Sunday 30 April 2017

What wet bank holiday Sundays are made for....

... well not really, but we've got a short week coming up.... it's a bank holiday (not that it matters running your own business, I'll still be here, plus Gav is in too!) then Gav is away for 10 days from Thursday meaning we've got to get 60 casks washed by Tuesday to fill up with lovely beer, I'm (hopefully) collecting brewing ingredients and some more shiny new casks, then we're brewing 2400 litres of Golden Pixie Wednesday, before I'm off delivering in Liverpool and Kirby with Sue Hayward... so, as you can see, we've got drastic "time pressures" this week!

So, in order to ameliorate said pressures, I'm washing casks on a rainy Sunday.... not how most people spend their bank holiday weekends but, hey, I'd rather do this that go to Ikea! 

Monday 24 April 2017

Tap Takeover at the Craft Beer Co, Clerkenwell

It's a big thing for a brewer, a tap takeover, as you're there at the bar with all your beers being poured for thirsty (and sometimes critical) customers and there's nowhere to hide (except the toilet, but they even corner you in there to talk beer as I found out)....

Hopcraft have a long association with the Craft Beer Co, having sold them beer from the start of our existence, but we've never before been asked to do a tap takeover / meet the brewer at one of their pubs; in case you don't know, this is pretty much the equal of a musician being asked to play a gig at a massive arena they know well and have seen bands perform at.... scary, yet exhilarating, and giving a sense of having arrived somewhere, wherever that may be, but it's something you don't turn down as it's a one-shot opportunity.

We had to send 15 cask and 14 keg beers to the event and so saved up beer for a month or so beforehand, selecting brews we thought might showcase us in our best light.  We also indulged ourselves in making up some one-off creations such as maple syrup milk stout, dandelion and burdock porter and and extra dry-hopped version of our CF127 UK experimental hopped beer amongst others.

So, 29 beers in all, with a few cask/keg repeats, were packed onto pallets, wrapped, and dispatched to central London for the event.... only to be told the next day by our haulier that there was a market in the streets around the pub (which we'd not been told about when arranging the delivery) so the beers would have to be delivered Thursday, meaning they'd have less time to settle for the event.... which should be no problem for our beer as it drops quickly, but still an annoyance and something we should have avoided really.

Then, out of the blue that evening, we had a message from the manager of the pub saying that beer we were launching on the tap takeover, our 250th brew "Another day closer to the Grave", had only arrived in keg and there was no cask... searching the pallet sheets we saw we'd accidentally (building pallets in a rush is never a good thing believe me) loaded two casks of "East Bay Pilgrimage" instead of one of that and one of Brew 250!  ANY of the other beers and we'd have been able to say fine, we'll credit for the missing cask, but we were launching this beer so it had to be there in cask; a frantic phone call to our haulier the next morning and we were sorted with the single cask on a tiny pallet making it's way down to London in an expensive but very necessary piece of making things right!

So, Saturday saw Gazza and Sue Hayward (plus Twiggy, the Hopcraft brewery cat) set off for Reading with a full van of beer to drop at the Nag's Head before taking the train to London and then, after a tube shambles where everyone seemed to have a different idea as to what was happening due to a closure on the Circle line, we eventually arrived in Clerkenwell where the pub - and outside drinkers - were bathed in an unearthly golden sunlight... a good omen for the rest of the day, I hoped...

In the end, it turned out that Bacchus was smiling on us... the event took place, we sampled all the beers, and I was pretty happy with all of them with a few being extremely satisfying to drink, the cold steep coffee rye stout being a particular highlight.  Even more satisfying, however, are the comments from drinkers who are sampling the beers and telling you how much they (hopefully) like them or (occasionally) dislike them.... to be treated like brewing celebrities doesn't happen very often, but it did on Saturday 22nd in Clerkenwell and, for a day, it felt like we'd arrived on the big stage.  We even, on the way back to Paddington, called in on Craft Beer co Covent Garden for the simultaneous Vibrant Forest tap takeover; now there's dedication.

Then it was back to the real world and paying every penny we owe to the government in beer duty.... but still, for one glorious day, we were rockstar brewers.... 

Tom Cadden, head honcho at Craft Beer co

photo - Steve Cassidy

Twiggy hard at work

"bloody hell, I helped make those!"

18 pints for the stag do upstairs....

we were happier than we look.

That's more like it!

Cask lineup

Keg lineup

Beer being poured

Nice bit of sales!

Monday 17 April 2017

Gorse beer!

Last week we brewed a beer with a seasonal ingredient, one which we've thought about using for a while but have only now finally got around to it.... fascinating, eh?

This, then, is our latest collaboration with Sue Hayward (Sue the Brew, of Waen Beers) and we've created something quite unusual and very distinctive as we generally do.... our track record speaks for itself!

Gorse flowers, at their best in spring, smell of melon and coconut, reminiscent of the amazing Sorachi Ace hop, so it was only right that we paired the two together in a golden beer which, hopefully, will end up tasting of coconut (note - done a gravity test today and, indeed, it tastes of coconut!) and therefore will be bloody marvellous...

We've been beaten to the sorachi/gorse thing by Cromarty brewing who did a saison a few years back (and freely gave advice on the use of gorse, many thanks guys!) and Farmageddon brewing co-op but coming second (or, actually, third!) has never been a big problem for us and, therefore, we present to you "Bumper to Bumper", our spring gorse pale ale!

Finally, here's a quick note for anyone who, for some bizarre reason, doesn't know what "Bumper to Bumper" means...   just crank it up!! :) 

Adding the gorse flowers - and a little prick!

Wednesday 5 April 2017

Brew 250!

Well, it's taken us almost 4 years to get to this point, but today we brewed our 250th batch of beer! This means, roughly, we've made nearly 500,000 litres of beer since we started brewing, which is such a huge number I can't quite believe it we've done it...

Well, we have... or, at least, something close to that and no, I can't be bothered to work out the total production, not even adding up our HMRC submissions! You'll just have to believe me when I say we've made almost half a million litres of beer....

Brew 250 is a golden ale using 25kg of light brown sugar in addition to the best ale malt, wheat malt and Carapils, and hopped with Galaxy, Columbus and Dr Rudi... we've not decided what to dry hop it with yet but it'll be something rather tasty I'd guess.

So, here's to the next 250 brews... we'll try to stick around if you guys keep on drinking what we make!  I feel that the quality of beer leaving the brewery has never been higher and we promise to keep on with our policy of "Permanent Revolution" to keep improving everything about the beer and brewing... 

Thanks are also due to our past members of staff without who we probably wouldn't be here, so massive thanks to Jay and Ash!  Also we'd like to thank those who we've collaborated with and have generally helped us out along the way... there's too many to list, but you know who you are... cheers.

So, from Gazza, Gav and Sue, cheers and keep the faith!