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About the Author
Tim is the launch editor of The Brewers Journal and is a keen advocate of the brewing industry.

Brewers Journal Podcast #1 | Creating your biggest fan

Complementing great beer with impactful branding, marketing and service are sure-fire ways to not just attract a drinker but, more importantly, forge a bond with them for life. Velo Mitrovich delves deep in the subject for our inaugural Brewers Journal Podcast, the first in a new fortnightly series. 

We all know how competitive shelf space is, so it’s imperative to not only produce excellent beer, but back it up with strong, standout branding, argues Velo Mitrovich, host of the new Brewers Journal podcast.

But yourself in this position. The clock is ticking. She’s staring at her choices in a pub; he’s looking at the shelf of a bottle shop. Are they going to pick your beer or the other brewery’s? To lure in that first-time buyer, what you have on the outside of your can or bottle can be just as important as what is inside.

In this first episode of the Brewers Journal Podcast, Magic Rock, Cloudwater and Beavertown speak about their own beer branding and marketing. By telling a compelling story through branding and positioning – which all three have done – you’re going to connect with a certain kind of person.

f you do this right – through great beer, branding, marketing, and service – they’ll become your biggest fans and evangelists. And in fact, if you do this really right, you’re going to turn some people off – but that’s okay. To find out why, just listen to the podcast.

Velo Mitrovich of Reby Media and MC of the recent Brewers Congress, will explain all in this entertaining and informative episode.

Image: Nick Dwyer/Beavertown

Crafting a legacy in Cumbria | Hawkshead Brewery

Maybe it’s the way travel opens the eyes and broadens the horizons. Maybe it’s something in the water. Or maybe it’s the desire for a bloomin’ good pint in countries where such a beverage is hard to come by. But it seems somewhat fitting that Alex Brodie, the now-retired founder of Hawkshead Brewery, started the brewing business in 2002 after calling time on his career as a BBC journalist where he covered troubles in places such as Iran, Pakistan and Jerusalem.

It’s fitting because some 18 years prior, and 3,500 miles away over in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, one Steve Hindy had just returned a five and a half-year tour as the Middle East Correspondent for the Associated Press, where he had covered wars and assassinations in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Sudan.

Four years later Hindy would go on to help found Brooklyn Brewery and much like Hawkshead, it’s a brewery that has made it’s name from creating beers with subtlety, nuance and flavour, all underpinned by consistency. But both breweries can also ramp things up when they want, and they’re not afraid to throw out all the stops to make the beers they want.

The ability to tread that fine balance between session-strength cask beers and heavy-hitting kegged stouts laced with desert flavours, is an art form. 

And at Hawkshead, they have head brewer Matt Clarke to thank for that. 

The New Zealand native who happened upon these shores some 16 years ago, has worked his way up from cask washer in the formative months and years at Hawkshead’s original barn site to head brewer overseeing a new multimillion pound facility that houses a Krones rapid-batch brewhouse. And it’s safe to say that he’s in no mood to look back.

“We’re moving fast, but we’re not an overnight success!” laughs Clarke. “Regardless of how much we physically change as a brewery, the ethos we adopt to what we do remains the same. And that’s to brew great beer, challenge perceptions and not be defined by one style or another.”

Though he’s too modest to admit it, Clarke has driven much of the growth at Hawkshead. His first recipe, Windermere Pale, is the brewery’s biggest cask seller and had brewers knocking down the door for refills at the company’s recent launch event for its new brewery.

The old and the new

The 3.5% Pale Ale is bursting with hop flavour from the signature hop – Citra, and is brewed with soft Lakeland water, Maris Otter malted barley and whole cone hops. It also has more awards to its name than most breweries have released beers in their lifetime.

And on one recent visit, Wayne Wambles, brewmaster at Tampa, Florida’s Cigar City Brewing made a confession to Clarke.

“Matt, I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” he told him. “You’ve got the old brewery, and you have the new brewery. It’s my ambition to pour a Windermere Pale from each, sit down, and analyse just how far you’ve come with the beer from each brewhouse.”

So while beers such as Windermere Pale resonate with seasoned brewers and drinkers alike, Clarke has broadened the brewery’s portfolio with a diverse range of beers such as its coveted Tiramisu Imperial Stout, a 10% beer brewed with the aforementioned Cigar City. 

Elsewhere, Imperial Flump King is another 10% number with prominent marshmallow flavouring while Key Lime Tau has become a successful mainstay in the annual release calendar of modern beer.

First brewed in collaboration with Crooked Stave (USA) for the 2015 International Rainbow Project, it’s a kettle-soured, lactose infused Golden Ale brewed with fresh lime zest and lemon grass to taste biscuity and strongly of lime.

The beer was christened Key Lime Tau because of the doubling up. A collaboration between two brewers, has been brewed on both sides of the Atlantic and mathematically Tau is 2 x Pi (3.142) or τ = 2π, which is also the strength – 6.28%. Got it?

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Clarke may have tried to turn the tides at Hawkshead, pushing modern styles to complement their popular mainstays. But it’s not that simple.

“I’ll tell you what, if it was left to Alex he would have chucked out all the traditional stuff a while ago,” Clarke smiles. “I like the appeal of those classic brewing styles. Those products are still in strong growth, while other people are ignoring them.” 

He adds: “Sure, you won’t win overnight glory with them, nor will you be the coolest Kid On The Block for banging out a session bitter but for me, that makes you very cool indeed.” 

Passion for cask

Beers of all styles, destined for all dispense methods, are produced at Hawkshead, But it’s cask beer where Clarke’s true passion lies. And like many brewers, he’s concerned with what he sees happening across the beer landscape.

“We are still 65% cask, which is somewhat unusual for a modern brewery. And it’s not a case of that all being sold locally, either,” he explains. “The lakes bring in a great deal of tourism, but that doesn’t correlate with strong sales for our cask. We probably cost more for these pubs to buy in, so there’s a reluctance to opt for Hawkshead. Especially when those pubs are catering for a lot of one-off custom, it’s easier to go for the cheaper option and move on.”

Clarke adds: “That aside, you need to treat cask like everything else, and that’s with attention and respect. Too many people have seen cask as a low GP commodity so in turn, they’ve devoted less energy when it comes the time producing it and the quality of ingredients.

“Achieving consistency in cask beer is bloody hard, but not enough people are trying. Look, I can knock out Double IPAs everyday and not hear one complaint but if one batch of Windermere Pale is slightly off spec, I’ll know about that within hours!”

There are a number of UK breweries that command the price they want for cask. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that this leads into positive consumer perception towards these beers. They’re more likely to be looked after, well cellared and sold in an efficient manner. 

But those dropping their prices to push cask beer volumes out, are not helping themselves and its damaging the wider reputation of cask, Clarke believes.

“Once you drop your price you can’t bring it back up,” he explains. “This problem happened a long time ago and cask prices have dropped or remained stagnant, while keg beer has only increased.”

He adds: “Yes, people bang on about extra processing with kegs and other associated costs. But really, in an age of one-way kegs, non filtration and turbid beer? I’m not buying it.

“Then you look at cask. Managing a cask population, washing them, reclaiming them, filling them. The cost of cask beer does not reflect the work that has gone into that beer. People dial in a processing cost to keg but not cask. That’s not right.”

So when it comes to selling to customers such as J.D Wetherspoons, Clarke is proud that Hawkshead common the price they set. If a pub wants Windermere Pale on cask, they pay the going rate and then, only then, they sell it for price they want.

“Not everyone can, or will, do that. I hear some crazy prices being offered by breweries. It’s scary,” he adds.

Hawkshead is sticking to its guns, and it is paying off. While its mission statement towards the beers it produces remains the same, the environs those beers are brewed in have changed significantly since Brodie started the business back in 2002.

Steady growth

The brewery began life 16 years ago, in a barn just outside the village of Hawkshead in the English Lake District. Brewing on a 7 barrel second hand kit, it was creating highly hopped cask beers, in an unsaturated craft beer scene. Brodie was hopping his Golden Ale with Cascade and the Porter with Bramling Cross, and nobody was going to tell him otherwise. 

Brodie grew up in East Yorkshire in the 1960s drinking John Smith’s cask bitter right up until the day crazed keg marketeers stripped out the hand pulls. He drank Morrells at university, and served fizzy beer in London bars in the early 70s, whilst seeking out Courage Directors.

He joyfully imbibed King and Barnes, Shepherd Neame and Harveys, in Kent, where, in 1973, he joined CAMRA. In the Midlands, the Davenports wagon delivered “beer at home”. In Cardiff, even late night bars served Brains S.A. The flat in Wandsworth didn’t have a sitting room – that was round the corner in the Youngs brewery tap, and in South West London, the local was Fullers’ Wych Elm.

In Iran, it was Heineken from a tea pot. In Pakistan, he had to register as a Christian to get beer from the Murree Brewery. In Mexico City, Dos Equis hit the spot. The USA, meant Sam Adams Boston Lager. And when home in the UK in The Lake District, fell walks would be contrived to end with pints of session Bitter from Cumbria’s first micro, Yates. It’s no surprise Hawkshead would be a success when you’re a true beer fan at heart. 

In 2006, the brewery relocated to the Mill Yard, beside the River Kent at Staveley, brewing on a new 20 barrel brewhouse and a brewery tap – The Beer Hall – was built. It was around this time that a change in brewing personnel saw Clarke thrust into the role of head brewer, picking up the pieces from where the previous brewer left off. It gave new meaning to learning on the job, but Clarke took it in his stride and running the current site is just reward for the graft put in over those years. 

However the opening of its new facility in 2018 was preceded by another milestone in the brewery’s story, the acquisition of majority stake in the business by the UK’s largest independent drinks company, Halewood Wines & Spirits.

The deal, announced in March 2017, enabled the build of the new brewery, increased production and the ability to gain new routes to market. Halewood also entered the UK brewing industry as a result.

Speaking at the time, Brodie said: “Demand for our beers exceeds our ability to supply. We have gone about as far as we can on our own. This partnership with Halewood will allow us to grow and fulfil our potential.”

“I am convinced that Halewood share our values,” he said. “We have had a long negotiation and I believe that this deal gives Hawkshead a way of getting significant investment without being absorbed into ‘big beer.’ Halewood sees small, craft and premium as the future. And they are Northern. I like that.”

Halewood’s chief executive Stewart Hainsworth also added: “Hawkshead Brewery will continue to operate independently of the Halewood Group, under Alex’s leadership, with Halewood as its main distributor and investor. Hawkshead brews great beers. We are delighted to help them carry on doing what they are so passionate about.”

With that deal signed and sealed Hawkshead opened the new Flookburgh site in 2018, a move that trebled its annual production capacity. The centrepiece of this is a Krones turn-key 40 barrel (6,500 litre) rapid-batch brewhouse, capable of multiple brews per day. 

The kit can initially produce up to 240 beer barrels (8,640 gallons or 69,000 pints) of beer each week, with this set to increase as it gears up to export its Hawkshead Lager and Hawkshead Windermere Pale across Eastern and Western Europe, the Americas and Asia. 

The company’s existing brewery at Staveley is continuing production, concentrating on small batch specialist and limited edition beers. It currently produces 7,000 barrels (11,500 Hectolitres) per year.

Going forward in to 2019 and beyond, head brewer Clarke has a lot of weapons in his armoury, and a great team to work alongside. Not bad for a New Zealander who only came over to the UK for a holiday 16 years ago. 

“I’m not one for global domination. I’m a safe person and like it that way,” he explains. “I like to make people happy through beer. So whether that’s a session pale on cask or an Imperial Stout on keg, if you’re enjoying it, well then I’m happy too.”

How to attract a distributor | Jonny Garrett

It is an overused adage that the UK craft beer scene is five years behind America. That notion is far too simplistic. The UK cask scene is lightyears ahead, as is the ability  – and willing – to brew true, session-strength beers. However, there is one area in which UK brewers are still exceptionally behind the times, and that is how our beer gets from the brewery to the consumer.

In America, they operate the three-tier system, keeping the producer, distributor and retailer legally separate and forcing breweries to use distributors. While this system is open to abuse and is starting to break down as States modernise, it has resulted in a professional and well-organised logistics system, with companies making it their sole aim to deliver beer quickly, efficiently and cold.

In the UK there is no requirement to use a distributor. This gives breweries flexibility in how they get their beer out there, but it also means the systems in place are less efficient and structured. Most breweries rely on couriers to deliver their beer outside of the local market, but couriers present huge issues for unstable products like beer.

You can cold store your beer until the moment it leaves, but if the courier arrives at the pub and there is no one to collect it, the odds are they will leave it outside, in full sunlight. You’ll also have no guarantees on how the beer is stored, how long it will be in transit and when it will get to its final destination. On top of that, there is no technical support for the pubs and people pouring the beer – and that can lead to wastage and even refunds that are avoidable.

A good importer and distributor controls all these variables and more, as well as having a wider customer base with accounts set up and ready to buy. Getting access to those customers outside of your network is the quickest and most efficient way to achieve volume growth and keep control over your product quality. But good distributors in the country are still few and far between, particularly for those looking for both volume and help building their brand sustainably.

If finding them is difficult, getting on their books can be even harder and the rules to follow can be applied to finding exporters too. Cave Direct has hundreds of breweries approach from all over the world, looking for representation in new areas. Almost all of them are rejected for the same reasons, and avoiding these common pitfalls is key to developing any meaningful relationship.

The most important thing is to understand the who you are approaching. There are two broad kinds of speciality beer distributor – Portfolio companies and Curators. Portfolio companies are often brand-focused, with a core range of breweries they promote first and foremost, backed up by a larger range of secondary beers. Their business model is built of volume from their core brands, backed by their ability to fill the rotational taps and fridges to become a one-stop shop for the pubs and bars they work with.

A curator will be less brand focused, instead relying on a very wide range of seasonal and one-off beers and generating volume across the entire portfolio. Given the very large range, sale reps from curator distributors have more of an account management role – rather than pushing beers and growing brands, they make sure customers are aware of the myriad beers coming in. While portfolio companies often do this as well, they tend to keep their ranges much tighter and from a smaller number of breweries to make selling in more manageable.

Pubs and retailers typically work with both kinds of distributor but that isn’t really an option for the brewery. The most important factor for a distributor in choosing a new brewery is exclusivity. They don’t want a rival selling the same beer in the same area, and nor does the brewery – it results in price wars and confusion for the end customer. So it’s vital to make clear the area you want to cover by working with them and to offer them the sole rights to sell within that area.

You also need to be clear in your expectations. Are you aiming to be a primary brand in a portfolio distributor? If so you’ll need to look at their other core brands and make sure that your core beers are distinct from the others on offer. Most portfolio distributors will have gaps they are looking to fill – core IPAs, nitro stout, pale ales around the £80 a keg mark – and if you don’t fill one of those niches it’s going to be a much harder sell. Timing can be everything, so getting in touch when a brewery moves distributor is a great way to skip the queue. Whatever your approach, you’ll need to show volume expectations and targets, and the ability to keep up with demand as it grows.

If you produce more specials than core beers then working with a curator or in the secondary tier of a portfolio distributor is likely the best way to go. Getting listed is a little easier, but you’ll need to understand there will be some selling on your behalf too – the sales reps won’t be pushing your brand half as much, and it will be down to your marketing approach to help make sure the beers go out fresh.

When you’re talking to a distributor about a listing, it’s important to do as much of it as possible in person. That doesn’t mean hounding them for a meeting, but making sure that you grab a beer at festivals or events – in such a young industry, a lot of deals are done between people who get on and have a similar approach to business, marketing and beer in general. The best way to find out if you share similar ideals is to spend time together.

It’s also always best to sample your beers with them – that way you can ensure they are tasting their best and you can talk through the beer rather than rely on marketing materials. The best way to get on a distributor’s list is to make them as excited about the beer as you are, and that usually happens over a pint of it

 

The Future of Cask Beer: A bed of roses or a thorny issue?

I have been pondering the future of cask beer. I have also been reading cask beer sales statistics. It has not been an easy read for me. I am a big fan of cask beer, but it appears I am a dying breed. This has made me question whether the future is a vibrant beer scene where the beautiful natural flavours and carbonation of cask play an important role, or whether cask beer dwindles and sits on the periphery of the beer scene only available in a small number of specialist pubs?

You might, at this point, ask the valid question why we should care. Can we not let market forces decide and if cask beer dies, then let it?

I would answer that by saying that market forces are influenced by other factors and not just the drinkers’ interest, such as how the marketing budget is spent by companies. I would say that they spend their money to get the most reward. Cask, with its smaller profit margin, is not worth it while keg beer with its bigger margin, is. What is true of the brewer is also true of the retailer and margin is king.

Cask beer is one of the cheapest beers on the bar. Couple this with the effort needed to look after it properly, makes it one of the least profitable drinks for the pub.

Then we have the government. They apply taxes, most notably duty, in this case. Why is beer taxed differently to cider? Why do small brewers get duty relief and big brewers don’t? Why is cask beer taxed the same as all beer? Cask beer is taxed differently to all other beers, as there is a sediment allowance. Why is this not applied to bottle conditioned beers? The government does influence the market because it influences margin.

What I am trying to point out is that the market is influenced by a number of forces outside of the drinkers’ desires. What I would like to do is to influence those forces to act in the interest of cask beer.

Ok, at this point you might accept that the market is not entirely working towards what the drinker wants but then again, you might ask why we should care about cask beer?

I can only answer that by explaining why I care about cask beer and give you my reasons. I would hope that you might find some agreement with at least some of my points here.

Cask beer is unique, but it didn’t use to be. At one point, most of the world’s beer would have been in cask. However now, for whatever reason, Britain stands pretty much alone in its production of cask beer. Cask beer can rightly claim it is the Beer of Britain.

Cask beer is served at a higher temperature and a lower CO2 than keg beer. It is less processed and this adds up to a flavour profile and mouth-feel that keg cannot match.

The process of producing cask beer involves the landlord and the brewer. It is the beer that cements the relationship between them. Cask beer cannot exist without the pub and the best pubs cannot exist without cask beer. Cask beer influences, and is an indicator of, the standards and values of a pub.

There is a tradition behind cask beer that does not exist in keg beer. Like a lot of people, I have a respect for tradition.

So why are people not flocking to drink cask beer. I will give you some reasons, but firstly I will give you a quote from Pete Brown writing in the Morning Advertiser.

Cask right now is hurting, really badly. It’s in such dire straits that since I stopped writing the Cask Report three years ago, that report no longer gives statistics for cask’s year-on-year performance, because it’s so bad…the reason for this is not the growth of ‘craft keg’ but issues with the quality of Cask Ale cellaring and dispense.

Ask anyone who knows the market as a whole, and they’ll tell you. But here is what I say.

It is not sexy enough. If Americans made cask beer, then brewers around the world would do so too. Just look what they have done for sours! But they cannot because their distribution chains and their pub cellars are not suitable.

Quality is a problem for cask. Too many pints are substandard mainly due to lack of throughput and poor cellar practice. Cask beer is susceptible to misuse precisely because of its lack of processing which is one of its main attributes. Keg has a longer shelf life and greater stability which leads to less input from the landlord. Add the margin improvement and guess which one the landlord likes to sell.

The removal of Trade Quality advisors. When I first came into the industry many breweries employed people to visit pubs check on the beer quality and offer advice to the landlord. Sadly, many have got rid of this position sacrificed on the altar of cost cutting. Cask beer needs them more than keg beer does.

So what can be done to improve cask beer quality? Well I think bodies like Cask Marque and CAMRA would be interested in this and are actively trying to improve the situation, but they are failing.

Why?

I think it is because the margin is not there to support extra work to make the beer better. Landlords are so busy now that they spend their time supporting the more profitable parts of their business, and it’s the same with brewers. This is the reason so many brewers do not brew cask.

If you go to any pub in Britain and look at the price list, what do you observe? I see cask as perhaps the cheapest beer and very little price differential between all the cask beers being served with often the strongest cask beer being served cheaper than the weakest lager or cider.

Now, if I tell you that duty is the biggest single cost of any beer or cider then what do you think the margins are on the different beers?

There are a number of points that I can draw from the above. Most beer styles have a premium and a standard version, cask beer struggles to have a premium version. The margin on non-gas beers is bigger, too.

So what can be done? Could we have a premium version of cask beer or could we just increase the price? This must be difficult because if we could it would have been done by now.

So what does that leave us? I think the solution lies in improving the margin for the brewer and the landlord. I don’t think dropping the price to encourage drinkers will work; more brewers would just stop making cask.

For me, increasing margin would improve quality. Brewers could afford to invest in new casks and maybe bring back Trade Quality or pay Cask Marque to do it for them. Landlords could afford to spend more time on cask beer and maybe follow the advice from Cask Marque or the Trade Quality Advisor.

It would also improve sales as a consequence of improved quality while also encouraging innovation from the brewers

So how do we improve margin. We could try to produce a premium version of cask beer but there are a number of problems with this. However, I will be speaking to several brewers about these problems and looking at possible solutions

There is another interested party in all of this, though. Not the brewer, not the drinker and not the landlord, but her Majesty’s government. The government makes more out of cask beer than any other party. So can’t we ask for duty relief on cask beer?

Here is another interesting fact. A cask beer at 4.1% ABV pays £78.22 per hl while for cider at 4.1% ABV, you’re paying £40.38 per hl.

There is roughly 176 pints in a hl so that becomes 44p per pint for beer and for cider, 22p per pint.

So I ask the question, why cask beer can’t be taxed like cider? So come on CAMRA, instead of playing around trying to get one or two pence off all beer, why not try and get twenty pence off cask beer. Think how that would unite your movement. Would you not get support from SIBA too? What about the great British public? Would they not see the righteousness of your cause?

In the post-Brexit world this is possible, plus the government might just be minded to introduce a popular benefit of Brexit. Those that are now worrying about how much tax the chancellor would be giving up, you’re looking at about one year’s standard increase. Cask beer is only about 9 percent of the total market and therefore 20p off this is about equal to 2p off all beer, something the beer industry asks for every year without any success.

Again, I will try to do something about this. I will be travelling the country talking to drinkers and beer writers about the future of cask beer. If they agree with me that something should be done, then I will try to get this moving. If not, I would reluctantly drop this. The reason being that if I cannot persuade interested parties then how can I persuade the government? Banging your head against the wall has no future.

There is maybe one group that might not support this. The big brewers.

So why would the bigger brewers support this? Maybe to bask in the warm glow of doing the right thing and we can all reflect that maybe, just maybe, they are human too. Oh and perhaps they should start brewing cask again.

Over to you CAMRA and SIBA

Golden Pints, 2018

Best Brewery – UK and Ireland

There is, in my opinion, no logical or obvious way to label one brewery the “best”. But if you can find a brewery that is the reassuring arm around the shoulder, the one that gives you confidence in both the core and the new, then you’re onto something good. And like relationships in life itself, it’s something that you shouldn’t take for granted. With that in mind, Northern Monk is that brewery, just as they were this time last year, too.

It came as no surprise that they cruised their crowdfunding campaign. The core range of beer delivers while the Patrons Project offers up diversity and innovation in equal measure. You want a Raspberry Kolsch? You got it. A Lemon, Lime and Coffee Berliner Weisse? No problem. It also helps that brewers Brian Dickson and Colin Stronge are absolute gents, and incredibly talented, too. The rest of the team are bloomin’ fantastic as well. Roll on the opening of their London taproom.

Brian turned up to my birthday this year and wouldn’t leave. Rumour has it he’s still lurking around the South Bank seven months on.

Best Brewery – Worldwide

I have a problem, and I’m ready to admit it. I love New York. Sure, most people do. Right? But a visit early next year will be trip number eight in recent years. It’s somewhat of an addiction. And that’s aided by New York’s fantastic breweries, bars and bottle shops. I reached out (read: email equivalent of cold calling) to Kings County Brewers Collective at the end of 2017 and was able to visit a couple of weeks after. Considering I was effectively a stranger armed with a couple of magazines, I was welcomed like an old friend.


Housed in an impressive space in Williamsburg and armed with an absolutely gorgeous taproom, KCBC was founded by Pete Lengyel (above), Tony Bellis and Zack Kinney, and each brings a different passion to the table. So you’re as likely to see a light lager on offer, a vice of Pete’s, to perfectly executed DDH IPAs or barrel-aged sours. What has always impressed me is the consistency of their beers, and the modesty of their approach. Do yourself a favour and make sure a visit is top of your list when you’re next in town.

Best beer

As 2018 draws to a close, it’s somewhat easier to accept the winter wind and the rain after having proper summer weather this year. It feels like a lifetime ago, granted, but it also feels like in 2018, lager finally came of age in the world of modern beer. And thankfully, unlike the sunshine, it has stuck around. There is a lot of good lager being made in the UK these days, and we’re all the luckier for it.


But for me, Northern Helles from Donzoko, aka Reece Hugill, has stood out time and time again. It’s smooth, it’s malty, it’s delicious. Which is handy because it’s appearing more frequently in the wild, too. (Public service announcement: It’s on tap in BrewDog Shepherds Bush at the mo. I know as I was drinking it last night.) Reece has rightly received a lot of plaudits in 2018 and I expect big things of Donzoko next year. Special shout out to Sean Edgar too, who is responsible for the brewery’s pin-sharp branding.


Brewing heroes

A new category, but what are you gonna do. I don’t want to age them, but John Keeling and Derek Prentice have nearly 100 years worth of brewing experience between them. As in football, where fans frequently say that we’re privileged to watch the game at a time where both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are in their pomp, I’d say the same about John and Derek.

 

Derek gatecrashing yet another Uni fresher’s party.

Through Fuller’s and Young’s, they’ve made an indelible mark on the brewing industry, not just in the UK but globally. There’s plenty of US breweries that started out on their journeys after imbibing quality, perfectly-cellared cask beer here in the UK. Those breweries have, in turn, lit that fire in aspiring brewers in the UK and beyond that have gone on to start their own businesses. It’s a beautiful cycle and the role John and Derek have played in that cannot be underestimated. Make sure to get down to Wimbledon Brewery to enjoy the excellent beer Derek is still producing!

 

John Keeling greets one of his many fans.

Best Taproom

Space issues and access to resources have long held back many brewery’s lofty ambitions when it comes to creating a retail and taproom space akin to the slick, professional environments they would have experienced in North America and beyond. But let’s be honest, the beer space is more competitive than ever before and if you’re not offering (or planning to offer) consumers the opportunity to buy direct, and immerse themselves in your brewery environment, then it’s a major own goal. One brewery that has long had that string to their particular bow is Battersea’s Mondo Brewing Company. Their taproom is comfortable, it has a great bar, it’s warm in the winter and opens out in the summer. It offers a view into the brewery itself and it has clearly been built with the consumer in mind. Oh, and there’s free popcorn too. Well done to Todd, Tom, Andrew and the team. I look forward to coming down again soon!

Best Beer Festival

Georgina Young, head brewer at Fuller’s and John Keeling, who has been turning up to work every day since retirement. They just don’t have the heart to tell him…

Like a volley hit clean and straight into the roof of the net, the inaugural London Brewers’ Alliance festival to be hosted at Fuller’s was a resounding success. The weather brought its A-game to the June event that was expertly organised by Fuller’s John Keeling, Georgina Young and the rest of the team at the brewery and the LBA. The beers on offer were as diverse the breweries taking part. Camden Town, Fourpure, Beavertown and Five Points complemented Jeffersons, Solvay Society, Kew Brewery and Park. It didn’t matter if your brewery employed 100 or one that day, everyone was equal. And the festival was all the better for it.

Another great event, and another one that was a scorcher (for the most part at least!) was Southern Hopisphere, held at the Two Tribes Brewery in Kings Cross. When you combine some of the best beer from Australia and New Zealand, an excellent venue, and an event that was brilliantly organised, then everybody wins. Hope they repeat it in 2019.

Best Bottle Shop

I’ve spent more time and money at We Brought Beer in Clapham than I’d care to remember. It’s a fantastic place to enjoy a beer, has a great outdoor space and is run by the legend that is Chippy, or Robert Chipchase, to the outside world. It’s a stone’s throw from Clapham Junction station and has a great upstairs space for training, homebrew clubs and the like. Catch Chippy on a good day and he might play one of your requests, too.

I’ve taken countless photos of beer at WBB, so here’s a picture of Chippy at Halloween before getting into costume.

Until next time, I wish you a very successful 2019!

Abbeydale Brewery unveils collaboration project

The brewery has worked alongside Barnsley artist Lewis Ryan (Lewy) to create six individual beers that have all been released in can.

While the pieces of art on each of the labels are standalone illustrations, they can be put together to create a single piece.

Project coordinator and office manager at Abbeydale, Laura Rangeley, said: “It’s like a beer label jigsaw!” On establishing the project she says “it’s been an absolute joy to work on and Lewy’s colourful and wildly imaginative style has really brought the idea to life”.

Abbeydale has collaborated with six breweries on the project to produce a range of diverse beers from a strong IPA to a chai latte inspired stout.

Beers produced as part of the project are Creeping Brett, a 4.7% mixed fermentation wheat beer with Yeastie Boys, Sage Advice, a 5.0% apricot and sage saison with Northern Monk and Laid to Rest, a barrel aged apple saison with Fyne Ales.

The brewery has worked with Norway’s Haandbryggeriet on Splash It All Over, a 6.5% Brut IPA, You May As Well Pass, a 6.9% IPA with Brew York and Chai Tea Chai Tea Bang Bang, a 6.4% Chai Latte Stout with Black Jack Brewery.

Lead brewer Jim Rangeley explained: “We’ve pushed our processes as a brewery and in working with and learning from others, we’ve enhanced our knowledge and created some beers which we can truly be proud of. They taste just as good as they look.”

Supplier aims to streamline spent grain recycling

GoPalletBox 1210S, a new product from GoPlasticPallets, aims to make the recycling of spent grain easier.

With spent grain constituting as much as 85 percent of a brewery’s total by-product, recycling or disposing of it in a sustainable way is a major challenge for the UK’s breweries, whether it’s destined to be used as animal feed, for compost or fertiliser.

Measuring 1200mm (L) x 1000mm (W) x 760mm (H), the plastic pallet box has a large internal capacity of 610 litres making it ideal for handling large volumes of spent grain.

“Strong and robust with a solid base and side walls, the rigid pallet box is both easy to clean and perfect for repeated use. So once a farmer has collected its spent grain from the brewery, the plastic pallet boxes can be returned and reused again and again,” the company said.

The GoPalletBox 1210S comes on either four feet, two or three runners or four swivel castors and in a choice of five different colours – blue, red, green, yellow and grey. For large orders the rigid pallet box can be screen printed with a brewery’s company name or logo.

Ex Cloudwater and Leeds Brewery head brewers join SSV Limited

James Campbell, formerly head brewer at Cloudwater and ex Leeds Brewery head Venkatesh Iyer have joined the SSV Limited to form a new team of commissioning brewers.

Campbell, who played an integral role in the rise of Cloudwater, left the brewery in September.

He did so with the view to helping small breweries grow and expand, with plans to eventually fund a brewery of his own.

Iyer spent 11 years as the award winning head brewer at Leeds Brewery growing and developing a range of highly praised and much loved beers.

SSV Limited, UK importers of brewing vessels and brewhouses, celebrated their 1200th tank installation in July and have recently completed brewhouse projects for Salt Beer Factory, By The River Brewing, and already have a healthy order book for 2019 including installing the new Verdant brewhouse and cold bloc.

According to Sam Lawson, founder of SSV Limited, it was time to bring a team on board that could “match our current technical knowledge with brewing pedigree!”

He added: “The addition of James and Venkatesh, means we now have an award winning team of skilled brewers to ensure we can offer clients solid brewing know how to back-up our technical expertise .

“Both brewers will work with our commissioning team to ensure the installation of our brewhouses runs smoothly and bolster our after sales service by providing optimisations and recipe development. They will also be on hand to offer consultancy work to clients, while James will be helping to expand and develop our Brew-bloc Brewhouses.”

Campbell signed an 18 month contract with the manufacturing company and plans to develop their brewhouse offering with the view to funding his own brewery project in 2020.

Commenting on his new role, Campbell said: “Working with SSV Limited gives me the opportunity to work with some of the most exciting new brewery projects that are coming up in the UK. It also give me the chance to work with the high standard of plant that I’d like to become accustomed to.

With that in mind, at the end of the contract, there’ll be the opportunity to design and buy my own plant, helping me towards my long term goal”

Lawson added: “Bringing James and Venkatesh into the team is an investment in our company.  We’ve been long known for our quality products and engineering  but their addition means we have insider knowledge and can work closer with brewers to help them create and build their business.”

Iyer said: “I made the move to SSV Limited as they are becoming a dominant supplier in the brewing equipment market and it presented an opportunity to work on some great projects, alongside some of the most talented individuals in the industry.”

The new brewing team will not only work with customers but will advise the current SSV Limited engineering team on projects from the start ensuring the company is focused on the whole brewing process.

“We’re not just supplying a product,” Lawson said. “Brewing is at the heart of our business and knowing we have two highly-respected brewers on the team gives me peace of mind that we can continue to offer our clients industry leading service”

A very special brewery

“I am the luckiest brewer in London,” beams John Hatch.

John is the head brewer at Wandsworth’s Ram Brewery. He’s also the assistant brewer, head cleaner, packaging operative and everything in-between.

You see, the Ram Brewery is no normal brewery. Instead, it’s a truly unique operation housed on the grounds of the old Young’s brewery. A passion project that came into being upon the news that Young’s was to shutter it’s London brewing business back in 2006, Hatch has ensured that although the brewery would be leaving the site, brewing wouldn’t.

In doing so, it has guaranteed that Wandsworth would maintain the proud mantle of being home to the longest uninterrupted period of continuous brewing in the UK. And for Hatch, who celebrated his 30th anniversary on site in September, it’s just the latest evolution of his love affair with Young’s and the brewing industry as a whole. Something that started many years ago.

“I was an underperforming school boy, to be honest. I was the prankster and trickster that teachers detested, and I don’t blame them,” he laughs. “Whether it was loosening a teacher’s bike seat, or lining their draw with a dozen snaps I removed from crackers, I’d be the one doing it.”

Comprehensive school followed and Hatch says he struggled along to get his A-Levels. The one subject of those that struck a chord, though, was Biology and a university degree at Bangor followed.

“I enjoyed it, but had no idea of the type of career path I wanted. At the same time, I realised I liked beer, and drank a lot of it!” he recalls.

Cask beer and Guinness were his fortes during education and Hatch even proudly held the record for knocking back a yard of famous Irish beverage.

“If you think the cascading effect you get in a pint is memorising, wait until you see it in a yard,” he enthuses. “It was memorising!”

But as his admiration for beer increased, his university grant went in the opposite direction, and Hatch realised his couldn’t afford to drink as much anymore. So wide-eyed, he journeyed to high street chain Boots and procured one of the home brew kits on offer.

“Those early attempts were not good, I’ll be the first to admit. But before long I was producing some quite cracking beers, and even some wine, too,” he recalls. “The only logical thing to do was throw parties on Sunday night and people would get trollied. I’d enjoy watching people enjoy the drinks I made and one day a friend, Richard, told me what I was doing was great and that I should be doing it for a living.”

He adds: “What a thought! It was inspirational to hear because before that, I had no idea what I was going to do for a living. And to work in beer was something I could definitely get on board with.

“So I returned home to Bristol in the summer of 1985 and headed straight to the public library to consult the Yellow Pages directory and write down the details of every brewery going. There was 423 of them at the time, I believe.”

Hatch wrote to these businesses to try and get that elusive first position in the industry. He was frank, telling each business that he was a student of Biology and wanted to brew beer for a living. Whitbread responded in kind thanking him for his letter and to get back to them the following year upon completion of his studies.

“So I did! I wrote back to Alastair Lever at Whitbread in Magor, Wales and he replied to tell me ‘See you Monday’. Simple as that!” he laughs.

Hatch joined Whitbread as a microbiologist on a three month contract in the run up to Christmas, helping oversea the integrity of a mammoth canning runs of beers such as Heineken and Stella Artois. It was during that time that he also joined the Brewers Guild. A body that offered training, talks and also helped match brewers with jobs in the industry.

It was a wise move.

The role, which was due to become permanent in the new year, never materialised. The closure of Whitbread’s Salford brewery resulted in an influx of staff being relocated in their roles.

“I was the last and the first out,” he says. “But they gave me a glowing reference and a month’s extra pay so off I went. During this time, I had learned about John Young and his brewery, Young’s based in London. He was a keen advocate for cask beer and way before CAMRA existed he was there on his soapbox declaring the benefits of cask over ‘fizzy, gassy keg’. I knew I wanted to work for him.”

Hatch left Whitbread and worked for six months in the NHS. It was here he received his beer equivalent of a golden ticket from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. The request to interview for a job at Young’s.

“They told me they had found my details through the guild and have space for a microbiologist. I couldn’t believe it. So my dad zipped me down the M4 from Bristol to London. I vividly recall him pulling up into the chairman’s carpark and was swiftly b*llocked for parking there. He didn’t care. He went toe to toe with the person and informed them his son was there for an interview.”

Hatch passed the interview with head brewer Ken Don and laboratory chemist David Neal with flying colours. But he was barely through the door when an opportunity to become a junior brewer arose. And he took it with both hands, working under brewhouse manager at the time, Barry John. He learned a great deal with John but it was another figure that Hatch singles out for particular praise.

“It was at a Brewers Guild dinner when I was introduced to a gentleman named Derek Prentice. He knew I was at Young’s and informed me he’d be joining me at the business after Christmas,” says Hatch. “We were the new guys together but even then, he was vastly more experienced than me. Derek taught me a great amount and I’ve forgotten so much more than he ever taught me. He’s an amazing brewer and a fantastic person.”

Prentice, now head brewer at Wimbledon Brewery, is celebrating an incredible 50 years in the industry in 2018. Upon joining Young’s, Hatch recalls his skill at identifying problems but also a desire to not tread on anyone’s toes, either.

“Derek recommended that I was given various projects such as looking as dissolved oxygen between point A and point B. I was young, and available, so happily took these projects on. And each time, I’d find a problem that he knew was going to be there. He just wanted someone else to identify it and solve it,” says Hatch.

The quality of Young’s beer rocketed in the space of a few years, Hatch believes, and the addition of the ISO 9002 industry standard for quality assurance only improved things further.

“I was dumped in charge of that but I truly believe that for decade after decade, there was continuous improvement at Young’s,” he states.

Hatch enjoyed many years working for Young’s but during this time, there remained pressure on chairman John Young to sell the valuable site and move the operations elsewhere. Something he fought against time and time again.

“I have wonderful memories of AGMs where John would turn up with a pair of old dusty boxing gloves, something he’d swing around while shouting that ‘I will not be selling this brewery’. Another year he wore a beekeeper’s helmet to keep away the ‘annoying pests’ in the room. Every year there was a different stunt. Fantastic!” he recalls.

But everything must come to an end, and in 2003, Young’s launched a review of its brewing business. Something that culminated in the decision to merge brewing operations with Charles Wells’ brewing operations in 2006, closing the Wandsworth brewery in the process.

“They decided to announce the closure on my birthday. That was a very bad day. I had tickets to see the Queen musical ‘We Will Rock You’ that evening and I remember nothing of it,” says Hatch. “In that summer I’ve never seen so many grown men be reduced to tears. It wasn’t like losing a family because for many, it was losing a family. Young’s took pride in employing families and when we shut, four generations of one particular family were employed there. That was tough.”

Following the announcement, the subsequent months would involve decommissioning the brewery. 300 staff either took early retirement, were relocated or found work elsewhere but regardless, Hatch says the last beer to come out of the brewery was “as good as any” produced during his time there.

Once the dust had settled on the company’s announcement, Hatch and Prentice took things into their own hands. They approached the council to inform them of how much of a loss it would be if brewing was to disappear from the area. They understood but informed the duo there was little they could do.

“We suggested however that if the site was to be redeveloped, the council could force the developer to incorporate a brewing operation into the new setup. This was greeted positively so we were thrilled,” he says. “We knew we couldn’t simply open a new brewery the day after Young’s stopped, so we had to improvise.”

Yeast was added to bottles of wort before fermenting and the yeast skimmed off. And on they went.

“It was a bit underhand, to be honest,” says Hatch. “We weren’t supposed to be thinking about the future of Britain’s oldest brewery rather focused on shutting it down. But that’s that.”

Hatch and the team had a year’s worth of bottles to keep them going once brewing stopped on site. The last brew was completed on the 18th September. The day before, John Young passed away.

Young’s funeral took place less than two weeks later and with it, the first beers from the new operation were somewhat fittingly imbibed. Hatch has many fond memories of his old boss.

“Whilst Young’s were attempting to relocate all of their staff back in 2006, I was offered a job as Health & Safety Advisor for the future Young’s pub company,” recalls Hatch. “Over all my years at Young’s I had taken on a whole host of jobs that nobody else wanted (ISO 9002, BRC Food accreditation, FeMAS, HACCP, CoSHH and finally full blown health and safety). I realised that, on being offered a job in the pub chain, I was going to have to say ‘no’ to Young’s for the first time!

He adds: I felt bad about it so I wrote a letter to John Young explaining that my heart and soul was at Britain’s Oldest Brewery and as such I was sorry but I really could not accept their job. I also took the opportunity to tell “Mr John” what he had meant to me over the years. I thanked him for letting me brew for him and I told him it had been my honour and privilege. Mr Young was already very poorly and I really thought that would be my last chance to express my feelings.

“A few days went by and I had a phone call on site – from John Young!  He said he quite understood my decision. I think his exact words were “marvellous! Well done you!”. I told him that Derek Prentice and I were looking at ways to keep the brewing going and he wished us the best of luck. I then went on to promise that I would do all I could to keep brewing on site “while there was breath in my body”.

The maiden beer produced by Hatch and Prentice was a 3.7% number based on the popular Young’s Bitter. But whatever you do, don’t call it by the name it’s also commonly known as, Young’s Ordinary.

“I remember when I was a young brewer I went to use the gents within the director’s block of the brewery. Within seconds, the door slammed. Good grief, I thought, and there was John Young standing next to me.

He barked: “What are you brewing today?”

“Erm, Young’s Bitter, sir.”

He went quiet then replied: “Thank God for that. If you had called it Ordinary I would have fired you on the spot.”

What Hatch hadn’t realised at the time, was that nearby Fuller’s has launched an advertising campaign on double decker London buses with the slogan that read ‘Nothing ordinary about Fuller’s’.

“Poor John saw these adverts pass his office day-in, day-out and after that, we never used the term again!” he recalls.

So despite Young’s ceasing its brewing operations, Hatch and Prentice ensured that beer continued to be fermented on site, and enjoyed on site, too. But plans for another brewery remained unclear. Prentice had been offered, and accepted, the role of brewhouse manager at Fuller’s, while Hatch took on the role of site manager by the site developers. During this time, the stock of bottles and other supplies began to dwindle.

“I was very worried at that point,” remembers Hatch. “So I took myself to King George’s Park in Wandsworth and to an oak tree planted in memory of John Young. There I was, in the pouring rain, apologising to John for failing and admitting that brewing was going to come to an and.”

But it was there and then, that Hatch had his lightbulb moment. To build a ‘Scrapheap Challenge’ microbrewery and brew beer once more. So he scuttled back to the brewery site to announce his grand plans.

He recalls: “I was greeted by a team of 17 depressed staff decommissioning and destroying the brewery. While not strictly in charge, I had a white coat and declared: ‘Hey guys, we’re going build a brewery!’. They were confused and excited, and rightfully so.

“They wanted to know what we’d use and my smart idea of using the scrap metal that surrounded us was immediately dashed as they reminded me, it simply didn’t belong to us anymore. So I went to Young’s CEO Steve Goodyear, thanked him for seeing me and informed him of my plans.”

Hatch had to come clean about the undercover bottling operation that had been taking place in the year since Young’s closed its brewing operations, and also his desires to build a new setup.

“He was surprised and shocked. But he understood. I had permission to use the scrap metal but one thing was clear, that we could not sell anything we make. Fair enough, I thought.”

So once more, Hatch returned to Wandsworth with the good news and was greeted with overjoyed carpenters, welders, electricians, labourers and plumbers.

The diligent bunch set about finding what they could in order to create their new brewery. But when kit such a £3,000 valve was reported “missing”, it conveniently returned unharmed the following day.

“The team would tell the decommissioning firm that any kit moved was the work of the ghost of John Young, and that happens all the time. Thankfully everyone saw the funny side,” he remembers.

The nano brewery that would take the Wandsworth site on the next stage of its brewing journey was constructed in nine days. Many of the former brewing staff returned to christen it, to mixed results.

“You have the phrase too many cooks spoil the broth. Well I can tell you that too many brewers can wreck a beer,” laughs Hatch. “Although we decided on a 4.6% beer, it ended up at half that. It was quite frankly, disgusting. It was oily, rubbery and revolting.”

He adds: “We filmed the entire process down to pouring the first pint and a gentleman called Terry Wilkins, who was a fantastic welder, was the first to the pumps. He couldn’t wait and there he was, lifting the glass to his lips. He made eye contact with the camera and before Terry even took a sip, he raced off sideways out of shot and threw it all away.”

Not one to be defeated, Hatch spent many weeks playing around with different recipes and ideas, with the question of ‘Well, is it beer-like?’ asked many, many times by those involved. But it’s easy to track when the quality and consistency of the beer took an upward turn.

“I remember being paid a visit by an old colleague. ‘Wow,’ they said. ‘That yucca plant is still doing well.’ I’ll be honest, I completely forgot it was there and I sure hadn’t been watering it. But he was right, it was doing great!” says Hatch. But as my beers improved, the plant’s health deteriorated. It was soon apparent that many beers has been poured into that plant over the months. They kept it going.”

The beers Hatch produced evolved, just as the plans for the former brewery site. As potential suitors eyed up the land, Hatch was tasked with providing would-be buyers with tours. On one such occasion, this involved liaising with Mark Cherry, then of UK-based company property developer Minerva.

Not one to ignore such an opportunity, Hatch regaled Cherry with his brewing ideals and the plans he had.

“Of all the interested parties, Mark was the one that showed a real interest in brewing. He found it fascinating and was interested in my future,” he says. “I told him I wanted to stay in brewing, that it was in my blood. Thankfully they won the contract and he knew of my plans to keep brewing on that site.”

Before long, they were clubbing together to buy the ingredients and chemicals required for the ongoing operation. Hatch would brew alongside his salaried activities on site but the costs soon started to add up. It was time for brewing from the Wandsworth site to play a role in the community once again.

“We started with an honesty box in the sample room and collected a few coppers. Small steps!” he recalls. “But soon enough Minerva were approached by a local running group known as the the London Hash House Harriers. They refer to themselves as a drinking club with a running problem, and they asked if they could tour the brewery.”

He adds: “They missed the chance when Young’s was in operation but we arranged it for them. I agreed to brew a bespoke beer on the proviso they’d furnish the honesty box. Something they did with many notes! And that was it, the way forward was tours, comedy nights and similar events to subsidise my brewing.”

Although the site was soon liberated of all its existing brewing equipment, it took on yet another purpose. As a studio for film and television. For eight years, shows such as Luther and Silent Witness leaned heavily on the site, while feature films also called on the gritty, industrial environs.

“I’d often do beers for the crew and they loved the idea. Then they’d enquire about coming back to use the site and also if I’d do another beer. Gladly!” says Hatch. “We’d have anything from a zombie film to a gangster flick. With buildings as old as 1724 right up to the late eighties, it was no surprise we became so desirable.”

More than 120 productions were filmed there over those eight years. So brewing with the sound of AK47 guns going off outside, or a building being blown up, became the norm. But in 2014, it was announced that Chinese group Greenland had bought the site.

Its first venture in the UK, Greenland took on a site with brewing still very much part of its character. Much of the area has changed beyond recognition with more than 600 homes being built on the old brewery grounds. But a working microbrewery and a brewery exhibition are still very much part of the group’s plans as the housing build nears its end.

Brewing will be a firm part of central Wandsworth once again, just in a different guise.

“I’ve seen the London brewing sector change. When the London Brewing Alliance was founded there was around six members,” says Hatch. “And one of those was Windsor & Eton, which was outside the M25. And now there are more than 100 members. What’s happened is marvellous and staggering.”

The London scene will no doubt grow and develop even further but for Hatch, as long as he’s still brewing then he’s more than happy to play his part.

“Paddy Johnson, co-founder of Windsor & Eton, came on a tour some years ago. He said I was very fortunate, so I asked him why. And he simply told me that I’m able to brew what I want, when I want and without the commercial pressures that most breweries experience. He told me that so many would want to be in my position.

“And you know what? He’s right. I’m the luckiest brewer in London.”

What is Brut IPA and how do you brew one?

In recent years the craft beer market has been dominated by waves of interest in particular beer styles. We have seen the popularity of IPAs, Imperial Stouts, New England IPAs, Fruit IPAs and Kettle Sours ebb and flow, driven by tides of enthusiasm on social media, and by people’s desire to experience the next big thing. To the brewer this brings an extra layer of excitement, not just in tasting these innovative new styles but in learning how to brew them successfully.

In 2018 we have seen a surge in interest in the so called ‘Brut’ IPA, a style very much in its infancy.  Originally brewed in San Francisco by Kim Sturdavant of Social Brewing the style is defined by extremely low levels of unfermentable dextrin material at the end of fermentation. This leads to a crisp and extra dry, (but not drying) mouthfeel.

The style is perhaps the perfect contrast to the trend for New England IPAs which are characterized by their extreme levels of dry hop character and full mouthfeel borne of chloride heavy water.

In addition to the brut character these beers tend to exhibit very high levels of carbonation and effervescence as well as a moderate to high hop aroma leading to the popular comparison with the wines of Champagne. The production of the Brut IPA hinges on the use of a class of exogenous enzyme called an amyloglucosidase (AMG) in the brewing process. (Lallemand brand name Glucoamylase 400). 


Enzymes and just what is AMG?

Enzymes are complex proteins which act as catalysts to accelerate the speed of a reaction. Put simply, they breakdown biological molecules into their constituent parts.  There are several factors that can affect enzyme activity including temperature and pH. An increase in temperature increases the rate of reaction up to a point but above, and outside of the optimal range can reduce the efficacy and even denature the enzyme.

The use of enzymes in brewing is certainly nothing new but is now gaining wider interest and increasing application in the craft brewing sector to push boundaries and achieve specific sensory profiles. Indeed, AMG has typically been used in brewing for creating low-carb beers and reducing sweetness in higher ABV beers. Brut IPA is a good example of using an enzyme in a new and different way. 

In a standard beer, water and malted barley are mixed in the brew house to produce a mash. The main purpose of this is to create sugar for fermentation. During this process enzymes are released from the malted barley which begin to break down the starch present in the barley endosperm into sugars. The two most significant of these enzymes are alpha and beta amylase.

Starch, a polymer of glucose, is joined by glycosidic bonds and is present in two forms, an unbranched variety known as amylose joined by alpha 1,4 bonds, and a branched variety known as amylopectin joined by alpha 1,4 bonds with alpha 1,6 branch points. (See fig 1)

In the brewing process the glycosidic bonds in starch are broken down by enzymes in a process known as hydrolysis. (See fig 2) Alpha amylase acts as an endoenzyme hydrolyzing the 1,4 glycosidic bonds within the starch chain to produce shorter lengths, whilst beta amylase acts as an exoenzyme hydrolyzing the 1,4 glycosidic bond two glucose units away from the end of the chain releasing maltose (see fig 3).

Maltose is a disaccharide made up of two glucose molecules and is the main sugar utilized by yeast in a brewery fermentation. Beta amylase activity is critical to the fermentability of a normal wort. Crucially, neither alpha nor beta amylase will hydrolyse the alpha 1,6 glycosidic bond at  branch points in the amylopectin chain, and it is the consequence of this which leads to the presence of unfermentable dextrin at the end of fermentation in conventionally produced beers.

These unfermentable dextrins are in some part responsible for the mouthfeel of a beer and their presence, or absence can produce a beer that is deemed sweet or dry respectively.   

In a brut IPA the unfermentable dextrin material responsible for mouth feel and residual present gravity is absent. This is due to the addition of an exogenous amyloglucosidase enzyme to the mash or fermenter. Amyloglucosidase is produced from the fungus Aspergillus Niger and works by hydrolysing both alpha 1,6 and 1,4 bonds one glucose unit away from the end of the starch chain releasing free glucose into solution (See fig 3).

This glucose is then utilized by the yeast during fermentation producing alcohol and CO2. In this way all of the available starch from the malted barley is converted into sugar and fermented. The classic use of an enzyme such as AMG is to increase fermentability of worts leading to greater alcohol yields and a more efficient use of raw materials.        

How to produce a Brut IPA

When considering how best to produce a brut IPA one must consider the relative advantages and disadvantages of the different methods. There are three main options to choose from. An addition of AMG enzyme to the mash, an addition of AMG to the fermentation vessel or an addition to both.

An addition to the mash tun ensures that there is no active enzyme moving forward to the fermentation vessel as it is deactivated in the boil. The disadvantage is that the rate of addition needs to be high to ensure complete starch breakdown. Lallemand recommend an addition of 2-4 litres per tonne, although this ought to be optimized for individual processes.

The enzyme requires thorough distribution throughout the mash to ensure uniform breakdown of starch and so it is recommended that the enzyme is added incrementally throughout the mashing process.

An enzyme addition to the fermentation vessel has the advantage of a much lower dose rate and complete breakdown of any remaining dextrin material but has the disadvantage of the presence of an active enzyme in the final beer.

The consequence of this is that great care must be taken to ensure that fermentation has proceeded to dryness prior to packaging the final product. Failing to ensure starch breakdown and fermentation have completed to satisfactory levels will lead to increasing levels of sweetness in filtered or yeast free beer and pressure buildup and potential bottle bombs in bottle conditioned beers. The recommended dose rate is an addition of AMG to the fermentation vessel at the start of fermentation at a level of 10ml/hl.

The Lallemand recommendation is an addition of enzyme to both the mash and the fermenter. This ensures fermentation in a good timeframe, especially when using a Champagne strain, as well as complete starch breakdown.

The yeast strain chosen for fermentation of Brut IPA is choice for the brewer; however, the choice should be made in full awareness of the physiological properties of the yeast strain concerned. 

The two most popular options are a neutral ale strain such as Lallemand BRY97 or a Champagne strain such as the Lallemand CBC-1. A Champagne strain will only ferment simple sugars such as glucose, fructose and maltose, meaning that starch breakdown needs to be comprehensive to ensure a completely dry final product. 

A clean US style ale strain will ferment both maltotriose and maltose so, if starch breakdown is not complete due to less than ideal mashing conditions, or a lack of fermenter enzyme addition, it may be more forgiving to the brewer. Clearly the desired final sensory characteristics of the beer also need to be considered at this stage.


References: Michael J. Lewis, Tom W. Young, Brewing, 2002

Brut IPA Recipe

The grist for a Brut IPA should be predominantly pale with some wheat added for head retention if desired. Hop bitterness should be low, in the region of 15-25IBU. Alcohol content tends to be between 4.5% and 6.5%. Lallemand have created an example recipe, as well as best practice procedures which can be seen on the following pages. (See fig 4).

We have also put together a ‘best practices’ procedure (See fig 5).