Monday 22 December 2014

Have a good Yule / Xmas break!

This is the final post for 2014, a year which has seen some massive upheavals in the brewery but we've come through it stronger and having learnt a lot so expect 2015 to continue along the same tracks we've been ploughing with plenty of one-off pale and hoppy beers, the odd dark one, and some surprises which we'll let you know about next year!  

Oh yeah, and collaborations too... we've loads in the tentative planning stage so we need to firm those up and get some beers brewed.

So, to all our customers - both trade and personal - may we wish you all a happy Yule and hope you get to enjoy plenty of hoppy beer over the period (as well as other stuff too...) and we'll see you all next year, raring to go, but for now... CHEERS!!

Gazza and Jay, the brewhouse team.

Monday 15 December 2014

Wrapping it all up

Excuse the terrible pun, but this is indeed our final week before we shut down for the Xmas break until new year, a day here and there notwithstanding.

So, it's time to wash all the casks we have and fill them up with beer ready for next year, give the brewery a full caustic brew then put it to bed until new year when it all starts over again!

The coming weekend sees the final deliveries of the year (probably) to Sheffield plus Gazza will be at the beer scooper's Xmas piss-up around Sheffield on Saturday 20th so come and buy him a beer or throw things at him, your choice...

Thursday 11 December 2014

Two M4 trips in less than a week...

I sit writing this knackered from a 12-hour, 400 mile day delivering another load of casks to our lovely customers in Devizes, Reading, Wantage and Rowhook!  We generally do a vanload per month to London but, this month, we filled the van twice and probably could have done another run if someone had inserted another day into the calendar...

Anyhow, we're brewing tomorrow - the first and only time in December as we stocked up on beer during October and November - and it'll be a Black IPA, the first one since "Ta Moko" in October 2013 and only our second one ever... unless you count "Graveyard Eyes" Mk.1 as one (you'd have a good argument if you did...)

It'll be a 5.5%-ish beast with 100+ IBUs from the glorious combination of Citra, Summit, Cluster and Columbus hops and Weyermann Carafa Spezial No.1 and, as you've probably guessed, it doesn't have a name yet although we'll think of one eventually.  I love Black IPAs but, for reasons unknown, they haven't featured on the brewing schedule as heavily as I'd have liked; hopefully this will remedy that situation!

Friday 5 December 2014

"Goldings Balls" is in cask

Guessing this isn't the kind of name you expect from us, eh?

Well, that's what collabs are about, taking something from each participant and creating something both can put their name to... which is, hopefully, what this will end up!

Anyhow, it's in cask and tasting mellow, malty, softly fruity and with a gentle bitterness and yellow/gold in colour... it'll be out and about from next week so watch out for it and please let us know what you think if you get to try it!

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Dry-hopping in the FV

Is something we've only tried once before (it didn't really work) but, for our Mumbles collab, we decided to give it another blast with the soft fruity Waimea hops from New Zealand.

OK, it looks like an algae-covered pond, but I'm sure it'll taste lovely!  We've given it a stir a couple of times and each time it's returned to this state so that's it - we're leaving it alone until Friday when we cask it up!

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Collab with Mumbles brewery

Today we did a collab with Rob Turner of Mumbles brewery; it was a proper collab in that both sides got stuff added and removed from the recipe which is just as it should be!  Despite our best efforts we haven't come up with a name as yet but that is being worked on...

We ended up with a pale ale brewed with 98% pale malt, mostly Maris Otter, plus a dab of malted wheat and hopped with Eldorado, Admiral and... erm.... Goldings!  yes, you read that correctly, UK Goldings were used, but as Rob uses them a lot and we don't it was decided that to be a proper collab we needed to bite the bullet and get some Goldings into the copper...  It'll be dry-hopped with Waimea in the fermenter, another diversion from usual politburo diktats, to speed up the dry-hopping process and also to see what happens.

It's also the biggest brew we've ever done at 2400 litres; it started off as 2275 but, after taking the SG reading on transfer, we found it to be 3 points over target and decided to "liquor back" with 125 litres of water to achieve the intended gravity of 1045.8 giving, potentially, an ABV of 5% or so.

Some photos from the day are below...

You'll fit a bit more in there...

Gazza and Jay with the Goldings

Rob with some lovely Eldorado

Rob adding the aroma hops

More hops!

Mashing in

Gazza "working"

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Bamberg trip 2014

Let's just say this... if you're going to go to a prestigious event like the Weyermann Bavarian party, don't go out drinking with a load of mad Catalan brewers the night before.  Trust me, just don't do it.

The Weyermann do was a good evening though, great beer, food and company... here's to next year!

Kevin, Gazza and Pep at Zapfhahn, Bamberg

German craft beers in the hotel room

Yes, hop liquor chocolate!!

The Weyermann distillery's beer schnapps

Kevin and Gazza in Pizzini, Bamberg
Pep with a superb tattoo!!

Inside Schlenkerla, Bamberg

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Red Water apparently what Waimea means, so that's what we are calling our latest super-pale brew as it's made with Waimea as the main dry-hop addition; makes sense, really I suppose.

It's currently in FV2 on chill after it's primary fermentation and will be going into conditioning tanks 4 and 5 next Monday along with 5kg of aforementioned Waimea New Zealand hops which smell like those pineapple cubes you used to get from sweet shops if you're old enough to remember those!

And, having used the new Muntons "super-pale" malt, it's extremely pale in colour, almost industrial lager yellow in colour!  The picture below is from our 100th brew, but it's looking quite similar to this.

It's looking similar to this.... which is VERY pale, believe me!

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Two new beers in cask

Well, one is new, the other is actually version 2....

Today we racked up "Exercise One", our latest pale, fruity 5% brew from the Joy Division series, plus version 2 of "Naughty Boy!" our oatmeal pale ale with a much-revised recipe from version 1 which means, basically, more and better hops!

Tomorrow it's a trip down the M4 to Reading and Wantage with a full vanload including some of the casks we racked today - things don't hang around long here - before a brewday on Thursday of our as yet un-named NZ super-pale ale with Pacific Jade, Waimea and Dr Rudi.

Monday 10 November 2014

Off to Bavaria!

Well, Franconia actually, which as any fule kno is technically part of Bavaria, but far superior for brewing much better beer and being the name of a 40.  But you already knew that...

But why Franconia in November?  Well, it's that time of year when the Weyermann maltings in Bamberg, still family run and operating from a Lowryesque Victorian era brick complex (with plenty of new bits added on), throws open the doors for their annual "Bavarian party" where customers from around the world are invited to roll up, say hello to the Weyermann family, then eat and drink lots of lovely comestibles including - in my opinion - the most interesting German beers brewed on the on-site brewery; what's not to like?

It's an invitation-only affair so you need to be recommended; luckily for us Farams, the hop merchants, like us enough to put us forwards onto the invitation list and so Gazza is off to Germany on Friday, flying with Lufthansa to really get into the German spirit of things!  It's not just a jolly - as much as it may sound like one - as much chin wagging with other brewers will be done and ideas for new beers brought back.

Before that, though, we're doing some work and casking up some "Exercise One", the latest Joy Division series brew - this one containing Citra and Eldorado - and "Naughty Boy", our oatmeal pale ale which is crafted from a whole host of fruity hops.   We'll also be putting away the casks of "Cloister Enkel" which were racked last week and have spent the weekend conditioning in the brewery plus all the random cleaning, tidying and suchlike these procedures inevitably invoke.

We're also brewing again: this time we're sticking with the super pale malt but this time with New Zealand hops; Dr Rudi, Waimea and Pacific Jade will be utilised to produce what we hope will be a lovely mellow fruity brew with the trademark NZ soft tropical zestiness... it's as yet un-named, as is now traditional for us!

On the up and coming list - and yes, there actually is one of these - are "Permanent Revolution", our red half-IPA, another brew of Golden Pixie, the next Joy Division beer "Something must Break" which uses Citra and Chinook, plus the start of our "Insult to History" series of beers which may kick off with an Imperial Mild... maybe, we've not decided yet.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Gyle 100, and what happens next

We finally did it.... we brewed our 100th gyle of beer!!

It's taken us 17 months to get here, but "every hop i love is dead" is now in FV1 with a pack of US05 yeast which, Bacchus willing, will turn it into a super-pale hoppy beast.

Gyle 100 is a simple beer; 97% super-pale malt and 3% wheat malt, then Warrior, Cascade and Simcoe hops in the copper and more lovely Simcoe in the conditioning tank.  Warrior is used as it's a stunningly good bittering hop with low cohumulone (the substance in hops which  determines how harsh the resulting bitterness will be) and plenty of citrussy flavour, Cascade as it's the hop which got me into the sticky green bracts back in 1990 when I first tasted Brendan Dobbin's beer in Manchester, and Simcoe because.... well, just because we can.

We've emptied the coldstore this week with 60+ casks going out so have been busy refilling it with Citraic, Who's been Sleeping in my Brain?, Slave to the Wage and, tomorrow, Cloister Enkel ready for your delectation in, as they say, all good pubs near you very soon!

Next week sees us brewing yet another new beer; the recipe hasn't been decided upon yet but it maybe an all-NZ beastie or maybe one that Jay has been thinking about... we'll see next week, there's no rush to decide...

We may also have some very big news to announce soon, but until we know for sure I'm saying nowt lest we jinx it.

Keep the faith, lupulin lovers....

Jay drinking Citraic straight from the racking wand!

It's veeeeeery pale.... !  Gyle 100 transferring to FV

Warrior have some lovely twigs in!

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Brew 100 at last!

We're hopeful that out 100th brew, "every hop i love is dead", will occur on Thursday this week, Bacchus permitting of course.  It's a very pale brew thanks to the special "super pale" Muntons malt, and hopped with Simcoe and Cascade; simple yet, hopefully, very effective.

More details as they happen!

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Gazza and Jay's Maple syrup porter

We recently brewed a batch of one of my favourite beers, "Graveyard Eyes", which is a porter dry-hopped with the mad Sorachi Ace hop; this imparts bizarre flavours such as dill, coconut and orange peel... honestly, it does!  I love Sorachi but appreciate it's a marmite hop which some people really dislike, and even though I love it I only really like it in dark beers (although in Saisons it's acceptable...).  

This batch of GYE has been tweaked to make it more of a porter than the pseudo-Black IPA it was last time which meant a bit more sweetness and less bitterness to overpower additional flavours.  We wanted to make a big batch so were thinking of something to do with the third tank of porter, and after some discussion the idea of a Maple syrup beer came up!  So, here we are, with "Gazza and Jay's maple syrup porter" made and sitting in conditioning tank 12 right now!  It smells absolutely lush so, hopefully, it'll taste just as good as the conditioning room smells right now.

After looking into maple syrup and getting a bit confused with the categories and labelling it soon became clear that to make a 700 litre batch we'd need between £50 and £100 of syrup - and that's the cheapest type, too - so we've gone with nature identical flavourings which are pretty realistic; we did a test first and the flavours combined really well.  I'd have preferred to use real syrup but this approach seemed the best for a first attempt; if it goes really well I'll see if we can acquire the syrup in bulk for next time.

So, look out for it at the usual stockists, we're hoping it'll be something a bit different and going on sales in the first few hours of announcing it we'll have to brew it again pretty soon...

The clip is, obviously, a play on South Park's "Terrance and Philip" under the premise that most Maple syrup is from Canada... a tenuous link, but there you go.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

100th brew

Thursday sees our 100th brew!  I'm really happy we've come this far and the beers are getting a good reputation, but I'm never one to rest on the proverbial laurels; unfortunately I can't remember who it was who gave me this excellent advice...

"Never put awards on your wall, makes you think you know it all and you're great when you're still learning - you're always learning"

Which isn't really a problem as we don't actually have any awards, but if we did then I won't be hanging them on the wall!

Anyhow, gyle 100 uses 97% super pale Muntons malt (1.8 EBC), plus a touch of wheat malt, then a really simple hop recipe of Warrior for bittering then Cascade and Simcoe for flavour, followed by Simcoe dry-hopping; I've got high hopes for this one and can't wait to get it brewed... here's to the next hundred!

Brew 99 is coming together!

The ingredients are in the brewery, the recipe is finally finished - subject to almost certain last minute meddling - and we're all set to brew our 99th beer on Wednesday!

The malt is a 50/50 mix of Belgian Abbey malt (yes, it's actually from Belgium!) and a new Belgian Abbey yeast from our favoured yeast suppliers Safale, although we're venturing a little further south with the hop selection.  Something this old skool calls for an old world hop variety so, in keeping with our bolshy nature, we're using one from Czech (about as old skool hop-wise as you can get) but using a hop which is only a few years old in the form of Vittal, a new hop, which must be the stickiest substance known to man going on the green hands last time after breaking up the pack!

So, all in all, this beer isn't our usual thing, but I'd never want to be typecast and so here's our interpretation of the classic Enkel or Patersbier, a style of Monastic beer which isn't generally on sale!  This beer is the one the monks drink themselves which is of a more sessionable and easy-going nature than the malt bombs usually associated with monastic brewing.  Having only drunk three - Chimay, Westmalle and Orval - I'm basing the recipe partly on what I've read about the beer but also on my experience of those I've tasted... hopefully something good will come out at the end, but don't expect it to taste totally Belgian as that's not how we roll...

This beer won't be dry-hopped as I feel that will overshadow the other flavours in the brew, so it'll go straight to cask from fermenter meaning it'll be out sooner than the last brew; look out for it at all the usual outlets people, Cheers!  Or, seeing as it's Belgian style, maybe I should say Proost or A Votre Sante !

The malt and yeast are in!

Thursday 23 October 2014

Twig box

As any fule kno, packs of hops are full of twigs (technically the bine itself but twigs sounds better) and most people know my love of said vegetation, so what better than a box to store our  precious twig collection in?

It's not a total waste of time, as you'd think, as we'll be leaving it outside next spring for the birds to take for their nests... if they want them that is!  There should be a fair old collection by then.

Brews 99 and 100 !!

You heard the internet; next week will be our 100th large-scale brew since opening back in June 2013.  It's been an eventful 17 months, and continues to be so, but I'm confident that we're heading in the right direction with beers which are consistent, well-made and flavoursome and, above all, beers which our customers want to drink which is, after all, the important bit of brewing; anyone can brew beer (actually, that's a whole different conversation...) but getting people to buy and drink it is another thing entirely.

Anyhow, what to expect from next week?  Brews 99 and 100, that's what!  Gyle 99 will be a slightly unusual one in that it's a Belgian-style abbey single or "Patersbier".  This is based on the beer that monks drink themselves rather than the beers they are famous for selling, and is a modest 4.5% or so with simple malt, yeast and noble hop flavours.

But why a Belgianesque beer, you may ask, when I love hops so much and Belgian beer isn't known for it's liberal use of lupulins?  Well, I felt like doing something a bit different and I've been toying with the recipe for a good 8 months now so felt it was a good a time as any to rip into this one.  The beer contains specially sourced Belgian Abbey malt and yeast along with the new Czech Vittal hops (which may well be the oiliest substance known to man) and I'm quite looking forwards to brewing and - more importantly - tasting the finished beer.

Brew 100 itself is going to be a very simple one.  We've just taken delivery of a ton of Munton's Super pale malt which is a mere 1.8 EBC in colour (our usual extra-pale malt is about 3 EBC) so we'll be using just this and 5% wheat malt along with the classic combo of Warrior, Cascade and loads of lovely Simcoe.  It doesn't have a name as yet but I'll think of one... 

I'm a touch apprehensive about this malt after reading (and being told) some stories of it's power to stick a mash, low extract and high protein, but everything on the spec sheet seems fine (apart from a high moisture content) so we'll see next week!  Our mash tun has a large area of plate so should be fine but, just to be sure, we had the underback pipe off today and gave it a good clean in readiness... good job really, as we found what had been reducing the flow for the past month or so, a piece of blue plastic which has obviously fallen into the mash tun and then got stuck in the valve!  Bring it on....

Malt collection by tractor

Today Jay and I brewed the latest version (v5) of the extremely popular Mosaic Plus which I'm slowly refining to be what I think may be my second-favourite of the beers we produce on a semi-regular basis; today saw Cluster, Columbus, Cascade and - of course - plenty of Mosaic added to the copper (I don't do single hop beers, they don't work, it's a stupid idea) with 5kg more Mosaic being added to the beer once it gets into the conditioning tanks.

It was brew 98 which, in itself, is quite a scary thing; that's a lot of beer produced in a mere 17 months, at a rough guess around 156,000 litres or, if you're more traditional in your thinking, a mere 275,000 pints...

What we didn't expect, however, was for the spent malt and hops to be collected by tractor; usually it's done by Farmer Richard in his pickup, however as he's off on holiday AGAIN his dad came and thought the tractor would be easier to get the sacks onto than the pickup!  Worth a photo I thought... and yes, I did help him load up after photting it!

Friday 17 October 2014

This week, next week

This week we brewed a mahoosive batch of Graveyard Eyes v3.0; this has a different hop regime making it more a Porter/Black IPA than the original Black IPA/Porter although it's still fairly hoppy!  Cascade, Warrior and Green Bullet in the copper will be followed by the amazing, divisive and totally bizarre Sorachi Ace in the conditioning tank to impart it's herby, dill-esque coconutty and orange zest flavour; yes, it really does have all those characteristics!

This version will be around 5.2% or so as Gazza wanted a bit more "ooomph" to the brew and, anyhow, we already have a 4.5% dark beer for sale (Profits of Doom) so with the original Graveyard Eyes being 4.5% as well we thought it might be better to up the ABV a touch.

As well as the main batch we'll be splitting 650 litres off to make into the as yet un-named Maple Syrup porter which we're hoping will be lush!  or, at least, something a little different...

Next week sees the welcome return of Mosaic Plus, oh yes....

Monday 13 October 2014

Indy Man Beer Con

Well,  that was an exhausting weekend.... !

Saturday and Sunday were spent serving beer and chatting to all and sundry who got too close to me in the amazing Victorian setting of the Victoria Baths in Manchester's Chorlton on Medlock (yes, of Brendan Dobbin fame!); we had a great time but I'm paying for it now!

This week sees yet another dark beer being brewed, this time it's the return of my Sorachi Ace porter albeit with a totally revised hop recipe, and maybe also a little experiment in the form of a maple syrup porter; watch this space!

Sadly, my hop vodka was a resounding failure; way too many hops added and way too much bitterness extracted... ah well, I'll try again in a few weeks.

Gazza with Bruno Carilli of Italian brewery Toccalmatto and Kevin Andreu McCarry of Catalan hop lovers Marina

Wednesday 8 October 2014

The monthly grind

It comes around every month, regular as clockwork, but somehow it always feels like a mere week since you worked out the last duty return and filled it in!

Now all we have to do is find 3.5k to pay it.... being an unpaid tax collector is great.

Going in the post now!

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Where will it end?

Tomorrow sees the brewing of the latest in Gazza's Joy Division series of beers.  The base for these brews are two hops; one is constant, the gorgeous mangoey Citra, the other varies but is generally something with a lot of balls to stand up to the blockbuster that is Citra lest it gets swamped in waves of tropical fruit juice!

For those who have been living under a rock on Saturn for the past 18 months let me enlighten you on the strange title and pumpclip; here at Hopcraft we brew no permanent beers but we do make a series named after Joy Division tracks.  These are all hopped with Citra plus another hop which varies between beers and are therefore big, fruity and bouncing beers, admittedly nothing like Joy Division's sombre, melancholic songs but hey... 

"Exercise One" is a lesser known track of Joy Division's but one of Gazza's favourites and totally worthy of the newish American hop "Eldorado" which is fruity, citrussy and overall a pretty damn tasty hop.  We're hoping it will shine from behind the wall of Citra and even combine with it to give a lusciously fruity, bitter and citrus-edged beer.

We're also brewing a re-run of our oatmeal pale ale "Naughty Boy" which is mainly Centennial with more luscious Citra, Summit and a touch of Mosaic to give a lime zest and tropical fruit character; the hop recipe has been totally overhauled from the first brew of this back in February with more hops, some of different varieties, and a more clever hopping schedule should make this a beer even Gazza might like....

Today we casked up the "plain" version of "Profits of Doom" our sweet stout; this is tasting pretty damn good from the fermenter, but we're not finished with it yet!  Tomorrow (hopefully, Royal Mail permitting) we'll have our coconut flavouring to add to the second half of the brew, currently sitting in conditioning tank 5, which I hope will turn this into a thing of pure beauty.... we'll see next week when it gets casked up!

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Autumn mists....

Today we brewed "Slave to the Wage" version 2.0 which was a 12 barrel (2250 litre) brew and drowned over 15kg of Green Bullet, Magnum and Kohatu hops; a further 7.5kg will go into the conditioning tanks when we dry-hop it, this time Sticklebract and Nelson Sauvin; all the hops - apart from the 2.5kg bittering charge of Magnum - are from New Zealand which has absolutely zero relevance to the name...

Anyhow, here's Jay mashing in this morning.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Another side of running a brewery

Most people think that running a brewery is all fun and games; you make beer, drink beer then make more beer... sadly it's not really like that at all; there's the never-ending cleaning, maintenance, paperwork, sales, admin, invoicing, planning, cask management, buying and.... driving miles in a van to deliver beer and pick up empties!

Most of that isn't a lot of fun, but then you don't get into brewing unless you're in it for the love of it; those who are in it for the money soon learn the brewer's law of "the best way to make a big pile of money in brewing is to start with a massive pile of money"...

Anyhow, here's my view when delivering a load of beer to Chris at the superb Craven Arms in Birmingham on Monday morning and picking up the empties from last time.... 

Thursday 25 September 2014

Anyone for Tiramisu?

This is the scene in FV3 right now (probably not by the time you're reading this but we don't have a webcam, sorry!) as our US05 yeast seems to be in full swing producing Tiramisu.... and no, we've absolutely no idea why it's doing that, but it smells absolutely lush so we'll leave it alone I reckon!

Kegging is growing...

If you believe CAMRA (or the Brown Beer Society as I call them owing to their penchant for bland brown twig juice from 1970) then we're going straight to keg hell - where you're presumably forced to drink Watney's Red, clubbed repeatedly with CO2 cylinders and made to listen to / witness Morris Dancing on an infinite loop - as we dare to put beer into kegs.

Hmmmmm, well excuse me if I don't really give a toss.  To explain why, here's a few bullet points which you'd have thought any rational drinker with a vague inkling of beer knowledge would understand;
  1. The same beer goes into cask and keg, from the same tank
  2. The keg beer isn't fined so is arguably more real than cask, which is fined
  3. A CO2 blanket is used on our conditioning tanks so the cask beer might not be classed as real by CAMRA anyhow - I've not asked them so don't know and don't really care.
  4. The keg beer is passed through a 30 micron filter to remove hop solids but not flavour, protein or hop oils
  5. No pasteurisation is used on any beers
  6. Customers ask for keg, so we supply it; simple.
There are many more points but it's late, I'm tired, so that'll have to do for now... let's conclude by saying that we keg beer because people want it not because we're trying to bring down the real ale system in some way, and it's a lot more work than casking beer to keg it.

Craft keg, real keg, craught beer... whatever you call it it's here to stay; get used to it CAMRA and get with the times before you become totally irrelevant in the modern beer culture.


Sometimes the froth just can't keep itself in

Yes, it's a domestic water particulate filter, it works a treat!

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Sweet Stout, good for what ails yer!

You don't see many "sweet" or "milk" stouts these days; years back, brewers such as Mackesons used to extol the health benefits of drinking their "nourishing" stouts, especially targeting the old and nursing mothers... imagine that in these puritanical days!

Anyhow, as our last dark beer sold out in record time (9 days) we rushed through the next dark beer as soon as we could.  I've long wanted to brew a sweet stout and had spent some time researching exactly what makes a stout "sweet" - don't laugh, it's not that obvious a question as it took me a while to pin down exactly what we needed to do!  Basically, 10% added lactose - milk sugar - is the generally accepted definition of a milk stout and although most UK examples are pitifully weak at around 3% I decided to go more for the US style of 4.5% to 5%.

The biggest surprise was the cost of the lactose which came in at around £160 for a 25kg sack; the accounts department are glad there aren't many hops in this with 5kg of UK Admiral being the only addition with 2.5kg added at 20 and then 5 minutes from the end of the boil for their rough bitterness and fruity character; we like Admiral which, along with Bramling Cross, are unsurpassed for hopping stouts.

So, after a false start when the lactose wasn't in stock despite the hop merchant's computer saying it was, we finally got to brew "Profits of Doom" today and it's smelling lush as it transfers to FV3 at this exact moment!