Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Final racking (casking) of 2015!

It's almost breaking up time!

Today we transferred 650 litres of "Profits of Doom" into conditioning tank 8 where it'll stay until the new year; it'll then be dosed with 4kg of crushed Ferrari's coffee to make it a coffee milk stout, a sub-style which is getting very popular at the moment and Gazza is convinced will work really well with this brew.

The rest went into cask and keg with most being as brewed although 5 casks had coconut flavouring added to them to give a luscious complex flavour; we'll also be bottling some of this too!  So, there will be 3 variants of this brew, and I'm hopeful they will all be lovely in their different ways....

Tomorrow we're casking up the final tanks of "The Boss" and "We Come in Peace" as the first tanks almost sold out in a day last week; once that's done, we flush out the tanks, tidy up and that's it - us done until new year - although one or both of us will be popping by to make sure everything is OK, and Gazza has a few deliveries to make too.

So, if this is the last post of the year (maybe...!) may I wish all our customers, suppliers and drinkers a massive thank you and please keep the hoppy faith - good beer is for life not a passing fad!

CHEERS!!  Gazza and Gav.

All the FVs are empty, this only happens once a year!

Monday, 21 December 2015

Winding down.....

The final brew is done, "Mate Spawn and Die" is transferring to conditioning tank for it's sleep over the festive period, "Profits of Doom" is on chill and will be casked and transferred Thursday...  all that remains to do this week is label lots and lots and lots of bottles, wash some casks and fill them with the final tanks of "The Boss" and "We Come in Peace" on Thursday, then that's it for another year!  

Seems like this year has flown by and has definitely had it's ups and downs, but hopefully next year will see us brew even better beer and, hopefully, lots of pubs and wholesalers  still wanting to buy and lots of people wanting to drink it!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Milk Stout!

I'm not sure the "milk stout" category is that well know these days outside the beer enthusiast community (where there have been a lot made recently, generally with added salt and caramel and/or other undesirable flavours) but it's about time it was, as it's a historic beer style which deserves a lot more interest from the more "normal" beer drinkers.

So, what makes a "milk" stout then?  The simple answer is the addition of lactose powder, a sugar derived from milk - see, it does make sense!  The reason milk stouts are sweet is that lactose isn't very fermentable by brewer's yeast and a decent percentage of the sugars remain in the beer giving it a thick, luscious body and sweet taste which is ideal for balancing with other flavours such as coffee, coconut, chocolate and dozens more; it's a very versatile beer!

Our brew will be split into two variants with one tank being the "straight up" version and the other dosed with coconut or coffee - we've not decided yet - which will give the finished beer a big boost of flavour to go with the existing toasted, roasty stout character.

What of the name?  Well, it's our take on a track by Type O Negative, and also a very thinly veiled comment on the current gung-ho policy being taken by parliament.

So, look out for this brew in early 2016 and, as usual, all feedback is very welcome; cheers!


Friday, 11 December 2015

Transferring from FV to CT

Today we transferred "We Come in Peace", the new US Amber hoppy beastie, to conditioning tank from the FV, where it'll be dry-hopped Monday with the strawberry-fruity New Zealand hop Waimea.  

In case you don't know what this process looks like, here's the empty fermenter after transferring the contents to conditioning tanks 5 and 12; the second photo shows tank 5 being filled.




Last but one brew of 2015!

Thursday saw our 57th brew of 2015, making our last one next week the 58th and final of they year; I've not worked out the numbers, but that's getting on for 340,000 litres of beer produced this year, or for the more Victorian, around 600,000 pints!

We've got a lot of stuff in hand to make next year even better, both quality and interest-wise, so keep the faith hopheads and massive thanks to everyone who's bought and sold our beer this year...





Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Core beers?

It's a bone of contention as to whether a brewery needs core beers or not.  Certainly, back in ye olden dayse they most certainly did, when a mild, bitter, best bitter and perhaps - pushing the boat out a bit here - a seasonal Xmas beer would be brewed, all in the brewery "style" (whatever that was) and all with the same recipe and branding year after year after year, appearing as regularly as Halley's comet.

These days, of course, everything is different; yes, there are still the big brewers (and some smaller ones!) who have a set in stone range and sell these all year, but more and more brewers rely - actually rely, not just benefit - from brewing an ever-changing range of beers in an ever-growing variety of styles to please the baying beery hordes who demand, ever louder, more and more of everything in their beer.

When Dave Unpronounceable and I started Steel City Brewing way back in 2009 we were committed to the "brave new world" ethos of new beers, and lots of them, to satiate the exponentially growing market which we had first-hand experience of; I'd like to think we were one of the first to fully understand the way the UK beer scene was going and, in our small way, influence and encourage this new way of brewing.  We saw that the new way was to produce one-off beers rather than a fixed range and we quickly garnered a reputation for doing just that, which was a pretty rare thing at the time....

How quickly the innovators become the establishment; back then, Brewdog were producing some superb beers and, we're not afraid or embarrassed to admit, were one of our major influences in starting to brew commercially.  Nowadays Brewdog are seen by many beery people as "sellouts", "old hat" and part of the very establishment they set out to change.... six years is a long time in today's beer world!  Steel City itself still exists, despite having moved host brewery three times, but is now in reality part of the pack (albeit still towards the front!) rather than leading and innovating... 

When I joined Pixie Spring and created Hopcraft Brewing as our major label I had the clear vision of no core beers as this was a throwback to the old-fashioned "brown beer" legacy I wanted no part of.  Three years later I can look back in the cold light of reality and smile at what has happened; we persevered with a "brown beer" for two years but have finally given up with it, and we're seen (and this isn't my opinion, it's that of quite a lot of beery people I speak to) as brewing high quality, interesting beers; that'll do me!

One thing I've noticed, however, is that we seem to be brewing certain beers with worrying frequency, so much so that some have almost morphed into that hideous throwback to the bad old days, the core beer!  Surely not, how could this happen?  

Well, to put it plainly, people want them.  It's all very well to want to make a new beer every time - and we still do, in the main - but we have calls for certain beers and some sell out remarkably quickly once they're on the list; Temple of Love, Citraic, Oceanic and Mate Spawn and Die spring to mind immediately here!  So, have we "sold out" to the corporate steamroller of Capitalism by brewing the same beers regularly?  

I'd argue not!  We undertake our interpretation of Trotsky's principle of "permanent revolution" in that even when we brew the same beer we try and improve it each time by critically analysing the previous brew and working out how it can be improved; sometimes the changes are forced upon us (lack of the required hops forcing a substitution, for example), but mainly any changes are progressive and incremental in that only small amendments to the recipe are made so that the beer will taste broadly similar (as far as a small-batch craft beer can be made consistently).  So, for example, we may consider that a beer needs a touch more bitterness, so the IBUs will be upped by no more than 10%, or maybe no Waimea hops are available so we call in the considered substitution of Rakau.... 

So, do we actually need core beers?  There is, in my opinion, no definitive answer to this question; some brewers do, some don't, it all depends on your market - ours is more the craft beer and real ale bars who want new/interesting beers each time, so we brew to demand (and Gazza's ethos and tastebuds!).  We definitely couldn't survive on core beers alone as the demand from our customers isn't there, but neither can we eschew semi-permanent beers as some have proven very popular and to not brew them through some doctrine of "new beers only" would be self-defeating and therefore ultimately destructive... so, we take the middle road and brew certain beers in a vaguely regular manner, but applying a continuous improvement policy to them, as well as producing a steady stream of new brews plus reviving the occasional old one if we feel like it!

All this said, we can now said to have a number of vaguely core beers, insofar as they are available relatively regularly!  These are:

Golden Pixie 3.8% - Straightforward session ale with a balanced malt and citrus hop character, designed to be not too scary yet flavoursome and tasty.
Temple of Love 3.8% - A golden, bolshy session ale with a big American hop punch, solid bitterness and a solid malty base.
Oceanic 5.4% - Super pale and super fruity with New Zealand and Aussie hops
Citraic 5.2% - A similar thing but using, instead, the A-list American Citra and Mosaic hops
Mate Spawn and Die 5.4% - Golden, bitter and fruity with a massively floral, fruity and aromatic hop punch from the superstar Aussie hop Vic Secret.

We have other beers which we've brewed more than once, but the above are the ones we keep going back to and fine tuning towards, hopefully, perfection!  Other opinions are available, but the brewers' opinion is final....



Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Warm room construction

With the cold days drawing in we've begun construction of a warm room for our bottle-conditioned beer to enable the yeast to continue to condition and develop the CO2 from the added sugar to carbonate the beer; last winter we'd only just begun bottling and weren't taking it too seriously, but now we are bottling a bit more we want it to be of consistent quality and the only way to ensure it we achieve the required carbonation level is to keep the yeast nice and warm!

Yeast (well, the yeast we use, US05) is a fussy critter and likes to be kept within a certain temperature range else it sulks and either goes to sleep (below about 15c) or starts producing weird flavours and dies (over 25c) meaning to get the best from it the bottles containing the beer and added sugar (for the yeast to feed on and make the CO2 required) must be kept as close to 20c as we can.

Using insulation board and a wooden framework we're building a simple warm room (and office next door to save Gazza freezing to death doing the duty returns in Winter) as can be seen in the pictures below; I'll add more to show work progressing!




Thursday, 26 November 2015

Goodbye Tidy.... for now.

We've tried, God knows we've tried, but it's time to face the facts - Tidy Bitter doesn't sell well enough for us to continue brewing it.

After ten brews of it (which is more than any other beer we've made, although that is trumped in volume by the 8 brews of Golden Pixie which are larger volume batches) we were pretty much happy with the way it tasted - as much as you can be when you don't like brown bitters - and I thought the lack of UK hops / crystal malt made a big difference with the European replacements working much better flavour-wise.  

But, in the cold light of day, the facts are plain - we brewed it 4 times in both 2013 and 2014, but only twice this year.  Both times in 2015 we've only produced 16 casks of Tidy Bitter, the other 16 being dry-hopped to create "Bang Tidy" which always sold out way before the Tidy did as a result of our customers wanting something a bit different; as you can see, the demand for it has fallen off a cliff this year.

But there's more than that.  Brown Bitter is a dying animal, dying a slow death of a thousand cuts, as it's drinkers - generally older men - get fewer in number (and maybe decide to drink at home instead), plus there's the double whammy in that the newer generation of drinkers just aren't interested; they want interesting beer, be that hoppy, sour or whatever, and brown bitter just doesn't register on their radar.

Another argument against brewing brown bitter is that, quite simply, there are too many of them about so why bother!  The plethora of bitters for sale has swamped the market and depressed prices, plus other people can brew them more consistently than we can and to a better price, so what's the point in us making one when there are too many about anyway?

Add to this the day's brewing which could be better used making something which will sell better, the cost of cleaning/electric/gas/labour and the fermenter being tied up in use for a week when it could be filled with something much more lucrative and things are starting to look bad for the whole Tidy concept!

And there's still more..... with the proliferation of brewers these days pubs are in the driving seat when it comes to purchasing power, and many are now demanding to pay "No more than £x for a 9"... The value of "x" varies, depending on the location and affluence of the pub, but I've heard figures of 60, 50 or even lower being nailed to "x" and, frankly, that's just not sustainable for the brewer.  For a 9 gallon cask of 4% bitter there is around £15 of beer tax to pay, plus between £5 to £10 of ingredients.  

Add to this the brewery's overheads (staff, rent, rates, electricity, gas, transport etc) and you're getting very close to the selling price with not a lot left over for the essential profit the brewery needs to grow and, indeed, survive... selling beer for £50 a 9 just isn't sustainable or good business practice as it means pubs expect to pay that much for everything...which means you can't brew hoppy beer as the budget for ingredients simply won't stretch to a pack of Citra when you've got less than 50p to spend per cask on hops.

Another problem with bitter is that those who drink it expect it to taste a certain way with very defined flavour characteristics (toffee, estery yeast, European or UK hops), so you've not much "wriggle room" to mess about with the hopping or flavour balance much... hence it's difficult to make one with enough difference to please the beer lovers but not too scary to frighten the bitter drinkers.... a rock and a hard place I think they call it!

Which brings us onto the final argument as to why Tidy is being placed on indefinite hiatus, in that it costs us money to brew it!  Not literally, of course, but consider this scenario;

We brew 32 casks of Tidy Bitter, which we sell for £65 a cask (minus discounts).  This will give us a total of around £2000 return on the brew, although to sell it all would take a good 3 months or so.

So, instead, we create a 4.5% hoppy beast of a beer which we'd sell in 2 or 3 weeks - not months - at £80 a cask giving us around £2550.  As you can see, there is already a £550 shortfall in brewing Tidy as opposed to a more adventurous beer; this can be offset partly by the ingredient costs which would be around £200 for Tidy against, let's say as an average, £375 for the more interesting brew.  All well and good, except Tidy will be hanging around in the coldstore taking up space, getting close to it's BBE date, keeping casks tied up and generally not selling very quickly, whereas the new beer will have been sold, paid for and (hopefully!) the casks will be back and filled with something else much sooner.

So, with all this in mind, we've decided that it's just not practical to brew Tidy any more as we're losing money making it when we could be making something which will sell faster and be more popular than Tidy; let those who have specialised in brown beer make bitters, and we'll stick to the hoppy stuff; after all, you wouldn't expect a craft baker to be churning out sliced white shit bread, would you?  QED.....




Thursday, 19 November 2015

"The Boss" rides again... and other stories.

Yes, you heard it here first! 

"The Boss" was the original collab between Gazza and Pixie Spring, brewed in the cellar of the Wheatsheaf in Llantrisant, back in 2012 and if truth be told was a bit of a dog's dinner of a recipe using whatever hops we could blag at the time!

Well, after a few rebrews, Gazza reckons he's got it where he wants it and we're ready to give Boss another try; the malts are kept simple, the hops are mainly Chinook and Citra, and it's just a straightforward pale ale with big fruity hop flavours just like it was supposed to be the first time around...

The week after that we'll be brewing yet another new beer, but this one will be in a new style for us; American Amber!  This is a variation of red ale albeit with more of an amber/tawny colour than red (which the name kind of suggests) and will be loaded with big bolshy US hops to impart a bruising lupulin assault.... "We Come in Peace" definitely doesn't!


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

So new it's not got a name yet....

Which, to be fair, isn't that unusual here; we've often brewed beers and they've not received a name until they're in the fermenter or - in one case - going into cask!  Sometimes the right name just takes a while to reveal itself....

This week we're brewing a super-pale brew with the fruity Calypso hop and the lime marmaladey Centennial, then dry-hopping it with Mosaic to give, hopefully, an uber-fruity pale-as-you-like beer with an ABV of over 5%.

So, the only problem is it's lack of name... but we'll sort that out I'm sure!


(The beer has been named "Life Won't Wait"....)




Monday, 9 November 2015

Another 20 barrel week!

I know all brewers like to say they're mad busy and rushed off their feet, and we're no exception and hate being left out of the hyperbole arms race so... bloody hell, we're busy!!!

Actually, we really are busy and getting more so!  With a new agreement to supply the Hopbunker with additional guests (which we'll try and source via swaps) we're going to need more beer and there's only one way to get that - get off our arses and brew some more.

So, in this spirit of getting things done, we're brewing twice this week, one "big" 12 barrel (2100 litre) brew and one "normal" 8 barrel (1400 litre) one; as "Golden Pixie" always sells well we're brewing a big batch of that, plus we see the welcome return of the first Joy Division beer - originally a Steel City brew then done as brew 17 in late 2013 - "New Dawn Fades", a Citra and Calypso fruity beast.

Next up will be a new amber ale plus the return of more old favourites including Gazza's first collab with Pixie Spring, "The Boss"!



Wednesday, 4 November 2015

It's back!

Originally designed as a one-off brew, thanks to the first batch selling out in super-quick time - not to mention all the great feedback we've had - the politburo have decided to rebrew Devilfish again!

Masses of hops (Azacca and Mosaic) have been bought, a sack of special de-husked German chocolate malt is ready, all that remains is to unleash the alchemy and bring him back to life!  This second brew will be almost identical to the first, maybe with a very slight amendment to the "first wort" bittering hops, so we're hoping it goes down as well second time around.... 



Thursday, 29 October 2015

Big brew today!

We're doing a "big" (12BBL) brew of "Temple of Love" today, which means we get an extra third more beer from a brewday for not a lot more time - but obviously pro rata more hops and malt are required!

Anyhow, we have 2300 litres of wort in the copper, 16kg of Summit, Columbus, Cascade and Chinook are broken up ready to add, and we're just about to dig out the 300kg of wet grain from the mash tun.... happy days!




Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Busy week...

Damn right it is.  This week Gazza has been out delivering beer to the Birmingham Beer Festival, the marvellous Craven Arms in Brum and the incredibly good Cotteridge Wines shop in King's Norton, south Brum, as well as collecting empty casks from a wholesaler in Stoke whilst Gav has been washing 60+ casks to fill with lovely beer.

Today we filled said casks with beer - Mate Spawn and Die, So Much to Answer For, No Pasaran and Corazon de Oro - which has meant our coldstore is full for the first time in well over a month!

We're brewing twice this week; first off is a "remix" of Oceanic with a slightly different hop grist in the copper and it's dry-hopped with Galaxy instead of Nelson Sauvin to see what happens, then we're doing a big 12BBL brew of Temple of Love as whenever we brew it the whole lot vanishes pretty quickly...

We're also about to start building our warm room for bottles and an office out the back of the brewery (in the area which was to have been the tap room but that's never going to happen!) which means lots of planning as to how much wood and insulation board we need... all good fun.  There may also be deliveries to Bristol although that's not confirmed yet, depends if anyone there wants anything!



Friday, 23 October 2015

Apologies for the quietness!!

Basically, just that.... Gazza has been away on holiday and we've been mad busy, so that's our excuse for a total lack of posts in the last few weeks...

Normal service will resume next week as we're brewing twice (Temple of Love and Oceanic remixed), then racking 4 beers (So much to answer for, Corazon de Oro, No Pasaran and Mate Spawn and Die) to add to the two racked today (Dark Underbelly and Deutsch Projekt 6 Record) plus lots of delivering and other stuff too.

Cheers!

Busy week....

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Cold Break!

So, for those who don't know what a cold break is (apart from a holiday in Murmansk) I suppose I'd better tell you.... it's a bit technical so just switch over now if that's put you off!

When the wort is boiled with the hops we add a set amount of "protofloc" tablets, which are ground up seaweed.  The idea behind yet another aquatic process aid to beer is that the gloop contained therein causes proteins in the wort - which need to be limited to produce clear beer - to clump together (much the same way sturgeon swim bladder flocculates yeast into clumps) and become trapped in the hop bed at the bottom of the copper when the wort is run off to the fermenter.  Rapidly cooling the wort through a plate chiller makes this process happen a lot quicker and more efficiently and is pretty much essential to create clear beer in the end!  Not all the break material gets trapped and some gets through, but this then flocculates in the fermenter and all is well...  

The specific gravity test is done before the yeast is added and gives you an exact reading of the sugars in the wort you are about to ferment and, thus, when a reading is taken before the beer runs off to conditioning tank, with the aid of a clever spreadsheet you can work out the exact alcohol by volume of the beer; simple, eh?

Never one to do one thing when I can do two at the same time and thus expend less energy I could then use pissing about on the internet, I leave the wort in the sample tube to ensure the "cold break" has occurred properly... which, as you can see, in this case it has!


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Old man's beer...

Gazza has a deep love of mild; it's what he used to drink as a lad back ooop North, and is also fascinated by the extremely rare (and getting rarer) sub-style of Pennine Light; years back there were many of these: Webster's Green label, Bass Light, Robinson's Mild, Hydes Light, Taylor's Golden Best and a few others I forget.... wind forwards to the modern era and the only one remaining is the Taylor's (their best beer IMO, much better than the over-hyped Landlord and one dimensional bitter) and a few new-wave examples.

So, last year, when we brewed this it took many people by surprise; "aren't you the Gazza who loves hops?" I heard quite a few times, to which I replied yes, that's me, but I like other things too!  

This is a beer which had an elephant-esque gestation period and the recipe was rewritten many times until the discovery of Castle Maltings from Belgium and their Biscuit malt which was the missing piece of the jigsaw; crystal malt was out as an ingredient so something else was needed to depose it... and here it was in all it's crunchy, biscuity loveliness.  

It also has a very unusual mashing regime; in most beers the grain is steeped in hot water at around 66c for over an hour, but here the temperature is more like 70c and the mash takes a mere 15 minutes to keep a good dose of unfermentable dextrins for body and mouthfeel, which are essential in a mild.  The other departures from "old school" UK milds are the hops - Polish Marynka, leafy and grassy - and the yeast, our standard US05 American ale yeast, which imparts none of the esters UK beers are famous for but instead ensures a clean, smooth fermentation and flavour with enhanced hop character.

This 2015 "vintage" has had it's recipe amended from the original in several ways, all for the better, and Gazza is hopeful that his modern Pennine mild will challenge and surprise drinkers who thought that all mild was dark and full of fag ends and "pour backs".... 

And the name?  Well, only the Smiths could provide the name for such a Manchester tradition...



Wednesday, 30 September 2015

No Pasarán

Today we're brewing our (mostly) English-hopped IPA "No Pasarán" which commemorates the Battle of Cable Street where Moseley's fascists were effectively demolished and also the fight against fascism everywhere; the name is from the Spanish civil war (although dates from earlier) and means "they shall not pass".

Here we're sparging - rinsing the grain with hot water at 77°c to rinse out all the remaining sugars to get the maximum efficiency from the malt used.

And remember - for every pint drunk a fascist (hopefully) dies.




Monday, 28 September 2015

Operation auger... phase 1!

At present, our mashing in procedure is a little convoluted but it works a treat; we have a wooden grain hopper (which kind of flows, kind of, it just needs some help with a brush to empty fully) and then a sprayball hydrator in a length of brown water pipe which dumps the hydrated grain into the mashtun; marvellous.


Well, kind of.... this was designed a stop-gap setup to last 6 months until we could get a proper steel hopper and hydrator made, but as is so often the case in a brewery if something is working, why bother replacing it? So we didn't... and now, 2 years and 4 months later, it's showing signs of age and has moved up to the top of the list of "stuff that needs replacing".

With this in mind Gazza has acquired an old auger from Rich the Farmer who collects our grain; it has been redundant in their grain shed for a decade but it'll save us £600 at least which is what new ones cost!  It's a bit tatty and needs a good clean, but it works which is the main thing... We now need to get made a steel hopper and pipework to enable us to connect it to the HLT, but that's work for another day - let's be happy phase 1 is complete!


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

No green hops...

We were let down on our supply of "green" (unkilned) Bramling Cross so Gazza had to make a quick substitution from the lupulous bench... so, on comes Kazbek, the darling of the Czech hop industry, a brash, bold new face which is suited more to ales than the lagers Czech's hops are traditionally associated with.

So, "Corazon de Oro" (heart of gold) is being brewed today with a hop charge of Chinook for fruity bitterness and Kazbek for lemony, oily zestiness, and it'll be dry-hopped with Cascade to add extra layers of citrussy, lemony deliciousness... looks like all those old proverbs were right and out of adversity does come good!

The kazbek smelt absolutely amazing; loads of lemony citrus, blackcurrant, skunky fruit and even a hint of liquorice!  They are a massively complex hop and we're quite interested to see how this beer will turn out!  Look out for it in a few weeks at, as the media is wont to say, "all good outlets"....

Thursday, 17 September 2015

It's Green Hop time again!

Next week, despite me saying we'd never do it again, we're brewing a "green hop" beer.  In case you don't know what this is, the term is taken to mean unkilned hops fresh from the hopyard and used in less than 24 hours from picking to maintain their freshness.  Americans call these "wet" hops which sounds like a recipe for confusion with dry hops!

This year we've been offered a very rare 20kg picking of Bramling Cross from Ledbury, arguably the UK's most characterful "old" hop variety, (discounting new ones such as Jester) and so felt duty-bound to accept... after all, we always like to try different things and this is a chance to use a very rare "green" version of this hop.

As per last year, we'll be cutting it with lovely US Chinook to fill in some of the flavour holes which green hops have, but overall the character of this beer will be Bramling Cross!


Last year's clip, but you get the idea....

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

New wooden barrel.....

After the vague success of our now deceased (well, beer-wise anyhow, it now lives in the lobby of Hopbunker!) mammoth "double hogshead" cask we've acquired a new one to play around with... although this one is much, much smaller and much cuter!

Say hello to our new cask which I think is Acacia wood (although don't quote me on that) and is a mere 50 litres or so.  We've filled it with Spanish Main (our 5.8% Jamaican Stout) today and we'll see what magic it imparts to this over the next month or so... we've already named the beer "el barril del Diablo" or "The Devil's barrel" for reasons known only to us... 

If this experiment results in something palatable then look our for the very limited results in our bar in Cardiff, Hopbunker, or you may be lucky enough to score a bottle of it.  Very lucky indeed as there won't be much about.



Brew 150!

Tomorrow is our 150th brew which has snuck up on us quickly, so quickly I've not had chance to plan anything special (not that all our beers aren't special, obvs...) so the honour falls upon the pineappley, tropical riot of a brew which is "Mate Spawn and Die"... (almost) all New Zealand hops and always vanishes out of the coldstore super-quick.

It's taken us just over 2 years to get to this point and, although some may say about 1.5 brews a week isn't really that impressive, I'd argue that we have a reputation many times bigger than we should have for the size we are.

I'm hoping the next 50 brews are done in even faster time and may be right if the current sales are anything to go by with our coldstore being almost empty yet again...  best brew some more beer then I reckon!

So, cheers to everyone who has been along for the ride, and I hope you stay with us as we continue to try ans make the very best - and, importantly, most interesting - beers we can.

Cheers from Gazza and Gav.



Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Pre-prohibition IPA collab at Celt

Today we brewed our collaboration beer with the guys at Celt Experience of Caerphilly; the hospitality was pretty good and encompassed bacon butties, coffee, tea, chocolate cake, beer and gin in various quantities!  As for the beer, well it'll be about 7.5% and has flaked Maize, demerera sugar and lots of pale malt (1,5 tonnes!) in it, plus oodles of Cluster, Centennial, Cascade, Chinook and Galaxy hops.... should be a good one!


Gazza adding hops

Gav with a Chinese FV

Hops and sugar!

Matt messing with the copper

Gav adding hops

Gav digging the mash

Raking the mash out

Gav adding sugar

Visit to Brains....

You know the old zombie call of "brains, brains!"?  Well, that's what we said today, although in a less respectful way...

The Green Man festival in King's Cross this weekend has ordered 18 casks of beer from us, but the pallet delivery to London was scuppered for some reason (they did say why, I forget what the reason was!) and so the alternative was for us (and everyone else in Wales!) to deliver to Brains in Cardiff for them to trunk the whole lot down in one hit.

Talk about industrial scale brewing... just look at this wall of casks in their yard to see what I mean by that, and there were a lot more around too!  Certainly an experience, I'll say that....


Thursday, 3 September 2015

Collabs No.2 - Caerphilly!

Not quite Philadelphia, admittedly, but next week we're off to our mates at Celt Experience in Caerphilly to knock up what we've rather grandly called a "Pre-Prohibition Double IPA"... this unlikely sounding concoction contains demerera sugar, corn and pale malt for a taste of the old times (well, sort of...) and is bittered with the oldest American hop, Cluster, for that olde-skool bitter, catty flavour!  We've then gone a bit off-piste and planned to use hops such as Citra, Centennial and Chinook, but then again this is a modern brew so no apologies from us!

We've not got a name for this yet but it'll be around extensively as we're making 30 barrels of it I think, so look out for the first of a new style of beer....  maybe...

Collabs no.1 - Transatlantic!

Well, it's not a "proper" brewing collab as you'd expect it, but it's still an exchange of ideas across the ocean which has resulted in a beast of a brew!

Gav's mate Brian in Philadelphia is a damn good artist and, as such, he's designing the clip for our "Devilfish Black IPA" which we brewed the other week.  It's a big bolshy 5.8% super-hopped up beastie with US hops Azacca and Mosaic in the copper and Mosaic for the dry-hop, a larger than usual dose too.... 

Look out for it very soon, but beware because it bites....



Monday, 24 August 2015

Out of beer, and other stories...

Well, not quite out of beer, but it's not far off!!

We've been hammered for sales this last few weeks and, owing to us gallivanting around on jollies and such things, we've just not brewed enough to fill the gaps!  Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but such have the level of sales been recently we're now on a mad beer replenishment mission...

This week we're delivering to London, then brewing twice to try and get the stocks of beer up a bit!  Wednesday sees us creating a new beer, "Path of Least Resistance", which will be a very pale brew with Summit, Chinook and Cascade then dry-hopped with a new US dwarf hop so new it hasn't even got a name yet; it's called ADHA-464 and it smells pretty damn fruity in the Citra vein, although we'll see what comes out of the casks before comparing it to anything so amazing!


The other brew will be a new version of the award-winning "Slave to the Wage" pale ale which uses lovely New Zealand hops - Green Bullet, Waimea and Rakau - and promises to be even better than the original version.  Or so Gazza reckons....




Monday, 17 August 2015

Through the porthole

A view not often seen!

This is a view into our conditioning tank 12 with Mosaic and Cascade pellets just added; within a day they will have broken up and be in suspension then, after a few more days, will sink to the bottom of the tank, by which time they will have given up their lovely fruity and citrussy flavours and aromas.



Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Deutsch Projekt is reprised!

Well, you thought it had finished... and in truth, so did we.... but no, for one last time (maybe...), we present a Deutsch Projekt beer!

This series of brews - tomorrow's is number 5 - was devised to showcase the new wave of German hops which are challenging the accepted wisdom that all German hops taste like chewing a privet hedge (well, to be fair most of them do...) and that there might be something else to offer in the hop department from the world's biggest hop producing nation, namely some new world-esque flavours.

All beers have had a very similar - sometimes identical - malt base (mainly low colour Propino with a touch of wheat and Melanoidin), and a 3 out of the 4 have had the same base hop (Opal) to keep comparisons between the hops fair.  

So far, we've had....
1 - Mandarina Bavaria; orangey, green tea, flowery
2 - Huell Melon; wild strawberry, subtle
3 - Hallertauer Blanc; lean, leafy, some citrus and petrol
4 - German Cascade; this had German Cascade as the base hops too; citrus, tangerine, green tea.

And there we thought it would end.  However, we'd used Opal as the base hop in brews 1 to 3 which had caused a flutter of interest as it seemed to be quite orangey and characterful despite not being one of the "new wave" hops, albeit it's only 12 years old!  So, a quick board meeting later, and DP5 was on the cards...



Monday, 10 August 2015

Return of the little bloke

It's been a while since we brewed Napoleon Complex, but quite a few people have been asking for it to return and so, being eminently reasonable fellows, we decided that this was a plan of action worth following, albeit with a few provisos....

The original recipe had been, let's just say, cobbled together as a "store cupboard clearout" brew and so included all manner of hops in small quantities.  Gazza spent an hour going through the recipe and working out a better one although as similar to the original as possible and so, eventually, v3.0 was writ in stone (or more correctly in Beersmith)!

The major change is with the dry-hop; previously, the new German hop Polaris was used (amongst others), but as this tastes like chewing an Eucalyptus bush we've sensibly done away with it and gone 100% with a hop which was in the original so shouldn't alter the finished beer too much... the illustrious Nelson Sauvin.



Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Pixie on Parade brewday

Tuesday 4th August saw us welcome the two Kevs and Tufty to the brewery to brew up a split batch of beer; one half would become Golden Pixie, whereas the other half would become a special for Newport RFC's beer festival in late August.  This splitting would be done in conditioning tank with Golden Pixie receiving Cascade and Citra hops whereas the Pixie on Parade would be dosed with a larger amount of Cascade with an addition of blackcurranty Mosaic hops.

The brewday went well, the beer ended up in FV1 almost exactly on gravity, and all being well the beers will be out and about in a couple of weeks; Newport RFC beer festival is held at the club's Rodney Parade ground on Friday 21st / Saturday 22nd August, see here for details and if you can make it there will be a good range of mainly local beers.

Kev Jarvis mashing in

Dean (Tufty), Kev and Kev enjoying the refreshments

Kev and Dean add the yeast

Kev, Kev, Gazza and Dean
Fermenting!

Gazza swapped for Gav...





Thursday, 30 July 2015

Kegerator is go!

For those who don't know, a "kegerator" is an American term for a contraption which dispenses beer from a keg, via some kind of cooling mechanism, to a tap.   Ours has been in the conception phase for months as Gazza has next to zero practical skills, and it's taken Gav joining to push the project through into completion....  which says a lot about Gazza's practical value to the brewery.

But, you ask, how does it work?  Well, the keg sits in the conditioning room where it's plugged into the CO2 ring main, 3/8" beer line goes through the insulated wall, through the back of the bottling bench and into an undercounter chiller, then from there into the tap mounted on the side of said bench; it's a simple way to achieve this and, as the whole line run (which is important as less run means less beer sat in the lines getting oxidised and warm) is probably about a metre.

The end result of all this jiggerypokery is that we now have one keg beer on tap in the brewery permanently (with a second to follow when we get the correct connectors) which could be very dangerous, especially when it's really warm weather... rehydration and all that kind of thing.  

When it was all installed, cleaned and tested we had to go through one final difficult decision... what beer to put on!  After a quick look through the available kegs there was only one real winner in the list and so on goes Citraic.... :-)

Just in case anyone was wondering, the reason we don't have a "caskerator" is that we'd never drink it before it turned, whereas the beauty of keg - one of them - is that it'll last weeks (and theoretically months, although I can't see it lasting that long) so we don't have to rush through it... unfortunately.

Note also the lovely bit of driftwood which Gav has fashioned into a pull.... we've affectionately named it the giant twig!

The finished Kegerator!

A little training needed...

Worst. Boyband. Ever....

Well, that's what we look like....  here's a few photos from our joint tap takeover at the Nag's Head, Reading last night with Mike and Iain from Wild Weather.

Jay, Iain, Mike, Gazza and Gav