Thursday 22 December 2016

Final brew of the year is done!

Well, today we brewed gyle 228.  We weren't planning to brew again this year but good sales in the last few weeks have meant that we'd be struggling for beer in January if we hadn't and, remembering last year, that's not something we want to do as it causes all manner of stress!

So, we cooked up our latest beer, so new it doesn't have a name yet, which is a pale with a variety of hops as we were using up the open bags we have lying around the conditioning room because, as any brewer worth his salt knows, open hops = cheesy hops.  And no-one likes cheesy hops...

All normal then, but at the dry hopping stage we'll be using a new test dwarf hop from the US, descriptively named ADHA-529, which promises in the hyperbole aromas such as "coconut, lemon and mint".... we'll be the judge of that methinks!  Hopefully it'll be similar to the mighty Sorachi Ace but not as dill-like, although we'll see how it pans out next year.

So, all that remains is to rack the final beers tomorrow (Golden Pixie, Grudge Match 7 and Temple of Love) then we're running out the clock until 2017!

Here's hoping next year is better for the small craft brewer than this one has been, but somehow I can't quite see it.... but we'll try and stick around and, more importantly, brew the beers that we - and hopefully you - want to drink.


Gazza and Gavin
The brewcrew.

Friday 2 December 2016

New HLT element installed.... eventually!

Therein lies a story....

Our HLT (hot liquor tank, which supplies hot liquor (water) to the brewing process) has 3 x 9kw 3-phase heaters installed.  During spring - so long ago now I can't remember when exactly - one of these elements began to trip the electrics, then when we ignored it and reset the trips it began to noisily blow the main fuse on the control panel... so we isolated it, because in summer we don't need 3 elements to raise the temperature, 2 will do fine.

Wind time on to September and we are beginning to wish we'd had the work done earlier as mains water, and the ambient temperature, are dropping meaning the HLT has to be put on earlier to reach 82c in time for the brew, costing us more money outside the economy7 tariff!  
So, Gazza ordered a brand new element which duly arrived... and then sat in it's box for a month as we tried to arrange for it to be fitted.  The problem was our original electrician who set up the brewery had retired and next door (an electrical training place) was too busy to do the swap at the times we needed it done!  This may seem strange, but remember that to empty the tank of hot water costs money and is wasteful, so it's best to do the job on a Monday or Tuesday when the water has cooled down... which was the problem, as Iain couldn't do those days and at other times the tank was either heating up, being used in a brew, or full of hot water we didn't want to throw down the drain...

We considered doing the job ourselves, but one look at the 3-phase wiring put us off; mains is OK, but make a mistake with 3-phase and it's potentially fatal!  Luckily for us Dai, the retired electrician, happened to pop in one day this week and, in ten minutes, the project moved on further than it has during the last 3 months!  The new element is in, it now simply needs wiring up when Dai comes back... watch this space for more exciting element news!  

Here are some photos of the broken element, which is clearly very poorly....

Thursday 1 December 2016

Two more Waen beers brewed!

Well, strictly speaking one is a collab between us and Sue, but there's no denying that Snowball, which we brewed last Thursday, is a Waen beer and one which is very much in demand going on the requests and hype which it's launch is generating... bloody hell, we'll be in the craft beer glitterati premier league at this rate!

First up was "Psycho Gene", a new beer concocted by Sue and Gazza to show a "down the middle" line between the two brewers' styles.... half and half Crisp best ale malt and Muntons propino, then a dab of German coloured malt and lots of our favourite hops from around the world before it was dry-hopped with the rare, expensive and deliciously fruity (blueberries!) Mosaic hop.... this should be a very flavoursome and tasty little number, weighs in at 4.6% and we can't wait to try it.

Next up was, to quote a well know "comedy" programme, something completely different....

Snowball is Sue's big imperial stout but one with a difference; this one contains cacao nibs, carob powder and coconut, making it quite a complicated brew!  Plus, Snowball has a reputation for misbehaving during the brewing process by sticking up filters, frothing over fermenters and suchlike, so you can imagine the brewday was seen with much trepidation!

Luckily everything went smoothly.... smoothly until the beer was in the fermenter and the final addition of sugar was made whereupon it went absolutely crackers and frothed all over the floor for ten minutes; well, it had to do something to live up to it's reputation!

Monday 14 November 2016

Cold liquor tank working well.... just in time for Winter!

Well, we knew this was going to be the situation we found ourselves in, and in many ways it's quite amusing.... and in other ways quite annoying.....

It concerns our major project this year, the cold liquor tank, which would have been ideal to have been in service during the summer and autumn when mains water runs warm.  So what, you may say, who cares what temperature the water coming out of the tap is?  What does that matter?

Well, to that I'd say shut up and listen.....  most small brewers use mains water to power their plate heat exchanger (PHE or paraflow in brewer's parlance) which is a terribly useful and also quite mysterious device which takes in water and hot wort from the copper at one end, and spits out hot water and cold wort at the other.... quite how it does it remains a mystery to me (yeah, yeah, I could look it up but that would spoil the mystery, and I know the basics anyhow) but, and here's the crux of the matter, the PHE can only cool wort to "pitching temperature" (around 22°c for us, we run off warm then use the chillers on the FV to bring the temperature down to 18.5°c) at a speed governed by the temperature of the water coming in which, in Autumn, can reach almost 20°c which can mean running off 1500 litres of wort to FV can take almost 2 hours at a pitiful 12 litres a minute which means it's scarcely dribbling out of the aerator!

So, in steps our flashy CLT (cold liqor tank) which solves this problem by using a chiller unit to cool water stored in the 3200 litre bulk milk tank via a coiled copper tube immersed in said water.  This resulting cold water (at around 5°c rather than mains at over 10°c) means the PHE can cool the wort much faster and has reduced the 1500 litre transfer time down to 40 minutes or so, a massive saving in time and much less standing around for us....

However, as you'd expect, in Winter the mains water starts to become a lot colder and the water can - in Jan and Feb in particular - be entering the brewery at around 6 or 7°c which means we don't really need the CLT!  Saying that, at present it's bringing our cold liquor down to nearly 5°c which is very impressive and means, for now at least until the weather gets really cold, we can transfer in just over half an hour at 37.5 litres a minute!  

Wednesday 2 November 2016

Cask "deep cleaning"....

Giving something a "deep clean" is a somewhat trendy thing to do these days for reasons unknown, but if it's good enough for hospitals and kebab shops then it's good enough for Hopcraft towers and our stock of casks!

For the past 3 years we've followed the cask washing mantra of...

1) steam clean cask with 130 degree steam from the Karcher
2) visual eye / nose inspection of cask
3) if it passes, then it's taken inside for filling (rinsed with peracetic first)
4) if it fails, then it's washed again, tested again, and if it still fails the residue / rancid aroma test then the cask will be filled with caustic solution and left to sit for a few days before being emptied, rinsed and inspected again.... 

Before being filled with beer the casks are peracetic rinsed to sterilise them and flushed with CO2 to hopefully evict as much oxygen as possible to prevent staling in cask.

Now, however, we've added an additional step after the cask is brought inside for filling of giving every cask, if possible, a kegbrite wash followed by a water rinse.  Kegbrite is a chemical which is designed to remove hop residue and other baked on crap from inside casks - and if you've looked inside as many as I have you'll know how much potential for crap there is inside casks - which can only, hopefully, improve our final product's stability and shelf-life further.

So, the policy of "permanent revolution" rumbles on, pushing it's nose into all aspects of the brewing process, and I for one welcome it.... and so should our customers with better beer leaving the brewery!

Tuesday 25 October 2016

The return of the beast.... and it's offspring!

Dark muscovado sugar isn't that easy to acquire, let me tell you.... the best place I know to buy it is at Lembas in Sheffield so when I happened to be in town delivering beer, a quick visit was in order!

Two 25kg bags of Billingtons dark Muscovado were duly acquired.  One is for "Spanish Main", our monster of a tropical stout with added sugar and peppercorns, then the other is for a new project we're planning, "Queen Anne's Revenge", which is a pale ale with the same rummy sugar (and maybe peppercorns too!) for a tropical pale ale....  if such a thing exists.  Which it does now....

So, in a couple of weeks we'll be brewing up QAR and then, at a time in the future as yet undetermined, it's bastard offspring will be brought into the world!

Big day of racking, then we brew!

This week we racked (put into cask and keg) four beers, which even allowing for the casks being pre-washed is a fairly big job for a day when you take into account all the other stuff we have to do on a day to day basis too!

Anyhow, we now have March of the Giants 5.1%, We Come in Peace 4.4%, Grudge Match 6 3.9% and Waen Chilli Plum Porter 5.5% all packaged and ready for sale... I say ready for sale but around 50% of that lot has been sold already and is either out of the door or preparing to leave!

So, an easier day today brought forth the latest brew of a perennially popular beer which is being asked for more and more; shame we don't have the hops to brew it more often really!  Citra Plus was originally brewed as a one-off back in 2014 as part of the "plus" series of beers which showcased some of our favourite hops, and was then quietly forgotten.... until we began to get emails from Scotland asking for it to be brewed again!

So, never ones to shy away from pleasing our customers, we "rebooted" the recipe (note the modern parlance here, we're so yoof) in line with current hop diktats and, lo and behold, Citra+ appeared blinking from it's cocoon for a new lease of life! We've since brewed it again, and this is the third time in 4 months... someone must like it, and indeed it seems that Glasgow and Edinburgh are the target markets for this lusciously mangoey brew!  Who'd have thunk it???!!!

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Latest Waen beer brewed today!

It's our third time of hosting Sue Hayward of Waen to brew her beers on our brewery, and this time there was no pressure as it was her multi award-winning Lemon Drizzle, which contains neither lemons nor drizzle it turns out....

Lots of American, German and New Zealand hops, English pale malt and yeast... that's it!  It's currently sitting in FV3 and we're hoping it'll be out and about in a couple of weeks when, hopefully, it'll pass the all-important test of tasting like the original!

Next up we're planning a re-run of "54-46" with Calypso (and other) hops.... 

LD transferring into FV3....

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Two new beers!

We have two new beers on the way from the brews of this week and last, both interesting (we hope!) and both never brewed before!

First up we have "March of the Giants", a 4.9% very pale brew with Kent-grown hops of Japanese origin; Toyomodori!  These were developed by Kirin in Japan but discontinued in cultivation due to problems with downy mildew, but after a spell of being used for breeding are now being grown around the world again and we thought we'd give them a go!  They give a hefty bitterness and a hint of tart raspberry which we're hoping to accentuate with some German Huell melon hops as the dry-hop... if we can get any, that is!

Second is "Magnum Chaos", a brew whose aim was mainly to do a bit of store (hop) cupboard cleaning!  Containing a right old selection of hops, including German Magnum (obviously!), New Zealand Green Bullet, US Cascade and UK Bramling Cross, this 5% or so brew will be more balanced yet still with the hop hit you expect from us....

Next week sees the third Waen brewery beer, "Lemon Drizzle", plus a return of the always popular and perennial favourite "Corazon de Oro".... oh yes!!!

Thursday 29 September 2016

Toyomodori : Japanese hops, grown in Kent....

That's what we're brewing with today! Here's what we know about them from literally minutes of internet research...

"Produced in Japan for Kirin Brewery Co in 1981 and released in 1990, Toyomidori has since been largely discontinued due to problems with downy mildew. It was developed alongside Kitamidori and Eastern Gold as a high alpha variety but was the least successful of the three in this respect.

Toyomidori is a cross between Northern Brewer and a Wye male and is also the parent of Azacca, the male parent is an open pollinated Wild American hop developed as "OB79" at Wye College"

I'd heard lots of good things about them so, after managing to secure 10kg from Simply Hops, I was feeling rather pleased with myself... but then a brewer I respect told me that he'd been massively underwhelmed by them and had ended up dry-hopping with Simcoe to give his beer some character! So, mixed signals then....

On opening, we've discovered they're just as British as feared.... green tea, raw tobacco, dust and a vague hint of something; not great at all!  But, I'm sure we'll coax something out of them, probably by dry-hopping with something decent like Simcoe like Mr Queally!

Red twigs!

Wednesday 28 September 2016

New cold liquor tank installed!

Well, after a few months of "managing" with our 1000 litre IBC acting as a cold liquor tank, we've finally plumbed in and commissioned our massive new 3200 litre monster!  This will enable us to chill 2 8 barrel brews (or pretty much any other amount if we top it up!) and save us in the region of 20 to 30 minutes per brew which has, as you can imagine, caused great jubilation at Hopcraft Towers!

There's a few minor things we need to fix once it's been emptied by tomorrow's brew, but all in all it's passed it's tests and is currently busy chilling down 2000 litres of water in preparation for tomorrow when we brew our pale ale with Toyomidori hops...

Those who own and work in breweries will know exactly why we're very happy about this tank, others may not quite grasp the importance; if not, just imagine installing an app on your phone which made your working day 30 minutes shorter... see, it's magic!

The CLT with associated pump and chiller unit

Tuesday 20 September 2016

New cold liquor tank arrives....

Our present CLT (cold liquor tank) is a 1000 litre IBC which, whilst very welcome in summer, doesn't hold enough cold water to cool a full 8 barrel brew from boiling to 21°c, meaning we need to use (currently tepid) mains water for the final third of the transfer which subsequently takes the same time to run through as the initial 2/3 of the wort owing to the mains water currently being 15°c or so.... in winter it's not an issue, but between May and November it certainly is.... hence we have a cold liquor tank!

Well, despite it being a big improvement on not having one (as we were for the first 2 summers) we've grown weary of the tank's shortfall in cold water so we have acquired a 3200 litre monster from Waen brewery which has an integrated coil to cool the water - our current one has plastic pipes bodged together - so we will be able to run off a full 12 barrel brew in hopefully around an hour, with 8 barrels taking 40 minutes or so, saving us at least 20 minutes standing around on a brewday!  It's actually a bulk milk tank so made from thick plastic although we'll wrap it in insulation foil to keep the cold in.

We've also got the requisite fittings to connect the tank up, so once we've brewed the two beers this week we'll be cleaning it out and rigging it up next week, photos to follow!

Thursday 15 September 2016

Two dark beers brewed in a week!

This isn't a usual occurrence here at Hopcraft Towers, but this week the planets have aligned just right and we've found ourselves brewing an oatmeal porter and a hoppy US amber on consecutive days!

We always try, amongst the favoured pale and hoppy brews, to have one dark and one red/amber brew on the list as, strangely, not everyone likes hops or pale beers; weird, I know, but we aim to pander to most tastes...  Just as long as said tastes don't involve brown beers full of twigs, in which case there are thousands of brewers just clamouring to sell you theirs so we don't bother!  Anyhow, our dark beers are getting good reviews and, more importantly, they make the brewery smell really nice when they're being made!

So, this week, we're reprising two brews from last year which Gazza thought worked particularly well and are worthy of a second airing, albeit with carefully refined recipes, obviously!  First up will be our US Amber ale, "We Come in Peace", which is unashamedly big, brash and full of crunchy malt and solid, juicy, resinous hops, namely Columbus and Chinook.  The bitterness is high to punch through the maltiness and the overall result is a smack in the chops with a biscuit covered in hops!

Thursday sees the production of our Oatmeal porter, "Dark Underbelly", which is packed full of all manner of malted cereals (oats, barley and wheat) plus lots of toasty dark malts from Germany and the UK to give a smooth, silky and deliciously flavoured beer with just the gentlest dab of hops; this time the hops have been simplified to the European duo of German Magnum and French Brewer's Gold and we're letting the complex malts do all the talking... which, after all, is what this style of beer is all about.

Two dark beers in a week?  Unheard of!!  We'd best start planning some hoppy ones to make up for it, I reckon.... anyone up for some "Mate Spawn and Die"? 

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Brewing for friends

Tomorrow we're doing friends a favour and helping them out by brewing one of their beers for them... this isn't a rare occurrence in the brewing industry, far from it, but this beer has extra significance for me as it's the one Waen brewed straight after our first collaboration together, "Whatever", and I still feel a little bit of me is in there somewhere! 

Anyhow, Sue will be on hand to show us how it's done, so here's hoping we can make as good a job of it as she does.... although looking at the hops in it I don't think we'll have much of a problem!

Friday 26 August 2016

Back to earth with a crash.....

Well, after our amazing weekend brewing in Haarlem on a brewery so advanced it actually brews by itself.... it's computer controlled, it can mash in, sparge, transfer, boil and get rid of spent grain all by itself!  The brewers start it off at 01:00 then, by the time they arrive at 06:30, it's just starting it's 3rd brew....

Enough of that, we're firing up our Heath Robinson kit today to brew up a batch of something we've not done since November 2013!  OK, the recipe has been savagely butchered and it's quite different than the original, but the ethos of the beer lives on.... we pride ourselves in trying to continuously improve all aspects of our brewing practices, and this beer is about what we're doing now!

So, welcome back "Permanent Revolution", an amber "Little IPA" which has plenty of Cascade, Columbus, Centennial and Summit hops to match the malt and hopefully will become more of a regular as we REALLY like the pumpclip :) 

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Off for a collaborative brew in a former Dutch Church!

Thursday sees Gazza and Sue of Waen brewery off on a very hard working, stressful trip across to some place called "Europe" to brew a collaboration beer at Jopen brewing in Haarlem, Netherlands, with Ken Fisher of Grateful Deaf brewing (Portland, Oregon)...  it's a tough job....

We'll be Eurostar-ing it across swigging craft prosecco and eating quail's eggs (if only....) before our 3 day stay in the Netherlands where we're not quite sure yet as to what's happening apart from the Friday brew at Jopen!  Ah well, it'll all become clear we're sure.

Anyhow, we're brewing a stout / porter with the addition of seaweed and orange zest!  I've absolutely no idea how it'll come out, but at least it should be interesting!!

Anyhow, keep up with us on FB and twitter.... should be an interesting weekend.

And yes, this really is where we'll be brewing!!!

Return of another old Favourite!

You heard it here first (unless Gazza has already told you, or you've read Facebook).... tomorrow we're brewing one of our most popular beers, Oceanic.

This was developed by Gazza and long-time friend and beery collaborator Dean back in 2015 and it's been brewed on a semi-regular basis ever since, but not for a good few months and so we decided to put that right!

Oceanic is so called because almost all the hops are from the Pacific region of Australia and New Zealand, the home of lusciously fruity, juicy hop flavours.  We use only the pineapply, juicy Galaxy and the lean, grapey, winey and totally unique Nelson Sauvin in the brew (plus a tiny amount of German Magnum for bitterness) and the results are, in our opinion, pretty damn special!

As usual, look out for it at better pubs and bars near you....

Friday 12 August 2016

US collaboration with Grateful Deaf!

Thursday this week saw Ken Fisher, famous deaf US wannabe brewer of the "Grateful Deaf" beers who visits Europe each Autumn to brew with a number of high profile (and us) brewers, visit our little brewery to cook up an IPA with a Hopcraft twist!

So, look out for "Damned Deaf IPA" shortly.... Centennial, Crystal, Equinox....

Friday 29 July 2016

Our first (proper) fruit beer!

OK,it's fair to say we've dabbled with the odd fruity thing in the past, but only on a very small scale with just 90 litres of last year's blackcurrant stout and the odd cask of other stuff as a test.

Well, this time we've enlisted the help of long-time collaborator and all-round lovely lass Sue Hayward from the Waen brewery, well known for their fruity beers (Blackberry stout, chilli plum porter, snowball) and so, after our shortest brewday ever (7 hours start to stop, but from mash-in to end of transfer a miserly 5:45)!

Apricots, raspberries, strawberries, mixed fruit and blackcurrants went into the copper of this pale ale (which should be a bit of a strange on in itself) so we can't wait to see what'll happen in a week or so when it's ready to be released!

Watch this space....

Gav and Sue dig the mash

Sue adding some of the fruit

Gazza and Sue prepare the fruit

"Do it the way I'm telling you!!!"

mashing up fruit

Thursday 21 July 2016

Brews 199 and 200

This week finally sees the 200th brew from our little brewery!

But first we're rebrewing, due to popular demand, our mango-licious hop bomb Citra Plus which has over half pre-sold before we've even opened a bag of hops... this is a very good thing as you can imagine!

Citra Plus is, in a nutshell, a 5.4% pale ale with a huge payload of hops, but not just any hops.... these are the sought after (and very expensive!) Citra which deliver a sweet mango fruitiness quite unlike anything else in the hop world; expensive, rare, but absolutely essential for us!  This beer has quite a cult following nowadays, for some reason mainly in Scotland (particularly the State Bar Glasgow and Staggs Musselborough)...

Next up for today was "every hop i love is dead" whose bizarre name is a play on words with a Type O Negative song and fits our naming theme pretty well I think! This is similar to the 100th brew edition apart for having the malt recipe tidied up and the hops amended slightly.... but it's still full of Simcoey piney, catty goodness.

So, may thanks for sticking by us during our first half a million pints, we do appreciate it!  I honestly think the quality of the beer coming out of Pontyclun is continuosuly improving, as it should with our policy of permanent revolution in the brewing, so don't touch that dial and we'll bring you some more hoppy, interesting beers over the next year we hope!


Tuesday 12 July 2016

The "third tank"

You may have heard us mention a "third tank" before and were probably wondering what the hell that meant... after all, why the "third" tank?

Well, here's how things work here at Hopcraft towers.  As our conditioning tanks are 4 barrels capacity each (well, 680 litres) this means we brew in multiples of 4 barrels so as to fit the brew into the conditioning tanks once it's fermented.  Usually we brew 8 barrel batches, but sometimes we'll push the boat out and make 12 barrels of some beers; the extra 90 minutes on the brewday is quickly mitigated by an extra 4 barrels of beer to sell!

Now, imagine we've brewed 12 barrels of Golden Pixie.  This might sell at a rate of a barrel a week, so therefore we'd be having the beer in tank for a good few months getting a bit old before it was all sold.  It wouldn't go off or have any major issues, as we flush the tanks with CO2 before filling them and then top them up afterwards to maintain a blanket of protective gas, but we just don't like the beer sitting around for extended periods.

So, why brew so much if it won't sell in time?  This is where tank 3 comes in!  We'll generally, for a big 12 barrel brew, sell 2 tanks as the original beer then the third one will be dry-hopped differently and be released as something else, at present one of the "Grudge Match" series.  This has the added bonus of giving us an extra - different - beer to sell, meaning we sell more beer, plus it also means the beer isn't sat in tank for too long and turns over quicker, meaning you get fresher beer and more choice to boot.... win/win, eh?

So, that's the third tank - a big brew of a particular beer, where the third conditioning tank is dry-hopped (or otherwise amended from normal) and sold as a different beer!

Thursday 7 July 2016

More Pixie

We always thought Golden Pixie would be a good seller; it was the very first testbrew we did back in 2012 and it's come a long way since recipe-wise, although it is essentially the same low ABV golden beer hopped simply with Summit, Cascade and just a touch of Citra.

For a while sales didn't go well and we struggled to shift a full brew of it, but gradually - I'd like to think in some part due to the recipe being honed to a razor sharp point - sales have increased and now we brew 12BBL of it (around 2100 litres) every 2 months or so.  It also helps that we have a pub which takes a dozen at a time for it's standard cask session beer plus Hopbunker sells a fair bit of it!

The other big thing is the "third tank" which I'll explain more fully in another post, but basically when we do a big brew - 12 barrels - of a beer we get 3 conditioning tanks full of beer.  Two we normally dry-hop and sell as the beer it's supposed to be, whilst the third gets dosed with different (and more!) dry hops and sold as something else.

So, today we brew Golden Pixie v4.0, which has has a bit of a tweak with it's hopping rates although the malt bill is now pretty much set in stone.  Hopefully it'll finally become the finished version, although as most brewers will tell you there never is a finished version of anything you care about!

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Brew 200 edges closer....

Today was "proper" brew 196 (we've actually done 199 including a few cuckoo brews, but we've not counted those under our numbers) a golden 3.8%-ish ale with US Cascade and Czech Kazbek hops, and next week we're cooking up yet another batch of Golden Pixie as it seems to be getting more popular!

After that, however, we're very close to brew 200 and so a bit of a commemoration is called for... the current plan is to re-brew our 100th brew "every hop i love is dead" with a very slight variation in recipe to reflect current Politburo diktats in the production of Hopcraft Пиво, but it's planned that the Simcoe and Cascade pairing which worked so well back in November 2014 will be used again.

So, get ready for our 200th brew in a month or so!  Thanks for sticking with us, and we hope you'll stay along for the ride a while longer as we've some good stuff coming up....

Friday 24 June 2016

New Van....

It's not ours, it's leased, but hey.... Gazza is testing it out with a run up to Sheffield this weekend, so a full reliability report to follow!

Here's the new one and old one side by side during handover....

A milk stout needs milk!

Not Milk as in pints of white cow juice, oh no.  A milk stout is so called because it contains Lactose, which is a sugar detived from cow's milk, and gives the beer a delicate sweetness owing to the fact that yeast can't work on the lactose sugars to convert them into alcohol, leaving the beer with a full body and sweetish flavour.... so now you know!

Monday 20 June 2016

We are 3!!!!!

Well, we've made it to 3 years old!!!

The anniversary of Brew No.1 was on Saturday and, despite us not being around to brew, we're sticking with tradition and brewing this year's vintage of the first ever brew, "Statement of Intent", as we've done for the previous birthdays, this being the 4th version of the beer.

SOI is a 5.5%-ish golden IPA with, even for us, a pretty hefty hop charge.  The hops vary with each vintage and what the brewing team reckon are the best hops of the year...  the table below shows how this has changed with each brew of this beer!

Brew 001 180613 - CTZ, Summit, Magnum, Citra, Galaxy, Cascade
Brew 072 180614 - CTZ, Summit, Magnum, Citra, Galaxy, Cascade, Chinook
Brew 133 180615 - CTZ, Summit, Amarillo, Mosaic, Citra
Brew 194 230616 - CTZ, Summit, Mosaic, Waimea, Citra

As you can see, Columbus (CTZ) and Summit are the big bolshy brutes which provide the bitterness and background flavour, whilst Citra has been a constant each brew for it's delicious fruity mangoey character... Mosaic has also been in the last two brews on account of it being plain delicious!

So, we brew on Wednesday, the first time we've not brewed on the actual anniversary but hey, we weren't coming in on Saturday to brew, although Gav was in to transfer beer and dry hop some tanks, whilst Gazza recovered from a party in Manchester!

Look out for Statement in 3 weeks or so, it's always worth a go for it's massive hop character because, as the name suggests, it's what we were set up to do.

Monday 13 June 2016

The cold liquor tank is operational!

Well, it's been a long time coming, and a lot of planning and blagging has gone into it, but now, just in time for the real heat of summer, our cold liquor tank is operational!

Here's my original plan for it, which as you can see is very fantastic and was, surprisingly, almost exactly what happened in the end!

So, I can hear everyone asking, what's a cold liquor tank?  Well, using the diagram of the brewing process below, look at vessel 10 - the heat exchanger - and you'll see a wiggly line inside which is the cold water "exchanging" heat with the hot wort.  So, even though the cold liquor tank doesn't actually feature in this diagram, it's a pretty important part of kit as we reckon it's saving us 30 minutes per brew when running off the wort to fermenter.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

New red beer

We're known, wrongly in my opinion, for just being brewers of pale and hoppy beers and our other brews scarcely get a mention in dispatches.  OK, I'd be the first to admit that we do major on the 4%-5% extra-pale hop-forward brews, principally because I like that style of beer the best, but I reckon some of our dark brews are just as good as the pales but get overlooked, criminally so on occasion.

Well, with that in mind, it's time for another "non-pale" brew to be created and so I've gone for a style which we've not really persisted with in the past, having created just a couple in 3 years, so it's definitely time "hoppy red", or "American red", or whatever you want to call it, gets - to use current trendy parlance - a "reboot"....

"American" red is a very different beast from "Irish" red; the US version is usually bitter-sweet and hoppy with a generally pretty repulsive tongue-curling burnt sweetness from crystal malt which, for some reason, yanks seem to love.  Irish red has this same rancid treacle toffee sweetness but almost no hops or bitterness meaning it tastes even more sickly-sweet and unbalanced...  and let's not even get into "Flemish" red which, although I absolutely adore it, would probably make most UK drinkers think they were on the Sarsons!

So, here's our latest red brew "Red Mist", but is it really American in style?  Well, in my opinion no, it isn't!  There's no crystal malt in the recipe - actually, there's never been any in the brewery full stop as Gazza loathes it - so we've made up the colour by some specialist German malts and the clever trick of "sparging over" some roasted barley to wash out colour but as little flavour as possible...

It's a red ale, but not as you probably know it... hopped with the bolshy, robust Columbus and fruity Chinook, this is a red different from most of it's peers; just like the brewery, really.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Two much-requested beers being brewed this week....

These two generate a lot of the requests we receive (although Citra plus is our most requested brew) for re-brewing old recipes, and as we love them both it seemed rude not to give them - to use modern contemporary dialogue - a "reboot"....

So, here we have "Mate Spawn and Die", named after a Lard track, which is hopped with the gloriously characterful New Zealand hops Waimea and Green Bullet, then dry-hopped with sticky, juicy, almost liquoricey Vic Secret.... New Zealand-licious!

Next up is "New Dawn Fades", obviously a Joy Division track, with the exquisite combination of tropical fruity Citra and orchard fruity Calypso.... oh yes, it's a belter is this one!  Originally brewed at Steel City in Sheffield back in summer 2012, it was re-brewed at Pontyclun in 2013, again in November 2015, and now it's back with a slightly amended - read improved - hopping regime!

So, in a rare case of no new beers this week, we give you two of our most requested brews; enjoy!

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Testing a new "base" malt

Yep, a new base malt!

For those who don't speak brewing lingo, base malt makes up the majority of the beer's "grist" of grains which contain the sugars needed to make beer.  It's barley (usually grown in East Anglia) which is wet then heated gently to con the grains into thinking the season has changed and it's time to start germinating.  Malting is an extremely complicated procedure which is outside the scope of this blog (and my knowledge!) but this should tell you all you need to know should you wish!

Our beers are generally of a simple malt recipe with 90-95% being "base" malt, then 3% wheat malt (for head retention) and 3% of either Carapils or Melanoidin (for body and mouthfeel).  Some beers have other additions, such as stouts and porters with up to 20% roasted grain, but in the main it's 90%+ base pale malt.

We originally used Munton's Maris Otter blend malt, but after using it for a while decided the extra cost (around £150-200 a tonne on top of the usual £500 or so price) of Maris Otter just wasn't worth it for our beer; Maris provides a more "full" malty taste with, at it's best, a luscious honey character, but with our beers being hop-led we don't need the malt character so moved onto Crisp best ale malt.  This unfortunately has an even more pronounced flavour so that was soon jettisoned in favour of Munton's Propino and Super Pale, bought on tonne pallets direct from East Anglia, and we've stuck with them until now as the malt is pretty consistent, works well with our set-up and provides a good to great extract power (the amount of sugar produced per kilo of malt).

We were recently visited by a rep who offered half a tonne of Baird's Propino for evaluation purposes, and so - ever ones for a freebie - have gone with it to test out it's suitability for use in the brewery.  Now I've heard lots of stories, most bad, about Baird's malt but will resist any temptation to jump to conclusions and we'll be using it as a direct replacement for our usual Munton's Propino and we'll see how it stacks up!