“Brewing beer is relatively simple,” instructs Lee Squelch of Otley Brewery, “but because it’s such an old process they use stupid names for things which make it sound complicated,” he continues pointing at the mash tun and the copper. “Those for example, they are simply a big saucepan and kettle.”
He furthers his point by telling me that beer is only made of four basic ingredients; water, malt, hops and yeast. But it’s not as easy as just mixing the four together in a bowl and leaving it for a couple of days, oh no, there is a bit of science involved.
First you fill your Mash tun with hot water and mix in the malt. The malt can vary in flavour through roasting and Lee lets me dabble in a couple. Some resemble cereal, others taste of coffee and chocolate. When the malt, hot water (or hot liquor) and wheat are mixed, a sugar is produced called wort.
The wort is extracted and moved into the Copper which is heated to boil the mix. This is when you chuck in some hops. Otley’s hops are wonderfully stacked on shelves like jars of different flavoured bonbons in a sweet shop. Each hop is from a different country or region and will give a different flavour. Grabbing a handful and inhaling the aromas, Lee delves into another bag of hops and rubs the two together between his palms to demonstrate how different flavours can be made by combining different hops. “No two beers will ever taste the same,” he says and judging by the vast array of hops on offer, he’s not wrong! Especially down at Otley where they don’t just rely on the four basics and like to experiment with flavours and ingredients. Their Thai Bo beer, is infused with flavours such as lemongrass, to give a Thai green curry in a glass.
Now the soon to be beer is ready to be fermented by reducing the temperature and adding yeast. The yeast eats up the sugars in the mix and once the yeast has scoffed the majority of the sugars like a fat boy in a cake shop, the yeast settles.
The beer is then cooled and is pretty much ready to go. After the finished beer is all barrelled up, you need to be careful Lee instructs, points to the ceiling. The fermentation process continues in the casks and the build up of carbon dioxide can cause it to explode which can leave a bit of a stain on your walls and ceiling.
So there we are, a whirlwind crash course in brewing the perfect beer. If you want to give it a go for yourself, Otley sell their own brewing kits down at their brewery in Pontypridd.
Have you brewed your own beer? Let me know below or @thegrillbarrel