Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth
Wednesday 14th January 2015
For a recent birthday, I was very kindly given a Brew Day Experience and, having got Christmas out of the way, I spent Wednesday 14th January learning all about brewing at a fantastic micro-brewery in Portsmouth. The Brewhouse & Kitchen used to be a pub called The White Swan and is located next to the New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth. The pub was colloquially known as “The Mucky Duck” and this name lives on today by being used as the name for one of the beers brewed on site.
The Brew day Experience at The Brewhouse & Kitchen, Portsmouth is essentially a day spent learning all about the brewing process and how to brew beer in a micro-brewery environment.
Resident head brewer at The Brewhouse & Kitchen is Thomas Voggesser, a young German brewer, who, at time of writing has been in the position for just 4 months. He has undertaken a three year degree course in brewing and has previously worked at a large brewery in Germany. I imagine working at the Brewhouse must be a bit of a culture-shock for him as here he is basically a one man operation.
Our day started at 10am. I attended with three colleagues and there was one other person in attendance, so four of us in total, just about the right number. I think a couple more people would have made it a bit crowded. Thomas gave us a quick tour around the various tanks, coppers and pipes so we could briefly familiarise ourselves with the equipment, what did what, where the various pipes went etc. and then we got started. We were going to be making a Golden Ale called Guildhall.
First up is preparation of “the mash”. Malted barley, in this case two different types of barley from Baird’s Malt, has hot water (hot liquor) added, is stirred and is then left to sit for one hour. This extracts the sugars from the malt grains which the yeast will use as the basic substrate for the fermentation process. After sitting for an hour, the liquid from the mash is run off into the copper, washed with with more hot water, and the first of two different types of hops are added.
This is now known as “the wort” and is boiled for 1 hour in the copper. For the last 10 minutes of the hour’s boiling, a second, different batch of hops is added which again gives more flavour. If I recall, the first type of hops added was called Columbus and the second was named Mt. Hood. I asked Thomas about using USA ingredients and as I understand it there is much larger selection of different types of hops with varying characteristics (allowing more control over flavours in the beer) available from the USA. I guess this is understandable, after all there the micro-brewery / craft beer scene is much older and much more common in North America than in the UK.
After the wort is boiled in the copper it is cooled via a heat exchanger and pumped into the fermenter. Yeast is added at this stage and the wort then ferments away for 5 days at 19c. During the fermentation period the yeast converts the sugar to alcohol – the Guildhall would have eventually an ABV of 5%. After 5 days, the beer is cooled and left to rest for a further 5 days before finally being run off into plastic barrels – these are firkin sized, holding approximately 41 litres, and are rested and stored in the cellar until ready to pour (you can see, these they are the bright orange ones in the photographs at the end of this post.
Thomas normally makes a total of 12 different Brewhouse beers and there are 6 different beers available at any one time although there are one-off brews as well. During the day, as you can appreciate, there is a bit of downtime whilst things are boiling etc. and this time wasn’t put to waste – we tried all the beers that were available and also had some lunch (which was included in the Brew Day experience). Personally, I particularly enjoy the darker ales, there was a dark IPA called Black Swan and a very good porter, the name of which escapes me. The lighter styles of Sexton and Matcham’s (named after the architect, Frank Matcham, who designed the theatre next door) were also very good. At the end of the day each person is allowed to pick a 5 litre mini-keg from a selection of whatever beers are available at the time, or you can come back in about 20 days time and pick up a mini-keg of the beer that you actually made on the day. I chose a mini-keg of Staggersaurus, an IPA abv 4%. (my colleagues chose a Matcham’s and the Guildhall we had a hand in making). This is from a range of beers that Thomas makes for a Portsmouth company called Staggeringly Good. Their dinosaur-themed range of bottled beers also includes Thai-Ranno Citrus IPA flavoured with kaffir lime leaves and Post Impact Winter Darkness and Extinction Black IPA – both flavoured with chili, the Extinction is the strongest.
Thomas is a very knowledgeable and engaging person. We all had a very enjoyable day out, learned a fair bit about brewing and came away with 5 litres of very good beer. The Brew Day Experience is a great day out. Highly recommended to anyone with more than a passing interest in beers and brewing!