We've now been brewing in our new premises for three months - and we've learnt A LOT. After brewing at home for about 5 years and then fine tuning our beers at other breweries, we thought we had nailed our recipes and got to a point where we were happy with them. Having spent time getting to know many of the different ingredients very well and knowing which pairings suited our tastes, it seemed like the hardest part of making the beer we wanted had passed. How wrong we were!!
When brewing at home it didn't take long to figure out a process that worked and when brewing at other breweries, there was always help at hand to guide through the process to achieve a desired outcome. We knew it would take some time to get to know our new set up, but we didn't foresee how different our tried and tested recipes would be affected by our new brewing kit. Despite still being happy with the quality and taste of the beer, we were not 100% satisfied as we wanted it to be exactly how we had originally envisaged it. As our beers are based on concepts, which run through conception, execution and branding, we couldn't afford to have the taste deviate from the original idea.
We've brewed many times and had to dispose of a few batches because they simply were not correct. For instance, we've had to get to know how many additional IBUs (bitterness levels) were added to the beer when adding flameout hops - it takes around 20 minutes for us to chill the beer and transfer to the FV. These 20 minutes were extracting additional bitterness from what we really wanted; we make fairly bitter beers anyway, so this additional bitterness took it too far even for us. We finally got to the point where we were happy that the beer tasted how we imagined.
End of the story? Also, no! We began on a shoe string budget, so bought a kit that could navigate us through the start-up phase and give us the platform to create a sustainable business, whilst still being able to produce the beer we wanted. This kit allowed for 2,000 litres of beer to be produced a week and involved priming the beer (this is where we add additional sugar to the packaged beer so that it goes through a secondary fermentation, thus creating carbonation). However, with this system we would not be able to can our beer as the temperature needs to be as close to freezing as possible in order not to fob when running through the canning system. We decided early on to can our beer as opposed to bottle, but our current FVs will not allow us to get this cold so we invested in two high-spec unitanks that we use as condition tanks.
These tanks allow us to drop the temperature of the beer to close to freezing; they allow our beer to naturally drop hop, yeast and protein particles so we can create vegan beer without the use of finings - as well as avoiding filtration which strips out flavour and aroma; they also allow us to force carbonate our beer so that we can control carbonation levels more closely than we could when priming the beer. All-in-all, pretty amazing bits of kit that allow us to lots of things we wouldn't otherwise be able to do.
However, the amount of time we left the beer to condition at 1/2C dropped more of the hop, yeast and protein particles than we anticipated. We also opened the bottom valve to extract these frequently. What we didn't take into consideration was that this would leave us with a beer that had a thinner mouthfeel and less hop presence than our primed beer. All those flavours we desperately wanted and tried so hard to get in the beer were not as prominent as we wanted.
We've spent many brews trying different conditioning times as well as also how much we extract and drop. We've also increased our dry hopping ratios to make sure we have the aroma we're looking for as well as changing our hopping levels when brewing to make sure the beer comes out of the CTs as intended. This process has been gradual due to the amount of beers we produce, but we're now happy with how our system works and we're confident we can create the beers we love and, more importantly, replicate them consistently.
FUTURE PROCESS INVESTMENT
As well as spending a lot of time figuring out our best process, we've been busy behind the scenes getting our beer into people's hands. We're delighted that our distribution has increased and our beers can now be found within Greater Manchester, the North West, Yorkshire, the North East, the Midlands and now in Greater London and the South East. We're hoping to add Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the South West in due course. We've been bowled over by the positive reaction to the beers and we're delighted more people are enjoying our hard work.
This has meant that our two FVs have been very busy and demand has quickly outstripped availability. We are in the process of acquring two more fermentors so we can meet a growing demand as well as hiring additional staff - we hope to hire a Head Brewer in the coming months to help take our beer to the next level but also allow us more time to focus on the events side. As we've been busy making the beer, selling the beer, talking to people about our beer, managing our weekend taproom, logistics, back office stuff and marketing, we've not had the chance to get out to festivals and speak to more of the people that really matter: the people that actually drink our beers!! Taking on more staff will help us achieve this and we can't wait for it!!
Never content with sitting still, we'll be releasing two new beers in the coming month - an unfiltered Pilsner and a hoppy IPA with additional can/badge designs - we'll keep you updated on developments. With two new unitanks, we'll be able to stretch our legs a bit more and increase our production to fit these new beers into our schedule whilst still brewing ones that have been in high demand; and now we have a handle on our process, these will be more consistent from Day 1.
Thanks for reading.
Paul Greetham | Founder & Brewer | Beatnikz Republic Brewing Co.