It was a 7AM start on Wednesday 15th June when Alex Hill picked me up to brew Hoppy Hopkins, the monthly special for July at Green Duck. First things first which in this case means getting the malt ready, Alex had already worked out how much was needed and got the bags, which were mainly pale lager malt open the night before. And fortunately the brewery is set up with a small floor for storing the malt and a hopper above the mash tun which makes things a little easier.
Whilst the mash was going rather than standing around we got to cleaning FV 1, firstly by myself with the high pressure hose and then a little while later Alex got into the vessel to give it a good scrub down with caustic. Once the mash was done it was time to get the sparging going which means keeping an eye on the mash to keep it well watered and checking that the transfer into the kettle doesn’t go too fast. Meanwhile there is plenty of other work to be done which in my case meant cask cleaning. When they are returned they still have dregs of beer in them so they are steam cleaned before going on to the 3 stage cask cleaner. This involves a rinse with water, then caustic, and then a mixture of the two for a 4 minute cycle, so repetitive but also strangely therapeutic.
Meanwhile back at the kettle it is coming to the boil and so I get to do one of my favourite jobs, breaking up and weighing out the hops. I am used to the little vacuum packed bags of hops I get for my home brewing but on this scale it can be a little tougher as I learnt when breaking up the Simcoe hops for Scott Povey’s DIPA (see here Birmingham Beer Bash Profiles – Fixed Wheel Brewery — Midlands Beer Blog Collective), but this time it goes easier with the various hops, including some of my favourites such as Cascade, Chinook and Mount Hood we have picked for the brew, and obviously sitting in amongst that hop aroma is very nice.
Once the boil is on a roll so to speak it’s time to get back to cleaning and tidying, I was fortunate in that Alex didn’t ask me to clean out the mash tun, but I did get to drag the heavy slightly sodden bags out ready to be collected for animal feed at local farms. After 70 mins the wort is transferred via a cooling system into the newly cleaned FV and during this operation the yeast is added. Once again the aroma is to die for, the only better job would probably be working in a pesto factory…hmm, pesto beer, has anyone done that? But I digress although really that is all there is to it, except for more cleaning, this time the spent hops have to be dug out of the kettle. And then it is a waiting game as the beer is checked over the next few days to make sure it goes down to the desired Original Gravity before the final stage is done, adding sugar, usually dextrose, in the correct amount before the beer is transferred to casks, kegs and bottles. Although actually the final stage is when it is poured into a glass and you get your first taste…
Fast forward to Friday July 15th and I actually get to go behind the bar at Green Duck and pour my 1st pint of Hoppy Hopkins, although being a gentleman I let Deb have the first one, but then we clink glasses, say cheers, take a sip…and unsurprisingly it is very nice. But why wouldn’t it be, so far all the monthly specials including Tank’s Pale ale, Lynn’s Figgy Mild and Skirving Summer Ale have been good, and some of them such as the Shaky Steven’s American Stout have been very good. So cheers to the staff at the brewery and especially Alex for letting me help…now what are we going to do for our next Collaboration 🙂