Arkell’s autumn brew honours armed forces

By Barrie Hudson - 5 November 2021

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  • From left: George Arkell, Poppy Appeal Organiser April Porter, Swindon Branch RBL Chair Graham Jackson, Vice Chair and Treasurer Phil Nobbs and Alex Arkell at The Tawny Owl, where the new ale was launched

    From left: George Arkell, Poppy Appeal Organiser April Porter, Swindon Branch RBL Chair Graham Jackson, Vice Chair and Treasurer Phil Nobbs and Alex Arkell at The Tawny Owl, where the new ale was launched

Swindon family brewer Arkell’s has unveiled a mild ale for autumn called Contemptibles.

With a long and distinguished history of military service in the Arkell family, the brewery is paying tribute to British forces in this the centenary year of The Royal British Legion. 

Head Brewer Alex Arkell said: “This is a perfect brew for Autumn; we’ve used chocolate malt for the dark colour, which also adds warm roasted and sweet tones, with a light hop aroma to compliment.  At four percent this is considered strong for a mild, but this way we get a little more flavour into the lighter bodied beer.”

The Arkell military connection can be dated back to current Chairman James Arkell’s great-great-great-grandfather who joined the Second Wiltshire Rifle Corps in 1888. 

However, this beer's name originates from the nickname given to the British Expeditionary Force who served in France and Flanders in 1914.  Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany reportedly issued an order to “Exterminate…the treacherous English and walk over… the contemptible little army”.  In later years, the survivors of the regular army dubbed themselves ‘The Old Contemptibles’. 

Sir Noel Arkell and Graham Arkell fought in World War One in 1914 and survived, although Noel returned wounded, having been shot in the shoulder.  They both feature on the beer's pump clip design. 

Noel’s sons, James and Peter, fought in World War Two. James served with the Gurkhas in Burma and Java, where he was killed in action aged just 26, devasting his loved ones.

His brother, Peter Arkell, served in the RAF, flying Lysanders into France under cover of darkness to retrieve secret agents by moonlight. He later transferred to Burma where he completed many landings behind Japanese lines. After a serious crash behind enemy lines he was finally invalided out of the RAF.

Current Chairman James Arkell was in the Territorial Army and has commanded The Royal Yeomanry Regiment, he is President of Swindon Branch Royal British Legion.  

He said: “We have beer and military service running through the family veins, from my great-great-great-grandfather to my son, John, who served in Afghanistan.”

In 1921 The Royal British Legion was formed to support service men and women, ex-service personnel and their families.  They are the champions of Remembrance and this year celebrate their centenary.  

Alex Arkell says he combined beer and military heritage to create Contemptibles for a time of year when we remember and honour all those who have died in service of their country.

George and Alex Arkell were joined at The Tawny Owl pub by Swindon Branch RBL Chair Graham Jackson, Vice Chair and Treasurer Phil Nobbs and Poppy Appeal Organiser April Porter to toast the new ale, which is available in participating Arkell’s pubs now.  

George Arkell said “The Royal British Legion is a fantastic charity whom we love to support.  This year we are an official sponsor of their centenary cookbook ‘Cooking with Heroes’ with a page dedicated to our brewery amongst the delicious recipe ideas from acting or former members of the military."

The book is available online via www.poppyshop.org.uk/products/legion-100-cookbook and from Arkell’s Grape & Grain Wine & Brewery Warehouse.

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