Monday 2 November 2009

What the F*?k do I know? - Part two

So it's been 6 days since I brewed with Otley Brewing and I have to say that as back-breakingly hard work as it is being a brewer it was also a lot of fun. This is probably because I already got on well with the Otley guys as I've dealt with them a lot.

Day started at 5.45am when I woke up at home. got ready to leave the house in hackney. I got the train from paddington at 8.15, about half an hour earlier than i aimed for, off to a good start then!

I traveled all the way to Pontypridd by train and got picked up by Nick at around 11.25ish. Welsh trains...better than english ones!(for punctuality).

It was a short drive from the station and when I got to the brewery I was surprised at how small it was, not unpleasantly surprised but still, i just expected it to be bigger. it's hidden in the middle of an industrial estate and from the outside it's just another warehouse. Inside, however, is where the magic happens.

I had never been to a brewery before and never attempted any sort of home brewing so Nick placed me in the more-than-capable hands of Matt Otley who took me throught the process and showed me what occured where.

The first thing we did was decide which malts and hops to use, I had been sent a list of what they had and had already emailed back saying which ones I wanted to use so after a bit of discussion we changed one of the hops and one of the malts on the advice of Matt.

Having started before I got there, the next thing we had to do was load the malt into the mash tun, 150kg Pale, 9kg wheat and 5.5kg crystal. then I had to make sure that there was no lumps in the mash, hard work right at the start of the day! meh!

Then it was a case of leaving it for about an hour and a half whilst it produced the wort.

So, we had some time on our hands and went and got the hops ready, 520g of Chinook and 630g of Centennial to 'bitter it up' and 3.442kg of Pacific Gem to add aroma...oh yes!

This was a quick process so we still had time to kill before transferring the wort to the copper. Instead of sitting around for the time drinking tea or coffee, we started sorting out the Warehouse part of the company, putting bottles and cases on shelves, this was fine though, I prefer to be busy when I'm in a strange place(something to do with not wanting to look like a lazy bugger).

When it was time to transfer the wort to the copper Matt showed me the proccess and just left me to it, when it was finished we had to boil the wort with the hops. The next thing that had to be done was the cleaning out of the mash tun! Now, I brought this on myself by wanting to go and brew with these guys as most brewers see this as some sort of rite of passage that everyone should have to do if they're brewing, having now done this, I completely agree! Hard physical work like this makes me sweat, a lot, so whilst I was cleaning out the mash tun Matt asked me what I wanted to call the brew and I shouted back 'f*!king sweat-O at the moment!' and we had what's known in TV as a working title.

Then it was time to add the hops. First the bittering hops and after a while(sorry but I forget exactly how long) the aroma hops.

I was hoping for a beer that was about 8% abv, when we checked the gravity it turned out that it was going to be more like 7-7.2%, I was a bit disappointed but then it was the first brew i'd ever done so I put this down to being a rank amateur. We tried boiling a bit longer to get as much out of the hops as possible but it really didn't want to go any higher. We had more time to kill after putting the hops in so it was more lugging stuff about whilst we waited. I now know that when Nick Otley had said over the phone it would be more convenient for me to come down on the tuesday it was because they needed an extra pair of hands to lug shit about! cheers Nick.

I did get to see one of their one-off brews getting racked by Charlie though which was good, seeing the finings going in at that point, smelling them etc.. I wanted the whole experience and whilst I won't be around when my brew is racked I at least know what is done and help Charlie do this with the American-O.

Eventually we transferred the beer into the fermenter and I pitched the american yeast which we'd run off a bit earlier and had a lovely apple-y aroma to it. That was it basically it, Charlie or Matt will probably start conditioning this week at some point and perhaps dry hop it although i'm not convinced this will be needed.

So, one day, lots of hard work and a lot of fun, then it was time to drink, eat and be merry in that order at The Bunch of Grapes(Nick Otleys pub) with Nick and Matt. I think I lasted until about 10.30 and retired drunk, exhausted but happy that i'd learnt something new.

4 weeks to go and it'll be on at The Rake and the Otley pubs only!

Next installment of this tale will be straight after tasting the beer for the first time, the name is decided, cheesily enough we settled on Motley Brew, will let you know when it's on and we'll make a night of it.

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