Simon, Tom and I were given the arduous task of traipsing round the country to have a look at some breweries to glean some inspiration for our own plans for expansion.
Day one was Wye Valley Brewery. A family run business who have recently had a new brewhouse installed. They use an efficient boiling system that uses a thermal fluid as opposed to a more traditional steam plant and batch sizes are 80 Brewers Barrels or 23100 pints. Highlight was the ROBOT that stacks the casks after filing. We had an excellent chat with Vernon and Jimmy and sampled some of their beer. It was extremely good.
Purity Brewery was the next morning. Flo, their head brewer (6ft 4in giant of a man) showed us proudly around his new 60HL brewery. 60HL is equivalent to 36.5 Brewers Barrels or 10563 pints per batch. They run a continental style brewhouse that comprises of 3 vessels. This type of plant allows them to brew up to 5 times in a day, giving them lots of flexibility for producing smaller batches as well as allowing them scalability. The brewery was immaculate and a real inspiration. ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’, was the mantra. Their Longhorn IPA is delightful and it is also available in cans, which I quite like. A case was swiftly stowed in the boot.
Next we went off to Shropshire to Salopian Brewery who brew a range of beers that lean towards the pale and hoppy bracket. They have won an incredible amount of awards over the years. Their plant is an interesting mix of British and continental with an extra vessel added to allow for hop separation and steeping of extra hops for aroma. This allows them to cycle through 3 brews in a day. They were extremely hospitable, despite being in the middle of brewing. Again, we loaded the boot with beer and headed off after chatting with the team.
Day 4 saw us at the Great Yorkshire Brewery where they brew a good mix of traditional beers, (served through a sparkler), as well as Keg beer. The kit was a new install which was very nicely planned out and put together. It’s situated behind the brewery tap and you wouldn’t know it was there from the road, a really idyllic place to work by the looks of it. It reminded me of a larger version of the 5bbl plant behind the Pot Kiln we used to brew on all those years ago.
Hitting the road, we headed south to Osset Brewery. Again, a traditional style of brewery shoehorned into an industrial unit just outside of the town. These guys are clearly bursting at the seams and it was no surprise that they are looking to move site within the year. They had some cool stuff; the automated racking machine was the highlight.
The following day we were in Nottingham where we took in both Navigation Brewery and Castle Rock. Navigation run a 15 bbl plant and keg a lot of beer on site. It’s a real skill to keg beer at a decent quality on this scale. They have a small filter that they run the beer through as they keg. Castle Rock are traditional in their range and have been around for a while. Their brewhouse is a mix of stuff, much like our own beloved plant. They brew 50 bbls a batch and can knock out a double brew when necessary. I’m a massive fan of Castle Rock beers and it was a real pleasure to see the brewery where so much good beer is made.
The overwhelming thing that we got from all the sites we visited was the need for space. Pretty much everyone, even the newest installations said that cold storage was the pinch point for the casked beer.
Lots to think about and plenty of beer to be drunk on our return!