All the best ideas seem to come from conversations in pubs. This one certainly did. It led to Pete and Kev, from Stoke, and myself presenting ourselves at Mallinsons Lindley brewery to put our ideas into practice one Thursday in May.
The intention was to produce a beer for the Star festival in July to celebrate our respective birthdays, and with Tara and Elaine's expert help and guidance that is what we did. This is the story of the day.
On our arrival, Tara had already started heating the water in the hot liquor tank so our first task was to add the malt to the mash tun. A pale malt, but 140 kg of it. Six sacks were added to the mash, and heaving 25kg bags of malt and trying to flush them with water was not easy. However we managed and soon the malt was bubbling away happily and being sparged with water to assist it to break down. This process took around two hours and gave us chance to select our hops for the beer.
After much discussion, and some informed advice from Tara, we selected Brewers Gold and Perle for the bittering hops,(100:30) and equal amounts of Cascade and Nelson Sauvin for the aroma hops (100:100). Hopefully, our beer should taste of a fusion of the best of American hops and the best of New Zealand.
The mash was then run off in to the copper for the addition of the first quantity of hops. They went in and began to boil again, filling the brewery with the enticing smell of brewing.
While this was going on, there was no time to be idle. Everything in the brewery needs to be spotless and Tara and Elaine, with a bit of assistance, started the cleaning process. Pressure washing barrels, cleaning out the used mash, and sterilising the fermenter for our beer. As Elaine said, brewing is actually 90% cleaning, and having seen what needs to be done, I can see why.
The aroma hops were then measured out for later addition to the boil, and we took a few minutes out to view the cold store, full of barrels of new beer for delivery. On our visit there were eight different brews there. There was also a fermenter with the previous days brew of Station Bitter fermenting away.
Our beer continued to boil and after the addition of some copper finings, the first of the aroma hops were added, the Cascade and later, near the end of the boil, the Nelson Sauvin. Then came the time to transfer the beer to the fermenter, via an intriguing system of pipework round the roof of the brewery but not until Tara was happy that the hop bed was doing its stuff and the beer was running almost clear, free of the bits of hop and malt that had been in the copper.
When all the beer was safely stored in the fermenter Tara pitched the yeast and fermentation began and soon the top of the fermenter was covered in a growing mass of yeasty bubbles. The whole process had taken around seven hours, and when racked would provide 20 or so 9 gallon barrels.
Throughout the process Tara was diligently noting down times, temperatures, and gravities for her records, and keeping track that the beer should come out at the 4% gravity that we wanted.
This was almost the end of our involvement,as the beer would take a few days to ferment before racking off into barrels. All it needed was a name, that was easy. So when you taste 'A Swift One' you'll know exactly how it was made.
And to let you into a secret, if you are lucky enough to taste the two Mallinsons beers at the Star Summer Festival in July, they will both be dry hopped versions of our brew I will let you decide which hops are used.
All that remains now is to thank Tara and Elaine for their unfailing patience in showing three novices the process of brewing, and answering all our questions, no matter how stupid they may have been. It was certainly a day to remember.