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The Trials of Opening A Brewery: First Brews!

in Building a Brewery, brewing stuff, How to open a brewery on November 28, 2016 . 0 Comments.

There isn’t a brewer out there who’s been through the process of finding a location to brew, buying a brewery, putting everything together to create a brewery and who can’t wait to get beer into fermenters, then package and into a glass and share with friends, family and customers. After all that’s what it’s all about, right?

I’ll hold my hands up, I (Phil) am not engineering minded; I’ve always been that guy given a situation and piece of equipment, I’ll make the most of it. This time, faced with a blank canvas and the crazy diverse talents of Vic (business partner), it’s been a road of “this would be fine”, “oh, well, how about this?”, “yeah… that’d be awesome”. It’s been fun to see the place evolve. Recapturing the energy used, having a hot liquor tank, refining our work flow down and putting labour saving to the fore, even on a small system like ours.

The great news is that we’re at the “creating the beers” stage!

Here’s some things worth noting:

- We’re a brewery and taproom, effectively a brewpub without the food.

- We can make 850litres a brew, 5 brewers barrels.

- We’re beer geeks too. We’ll also be pouring beers from our friends and heroes.

- People make our brewery, not the beer.

- We love the ingredients that go into beer: The vast array of hops and what they give to beer, malts that give layer upon layer of complexity, yeasts that would give Egon Spengler a permanent stiffy.

- We love new styles of beers as much as understanding the grace in simplicity, using one malt, one hop and one yeast.

- We love working with our friends. They inspire us.

- We love cask beer too.

- We’re not Shepherd Neame

- We seek inspiration near, far and in weird tangential places.

- We don’t aspire to please everyone.

- We love the fast evolving beer scene that we have today. We love the history and heritage of brewing that got us to where we are today.

Our First Brews?

Trying to bring a sense of time and place to our beers is going to be a consideration when we approach the beer-drawing board. I love big hops, I love classic central European lager, I love Gueuze. I love many of the modern beers. For instance, I have just been on a long road trip up and down the West Coast of the USA and visited a number of famous and contemporary breweries from the East Coast States; a recalibration trip if you will.

There’s also this point, and it’s not a subject to be avoided: there are also those beers we brewed at BrewWharf in Borough Market.  Whilst there were many opinions about BrewWharf, it certainly,in later years, made up for lost time. We’ve the recipes from there which we may revisit. However, we’ve vastly different water from those days. We’ve spent out on our own source, accessing an aquifer 35metres below ground level – giving us water that’s, well to be honest, bottled elsewhere locally as spring water. This water is amazing. Super clean, no chlorine/chloramines, 104ppm CA and low in other minerals, making it hugely versatile. No wonder there were 3 breweries in close proximity to where we are, including the one we’re located right on!

Batting in our crease.

I hate sporting cliches, but our first beers are about discovering our systems’ quirks and charms. I decided to play safe, bat from well within our crease. But, I hear you say, isn’t the brewery your old brewery…? Yes, well, but, it’s got “go faster wheels” now, and other minor upgrades – we had lots to discover. I wanted to make a couple of beers, simple, hard to screw up and easy drinking! Sorry, no Double IPA out of the gate, but that will come soon enough!

Our yeast(s). Over the past few years, I have started a collection of yeasts from far and wide, including weird and wonderful Belgian strains, classic British and some fun German ones. For our “house strain” we’ve got our grubby hands on a “London style” yeast for our collection, chosen as a solid fermenter, nice soft fruity esters and well managed, drops like a stone bright.

As our good friend Jeff Rosenmier of Lovibond’s says, “don’t fuck it up”. My take is, remove every opportunity to screw up out of the equation and you should just make it over the bar.

Dover’s Pale Ale, “DPA”. Charged with brewing something Pale and Hoppy, as a regular, there isn’t a better place to start than Dark Star Hophead. Hophead is super popular in these parts and well, we love it too. It wouldn’t go without acknowledging Mark Tranter, once of Dark Star, now of his own Burning Sky brewery, over near Lewes – a hugely influential friend of the brewery. Some years ago, he and I met in the Rights of Man, in Lewes and over a few pints of excellent Harvey’s beer we dissected the history and make up of Dark Star Hophead, written up for the benefit of CAMRA BEER Magazine readers. This isn’t to say that DPA is a direct clone of HopHead but hell it’s influenced by it, as much as Oakham’s JHB and many of that ilk “pale n’ hoppy”.

Our take is based on Simpsons Golden Promise, some Dextrine Malt and Caramalt, chuck in some American Columbus hops, then a pinch of US Mosaic, English Endeavour and then some US Cascade late on. We’ve used a “London style” yeast from our collection, chosen as a solid fermenter. It’s given a balanced iteration of the pale and hoppy style, but with a solid hop flavour, low in alcohol and super easy drinking over a few pints. We’ll probably be moving the hopping regime around a little, making it slightly more aromatic.

Dockers Porter. Dockers Porter is a modern take on an old-school porter, an early winter seasonal. The inspiration for this beer started back when we were planning for Breakwater as it is now in early 2016. Rob, who built our “brewers patio”, over looking the River Dour, isn’t a hop head, he’s a dark-beer-head (?!), plus we’d seen labels for a Leney’s Oatmeal Stout. Asking more detailed questions of Rob, getting him to describe beers he liked and beers he didn’t, we came to this. Blame Rob if you don’t like it.

Born of Simpsons Golden Promise, Double Roasted Crystal “DRC”, T50, Chocolate Malt, Roast barley and Golden Naked Oats. It’s hopped with a dash of Columbus and a touch of Endeavour at the end of boil with our house yeast. It’s a full on liquorice, raisin, chocolate number keeping an easy 4.4% abv.  Read more about Breakwater Dockers Porter here

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