Friday, 23 July 2010


Dragging my lardy arse out of bed isn't my idea of fun but I was looking forward to the day, I leave the house at 6am to get across London for the 7.15 train from Paddington to Cardiff Central where I would get a connecting train to Pontypridd, the home of Otley Brewing Co.
I took the opportunity on the train to get some more sleep, it was badly needed today and I woke myself up a couple of times with my own snoring. Only those people on the train know what I must've looked like, I imagine it was like one of the seals on pier 39 in San Francisco though!
I arrive at the brewery and instantly it's different, the mash tun isn't a 5-barrel any more, it's a 10-barrel, there's two extra fermenters and some building has taken place to increase storage space. Otley Brewing Company has gone up in the world since I was last here, good thing too, Britain needs more forward thinking breweries to expand a bit and become more accessible to more pubs & bars.
Anyway because I was coming from London we were starting later than normal, the mash started at 11am, we got the water up to temperature and holding the thermometer under the tap made me start sweating even before lugging the 25 kilo bags of malt into the mash tun.
Mashing in is a two person job for an amateur like me, I climbed up and down with the 25kg bags of Malt pouring them in, the last but one was REALLY hard work on my unfit body, the Malt mix was 60% Pale Malt(85kg) and 40% Torrified Wheat(62kg). So I poured whilst Matt started 'mashing in' getting the lumps out, once I'd finished dumping the malt I helped out with mashing in, it's an awkward job and an extremely physical job for any of you that haven't seen or don't know the process, it makes your arms ache like they have probably never ached before, you know you're doing a hard days work.
Once we had finished mashing in it was time to go and get the Strawberries and the Szechuan Pepper from Nick's pub The Bunch of Grapes. Yes you read correctly, Strawberries and Szechuan Pepper, for ages now I've been wanting to put Strawberries into a brew, Nick came up with the idea of adding Szechuan which I thought was a bit bonkers but that's Nick all over really, bonkers with hints of genius.
Now the Strawberries we got were Dutch, we would have liked to have used British but they were such poor quality that Nick's supplier refused to pay for them, que sera sera. It helped us come up with the name.
Once back at the brewery we started playing around with ways of extracting the most aroma from the Strawberries. We got 3 pint glasses and stuck some boiling water in them.
In glass no.1 was an uncut Strawberry. Glass number two had a quartered Strawberry and the third glass had an uncut strawberry and one szechuan peppercorn.
We didn't much aroma from the first glass, it was there it just didn't quite want to come out and play. The strawberry in the second glass was far more happy to give us the aroma we were looking for. The 3rd glass I didn't need to stick my nose in, I could smell it 3 feet away, the peppercorn was giving off an amazing spicy, peppery aroma that was blowing the strawberry almost out of the glass!
So we had two glasses that we were getting big aromas from and we decided that the logical thing to do was to mix the two and see what happened. It worked, Nick's crazy idea was indeed a stroke of genius!
Next step was cutting up the 5 kilos of strawberries which I happily did. Then it was choosing the bittering hops, for bittering we chose Amarillo and Pioneer, 500g of each.
12.15pm. Now it's time was time to sparge, now I know what you're thinking, that sounds like something a fat bastard like me would do after a meal, it's not, it's getting the wort from the mash tun to the copper. Again for the laymen out there Wort is the liquid/liquor that is produced by the malt being boiled which extracts the sugars out of the malted barley. It has an almost sickly sweet aroma that also smells something like weetabix when you pour hot milk on it.
Run off finished at 13.10pm and gravity during run off was 1070.
After sparging I had the unenviable task of digging out the mash tun. Since the mush tun size had increased from 5 barrel to 10 barrel it actually made it easier to clean out. Instead of hanging over the edge you just shovelled it out from the hatch at shoulder height so instead of my stomach muscles taking a beating it was my shoulder that would be hurting the next day. Of course you still have to climb in to finish it off and whilst inside it was shaking around a bit which scarred the shit out of me but I got it done and it was that much easier on the body!
First hops(bittering hops) were in next and this happened at 15.15pm 500g of Pioneer hops and 500g of Amarillo hops went into the boil, Szechuan Pepper went into the kettle half an hour later, 15.45pm.
It should be pointed out that whilst there was waiting around time, I was cleaning up after myself, sweeping hops, mopping the floor etc...This prompted the assertion from Charlie and Matt that I was a cleaner brewer than Melissa Cole! Heehee!
During one of the earlier hiatuses we had decided to aromatize the brew with Pacific Gem hops, I love Pacific Gem, it's sweet, citrusy and when we stuck a few in the glass with the strawberry and szechuan pepper from earlier, oh. my. God what an aroma, if my beer smells anything like this and tastes as clean as I hope then I'm going to be well happy! The Strawberry and the Pacific Gem worked so well, I was lost for any words other than 'awesome' or 'oooooh yeah' I couldn't help sticking my nose in the glass and being blown away by that aroma, being a tubby git, if I could have eaten it....
At 16.15 it was time for the second(aroma hops) hops (1 kilo) and the strawberries(5 kilos) to go in. In they went, this was right at the end of the boil so as not to lose all the flavours & aromas.
Five minutes later we started the transfer of the now deep red, almost mulled-wine coloured liquid into FV1, when Matt told me that the colour wouldn't transfer to the fermenter I remember being quite gutted, but it smelled delicious.
We activated 100g of Belgian yeast 35 minutes later and 15 minutes later I pitched the yeast and started making beer!
And then it was time to clean the kettle. Good brew day, I really enjoyed it and I'm really looking forward to trying the beer.
Just for the record, original gravity was 1046.5 and final gravity was 1010.5.
The name of the beer is S.O.S.
If you get to try it I'd appreciate some feedback.
See you at GBBF.


Kelly Ryan said...

Nice! Did a strawberry and pink peppercorn stout (Exposed) a while back. Great flavour combo!

rabidbarfly said...

I heard about that Kelly, shame i didn't get to try it, I love strawberries!

Peter said...

Wow, sounds ace! I'm just starting homebrewing, and can't wait to start playing with flavours :)

rabidbarfly said...

cheers Peter, I know lots of homebrewers if you want some contacts.

Mark said...

Sounds delicious. With a bit of luck, will get a chance to try it.