I am partial to a good pint. I’ve been championing restaurants to do more beer-matching (more on that in a different post) and being the curious soul that I am, always wondered exactly how beer is brewed. Desktop research is one thing (thank you Mr Google and Ms Wikipedia for your knowledgeable input), but I don’t think you can actually know for sure, till you do it. Which is why I couldn’t wait to get booked in to a Brewery Experience Day at Brewhouse & Kitchen in Nottingham.
Not much gets me out of bed at 7am on a Saturday morning (come on, it’s the weekend), apart from a full day at Brewhouse & Kitchen learning about and partaking in beery goodness.
We kicked off with some breakfast; we also had lunch, which I’ll write a review about in a standalone post, so do keep your eyes peeled for that too. Here is my breakfast barm in its full glory (yes it’s a barm, let’s not start this “is it a barm- is it a cob” business now).
Our group of six was a good number that allowed convivial conversation whilst not being distracted to pay sufficient attention to the wise words of head brewer Andy.
The microbrewery is towards the back of the pub, taking up a corner that you cannot help but be awed by. From a giant mash tun to bigger-than-Trump’s-ego hot liquor tank, the microbrewery is compact yet very impressive. I had my flats on for the course of the day and after treading carefully near the mash tun, found this was adequate footwear. However, if you’re clumsy and want an excuse to wear your Hunters, I’d recommend taking them along whilst you wear plain shoes for transit.
It was a full day session punctuated by breakfast, lunch and a few comfort (cough beer cough) breaks. Brewing beer is essentially a scientific process that needs impeccable attention to detail; thank the Lord that Andy was on hand to steer us through tricky pouring and weighing. In its most simplistic explanation, four basic ingredients of beer are grain, yeast, water and hops.
Here are some hops, which are flowers of the hop plant (also a member of the hemp family – who knew?) being weighed.
Brewhouse & Kitchen are passionate about brewing the best beer. A lot of thought and effort has been put into their Brewery Experience Day. I spied these hop flowers in one of the display cabinets adjacent to the microbrewery section. Aren’t they pretty?
Here is a close-up of the compressed pellets of hops flowers. I found them to be very pungent in smell, but less fragrant, and dare I say it, oddly pleasant to nibble on.
For brevity, here is a brief step by step guide of the brew day processes:
- Hot water (77°C) from the HLT (Hot Liquor Tank) is mixed with the malted barley and speciality malts in the mash tun. After mixing well the grains are left to steep (usually an hour) in about 66°C water. This activates the enzymes which turn the starch in the grain into simpler sugars for the yeast to consume later.
- After the grains have steeped, a process called re-circulation takes place which draws the now named wort from the bottom of the mash tun back onto the top. The husks from the grain act as a natural filter, therefore making a clearer wort.
- The next process is called the sparge. This is where the wort from the mash tun is transferred into the copper (the boiling vessel) and at the same time the remaining liquor in the HLT is transferred on top of the mash (grain) to rinse the grains of any residual sugars.
- The next step is the boil, where the aim is to balance out the sweet wort with bitterness from the hops. This is also where hop flavours are also added.
- The whirlpool is where centrifugal force pulls all the hop matter into the middle of the copper and therefore allows to run clearer wort from the side of the copper.
- In the heat exchange, the wort is then transferred into a fermentor (via the heat exchange) where the wort temperature drops from 90°C+ down to 20°C.
- The final job of the brew day is to add the yeast.
The rest of the process is:
- Fermentation – which will take about 4/5 days.
- The beer is then cold crashed to about 3°C/4°C for 2 days to help clear the beer.
- Packaging – the beer will either be packaged into cask or keg depending on the style of beer (the one I brewed will go into cask).
We supped on a few beers during the day, my favourite being the Constable.
It was an enjoyable day and one that I would highly recommend. I walked away more knowledgeable, and definitely more appreciative of the beer process and the hard work that goes into producing a pint. One of my favourite moments was spying the sprightly Andy clearing out the mash tun. All you could see was the top of his head – this really tickled me (don’t ask me why, it just did).
Brewing beer is hard work and a worthwhile, rewarding career. If you’d like to “”up your beer knowledge, would like a hands-on brewing experience, or just want a fabulous day out, then head on over to Brewhouse & Kitchen’s website right here. #
A gargantuan thank you to Andy Moore, head brewer at Brewhouse & Kitchen Nottingham, who provided insightful commentariat to make for a memorable day out.