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Letter from the Editors
A History of Homebrewing
The Homebrewers of Greater Manchester
The Winemakers Turned Brewers
Flatlands: Dispatches From The Far East
In conversation with... Andy Parker
Letter from the Editors This volume is inspired by the homebrewers; the amateur alchemists who regularly commit themselves to a weekend of wort. From buckets in basements, to Grainfathers in garages, these people are united by a common cause: to brew great beer. This volume takes a comprehensive look at Britain’s homebrewing culture; from a once tightly regulated pastime, through to today’s ‘brew it yourself’ revolution. From the homebrewers of Greater Manchester to the professional brewers sharing their recipes, it’s a theme characterised by a sense of community and collaboration. It’s paved the way for a new generation of talented brewers, and has uncovered stories of people who have turned their passion into their profession. From Andy Parker, homebrew champion turned professional brewer, to the wave of farmhouse breweries emerging in East Anglia. This volume also takes a look at those who have found an alternative route into brewing; including a group of winemakers who have dismissed the grape for the grist; and a former dental surgeon who, inspired by his mother’s traditional Indian cooking, created a spicy snack now synonymous with the British beer festival. Mike, Simon & Nick
A History of Homebrewing Words: Ray Bailey & Jessica Boak • Photography: Annapurna Mellor
Before 1963, if you wanted to make your own beer in Britain you either had to pay the government for the privilege, or do it secretly, thanks to the lingering effects of Victorian legislation. In 1880, Prime Minister William Gladstone, seeking to appease the farming lobby and urgently raise money, replaced the long-standing malt tax with a duty on the finished product – beer. As a side effect, households that brewed their own beer for ‘domestic use’ (that didn’t sell it) were suddenly subject to registration, regulation and inspection, and were required to pay for a licence. This didn’t stop homebrewing altogether, especially not in cases where it was part of community life; as at Blaxhall in Suffolk where, according to the recollections of one elderly villager, almost every housewife brewed her own beer before World War I. They shared equipment and formed a ‘yeast chain’ with each woman collecting yeast from whichever of her neighbours had brewed most recently. But as the 20th century wore on, and people were dragged into court for making beer at home without licences, homebrewing as a vital tradition all but disappeared. Official numbers suggested that by 1961-62, only 250 people in the entire country had licences to brew beer at home.
Of course, there was plenty of homebrewing going on without licence behind closed doors. One 1963 newspaper column described a homebrewer “who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons” running a substantial brewery out of his garage to which “the Customs and Excise have never found their way.” The cost of investigating and prosecuting hardly seemed worth the effort, which is why, on 3rd April 1963, Conservative Chancellor Reginald Maudling announced the abolition of the 1880 law in his budget speech to the House of Commons. On the day of Reginald Maudling’s speech, the garage homebrewer mentioned above drank a toast to the Chancellor, raising a mug of his own strong ale. The immediate result of this liberalisation was that homebrewers began to share advice and information more openly. There was a flurry of newspaper columns and books such as H.E. Bravery’s 1965 pocket guide, Home Brewing Without Failures, which epitomises the make-do-and-mend approach of the time. Need a fermenting vessel? Use a plastic dustbin. Need to darken your beer? Why not use gravy browning (not as mad it sounds – it is essentially caramel). Some of the recipes seem, by modern standards, rather off the mark, such as a mild made entirely with crystal malt and demerara sugar, but they underline part of the essential appeal of homebrewing: variety, quirkiness, the ability to make a beer exactly to your taste, and know exactly what is in it. On British high streets homebrewing ingredients and equipment, which had long been available but with a furtive under-the-counter reputation, became easier to buy, more widely advertised, and more convenient to use. Edme, manufacturers of malt extract, sold 300 tons to UK home brewers between 1966-67 – enough to make millions of pints of beer. In 1969 the same firm launched pre-hopped malt extract into the market, meaning that any amateur with a bucket could produce about forty pints of beer for less than eighteen shillings, some warm water, and fifteen minutes work. By the 1970s there was a homebrewing boom underway, fuelled by the do-ityourself tendency reflected in the 1970s sitcom The Good Life, and by advertising campaigns on TV and in newspapers, among other factors. By 1978 the Mirror was estimating that there were more than two million homebrewers in the UK and it was sufficiently mainstream to warrant the celebrity taste-off treatment in the same newspaper, with Alvin Stardust among others reviewing and rating homebrew kits. All this came, of course, with a healthy dose of moral panic. There were scares over homebrew alcoholics; over the risks of driving after drinking homebrew of indeterminate strength; over cases of poisoning supposed to have been caused by homebrew; and, of course, over the risk posed to pubs and the ‘proper’ breweries by this growing trend. And there was probably something in this last point: every time the government put up beer duty, sales of homebrewing equipment and materials grew. After all, why pay sixty pence for a pint when you could make one at home for ten pence and, in many cases, find that it tasted better? Or at least more interesting, and probably stronger.
“ With his informal style, rebellious tendency and rugged practicality, Line chimed with the values of the young folk who made up the bulk of the CAMRA-led real ale movement of the 1970s. ” It was also in this decade that some of the first serious, dedicated beer writers emerged from the world of homebrewing. Dave Line, for example, was an electrical engineer from Southampton who first got into winemaking with his wife, Sheila. He was inspired to make his first beer by an advertisement run in national newspapers by Guinness, which rather smugly challenged homebrewers by providing a recipe for producing 2.5 million pints of its famous stout. Line reverse engineered the recipe and later published it under the name ‘Romsey Stout’. His first book, The Big Book of Brewing, was published in 1974. “You can steal a man’s wife, burn down his house, sack him from his job,” he wrote in it, “but never should you deny him the right to sup good ale.” With his informal 012
style, rebellious tendency and rugged practicality, Line chimed with the values of the young folk who made up the bulk of the CAMRA-led real ale movement of the 1970s. He died of cancer in 1980 at the age of thirty-seven, but his books are still in print today and, indeed, if you go to your local hardware shop, you’ll probably find dusty copies there next to the winemaking kits. From the same era came Old British Beers and How to Make Them, the flagship publication of the Durden Park Brewing Circle, for which Dr John Harrison plundered historic brewing logs, reviving interest in dead or dying styles such as porter and Victorian-style India pale ale (IPA). Homebrewing was more influential in the US craft beer movement than in Britain’s micro-brewing boom of the 1970s and 1980s, but that isn’t to say it wasn’t influential at all. Take David Pollard, for example, who founded a microbrewery in Stockport in 1975. He, like many of the other early micro-brewers, had been made redundant from one of the big national brewing firms, but he was also a homebrewer and ran a homebrewing shop in Stockport from 1968. Another influential figure, Brendan Dobbin, who pioneered the use of ‘New World’ hops in British brewing, learned the ropes in his student rooms in Belfast using Dave Line’s books for guidance, before going on to study formally at Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh.
“ People of a certain age will reminisce, and not fondly, about Dad’s bucket in the airing cupboard and the foul, farty, headacheinducing brews it produced ”
By 1982, homebrewing was such a big industry in the UK that publicans began pressuring government to tax and restrict homebrewing. This wasn’t successful, but it didn’t matter because in 1986 the market collapsed under its own weight and most high street shops ditched their homebrewing ranges. Some of those millions who had tried their hand in the 1970s and 80s gave up, perhaps realising that the beers they produced, though undeniably cheap, were also often nasty. People of a certain age will reminisce, and not fondly, about Dad’s bucket in the airing cupboard and the foul, farty, headache-inducing brews it produced from tins of goop and sachets of extract, with bags of cane sugar to boost the ABV. “People are not really interested in brewing their own drinks at home these days,” said the CEO of one homebrew kit manufacturer in 1989. “It’s messy and time consuming.” His company turned to the manufacture of cat litter. Diehard homebrewers, of course, kept at it, and with greater care and expertise than ever. More and better books were published (especially in the US) and specialist shops thrived, supplying not only extracts but also whole grains, whole-leaf hops, and ever more sophisticated equipment. In 1995, James McCrorie founded the UK Craft Brewing Association, a serious-minded organisation that avoided the term homebrewing because, as he told us in 2013, “it had come to mean, in Britain, a can of crap and a kilo of sugar.”
“ These days it feels quite unusual to read a craft brewery origin story that doesn’t begin with a plastic bucket. ” Then, with the rise of the internet, a second and more sustainable boom began. Online message boards provided opportunities for brewers to acquire recipes and advice, while online mail order stores meant that anyone could easily access specialist ingredients and equipment with a few clicks. The internet also made it 016
easier to organise competitions and social gatherings. From around 2007 two other factors kicked off a new homebrewing boom. First came a global financial crisis which made cheaper beer appealing; secondly, there was growing excitement around craft beer. If back then (like us) you wanted to drink crazily-hopped, crazily-strong American-style IPAs, brewing your own was cheaper and more fun than buying imports. It was also by far the easiest way to try obscure styles such as Gose or Rauchbier. For many in this period, homebrewing was an inviting route into commercial brewing – so many, in fact, that these days it feels quite unusual to read a craft brewery origin story that doesn’t begin with a plastic bucket.
The Homebrewers of Greater Manchester Words: Nicholas Dawes • Photography: Annapurna Mellor
It’s a cold November day; a bitter wind blows through our exposed hilltop surroundings in rural Lancashire. The sweet aroma of the mash penetrates the farmyard funk and leads us towards a stone outbuilding. Inside we find Rich Caller, an avid homebrewer and one of the people behind the Manchester Homebrew group. Huddled around the mash tun with his hands in his coat pockets, he invites us inside to shelter from the elements. His friend and fellow homebrew enthusiast Keith Sowerby appears less affected by the cold and stands inside a doorway with just a jumper for warmth. They’re here to brew with Rivington Brewing Co. – a relatively young outfit near the border between Lancashire and Greater Manchester. Founded by Ben Stubbs and Mike Richardson, their story of ‘homebrewers turned professional’ is characteristic of the wider brewing industry, and serves to emphasise the importance of this homespun hobby. But it’s Caller and Sowerby that are the reason for our visit. We’re here to document the homebrewers of Greater Manchester; to meet and photograph the people who are part of one of the largest homebrewing scenes in the country. The experiments of these amateur alchemists is a far cry from the ‘syrup and see’ brewing once commonplace in households during the seventies. Instead, these contemporary homebrewers pride quality over parsimony, and have ditched the extract kits in favour of all-grain setups. From stove top to computer-controlled three-vessel systems, all these brewers are united by a guiding principle: to brew good beer.
Left to right: Keith Sowerby, Rich Caller and Mike Richardson
“ I brew all sort of weird and wonderful things. I used to do beers that you couldn’t buy in the shops. You didn’t used to be able to get beer with fruit and bugs in it – now you can. ”
Computer-controlled three vessel
“ I do a lot of things with bugs and wild foraging...finding stuff to ‘poison’ other homebrewers with. ”
Rivington Brewing Co.
(Left to Right) Keith Sowerby, Mike Richardson and Ben Stubbs
“ One of the reasons we started brewing commercially was to brew beers that you couldn’t get locally. ”
“ It kind of started with the birth of my daughter and thought I’d give it a bit of a try just in case you can’t go out too often and enjoy a pint – it sort of escalated from there. ”
BIAB stove top
Urmston Homebrew Club
“ We used to live in Perth and would sail down the Swan River to Fremantle harbour and moor up at Little Creatures for beer and pizza – it’s that ambience we’ve tried to recreate here. Being a Victorian house it’s got a really nice ambient cellar at twelve degrees, so all my casks go down there and we setup a couple of handpulls in the courtyard. The kids pull the beer and I fire up the pizza oven. ”
“ It kind of works OK. Because I built it I know how it all works. ”
(Left to Right) Sam Luczynski and Kyla Hall
Sam Luczynski & Kyla Hall
Sam Luczynski & Kyla Hall
“ Brewing is a really affordable hobby, which is rare when you’re making something from scratch. You can afford to play around and for it to not work out. ”
Gideon Foster & Jon Shackleton
(Left to Right) Jon Shackleton and Gideon Foster
Gideon Foster & Jon Shackleton
“This is where we keep our yeast,” Jon Shackleton explains as he opens the door to a small under-counter fridge. The light inside reveals a library of microorganisms each contained within the bottle from which they were harvested. I’m clearly taken back. “It’s pretty obsessive isn’t it?”, he claims – it certainly is. We’d been told to expect something out of the ordinary, but amongst the oddities and curious of the neighbouring artists studios, we find a haven of homebrewing. Brewshack is the name under which Shackleton and his collaborator, Gideon Foster, conduct their homebrewing experiments. Occupying an area in the corner of a dilapidated textile mill, their setup is more akin to a bohemian micropub than a domestic homebrew setup; but it’s a space which enables them to really indulge in their hobby. We’re plied with several beers from their immense back catalogue; such is their enthusiasm, that we can barely savour our current drink before the next is put in front of us. Unfortunately, we join them as they make preparations to move out of the space, the mill having been earmarked for redevelopment into a block of upmarket apartments. Though they’re sad to be leaving, Shackleton and Foster remain optimistic about Brewshack’s future. The following is a transcript of our conversation.
Gideon Foster & Jon Shackleton
(G) Gideon Foster, (J) Jon Shackleton, (N) Nicholas Dawes (G) This saison is one of the beers that we’ve repeated the most: six, seven times we’ve made it. It’s made with WLP565. (J) Which is the Saison Dupont yeast. (G) Rumoured to be! But it’s not available at the moment. When we were looking for some, nobody had any and John had stepped up some yeast from a Blackberry Farm Classic Saison, and after some research discovered it was actually WLP565. (J) Which they originally started with – we haven’t got any of that available at the moment. (G) What’s that 375 bottle behind the kegerator? (J) I don’t know dude. 038
... (J) That’s all temperature controlled. (G) That’s our fermentation cabinet. (J) So there’s a fridge on there, if it gets too warm the fridge comes on. These tiles are from when I had my bathroom done about a year ago, underneath there is underfloor heating. That’s hooked into a temperature controller that comes on if it gets too cold. ... (J) I started brewing in my kitchen about four years ago. Gideon and I got talking and he said, “Well why don’t we brew in my studio space?” I remember the first time I came here and I was absolutely petrified about the condition of the building and how we were ever going to brew here. I said the first thing that we need to build will be a temperature controlled environment to ferment the beer in. (G) It was the first thing we started to build and it took about a year and half to finish.
Gideon Foster & Jon Shackleton
(N) So the BrewShack is? (J) Well my surname is Shackleton, and brew, as in brewing. Gideon and I used to knock about probably about ten years ago. I worked for a wine importer at the time and we used to meet up for beers after work. I only used to drink lager when we went to the pub and he was absolutely horrified about this. He used to go on about me understanding and appreciating wine, but when we went to the pub I just drank swill. So he slowly convinced me to drink real ale, which I enjoyed, but it didn’t knock my socks off. But then I went on a trip to America and Canada I was just completely absorbed by the beer scene over there. I was on Facebook the one night and there was an advert for some gadget website and it was for a beer kit. The next thing I know it’s four o’clock in the morning and I’ve been watching homebrewing videos on YouTube all night. I was completely convinced that I was going to make some beer. So I did about three ‘old man’s’ beer kits with syrup and water, but I was convinced that this wasn’t going to be enough to satisfy me. So not long after that, we did the first batch of all-grain like you’ve seen today: brew in the bag in my kitchen. (J) So that was when we got chatting and Gideon suggested that we start brewing here. 040
(G) When he first came to the studio this was kind of my dumping area. So it had the fridge and freezer which were out of my house, and all sorts of other stuff piled on top of it. So we moved all the junk, built this [points to polytunnel-esque enclosure] so we had a cleaner space. (N) So how long have you guys been brewing here together? (G) Getting on for three and a half years. (N) In terms of brewing here, is it just for you guys? (G) That’s correct. (N) It seems like a pretty formal setup. (J) It’s pretty obsessive. We’ve put a lot of heart and soul into this place – and a fair bit of money! (G) I think it’s the luxury of space though. I had this studio space and pay a tiny amount of rent because of the state of the building. Obsessive is a good way of describing it. We’re really keen to do it well. I’m maybe a bit obsessed with efficiency, and making things working properly. (J) He’s the numbers man. (G) The numbers, the building of stuff to store everything, and making it all work so it’s easy for us to do. (J) With us having to move out, Gideon’s in the process of rebuilding this space in the bottom of his garden. (G) It’s going to be a bit bigger than this.
Gideon Foster & Jon Shackleton
“ Getting the environmental health licence for this place would have been a bit of nightmare, so we just kind of sacked it off and said, ‘Let’s make beer.’ ”
(G) We’re all about mixing things up. (J) Our standard batch size is around about fifty litres. We could get more out of it, but it’s what we’ve settled on as being more convenient for recipes. (G) Sometimes we’ll fill both FV’s with the same thing and pitch yeast into both of them. Other times we’ll do one FV just straight, and we’ll do five demijohns and use whatever yeast we fancy doing in there. We don’t really experiment with dry hopping, it’s more just the yeast that we mess around with. (J) I love hops, but I’m much more fond of crazy ingredients. When I was madly into photography, whenever I used to go on holiday I’d research locations to take photographs, but now I’m all about finding ingredients to put in the next batch of beer. ... (G) I’d like to be doing beer as a profession definitely. So at one point we were hoping to go commercial here, but obviously getting the environmental health licence for this place would have been a bit of nightmare, so we just kind of sacked it off and said, “Let’s make beer.” So we did our first commercial brew with Runaway [Brewery], just a contract thing. He brewed a beer for us for an event here. So that was our foray into commercial beer. We’re kind of trying to get out there a little bit. We might try and do some more commercial brews.
Track Brewing Co.
In 2015, Matt Dutton won the UK National Homebrew Competition with his Coup D’Etat, an Imperial bretted stout. After helping to establish the Chorlton homebrew club, he’s now lead brewer at Track Brewing Co. – one of Manchester’s most exciting breweries. We caught up with him on a busy Saturday night at the Track taproom, to chat about his experience moving into professional brewing. “I was working at a bar at the time. I was buying the beer which enabled me to investigate the flavours of different beer styles and progress as a homebrewer. I pushed one of our managers to set up a homebrew group, but he left shortly after. I forced this situation, he left and nobody else there homebrewed, so I was left to run the group, which was fine, I enjoyed it. “I had a lot of holiday to take, so I came here [Track] and brewed with Sam one day a week for a year. After I ran out of holiday, it was like ‘OK, need to make a decision’, so moved over full time. That was about eighteen months ago – it’s worked out really well. “A lot of my homebrew recipes have now become real recipes, which is really exciting. I realise I’m super fortunate to be in a position where I’ve only worked in a brewery for maybe two years and I’ve already got recipes which are part of the brew schedule – most people just start cleaning for a good few years before they can brew anything. “Sam [Dyson], the owner of Track, and has been very open to new ideas, he’s happy to try things, as long as it doesn’t involve Brett. It’s been interesting to implement some things I did on a very small scale onto a bigger kit. There was a few things that Sam hadn’t done that way before, it was really enjoyable.”
(Left to Right) Andrew Clarke, Rich Caller and Alex Pembroke at Beer Nouveau
Homebrewing Recipes Words & Photography: Simon James
There has always been a strong relationship between homebrewers and professional brewers. Whether itâ€™s helping out with advice, giving feedback or sourcing ingredients, breweries play a big part in the homebrewing community. We reached out to some of our favourite breweries and asked if they could share one of their recipes for you to brew at home.
Verdant Brewing Co. From humble beginnings brewing out of a shipping container, Verdant have quickly established a reputation for brewing hop-forward, low bitterness pales and IPAs. The team have since grown into an industrial unit in their hometown of Falmouth, and recently crowdfunded a seafood bar and taproom. The Five Points Brewing Company. Well-established in Hackney, Five Points started out with a small core range and have spent the past five years mastering these beers. They have since branched out, producing a wider range but still with a focus on exceptional quality. The Runaway Brewery.
Started by Mark Welsby under a railway arch in
Manchester, Runaway have been producing an eclectic mix of traditional beers as well as some great experimental brews and collaborations with the likes of Hawkshead, Pig and Porter and Left Handed Giant. Pressure Drop Brewing. After a recent move to a larger unit in Tottenham, Pressure Drop have managed to quadruple their capacity and open a tap room on site. They are famed for their bold, flavourful beers and their unique collaborations with the likes of chef Tim Anderson. Northern Monk Brewing Co. Brewing a sound range of sessionable pales and porters, Northern Monk have become something of an institution in their hometown of Leeds. Their Patrons Project sees them collaborate with local artists, athletes and creatives to create a series of one-off beers.
Lightbulb exemplifies the modern pale ale, full of bright hop flavours
Verdant Brewing Co.
feel more substantial. At only 4.5% ABV, this beer would give most
and a mild sweetness that rounds out the whole beer and makes it 7% IPAs a run for their money in terms of flavour and body.
Extra Pale Ale
Ferment at 19°C and let
Cold crash for 48 hours.
raise to 22°C for diacetyl
A World Beer Cup winning session ale that packs a lot of flavour
Northern Monk Brew Co.
hopped with American hops Centennial, Comet and Mosaic,
into its modest ABV. This is a light, crisp ale which is generously and balanced with sweet Vienna and Pale malt. While a very approachable beer for someone getting in to these styles, it is still loaded with flavour and extremely satisfying.
Carapils / Dextrin
Water: Aim for 2:1 sulphate
Mash: pH 5.2 - 5.3.
* Dry hop twice for 3 days
to chloride ratio. 150ppm
at a time.
American Brown Ale
Runaway’s American Brown, though visually unassuming,
The Runaway Brewery
bill containing five different malts adds a layer of sweetness than
demonstrates a great depth of flavour. Not only does it showcase the selection of fruity Anglo / American hops, but the heavy grain complements the bitterness from the hops.
American Brown Ale
Extra Pale Maris Otter
With loads of orange peel and under 5% ABV, this beer is a real
Pressure Drop Brewing
of pilsner and wheat malts lays a great foundation for the spices
thirst quencher on a summer’s day. The light body comprising and orange peel to shine through. This, combined with citrusy Hallertauer hops, leads you to believe there is more fruit in there than there actually is.
Malted White wheat
* Mash at 2.5L/kg and hold
Lightly crushed star
at 66°C for 60 min. Recirculate the mash for 30 min, sparge and then boil. Bag all the aromatic additions together and then remove at flame out. †
Use unwaxed oranges with
minimal pith. ‡
Lightly roasted orange zest
Pitch with a little yeast
nutrient and aerate. Fermentation
WPL400 / WLP410‡
A master of its style in any dispense method – although it’s worth
The Five Points Brewing Co.
colour with a large waft of chocolatey aroma. Chocolate again
seeking out on cask – this beer pours a deep, dark, luxurious brown penetrates the flavour, but this time backed up with roasted coffee and earthy spice from the East Kent Goldings.
Liquor: Treat with acid
East Kent Goldings
East Kent Goldings
as if for a pale beer. Add calcium chloride for room temperature mash pH 5.3. * Added just before the sparge.
Homebrewing Machines Words: Simon James • Illustrations: Nicholas Dawes
There are few things more satisfying than making something completely from scratch; taking the raw materials and combining them into something that you can use, eat or drink is extremely rewarding. The gratifying experience of turning malt and hops into a delicious alcoholic beverage is one of the reasons why I have been homebrewing for nearly ten years now. Over the course of my journey, my methods have evolved greatly. Like most, I started with a humble starter kit; a can of concentrated malt syrup with some hop extracts in, and a little sachet of yeast. Whilst this was a great learning experience in the basics of fermentation, sterilisation and patience, the resulting beer, though perfectly drinkable, clearly came out of a tin. The beers had that classic ‘homebrew taste’, that is a mixture of sweet vanilla and wood polish – and not in a good way. After I had a few of these kits under my belt, it was time to move on to something a bit more advanced; it was time to take the plunge into the world of ‘all-grain brewing’. After some research and a realisation that my small flat was well, small, I purchased a seventy-litre saucepan and a net curtain and I was all set for my first Brew In A Bag (BIAB) brew day. I loved the simplicity of this method and used it for a number of years, creating some great beers, including an award winning sour lemon saison. Having reached the limitations of this setup, I found myself wanting to try more complicated recipes which the BIAB method would make difficult. Fortunately, at around the same time I’d moved out of the flat and was now the proud owner of a spacious shed, fitted with water and electrics. It was the perfect time to upgrade to a full three-tier brewing system. I enjoyed building and customising my threetier setup, tweaking it after every brew to make it more efficient and easier to use. Throughout its evolution, I always had a nagging doubt – whether I should have invested in a specialist homebrewing system. Then the opportunity to test three of the leading systems arose, to see how they worked and compared to my existing setups. In the interest of a fair test, I established a control beer, a simple pale ale SMASH (Single Malt and Single Hops) recipe of Maris Otter and citra hops, and brewed them under the same conditions with the same yeast. What follows details my experience with each of the systems...
BIAB (Brew In A Bag) A D J UN C T
Y EA S T
The simplest and most affordable all-grain brewing method; you take a
hot water for about an hour or so depending on the recipe. Once all the
drain leaving you with a sweet wort which can now be boiled in situ and
large pan and steep a bag full of grain (kind of like a massive tea bag) in sugars and starches have leached out of the grains, the bag is lifted out to hops added. When you add dried grain to the mash, not only do the sugars leave the grains, but water is also absorbed into the once dried grains. Whatever amount of dried grains you added to the mash, this has now doubled or tripled in weight. This results in you trying to lift a very hot, wet and heavy bag of grains out of a pot and having to hold it there while every last bit of sugar is extracted. People have got around this by employing winch and pulley systems, but this detracts from the simplicity. Other critics of this method claim that, as there is no proper sparge through a grain bed, the resulting wort and beer can have clarity issues. Whilst this is true for the wort pre-boiling, a strong rolling boil and then a quick cooling down to as low as possible prior to moving to the fermenter will drop out most of the trub and particulates anyway. I have produced around thirty batches with this method and have never had any clarity issues, and even managed to produce a wheat beer that was perfectly clear. The brew day went without a hitch and the longest part of this was waiting for the water to get to the correct temperature. As my set up has no builtin heat source, I rely on my kitchen stove to heat up over thirty litres of water to that all-important strike temperature of seventy degrees. But with the aid of a few kettle-loads of boiling water this wasnâ€™t too much of a chore. As the temperature of the shed was on the cool side that day, the mash did start to lose a few degrees Celsius as there is no insulation on the pot, but a quick blast of the stove brought it back up to sixty-six degrees, where it remained for the rest of the mash. The clean-up for this brew day was really quite simple; all the grains are contained in the bag so it is just a simple case of tipping them out into the compost heap, or pass them on to your local farmer to feed his livestock. Then there is just one large pan to wash out which, once you get rid of the hops, is a relatively easy task.
3 Tier System ADJU N CT
Hot Liquor Tank
The term â€˜three tier brewing systemâ€™ refers to the physical arrangement of
the three vessels; this is why they are normally arranged on three levels
which is used to produce hot water ready to use for mashing in the grains
is typically the mash tun. Once the mash is complete, you run off the wort
this setup. Gravity plays an important role in moving the liquid through or tiers. On the uppermost level, you have the Hot Liquor Tank (HLT) and also for sparging post mash. This is then fed to the middle tier which to the copper, the lowest and final tier. This system requires the most space and can be expensive to set up. If, like me, you progress from extract brewing or BIAB brewing, you might be able repurpose some of the vessels into this new system. Another slight criticism of this system is that it can take quite a while to set up and then clean down afterwards. As you have three times the number of vessels compared to other set ups, it stands to reason you will have three times the amount of cleaning. Whilst I had spent some time and money putting this system together, it is by no means a professional set up. My hot liquor tank was a tea urn that was plugged in to a temperature controller, and the mash tun was a cool box that had a tap drilled into it with a network of copper pipes in the bottom to evenly extract the wort. The copper and cooling coil was repurposed from the previous BIAB setup. However, the benefits of this system was evident in the beer; I felt it had the cleanest, freshest bitterness out of any of the other systems. This could be down to the way the beer is passed through a the grain bed multiple times before making its way into the kettle, building a more robust filter each time the wort is recirculated through.
Grainfather Connect ADJU N CT
Possibly one of the most prolific brewing machines, The Grainfather has
Based on the BIAB method, The Grainfather consists of an urn-style kettle
based on the BIAB method, it does hold a number of advantages over it.
temperature quickly, it also accurately maintains the temperature and is
gained popularity due to its relatively affordable price tag and ease of use. containing a stainless-steel grain basket to replicate the bag. Although itâ€™s Firstly, the accurate temperature controls not only get the system up to easy to adjust if you want to do a step mash. Secondly, with its built-in pump, it provides a great way to sparge the grains to extract all the sugars and recirculates the wort, through the grain bed for clarity. The brew day didnâ€™t initially get off to the best start. As these machines were test / display models, they may have not had the best care and maintenance. When I came to rinse it out, prior to the brew, the pump was seized and would not circulate the water. After a strip-down of the pump and after removing multiple clogs of hop matter, the pump came back to life and ready for the brew day. It should be noted that with appropriate care and proper cleaning, this was not an issue I encountered on subsequent brews. When we were up and running, the brew day was very quick. It was especially noticeable how quickly the water got up to temperature, and was accurately maintained throughout the mash. Whilst this has many advantages over the BIAB method, it still has a few of the same drawbacks, mainly the need to lift the heavy grain out of the machine. Although, once the basket is out of the kettle, a quick twist and the basket locks in place just above the wort, allowing the excess water to fully drain. I quite enjoyed using this machine as, while it automates some processes, you are still involved at each stage to progress to the next. I felt like I still had control and was still making the beer myself, rather than the machine. I was very pleased with how the beer turned out; the body was definitely noticeably different and held the hops a lot better compared to the other methods. I am not sure if this is due to the pinpoint accuracy of the temperature in the mashing stage or just beginners luck, but either way this beer definitely stood out.
Pico Brew Zymatic A D J UN C T
Y EA ST
I was perhaps most excited about trying PicoBrew’s offering, The Zymatic
automatic all-grain beer brewing appliance’. Launched after raising more
its premium price tag of around $2,000.
– billed as a ‘bread maker’ for homebrewers and ‘the world’s first, fully than $660,000 on Kickstarter, this is clearly a popular machine, even with
Adjunct Compartment D
After I had got to grips with the machine, it was very easy to use, but the
can either program yourself or download from the internet. Whilst this
Keg (not supplied)
initial set up was a bit daunting. The Zymatic follows recipes that you is great for beginners, it can also be a little frustrating when you’re just looking to experiment with an unplanned brew. When it comes to the brewing, this is by far the easiest brew day ever. After loading the ingredients into all the corresponding compartments, it’s as simple as selecting the recipe, hooking it up to a keg of water and pressing go. As the whole operation is automated, you feel removed from the process and are left redundant, waiting for your beer to be ready. Because I wasn’t familiar with this machine, I wasn’t sure what would happen next and I didn’t feel comfortable going off and leaving it to its own devices, but at the same time, I didn’t really need to be there just watching the process. One of the biggest complaints I have about these machines is that they can be difficult to clean, as you are unable to submerge them in hot soapy water and give them a good scrub. But the Zymatic has a handy cleaning program that pumps water around the system, getting into all the hard-toreach places. If that doesn’t get every last bit, all the compartments are dishwasher-safe. Out of all the beers I was probably most disappointed with this one; I couldn’t put my finger on what it was but it just tasted a little dull and not as bright as the others. I also noticed this when I used it to brew one of my staple porter recipes, but this could be down to me not picking the correct brewing profile on the system.
BHG 403 / 410 A D J UN C T
Y EA S T
The ‘low tech’ option of the three machines, the Bielmeier system is quite
manual setup. On closer inspection, you see a small control panel which
unassuming from the first impression, and could be mistaken for a simple alludes to a little more going on under the shell. For around £500 this is definitely the cheapest out of the machines and potentially cheaper than the three-tier system, depending on your choices. This could be considered even better value, when you look at the other potential uses that the supplier lists for this system, such as mulling wine and preserving fruits and vegetables. One of the main drawbacks I found with this setup was the need to transfer the wort out of the mash tun / kettle and then back in again to finish the boil. BIAB also uses the same container for both these processes, but unlike BIAB, you can’t easily remove the grain in one simple step. Instead you have to drain the liquid out, remove the grains, and then add the liquid back in before proceeding with the boil. This means that the process is a bit of a hassle, and of questionable benefit over the simpler BIAB method. The build quality felt the sturdiest of the three, which could be down to German engineering, or it could be down to the simplicity of its design. Either way, you get the impression that it will stand up to several years of brewing without issue. The main benefit of this system is the precise temperature control – accurate and stable control of the temperature results in a more precise extract of sugars from the mash. After the brew day, the cleaning was quite extensive for such a simple set up. Not only do you have to transfer the wort to another vessel while you clean the kettle, the method which was recommended (using a big ladle) left a lot to be desired and ended up splashing a lot of the surfaces in hot, sticky wort. The Bielmeier beer was a middle of the road result; on the one hand the flavour was good, but the clarity of this one was the worst in this test. This could have been due to me not cleaning the vessel properly whilst I was transferring the wort back and forth. If this was the case, this is another mark against this cumbersome setup.
After spending a couple of months brewing on these machines, I felt I had a good understanding of what they were about and all their unique benefits and drawbacks. The Zymatic for me was definitely the easiest to use, once you got used to the operating system, and I eventually grew to trust it so I could walk away and leave it to do its thing. This also meant I could potentially squeeze in a brew day when I may not normally have been able to if I were using another method. This would be a big benefit for anyone who normally struggles to find the time to brew. The simplicity of the Bielmeier system retained the feeling that you were involved in the brewing of the beer. However, I think the negatives outweigh the positives, especially with the cumbersome way you have to move the wort around. The Grainfather felt like the best of both worlds; it had enough automation to help you with your brew day, but you were still involved in the whole process. If I was going to purchase one of these machines, it would be The Grainfather. Not only is it an amazingly clever bit of kit, but at around £700, makes for a worthwhile investment in your homebrewing hobby. Would I look to replace my existing setups with one of these systems? Probably not. Don’t get me wrong – I think all three of these machines are great bits of kit and have their time and place, but looking back at when I first got into all-grain brewing, the most enjoyable part was constructing components like the wort chiller, or converting a cool box into a mash tun. For me, homebrewing is a hobby, something I enjoy doing and want to do. I don’t need to concern myself with timescales or efficiencies; I brew when I choose to, and will make sure that I can dedicate the day to enjoying the process of converting grains and hops into something special.
With kind support from
The Five Points Brewing Co. www.fivepointsbrewing.co.uk The Five Points Brewing Company is a proudly independent East London brewery creating vibrant and modern beers, brewed with passion and integrity. We are based in Hackney, East London, and began our journey in a Victorian railway arch near a landmark five-way road junction – hence “The Five Points.” We take pride in the quality, consistency and provenance of the beers we brew; all unfiltered and unpasteurised to keep all the amazing flavours and aromas from the ingredients we work with. We strive to be a socially responsible business, working to support local charitable, arts and community projects, and we were the first brewery in the UK to be an accredited Living Wage Employer.
Fuggles Beer CafĂŠ www.fugglesbeercafe.co.uk Created in 2013 with the aim of specialising in the best British & European beers we could find, coupled with great spirits, wine, coffee, food and people. Twentytwo ever-changing draught lines await you including five cask ales, real cider and over one hundred speciality and rare bottles. Over one hundred gins and whiskies, natural wines and some of the finest cheeses and cured meats all set in a relaxed and friendly environment. Food and coffee served all day.
28 Grosvenor Road
165 High Street
The Winemakers Turned Brewers Words: Will Hawkes • Illustrations: Nicholas Dawes
Vinnie Cilurzo should be running a vineyard. His parents Vince and Audrey owned Cilurzo Wineries in southern California (and loved wine so much they named his sister Chenin, after the grape Chenin Blanc). Sonoma County, where he works, is full of world-famous vineyards and winemakers, but Cilurzo doesn’t make wine; he makes beer. He’s not the only brewer with winemaking chops though. Cilurzo, owner of Russian River, is part of a small but significant group of former winemakers – including Mitch Steele, former brewmaster at Stone Brewing in San Diego, and Ashley Huntington, the man behind Tasmania’s remarkable Two Metre Tall brewery – who are changing how we perceive beer. From barrel fermentation to bottling, from the idea of terroir to the significance of acidity, these winemakersturned-brewers are bringing a new approach to brewing. They’re able to do this because wine’s own revolution, which came perhaps twenty years before that of beer, created an open-minded, flavour-focussed culture. In the 1980s, when beer was beginning its transformation in California, aspiring brewers sometimes had no choice but to work in the wine industry. “I majored in Fermentation Science at [the University of California at] Davis, which was mostly focussed on winemaking and brewing,” says Steele. “[After I graduated in 1984] I wanted to go into brewing but there weren’t any jobs; it was a terrible time of recession. I ended up taking a job in winemaking, at Almaden Vineyards [near San Jose in California], which I did for many years.”
The use of barrels – which affect flavour, colour, texture and tannins and offer tantalising fermentation possibilities – is one obvious way in which wine has influenced beer. Alongside a gaggle of world-famous IPAs – including Pliny The Elder – Russian River is most known for the quality of its barrel programme. Beers like Temptation, a blonde ale aged in Chardonnay barrels; Supplication, aged in Pinot Noir barrels; and Consecration, aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels, are coveted around the world. “My winemaking background has been helpful with the barrel-aged beers we make,” Cilurzo says. “Knowing how to care for and repair barrels is of great help. But it’s very different too: what we do now with barrels and the types of fermentations we do in wood, I don’t see my wine background helping. In wine, the winemaker is trying to keep Brettanomyces (and bacteria) away from their wine. With what we do in barrels, we are using the Brett and bacteria to enhance the beer. So here the two are not complimentary at all.”
Cilurzo makes a good point; his method for making wild and sour beers would horrify many winemakers (although a number of natural wines, whether intentionally or otherwise, exhibit similar characteristics to wild ales).
influence of Lambic producers is clearly more significant here: “My interest in spontaneous fermentation and sour / funky barrel-aged beers came later in life after my first trip to Belgium and a visit to Cantillon,” he says. Nonetheless, the use of barrels is at least partly inspired by the world of wine. Wine barrels are increasingly in demand: Andrew Nielsen, an Australian who makes wine in Burgundy (under the name Le Grappin) but lives in London, now provides many of the UK’s most experimental breweries with ex-wine barrels, for example. And Cilurzo has a good relationship with the winemakers who surround his brewery. “I can go look at every barrel we procure, smell it, visually inspect it and know what I’m getting,” he says. “This has been tremendous. Also, knowing what was in the barrel before is very important. We are looking to impart some of the wine character out of the barrel into the beer, so what was in it previously is very important.”
“ The quest for palate acidity led me into a world where I became very lost. When I tried to re-establish my bearings, I realised I was in a different world. ” Then there’s fermentation. Wine is straightforward: the sugars and yeast required for fermentation already exist in and on the grape (even if outside yeast is often used), and the result is a low pH, high-alcohol drink. Beer is more complex: the grain must be malted and mashed to unlock the components required for fermentation. The end result is (most often) higher in terms of pH than wine but lower in alcohol. Nonetheless, knowledge gained of fermentation in the wine world can help with brewing, says Mitch Steele. “Any time you get experience managing fermentations, you’re going to be better at your job,” he says. “I think the experience I got with different types of barrels, with managing yeast fermentations and bacterial fermentations – all that stuff can play a role in brewing beer.” Acidity, generally lacking in beer, is one of the key components in wine. Ashley Huntington – the man behind Two Metre Tall in Tasmania – made wine at La Baume, near Beziers in southern France, for many years before returning to his native land in 2004. Since then – despite his initial desire to make wine and the sometimes furious opposition his beers have provoked – he has built a well-deserved reputation as perhaps Australia’s most interesting brewer, producing beers which are both very drinkable and noticeably acidic. Beers such as Cleansing Ale, a pale ale which develops with age, becoming progressively cleaner and deliciously tart. This has a lot to do with his winemaking background, he believes. “My winemaking history has been perhaps the single biggest influence on my brewing, in both positive and negative ways,” he says. “For a start, the superiority complex and arrogance trained into most New World winemakers – that they are making the world’s most culturally significant beverage – caused me to seriously underestimate the brewing process. “And my wine-making palate always demanded that beer, whilst a pleasant drink, needed acidity for it to become a great drink. Had I been a trained brewer, this thought would have never occurred and if it had, it would have been beaten out of me! The quest for palate acidity led me into a world where I became very lost. When I tried to re-establish my bearings, I realised I was in a different world.”
“ The wine industry has shown emerging microbrewers that you can start small with a big vision and limited funds, and still have a good chance of succeeding ” Like California, Australia’s craft-beer revolution has benefited from wine-making knowledge. It’s striking how many brewers ‘Down Under’ started as viticulturists (a person who plans, supervises and coordinates the growing of grape varieties for the production of wine) – including Ashley Huntington (Two Metre Tall), Brad Rogers (Stone & Wood), Jayne Lewis (Two Birds) and Costa Nikias, the man behind La Sirene, one of Melbourne’s most expansive new breweries. Based on an industrial estate in the suburb of Alphington, La Sirène could be mistaken for a winery. There’s plenty of barrels and stainless steel, and the beer is packaged in Champagne bottles – which Nikias has especially imported from Europe. There’s even a creek – Darebin Creek – at the back, which teems with 084
Australian life even if it doesn’t have quite the worldwide cachet of Jacob’s Creek. Nikias, whose career in fermentation has included a stint at Bass Phillip, a Victorian winery famous for its exceptional Pinot Noirs, believes Australia’s wine explosion of the 1970s and 80s undoubtedly paved the way for the country’s ongoing beer revolution. “I think that’s definitely true,” he says. “Just look at the similarities in labelling, and the mutual spirit when it comes to innovation – not only [in relation to] the product but also the packaging and delivery to the consumer. The wine industry has shown emerging microbrewers that you can start small with a big vision and limited funds, and still have a good chance of succeeding – if the stars align!” This manifests itself not only in new flavours but also in a different way of presenting beer; more elegant, more approachable, more expensive too. Not everyone, understandably, is happy with this development: beer’s reputation as the working man’s drink is well-earned, and beer served in Teku glasses – whose shape is not a million miles from a wine glass – offends some. Nonetheless, change at the top end of the market is happening.
The next step, perhaps, is terroir – traditionally regarded as wine’s territory. Many brewers, particularly in the USA, are already moving along this road. Terroir is a complex and sometimes exasperating concept, but it essentially means that the product expresses the spirit of a place. Beer, generally made with ingredients sourced far from the brewery, rarely has this (although beer styles – such as Rauchbier in Bamberg and Dry Stout in Dublin – can tell of a place, too, albeit in a different way). Nikias recently installed a coolship, open to the elements, in order to capture the flavour and fermenting capability of the local flora in the nearby creek. He believes this will be a growing trend in Australia as it is elsewhere, with La Sirène having thus far released two iterations of a one hundred percent spontaneously-fermented beer, Wild Tripelle. “The beer has a sense of place and is a true reflection of our site,” he says. “There will be a shift towards the finer subtleties in a beer, which is where this concept of terroir comes into play.” With brewers around the world increasingly interested in terroir, barrel-ageing and new fermentation techniques, it seems inevitable that this shift towards the ‘finer subtleties’ will continue. And given the huge flavour possibilities offered by beer, it is unlikely that there won’t be more winemakers like Cilurzo leaving the family business behind for a career in hops, barley and barrel fermentation. Wine’s influence on the world of brewing looks set to grow and grow.
Dispatches From The Far East Words Daniel Tapper Photography Simon James
Little Earth Project Burnt Mill
Illustration Nicholas Dawes
Duration Ampersand All Day Brewing
“A strikingly large number of our settlements are oriented to the west and, where circumstances permit, relocate in a westward direction. The east stands for lost causes.” – W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn Towards the end of summer, a cloud of dust forms in the East Anglian sky; thrust from combine harvesters, it turns the low-lying sun an incandescent red. But by night, it settles, and the black clapboard buildings become an ethereal shade of charcoal silver. This uncanny sight signals that the annual barley harvest has begun, and soon some 3.8 million tonnes of malt will be exported to craft brewers around the world, many of whom – rightly – consider Norfolk and Suffolk’s two-row spring barley to be some of the world’s best. The irony is that while much is made of the area’s grain, little is ever said of its breweries – especially those not associated with traditional ale. But all this could be about to change thanks to a small but growing group of fledgling breweries that are forging a new direction for the region. Unlike their urban counterparts, these breweries are largely shunning ‘juicy hop bombs’ and railway arches. Instead, they are opting for converted barns, as well as beers that proudly display a unique terroir – be it through locally grown hops, fruit and barley, or wild yeast derived from nearby orchards. Perhaps more radically still, some are taking inspiration from the American farmhouse model by limiting national distribution and taking full control of their supply chains. The result? Suffolk and Norfolk are fast becoming destination counties, home to some of the UK’s most exciting, innovative and individually minded brewers. To get the bottom of what makes this part of the country so special, we headed to five of the region’s newest breweries to hear their stories…
Little Earth Project Sudbury, Suffolk Tom Norton (owner and head brewer)
The brewery is located next to a pub that I grew-up drinking in. My family and I lived just down the road and I was in there from the age of fifteen. The rule was that you were allowed to drink underage as long as you stuck to mild. It went on the market in 2004 and there were rumours it was going to become a house so my parents did what needed to be done: they bought it. Four years later we decided to build an on-site brewery. I was working as a teaching assistant at the time but packed this in to become the head brewer. It was originally called the Mill Green brewery and we specialised in cutting edge cask beer. We were one of the first UK breweries to use Citra and other new world hops. By 2015 the brewery was relatively successful but weâ€™d had enough of running the pub and so decided to lease it out. The agreement with the new landlord was that he would have to buy our beer but he basically ignored it. We had two choices: to take them to court and kick them out, or just change the way we do things. Thatâ€™s when the brewery became the Little Earth Project.
“ The beer dictates what direction it wants to go in. ” Everything we do takes time. I brewed yesterday and hadn’t brewed for two months before then. The quickest beer that we can turnover is a saison that takes four months to age. Some take a lot longer; I just packaged a beer that took a year and a half to finish. Our brew house is about as simple as it gets; the fermenters aren’t temperature controlled, the water isn’t treated; nothing is fined; all the bottling is done by hand and we can only make about 700 litres at a time. As for distribution, we mainly just send out individual cases using a courier. Terroir is very important to us. Our wild yeast is derived from our own cider apples grown just down the road; water is sourced from a borehole below the 092
brewery; we grow our own organic barley on a fourteen acre field just down the road; we forage a lot of local ingredients like blackberries, wild mint, elderflowers and elderberries, and we grow eight English hop varieties, including Challenger Fuggles, First Gold and Bramling Cross. The beer dictates what direction it wants to go in. After a few months of ageing in oak we see what flavours are evolving and only then do we decide what additional ingredients to add. Current beers include an organic reserve primary fermented with Champagne yeast and then aged in freshly-emptied French Chardonnay barrels, a pale ale dry hopped with Sorachi Ace and rosemary, and a sour beer infused with wild mint and lime juice – it tastes a bit like a mojito. We have some exciting plans for the pub. The lease runs out this year and we’re going to take back control. The plan is to install some keg lines and turn it into our taproom. The food element will be important, too. The plan is to serve dishes that pair well with the beer and also make use of wild and fermented ingredients. There’s a campsite next-door and some really nice countryside, so I’m hoping we’ll have a lot of visitors.
Duration West Acre, Norfolk Miranda Hudson (marketing director) & Derek Bates (head brewer)
It’s a scary and exciting time for both of us. Last Christmas we gave up our jobs and we’ve spent the last year earning money by renting our home out on Airbnb, whilst working our asses off to raise the funds to design and build a brewery. So far, we’ve managed to get together £1.5m through a combination of savings, local investors, government grants and by taking on debt. If it all goes to plan, we’ll do our first brew later this year. Norfolk ticks a lot of boxes for us. There’s a lot of space to grow into; we’re surrounded by amazing producers; the national yeast bank is just down the road; the beer scene is growing, but isn’t saturated, and the people are real and not a bunch of pretentious assholes. People think the county is behind in terms of its beer offering, but it really isn’t. These guys have always had amazing quality artisanal beer – the industry just needs a bit of reinvigoration, that’s all. Our dream is to create a destination farmhouse brewery. While we will sell our beers nationally to begin with, we will also encourage people to come and see where their beer is made and celebrate its context. In the US, you see a lot of people travelling to try hyper-local beer and that’s the model we are taking because we believe it’s always better to enjoy beer as close to its source as possible.
“ We are not going to be chasing trends. We like well made beers that are also very drinkable. ” We’ll definitely be pushing for people to buy directly from us. This not only means better profit margins for us, it also means better quality beer for the consumer because we will have full control over how it’s stored. The challenge will be convincing people in the UK to leave their hometown, which can be a bit like pulling teeth. It shouldn’t be difficult; the UK is only around the size of Wisconsin and it really isn’t hard to get to most places. 098
You couldn’t ask for a better location. The brewery is located in an old barn on the ruins of a 12th century Augustine priory in the Nar valley. There will be a taproom overlooking the ruins and a barrel ageing room in a 150-year-old barn, complete with a coolship, two foeders and thirty brand new white oak barrels ready to be inoculated with local wild yeast strains. As for the brewhouse, we’re planning for a twenty-hectolitre BrauKon kit, because if you want your customers to have the best beer possible, then you can’t afford to open with crappy equipment these days. We are not going to be chasing trends. We like well made beers that are also very drinkable. So alongside our mixed fermentation beers will be sessionable American pale ales and an authentic pilsner aged in custom-made horizontal lagering tanks – it’s a beer that really showcases the talent of a brewer because there’s nothing to hide behind in terms of flavour.
All Day Brewing Salle, Norfolk Miles Anstes (brewer)
We are remote, even by Norfolk standards. The brewery is in a 500-year-old barn on a farm just off the Marriott’s Way, which is a beautiful long-distance footpath between Norwich and Aylsham. The walls are 600mm thick so you don’t get any temperature fluctuation. Our barley comes from surrounding fields and is malted just down the road at Crisp Malting Group. There’s also huge potential for harvesting wild yeast strains from the surrounding orchards and we’re not too far away from the Microbiology unit at the University of East Anglia. Sustainability is a massively overused term, but it’s something we strongly believe in. When the brewery was established four years ago, the plan was to sell no further than a thirty-mile radius around the brewery and to source everything as locally as possible. And we still stick to these principles. We grow our own hops, we have our own borehole, we’ve got poly-tunnels for growing all our own organic fruit, and our beer only leaves the county occasionally.
It’s not your typical set up. The brewery is comprised of former jam-making equipment. As a result, the conditioning tanks can withstand very high pressure, which is great for secondary fermentations with fresh fruit. We only average around 2,000 litres of beer per month and we distribute everything ourselves. None of us are working full-time on the project yet, but it does take up an unhealthy amount of our time – it’s a true passion project for us. We have a vast catalogue of beers that are constantly changing. These range from American-hopped dark beers to Kölschs and Berliner Weisse beers. We’ve also 104
been ageing different beers in wood over fresh cider lees. One of the few regular beers we make is Norfolk Green Hop, a beer brewed with our own fresh hops that we freeze at point of harvest. Whatever beer we decide to make, the main rule for us is that we do it properly. If we’re going to make a saison, for example, it will condition for around nine months. We never thought we’d be able to convince local pubs to sell our beer. It’s very traditional round here and there is a tremendous passion for traditional British cask ale – locals drink a phenomenal amount of it. But now that craft beer has finally reached Norfolk, things are moving really quickly and the support we’ve had has been phenomenal. We’ve also had a lot of interest from local homebrewers who we sometimes invite to brew with us. We hope to inspire them to open their own breweries – you can never have enough of them in my opinion.
Ampersand Bungay, Suffolk Andy Hipwell (co-owner and head brewer)
There’s graffiti in our brewery from the mid 1800s. We’re based in a converted barn on the family farm I grew up on. My wife does sales, my dad helps with bottling and I do the brewing. We only started about eleven months ago, so we’re not currently working to maximum capacity. In fact, I reckon we only put out about 3,000 litres of beer a month, which means I’m still working as a civil engineer for the time being. Our next step is for me to go full-time and then find someone to help with distribution. At the moment we do all the deliveries ourselves, mainly around Cambridge, Colchester, Norwich and King’s Lynn. We are right in the middle of Adnams and Greene King territory. There is no way we could even begin to compete with these guys when it comes to selling cask beer, so our whole business plan is based on not doing your usual East Anglian bitters. Instead, our focus is higher ABV keg-conditioned beer. But we have to be careful not to get too crazy; the East Anglian beer scene is a lot less developed than in other parts of the country, and so a lot of the pubs round here say they struggle to shift anything over 6% and New World IPAs are still considered ‘edgy’.
“ When we were planning the brewery, we looked to Leeds and Manchester for inspiration. ” Norfolk beer drinkers have high standards. They might not be au fait with the latest beer trends but the beer they do drink is consistent and extremely high quality. That’s why we are taking things slowly without letting standards slip. We want to grow organically and never compromise.
We’ve got some exciting beers in the pipeline. We share our farm with an amazing new winery called Flint, and we’ll definitely be looking to do a collaboration with them at some point. I’m also in touch with the English Whisky Company, which is just down the road from us in Thetford; I’d really like to put some of our beer in their barrels. When we were planning the brewery, we looked to Leeds and Manchester for inspiration. These cities have such a strong core of good breweries, and local buyers will always prioritise their own city’s breweries before buying anything from out of town. East Anglia is currently the opposite of this. I was speaking to one local distributor the other day and he’s importing two tonnes of beer from outside of the region every week. My dream is that our scene will be so strong in a few years that we won’t have to do this.
Burnt Mill Badley, Suffolk Charles O’Reilly (owner)
We never planned on moving to Suffolk. I was living in south London and was considering contract brewing or opening up my own brewpub. But then an old grain storage barn became available on my wife’s family’s farm and we just said, “let’s do this.” We ordered a fifteen-barrel brew kit from Gravity in October 2016 and spent the following year renovating the space. During that time we hired our head brewer, Sophie De Ronde, who used to work at Muntons as a brewing technologist – I considered doing the brewing myself but had to accept that she would do a better job. I’m not going to lie; living out here isn’t always easy. I miss the accessibility of good bars and restaurants in London, as well as the freedom of getting around on my bike. But at the same time, we wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing here in London – it would be too expensive. What’s more, we are surrounded by amazing produce. We just harvested our first batch of Propino barley on the farm, which will provide us with our base malt, and we have plans to start growing some other grains like rye and buckwheat.
“ I’d love to get to a stage where a lot of our beer stays in the region. ” We try to keep all our beers approachable. In real terms, this means beer that is full of flavour but also low in bitterness and with no hard edges. While we use a lot of high protein grains, all of our beers are clean thanks to long maturation times. We’re currently in the process of developing a core range, which includes Pintle, a 4.2% pale brewed with flaked wheat, barley, oats, Cascade and citra. But we’d also like to release new seasonal beers throughout the year – there’s a barrel aged 112
chocolate orange stout on the horizon, made with cacao nibs and orange peel. Most of our beer goes to London. But this is more out of necessity than anything else. There just isn’t the same demand out here for kegged beer and it can be very challenging to find anything adventurous. That said, it can only really get better in this respect so I’m actually really optimistic that things will improve. Ultimately, I’d love to get to a stage where a lot of our beer stays in the region. But we need the support of a new generation of pubs and bottle shops to get to that point. We have no plans to turn this brewery into a beast. We are far more focussed on the quality of the final product than maximum efficiency, and that’s how we want to keep it. We also don’t want our staff to have to work crazy long shifts. At the moment, we mash in at 9am and are out of the brewery by 6pm. That’s the way we like to do things – it’s more civilised that way.
The Crunch Words: Danielle Mustarde • Photography: Mark Newton & Simon James
Craning my neck around the door that leads to Kumar Kolar’s office, I’m immediately greeted with a smile as he jumps up to shake my hand and ushers me into the seat opposite. This small, beige room fronts the Karkli kitchen on the Welbeck Abbey Estate in Worksop; a secluded hub for brewers, makers and doers alike. A practicing dentist before he launched the Karkli snack range, Kumar was born in Wales, “but spent large parts of his childhood moving around”, following his father’s work as a doctor. Having spent time living in Saudi Arabia, Kent, Northern Ireland, and later as a student in Leeds, Manchester and London before settling into his current Worksop home, the unpredictable notes of his accent add to Kumar’s charm. “My dad came to the UK in the late seventies to work as a doctor, though both parents were born and brought up in Bangalore, India. My mum was, and still is, a housewife and amazing cook. Karkli was something she’d been making for us since we were little kids – I was just addicted to it.” It was this love for his mother’s traditional Indian cooking coupled with a desire to bring food that was “authentic and hand made” to the UK that stirred Kumar’s creativity. A savoury snack made from lentils and rice flour, Karkli came straight out of his childhood and onto the bars of some of the best pubs and taprooms in England. One thing that’s clear is that Kumar is really enjoying what he’s doing and, based on Karkli’s growing success, it would appear the family have found a real niche for the Indian-British snack.
Kumar explains, “In terms of quality Indian snacks in the UK, there’s Bombay mix, but apart from that there’s really nothing else. I’d always loved cooking and picked up a lot from my mum. In my early twenties, I just really got into food and cooking, especially when I moved to London, and Karkli came out of that.” Kumar speaks about his mum with a real fondness; the “boss” behind the whole operation, she’s due in an hour or two to help with that evening’s cooking, a not unfamiliar story. Karkli is a family affair, with mum often cooking late into the night. And her official role? “Head of New Flavours,” Kumar grins.
“She’s just got a really, really good palette. She understands food and ingredients. I remember when we first started off, because she’d been making Karkli for years, she just knew how much of each ingredient to use. Every time she would pick up a pinch of salt, it was, to the gram, exactly the same amount – it was crazy! She has 116
such a good feel for it. She’s like a Zen master of weighing stuff.” Based on a traditional snack found across India, Karkli’s name, and the ingredients used to make it, differ from region to region. Kumar explains that in the north it’s called ‘chakri’, whereas further south it’s known as ‘murukku’. “Karkli is what my folks would call it, but it really depends what area of India you’re from. In the north they use more rice flour, whereas ours are largely made up of green lentils which give it more density and crunch. That’s the thing I love about Karkli – the crunch. I love the satisfaction of feeling it all through your head. With Karkli, you don’t get the flavour straight away, it’s the kind of thing that as you chew on it – because we don’t use flavouring but actual spices – you’ll bite on a whole cumin or sesame seed and you’ll get that real burst of flavour. People are always initially underwhelmed by the flavour, but then the flavour hits them. It’s that delayed gratification.” One of the most important things for Kumar in terms of food, is for it to be “simple”. Giving the example of a pizza, “You can have a great wood-fired pizza that you stick in a little oven in your back garden; it can be really, really simple, but it just tastes out of this world.”
For Kumar, it’s about moving away from preservatives, chemicals and the massproduction of food: “I would describe Karkli as ‘authentic’, and not just authentic in its ingredients, but in the tool we actually use. This is literally what we use, this ‘twirly device’…” Springing up from his seat with a childlike energy, Kumar disappears into the kitchen before reappearing with a small metal device which he places proudly on the desk between us. It looks similar to a coffee grinder, but with a mouth to feed in dough and a small, brass crank arm to push it through the device and out of a hole in the bottom, giving the snack its distinctive shape. It’s a tiny piece of kit considering the snack’s growing popularity, but it’s a part of “the stuff that’s important” to Kumar and also to the process behind making Karkli. “We actually started off making it with the device my mum was given when she got married thirty-something-years ago! In India, they’re a common household object.” Karkli made its first public appearance on a stall at the inaugural London Craft Beer Festival in 2012. Through that, connections were made with breweries such as Thornbridge, Magic Rock and Buxton, and the snack was even picked up by a couple of guys from Tate Modern who have been customers of Kumar’s ever since. The relationship between the UK’s craft beer communities and Karkli has been an important one from the get-go. “I love the flavours of beers. There are so many different types and you can easily have thirds, try new stuff and open yourself up to new flavours – like sours. I love sours! Before the resurgence of craft beer culture, I might never have come across one and now that’s like my go-to beer! You can really expand your palette through tasting beer and then apply that to food and other things.” Going on to describe how Karkli’s three core flavours – Classic, Coriander and Fiery Ghost Naga – were created with beer in mind, Kumar reveals that he has a handful of new pairings in the pipeline. “I’d love to have a flavour of Karkli that worked with two different beers, so when you have it with one, you have one experience and when you have it with another, you have a totally different experience. Not like a stout and then an IPA, but a similar beer, where each bring out totally different flavours. That would be really, really cool. Mixing flavours around to create something new – it’s like alchemy.” Karkli’s success coincides with a shift in pubs and taprooms working more closely with local, independent food producers. Where punters were once satisfied with a pint of lager and a packet of crisps, more and more seek similarly flavourful snacks to go alongside their carefully crafted pint – something which Kumar believes has strengthened the relationship between the customer, and the craft food and drinks industries.
“I really like this whole craft culture, of making stuff yourself. It’s a rebellion against mass-produced stuff on a grander level, and food is a nice easy one to get into, right? Once you try and succeed in cooking something, you then want to try and brew a good beer, roast your own coffee, or even distil your own gin. Food is a nice gateway to making and doing stuff for yourself, and which other people will appreciate. It’s about taking back control over your food.”
Karkli Pairings as told by Kumar Kolar
Classic A gentle blend of cumin and sesame seeds, this is the original recipe that we grew up with. The Classic is really flexible as it’s quite a gentle flavour. It works with a lot of lighter beers and IPAs where you don’t want to overpower the flavour of 120
the beer. Rooster’s Baby Faced Assassin IPA (6.1% ABV) works well with this one.
Coriander A little step up in spiciness from the Classic, the Coriander Karkli has real aromatic flavours of coriander and caraway seeds.
I think coriander and saisons work really nicely
together, and one of the ones I like is Brew By Numbers’ dry and spicy 01|01 Saison (5.0% ABV), which this flavour pairs really well with.
Fiery Ghost Naga One for the chilli heads, this is big on fruity habanero flavours followed by the heat of Ghost Naga chillies. It’s pretty punchy but it depends what you drink with it. If you have a nice, rich stout, something like Beavertown’s Holy Cowbell India Stout (5.6% ABV) with its dark chocolate notes, it helps to reduce the heat. You get that real chocolatechilli combination going.
Right Photography by Simon James
In conversation with... Andy Parker Words & Photography: Michael Jenkins • Location: Elusive Brewing
When we’re young, drinking beer is often seen as little more than a tool – a social lubricant used to push boundaries and aid discovery of adulthood. As we grow, the drink takes on a new light; it’s no longer the alcohol that provides the thrills, but rather the stories behind it. Beer is woven into our culture, and the pub is the epicentre for countless friendships, music and even art. We’re drawn to the romance of the craft, whether its sharing a beer at a ‘meet the brewer’ event or volunteering at a weekend-long beer festival. Unfortunately for most, these experiences are fleeting. Before you know it, it’s Monday morning, and the reality of life has returned; ‘real’ life – the one with the commute, the desk, and the boss that thinks you’re stealing stationery. What if the world of beer could offer more than mere escapism; could it really provide both lifestyle and livelihood? There are few people better known in the brewing community than Andy Parker [@tabamatu] of Elusive Brewing. He is often regarded as the poster boy – the homebrewer that made it – turning his hobby into his business. We travelled to his Berkshire brewery on a cold, wet, winter’s evening to meet Andy and chat about the highs and lows of owning your own brewery.
You’re extremely well known for being a homebrewing success story. How did you originally get into brewing? We understand it was actually fairly recently? Yes, 2012 was when I started homebrewing. I had some failed attempts before that, but I wasn’t really ‘into’ beer then. When I lived in California in around ’98, ’99, I was sharing a house with a Scotsman and we really missed cask beer. We were drinking Coors Light and stuff like that and we really missed the traditional beer, so when I came back for Christmas, I picked up a kit in Boots and then we brewed it in the garage over there. We invited our friends around for Superbowl Sunday and we were both like: “Come on, you’ve got to try this English beer!” It might have been a Wherry kit; it was one of those that you have to hang up in a bag. Except, the garage was 28 degrees, so the thing just went nuts and tasted awful. So then I had a break from homebrewing for a while.
Then in 2012 I started all-grain homebrewing. It came about because I was tweeting about beer a lot, and started following some homebrewers. People like Dave Bishop, and Adrian Chapman – who now owns Wishbone [Brewery]. Every Sunday they were tweeting “Homebrewing today!” and I thought, ‘I want to have a go at that.’ So I had a go. I was brewing all-grain with a little mash tun and a stock pot on the electric stove, which annoyed my wife. The first brew was a clone of Green Flash West Coast IPA, which was a beer I really liked. I got to know Greg Irwin at Weird Beard; Weird Beard didn’t exist then, he was part of London Amateur Brewers (LAB), and I gave him a bottle of it and he said: “We’ve got a competition coming up, you should enter this.” I entered it into the competition, along with another beer, a Nelson-hopped saison. The IPA was around four months old at that point, and may have been a little bit tired, but it got a bronze medal! I’ll never forget it, the results were called in reverse order and the IPAs were the first category, so my name was the first announced, it was incredible! I then joined LAB and got a bit obsessed with homebrewing; over the next year or so I was brewing pretty much every weekend. I started swapping a lot of beer with people and learning more about the brewing process, trying to improve. The club was really helpful.
“ I used to work a lot of hours, probably not as many hours as I work now, but I was stressed to buggery and I remember my wife saying, ‘You should give it a go’ ” At the end of 2013 I had the Craft Beer Co. competition. I’d been a home brewer about eighteen months by then, and I was lucky enough to win it. My winning beer was an American red ale, which I still brew as Level Up, one of our core beers. The prize was £5,000 [Andy gestures to the large novelty cheque mounted on the wall of the brewery] and you got to brew at Dark Star Brewing Co. We brewed 8,800 litres of it! Needless to say, I went out and got pretty drunk on that beer. But, that night, my wife was on holiday – she’d taken her mum away and I couldn’t get hold of her. So I phoned my mum, and told her I won and she was like, “You’ve won what?” I said: “I won a homebrew competition.” She asked me: “What are you going to do with the money?” I said: “I’m going to start a brewery.” True to my word, I put the money towards a kit and opened a brewery. Little did I know, that five thousand pounds would barely scratch the surface. I get a lot of people contact me because of that story, they’ll say: “Can I have a look, come and talk to you? I want to open a brewery.” I’m quite open to those guys, like to have them down, and try and put them off! [laughs] We had a guy down last week, he came down for a brewday, we worked him pretty hard, trying to show the real side of brewing. I still have quite an affinity with homebrewing and homebrewers. What were you doing for work before the brewing took hold? I was in IT, and maybe you find a lot of people that start breweries come out of that path. I was working in video streaming with media firms. At the time I think I was working with Channel 4. After that, working for a company that did network delivery for BBC, ITV etc. I used to work a lot of hours, probably not as many hours as I work now, but I was stressed to buggery and I remember my wife saying, “You should give it a go” – she’s the risk-taker. I kept refusing, I didn’t want to take any risks. She said: “You need to do this now, or you’re never going to do it.” She was right, of course. I do miss having a regular wage and all that stuff, but I’ve not really looked back since.
Did you have any formal brewing training? I did the Brewlab course called ‘Start up Microbrewery’ at Wimbledon brewery, it was a three day course. The first day there was a lot about process and ingredients, so there wasn’t much to take from it as an experienced homebrewer. I realised that it was aimed at people who probably didn’t know about brewing at all. I’ve heard good things about the residential course; you can do a three week one, it’s a lot more practical and hands-on. I learnt a lot more by sitting down with people, like spending a couple of days with Greg at Weird Beard. Learning how he operates the brewery was a lot more useful than a classroom setting. So after I left my job, when waiting for the keys, I volunteered to do some informal work at Weird Beard. Brian [Spooner] and Greg are both friends and they were happy to help me. They asked what I wanted want to do and what it was I wanted to learn. I wanted to fill casks, I wanted to fill kegs, I wanted to clean casks. They helped me to develop my skills, and they got a bit of labour off the back of it. Can you tell us about Elusive and the process of setting up the brewery?
The unit itself is 600 square feet, so it’s tiny. Premises were such a pain in the arse when we were trying to get up and running; we originally looked over in Basingstoke and found a unit there. When we went to view it, I walked in and thought, ‘This is perfect.’ I did a bit of research and found out that it actually used to be a brewery; I can’t remember which one now, but I found a reference to it in a local CAMRA magazine. Apparently, two guys that had left Fullers started this brewery in the 90s, so when I found that out it seemed perfect – we wouldn’t have to spend much money on it either. Frustratingly, the landlord of the estate was selling it and so didn’t want to strike any leases until they sold. So we hung on and hung on, and eventually gave up after waiting around for six months. You can guess the rest – after we found this place, that one came available! Other than that, we were also looking at one in Farnborough. I wasn’t intentionally looking for any links to an old brewery, but this one used to be the dray yard for Simonds Brewery, who were the big family brewery in Reading. Again, that fell through. We had already agreed terms but the landlord came up with some new and creative ways to make money from us before we signed the lease, so we walked away. Then we found this one, purely by chance, we just searched online in desperation. We really wanted to be in Hampshire – we’re in Berkshire here, so that was already a bit of a compromise. Obviously, I knew Siren [Craft Brew] was on this estate, so after I saw it, I spoke to Darren [Anley] to ask him if he would mind and he said: “No, no, no; it’s totally fine!” So we signed this lease in February last year.
It was a compromise on everything from the start really. When you establish a business, everyone says, “get the right premises” – we’ve made it work, but it’s been a bit of a squeeze. It’s quite empty at the moment, but it can get to the point where we’re climbing over things to get in the door. So it is always a bit tight, but we make it work. Can you run us through your current setup in the brewery? It’s a 5bbl kit – six vessels. So we’ve got hot liquor, cold liquor tank, mash tun and we’ve got the copper. We’ve since added the grundy tank over there which looks like some kind of alien thing, which we bought from Vibrant Forest Brewery down in the New Forest. That helped to get us over an initial hump last summer, when we were trying to keep up [with demand]. Then we bought this [gesturing to a tank beside us] from a guy that was ‘cuckoo brewing’ at RedWillow Brewery. This is a 6bbl FV so we can brew a little bit over length into it for our core beers.
Do you have any plans for expansion? We’ve been really lucky with demand. When we started, we already had a bit of demand, from being known as a homebrewer, and some of the collaborations we did and so on. So that meant we didn’t really struggle initially, we’ve always been on the front foot. We had a plan for year one, and we hit every single target along the way. When we got to the end of the year we were ecstatic, then my wife Jane said: “What are you going to do next year?” I said, “I dunno.” We didn’t have a plan for year two and here we are, well into our second year. We’re at the point where we can’t fit much more in here and can’t get much bigger, so we need to sit down and work out what’s next for us. A unit a couple of doors down is coming available; there’s an option there to look at that, or maybe we move somewhere off the estate, somewhere else entirely. I think, to really push on to the next level, would involve more space basically, so that’s the next hurdle. We bought the kit new, so that’ll keep going, but we could look at some double height fermenters and some double brewing and expand in that way, to at least get a bit more beer out there. Those are the options we’re looking at, and it’ll probably work out as a combination of the two. So we can still potentially brew a lot more beer, we’re still only producing about six brews a month at five barrels, so 800 litres times six – it’s not a lot of beer. If we can start brewing ten barrels with each brew it’s going to rack up quite quickly!
A lot of the names of your beers have a gaming association – what is the story behind that? It’s a good question. I’ll start at the beginning of the story with the Elusive name. My Twitter handle, ‘Tabamatu’ is Estonian for ‘Elusive’ which is my Xbox gamertag. When I got an Xbox I thought ‘Elusive’ would be a good name, because I’m not on there very often. But every iteration of the word ever was taken, as there’s millions of users, so I started searching for ‘elusive’ in foreign languages, so it came from that. When I asked a graphic designer to make me a logo, he wanted some ideas and I suggested old 8-bit video games. That drove the rest of our branding. I like it because you can have a lot of fun, and we’ll never run out of beer names! A lot of them are inspired or named after old games, or we’ll take a character from an old game and play with that. It works well for us; we still get a lot of the labels designed, but my wife Jane and I do some labels ourselves too. She’ll create a little 8-bit character for me and I’ll lay the label up. It’s so simple and easy to work with we kinda fumble along with it ourselves. Taking our branding up a notch is something I’m looking at working on next year. We haven’t bottled many of our beers, because we hand 128
bottle everything and haven’t had the time or the resources to do it. I think when you’re on a shelf in small pack, it has to be really good. Whereas, on a pump clip in a bar, with our kind of branding, it’s not too hard to stand out. I want something that is going to be a little more consistent and maybe a bit louder, a bit more true to what 8-bit was all about. You’re currently doing a bit of bottling, but have you thought about moving into canning at any point in the future? We’re going to replace the grundy with a conditioning tank, that will allow us to force carbonate beer. At the minute we condition in keg; we really struggled with the amount of time that was taking, the beer sat around for weeks before we could sell it. For our keg beer we’re going to force carbonate and I think that will open up canning to us. I really like drinking bottles, but you’ve got to put your commercial hat on. You’re a member of The British Guild of Beer Writers. What are you working on at the moment outside of the brewing? I’m actually writing a book, well I will be. I was just talking to the publisher earlier about it. There’s a chap called Graham Wheeler who wrote a book called ‘Brew Your Own British Real Ale’. It’s a classic homebrew title, but he’s retired, and CAMRA who own the text want to update it. They want to cover more modern recipes, modern styles. So I’m going to be doing that, which is quite exciting.
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