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.