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It has been some time since I last wrote a blog, luckily Jon has been keeping everyone entertained with the incredibly hard and demanding task of shopping for beer throughout our Beershoptober. Be sure to check out the shops he visited around London in our Beer Shops section.
Anyway, the reason I have been slow on the blog front is because most of my time has been taken up with my new job.
You may well of heard our Pubcask podcast on the Briarbank Brewery’s bar, if not you can find it here, its Pubcask 23. We talked about the bar upstairs and what beers they had and such. Also for a quick peek at their website it’s here Briarbank, where you can see a range of beers and upcoming events.
Now downstairs there is a great little Microbrewery, and I happen to now be the new brewer! So I thought why not have a quick write-up of the brewery, and a run through of a normal brewday.
It’s a 2BBL brwery, which actually puts it in the Nanobrewery scale, producing between 70-80 Gallons of beer every brew. We brew a range of cask ales, and also a number of craft keg beers. At the time of writing this, we have a selection of around 13 beers available, including the seasonals currently on. We should also soon have some bottled beers for people to take home too!
Anyway enough of me advertising, I’ll get on to what I get up to during the day.
So first thing first, the night before I make sure the Hot Liquor Tank (Water tank) is full and up to temperature, and also make sure the water treatment is added. I also weigh out the grain to save myself a job in the morning. Exciting stuff.
So, up bright an early to try and get the brew started by 6. First job is mashing in. This is simply mixing the grain with the Liquor. The grain is poured through the hopper into the Mashtun, where Hot Liquor is sprayed in to it, and it’s stirred. We end up with a mash with the consistency of porridge. Now everything is worked out to get the mash to a set temperature between 62*C-68*C depending on what beer is brewed. This is the temperature range at which the enzymes break down and convert the starch in the grain into Maltose and other sugars, which we want for the yeast to work on to make the beer.It sits at this temperature for around an hour to fully convert, then we come to the run-off.
This is simply draining the mash tun and pumping the wort (the liquid now full of sugars from the grain) over to
the brew kettle. Now this is a lengthy process, as the idea is to bring as much of the sugars from the grain bed in the mashtun, over to the boil kettle. So the wort is drained of slowly, and at the same time sprinkling hot water into the top to wash out as much sugar as we can. Which is called sparging!
So that takes a while, a good time for a cup of tea or two. Once the sparge has finally completed, we have a boiler full of lovely wort. We take a gravity reading to see how much sugar is in the wort, and it should hopefully match my calculations and be spot on! If not it’s easily rectified.
The wort is then boiled for an hour. At the start of the boil, in go the bittering hops. These are used to balance the beer, otherwise it would be far too sweet. General rule is, the maltier the base of the beer, the more hops used! the bittering hops don’t have a huge impact on flavour, but rather the bitterness of the finished beer. That’s where the aroma hops come in! These are added anywhere between 15 mins to when the boil finishes after the full hour. These hops are used to extract their aroma and flavour, rather than bitterness. There’s a huge variety of hops to choose from, and I’m luckily enough to be able to use some of my favourites.
So boiling the wort for an hour also drives off some volatile flavours and such which we don’t want in the end beer, and bitter it from the hops. Once this is complete, its then almost ready for the yeast to do its job, and turn that sugar into alcohol, but first it needs to be cooled to around 15-20*c depending again on what beer is brewing. This cooling needs to be done as quickly as possible, to help clump together proteins in the wort and help achieve a clearer beer.
We do this with a large plate chiller or heat exchanger. It runs the wort in one side, and cold water in the other, and exchanges the heat! It cools 100*C wort down to around 17*C as it passes through, and is pumped into the fermentor. Once it is at the temperature I want, the yeast is the pitched. This is prepared earlier to get it working, so it can start on the wort as soon as it is pitched. The yeast will take 3-5 days to ferment out most beers, then the wort, which is now actually beer, is cooled right down to a few degrees. This stops the yeast from working, and also helps the particles fall out of the beer quicker.
The beer is then either left to age in the vessel, or taken straight out to mature in the cask. Most of our beers condition for around a month or longer in the cask before being racked. And when they are racked, tapped, spiled and served, they are delicious!
So that’s about it for a brief day of brewing. We are brewing frequently at the moment, and if you ever pop down for a lunchtime pint you may well spot me running around. Feel free to come have a chat, just don’t be offended if I have to run off suddenly if I’m still brewing.
We also do tours and tasting sessions which you can check out on the website and such, but if you haven’t been before, certainly come down and have a look and a beer, I’m sure you will find the bar comfortable and welcoming, and hopefully the beer will be good too!