Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Brentwood Brewery Experience Day

Today I went for a Brewery Experience Day at the Brentwood Brewery Company, not far from where I live. It's something that I had wanted to do for a while urged on by friends and family so I phoned up and booked myself in, and what a great day it was.

I arrived just before 8.30 am and was given a warm welcome from everyone there and introduced to Sophie de Ronde, the Head Brewer.Taking off my coat I was given some basic health and safety advice, ten sacks of malt and a cup of coffee. Well, it was a little more involved than that. We were going to be brewing Brentwood Gold, one of my favourite beers (actually I have lots of favourites from Brentwood) and the malt went into the mash tun. I won't go into all the ins and outs of what went into the mash (you'll have to go yourself if you want to find out) but while it was sparging Sophie went through the chemistry of the malt and what was happening to the grain in great detail. She had prepared an excellent presentation for the whole process throughout the day. I found this very informative particularly in respect my own ambitions as a home brewer, and was delighted that she had also prepared some notes on brewing theory that I could take away.
The mash was then transferred to the copper for boiling and with the addition of the hops it was time for lunch at the White Horse pub, a Good Beer Guide regular just up the road. This was a buffet lunch washed down with a delicious pint of Brentwood Gold and soon it was time to head back to the brewery to carry on brewing.
When we got back I was handed a shovel and a wheelbarrow and was given the job of clearing out the mash tun.

Towards the end of the boil more hops were added before the wort was drained and cooled before being transferred to the fermenting vessel. I mixed in some dry Nottingham Ale Yeast with a little of the hot wort before this was then pitched into fermenter to do it's wonderous work.
And that was basically that. Sophie presented me with a certificate to commemorate the day, and I will be returning in a week or so to pick up some of the beer that I helped to brew. I am under no illusions that I brewed this myself, Sophie and the team have to take most of the credit, however it was wondrrful to contribute to the process. It was a good working environment with a bit of banter and everyone there was more than happy to answer my constant and sometimes inane questions.
I'd like to thank everyone involved for a truly fantastic day, right from my first experience of ringing up to book it, to being given a lift back to my door at the end of the day (with a bottle of Essex Lager - cheers!) it was nothing less than magical. Sophie was particularly patient with me and I thank her especially, not least for the many samples I had to taste throughout the day. I also wish James well when he moves to take up the Head Brewers position at Tap East.
If you are considering doing the Brewing Experience Day, I urge you to do so as I guarantee that you will have a wonderful time and your labours won't be fruitless, as not only do you get to brew great beer that others can enjoy, you'll also get some to take home for yourself. I'll be drinking to that very soon!

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