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!