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!