Green Hop Time!

It's Green Hop time again. This year we are brewing 3 different beers, using 3 different Kent grown hops. Most of the brewers in Kent will be getting involved and brewing with fresh hops, straight from Kent's hop growers and into the boil within a matter of hours.

The first beer we are brewing will be a 3.5% pale ale using Bramling Cross hops. These fragile hops produce a lovely berry fruit and spice aroma, however they have been low yielding in the last couple of years as the winters have lacked the cold frosts which the Bramling Cross hops benefit from. Sadly if winters continue to be as mild as they have been I expect many Kent growers to move away from this pungent variety to more economically viable hops.

Last years Barnfield Red was very popular so we are brewing it again. This year we will be using Challenger hops from Hukins Farm, Tenterden. These hops give a spicey, cedar aroma which works well with the crystal notes of the red ale. Named after the Barnfield Pit site near the brewery which inspired the name for our brewery.

A new beer for this year, Heidi's Brown will be a 4.7% hoppy brown ale. It  is brewed with Bullion hops, which are an old English variety which has had a lot of success in the US, but is now almost non existent in the UK. The hop as a pungent Orange and Lemon aroma which is well suited to a hoppy brown ale, blending the citrus flavours with the caramel and roast from the malts. Named for the Swanscombe Woman, who's skull was discovered at Barnfield Pit and is often identified as Homo Hiedelbergensis. The beer will be brewed by Helen Farrow and it will be her first Green Hop beer.

Caveman at Truman's

As usual, this year I wasn't really thinking about Christmas at the beginning of November. This is a problem when you are a brewer and should be planning your Christmas brews but I still haven't managed to get into the habit and all my seasonal beers seem to arrive late because I'm running around like an idiot keeping up with everything else. This year I was lucky and the nice people at Truman's gave me a nudge. Would I be interested in brewing a collaboration beer with them at their shiny Hackney Wick brewery? Obviously it took a while for me to make my mind up, after all I usually only work below ground and I get worried the sky may fall on my head if I'm out for too long. 


Having finally agreed to brave the outside world I met up with Truman's Head Brewer Ben Ott to discuss what we were going to brew. Ben gave me a tour of the brewery on our way to select the malt and hops for our beer, which we had decided was going to be a red ale at a fairly quaffable 4.8%. This was to be the first collaboration I have done that wasn't brewed at our brewery. Having done most of my brewing on our little 4BBL kit cobbled together from old Grundy tanks (like so many breweries of our size) the Truman's kit is pretty impressive. A 40BBL brew kit on a full run, or half size brews into a 20BBL FV and all shiny and new. I can see why Ben enjoys brewing there. 

The brew day itself started sensibly early and I got a nice sunrise view of the Olympic Stadium as I walked along the tow path from the station to the brewery. Its odd to get to a brewery and find people already working away before I get there, but I was the third or fourth person to arrive and casks were already being cleaned ready for racking beer and Ben was already checking temperatures and filling out the fundamentals on the days brewing log (which I was impressed to discover even has a box for your mood on the day). Ben and I quickly got on with getting the malt into the grain hopper, adding the water treatments, mashing in and generally doing a lot of chatting. 

I have a rule in my brewery that when you are brewing answering the phone isn't allowed, as a phone conversation can easily distract you from what you are doing and all of sudden you have missed temperatures, not taken readings or missed a hop addition etc. In future I may also have a rule involving chatting. We all talked pretty much all day (possibly just to live up to the "chatty" entry on the mood section of the brew log) and a couple of times had to take a brisk walk across the brewery floor to turn something off or on. Other than a brisk walk (which is unusual for me as you can pretty much reach anything you need in my brewery with a slight stretch of your arm) the brew day went really smoothly and I am a particular fan of a mash tun you don't have to dig out with a shovel. 

The biggest thing I took away from the day is how good it is to work with people who are so knowledgable and enthusiastic about what they do. Ben and the rest of the team really know their stuff, and having four different suggestion of how to achieve the same result is a refreshing change from bouncing my brewing ideas off the wall in the brewery, or questioning the radio. Despite Truman's producing more and more beer the little experimental kit in the corner of Truman's brewery doesn't seem to have time to cool down in between batches. I tasted a few really interesting beers whilst I was brewing which I think will be too unusual to make it onto the big kit, but are definitely worthy of an appearance here and there at festivals or maybe at Truman's brewery tap. Its a real sign of how they really love what they do and how keen they are to continue learning new things.

The beer we made, Christmas Cave, will be available in the next couple of weeks, although we are already taking pre- orders. It is a 4.8% Red Ale using a wide variety of malts and a selection of UK and US hops to give a smooth, full mouthfeel, deep caramel maltiness and a rounded hop flavour with notes of orange rind, dark fruits and hopefully coconut. The "hopefully" is down to Ben and I using an experimental US hop which reportedly has a coconut edge to its fruity profile. For me it was there slightly in the aroma, but very subtly, so I hope it comes through in the finished beer.

January Beers and New Prices

A little time off over Christmas gave us time to look at our costings from the ground up and has allowed us to drop our prices slightly, which should be good news for everyone. 

We have a new seasonal beer coming early next week, a 3.0% all Kent hopped pale ale. Based loosely on last years EKG green hop ale, this beer uses all East Kent Goldings to give an aroma of honey, backed by a light malt base and a low ABV. We also expect to be getting our first batch of new Citra hops at the end of January which should allow us to get brewing our award winning Citra pale ale again.

Our Christmas Club 6.4% spiced old ale went very well over the festive period and CaveDweller Porter continues to prove popular. Plans for the bottling plant are progressing nicely with conditioning tanks now installed on the roof and the pipework arrived over the Christmas period. We hope to begin bottling some time in January.