery's Tap Room outdoor former platform drinking area
Exeter Brewery's Tap Room outdoor former platform drinking area -Credit:DevonLive

Benjamin founded Exeter Brewery in 1834 in partnership with Thomas Owen senior and Thomas Owen junior, and also acquired the City Brewery, remaining in partnership until 1845. In 1843, while still with the brewery, he was elected High Sheriff of Exeter for the normal one year term.

The Tap Room opened around nine years ago and has proved a popular addition to the brewery.

Jonathan said: "Anyone can come down and enjoy a few of our exceptional award-winning ales. Closing time is usually about 9pm but if we're really busy we will stay open longer. It's a good way of showcasing our ales.

"People can also hire out the Tap Room for meetings, private parties or bespoke events and have it completely to themselves. We also do brewery tours for groups of 15 people or more."

Exeter Brewery's Tap Room
Exeter Brewery's Tap Room -Credit:DevonLive

The managing director of Exeter Brewery is Alan Collyer who reveals they are considering expanding the opening days of the Tap Room to make it a bigger part of its busy operation.

He explains that Exeter Brewery is the only 'proper' brewery in Exeter because its sole purpose is brewing and selling beer rather than those which just brew for their own pubs. It delivers its produce directly in its own vans anywhere between Penzance and right into the city of London as well as Gloucester.

Well-known brands it supplies to include Wetherspoon, Punch Pubs, Heavitree Brewery and St Austell Brewery.

Exeter Brewery's Tap Room
Exeter Brewery's Tap Room -Credit:DevonLive

Alan said: "For our size, we deliver to a broader range of areas than pretty much any of our competitors in Devon. There's been an explosion in the number of small breweries in the last few years and there are probably about 50 little breweries in Devon. We are in the top five of those.

"The Tap Room has never been of great significance as our main focus is making beer which we sell all over the country but I think we should perhaps explore ways of opening it more often because it's a nice spot and people love it when they come, especially as there's no other pubs in this area now."

Exeter Brewery
Exeter Brewery -Credit:DevonLive

In December 2021, Exeter Brewery became the new owner of legendary Exeter pub The Hour Glass. It closed in May 2021 and it was feared it would never reopen or might be changed after being taken over by a big chain. Instead, it has retained its unique character and remains one of the most popular 'proper' pubs in the city thanks to Exeter Brewery.

The brewery is also known for its close links with Exeter Chiefs and donates some of its proceeds from Tomahawk and Grubber Rugby Beer to the Chief's charity Exeter Foundation. It is also a sponsor of Hospiscare Men's Walk giving participants over the age of 18 a courtesy pint at the end.