We operate a 5BBL (1 Brewer’s Barrel = 36 gallons) self built plant out of our premises on Hempshaw Lane. All of our beers are made by hand, with the only automation being two pumps to pump the hot liquids to the different vessels.
The Brewing Process
The first stage in the brewing process is called the mash. Water is heated to around 77°C and mixed into the grain bill, which lowers the temperature to the required level – different mashing temperatures affect the outcome of the beer so the brewer adjusts the water temperature in the mash tun to create the desired effects. The process of mashing activates the enzymes in the malted barley so that they can break down the starches in the malt and turn them into fermentable sugars. This process usually takes around 60 – 90 minutes.
Once the mashing has taken place the sweet, coloured ‘wort’ is transferred to the boiler. Here the wort is brought up to the boil and the hops added at various times. This process does a number of things – the temperature sterilises the liquid to get rid of any bacterias that might be present, it concentrates the wort and drives off any undesirable minerals from the water source. It also extracts the bitter acids from the hops, which act as preservatives, extending the life of the beer. We usually boil for 60 minutes, but may vary the boil length in order to get a more concentrated wort.
When the boil is over the wort then needs to be cooled quickly and transferred into a clean, sterilised fermenting vessel. The cooling process is done by a plate heat exchanger, with the hot excess water being collected for the next brew. The yeast is then pitched into the cooled wort. Ale yeast is happiest between 18°C and 24°C – any lower and it won’t eat as much sugar, any higher and it will impart undesirable flavours.
The yeast is left to its own devices to convert the sugars in the wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide whilst we keep a close eye on how it is doing, taking fresh yeast from the top of the fermenting vessel ready to use for the next brew. Once fermentation has taken place we chill the beer to 5 degrees c for 24 hours in order to drop the yeast out, then we rack into casks with the dry hops, which give our beers their big hop aromas.
If the beer is going to pubs we add a very small amount of finings, which helps the beer to clear once it is at the pub. Unfortunately these finings are not vegetarian friendly, but all the beer which goes into bottles and kegs does not have contact with these finings and so all of our kegged and bottled beers are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.