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Award winning ales, brewed on the slopes of the Mendip Hills

The Brewing Process

Malted Barley, hops, yeast and water form the basis of all our beers, we don`t use any preservatives or other nasties. Our processes are fairly traditional although we do use several more modern techniques to maximise the flavours and aromas extracted from our hops.

We source our ingredients as locally as possible, our hops come from Herefordshire and Worcestershire and our malted barley mostly from East Anglia. Our water is fresh from the Mendip Hills and has excellent brewing qualities.


The Brewing Process

Please take a look at our slide show to see how our process runs, for more in depth information please see a more detailed account of how beer is made below.

Malt Blending

First, we create our own special blend of malts...

Malt Blending

Mixing

...and then mix the resulting blend with hot water in the mash tun

Mixing

Mash

The resulting mash (with a consistency of porridge) is left to stand for an hour to allow the conversion of starch in the grain into sugar

Mash

Sweet Worts

The sweet worts (sugary extract) are then drawn off into the copper and boiled for an hour and a quater

Sweet Worts

Hops

The whole hops are added at three different stages of the boil, to give the beer its distinctive bitterness, hop flavour and aroma

Hops

The boiled wort is then cooled on route to one of our conical fermenters. The cooled wort is pitched with yeast and fermented over a period of 3 days at 20°C

Wort

Equipment Sterility

Our fermenting vessels are fully enclosed, ensuring completely sterile conditions. The conical shape of the fermenters assist a consistent, vigorous fermentation process

Equipment Sterility

Maturation

Once fermentation is finished, the beer is chilled to 8°C and allowed to sit for a day, then transferred to our conditioning tank for a further short period of maturation

Maturation

Cask Washing

All our casks are pressure washed and then given an internal steam clean to ensure sterility

Cask Washing

Racking

Yeast levels are checked before the beer is racked into cask (along with a little isinglass finings to help the yeast settle) ready for its final period of conditioning

Racking

Quality Checks

Only when the beer has been checked for quality is it finally allowed to pass into trade for public enjoyment

Quality Checks

Complete

This ale's ready to go!

Complete

No Waste

Even our used malt goes to a good home!

No Waste


How beer is made

Water

Brewing begins with water. Our water supply is extremely important in giving us a consistent beer character no matter what style of beer is being brewed. The water supply in Cheddar comes from the Mendip Hills and due to the limestone is fairly hard, this is excellent for general brewing, however we can also modify our water through the addition of a variety of mineral salts. By adding mineral salts we can emulate water from different areas of the world and therefore brew styles of beer that years ago wouldn`t have been easily achievable. Varying amounts of different salts are used and we use Calcium Sulphate (gypsum), Calcium Chloride, Magnesium Sulphate (Epsom salt) and Sodium Chloride (table salt) depending on the style being brewed.

Calcium is important during mashing. It boosts and stabilises enzyme activity during mashing (both by pH reduction and heat protection of enzymes), as well as aiding starch gelatinisation and lautering performance. It also binds with phosphate ions (from the malt) which facilitates a decrease in pH in the boiling of the wort, inhibits too much colour formation, aids the coagulation of proteins and effects bitterness extraction during boiling. It is also important in fermentation performance and the flocculation of yeast cells and helps prevent haze. A pretty important ion!

Magnesium also helps to lower the pH of the mash but more importantly, it is important as a cofactor for yeast during fermentation. It's important to be aware that magnesium ions can contribute harsh bitterness to a beer though, so these salts are always used with caution!

Carbonate or bicarbonate ions are also very important in brewing. These play a major role with regard to the pH of the water. The enzymes that are present in the malted grains themselves all work at an optimum temperature and optimum pH, hence it is essential that these are balanced correctly. These ions tend to move the water more towards a high pH (alkaline) which works in the favour of dark beers, where the malts used often contain compounds that can be quite harsh or astringent. The ions help to balance out these acidic dark malt characters. However, in well-hopped beers, alkaline water tends to result in a rather intensely bitter beer.

Sodium affects the perceived flavour of the beer by enhancing its sweetness. Sulphates give crispness and dryness to the palate when used correctly, but can tend towards salty and harsh (and laxative!) if over-used. If you have too much of both sodium and sulphate ions in a beer you also get an unpleasant harshness, so again, it comes down to balance. Chlorides also give a rounded, full bodied beer and are beneficial when used in darker, sweeter beers.


Malt

Malt begins its life in a field, generally as barley (though oats, rye, wheat and other grains are also malted for brewing). A barley grain is 70-85% carbohydrate. This is very important as carbohydrate means sugar and sugar means fermentation! As well as various types of carbohydrate, there are different amino acids, proteins, phenols (think tannins and polyphenols), vitamins, sulphur-containing molecules, and lipids.

Firstly the grain is harvested and tested to make sure it is of the right grade to become brewers malt. Things such as the correct amount of nitrogen, the moisture content, even the grain size and germinative capacity are all measured prior to its selection.

The barley is then cleaned and graded prior to steeping in fresh water. Steeping is important as it is the maltster's job to trick the barley into germination. Through a series of steeping and air rests the moisture content of the grains increases.

The increase in moisture content allows the roots and shoots to begin growing.and for all the starch within the grains to start converting into lovely sugars.

Before all of those carbohydrates have disappeared into plant growth, the maltster takes the green malt, as it is now called, and gradually decreases the moisture content through kilning (heating). The grains usually have around 40% moisture at this stage, but we need nice, stable, dry malt to store in our brewery so we need the moisture at around 3-5%. Over a few stages the malt is dried and depending on what type of malt is wanted, the kilning temperature is increased or decreased at different moisture contents or for different times. It is here that you can get rich, caramel or chocolate malts or delicate pilsener or pale ale malts or black, roasted, charred malts. There are loads of different types created and the use of these in different brews in varying quantities help give our beers the malt profiles you know and enjoy.


Mashing

We receive our malted barley in a pre crushed form (It is crushed {cracked open} so that the water can mix with the starchy interior of the grains) and mix up the required volume the day before a brew in our Grist case (Fancy word for a holding tank for malt). We then drop the malted barley through a chamber where it mixes with hot liquor (water) from our Hot Liquor Tank and is deposited into our Mash Tun.

Depending on the beer being made the "Mashing" temperature is somewhere between 65 deg C and 68 deg C, generally speaking the higher the mashing temperature the more residual sugar is left in the beer at the end of the fermentation process giving the beer a more full bodied and sometimes sweeter taste, likewise a lower mashing temperature generally means a dryer and thinner tasting beer.

The mashing process takes around 20 minutes and we are left with a Mash Tun full of sticky, wet and hot malt porridge..We then leave this mixture for an hour giving the insides of our lovely malted barley grains time to undergo conversion from starch to simple sugars. It is these sugars that will ferment later on and give us the alcohol content we need.

The Mash Tun has a slotted false bottom, meaning that there are a series of narrow slits all around the plates on the base of the vessel that allow liquid to get through, yet husks to stay put. This is important as it acts as the final filter for our beautiful, sweet, syrupy liquid, which we brewers refer to as wort, as it progresses on its way to be boiled.


Boiling

After an hour in our Mash Tun the wort is then recirculated through its own grain bed for 20 minutes to clarify it and then is transferred to our Copper (Alright it is made of stainless steel but who is arguing?)

As we are pumping it across we "Sparge" more hot liquor across the top of the grain bed in the Mash Tun at around 75-76 deg C, this helps slow down and eventually stop any enzyme activity as well as leaches the remaining sugars from the grains. We are extremely careful not to sparge too hot or for too long, doing that can extract harsh tannins and polyphenols from the grains and give the beer flavours we definitely don`t want.

After about an hour we have our Copper full of hot wort and this is brought up to a nice hard, rolling boil using an internal coil fired by gas. The wort is in total boiled for an hour an a quarter to an hour an a half during which time the hops are added.

Finally, boiling helps to concentrate the wort. Just like when you make a delicious gravy to go with your Yorkshire puds for Sunday lunch, this concentration helps intensify flavours and to lower the pH of wort making it more stable.

Ten minutes from the end of the boil we add some Protofloc tablets, these help coagulate protein and settle it, if this protein was allowed into the final beer it would make it hard to settle and would remain hazy.


Hops

The hop is a plant, from the same family as Cannabis that we use to add bitterness, flavour and aroma to our brews. The part of hop that us brewers are interested in is the flower, sometimes referred to as the cone. This is jam-packed with loads of wonderful resins and essential oils that determine how our beer will taste and smell (Combined with the balance of the malt flavours of course)  Unfortunately, due to the nature of aromatic substances hop oils are quite volatile and easily escape into the atmosphere when boiling but we address that with one or two secret methods of our own.

Even though boiling can drive off some of the nice aromas that can come from hops, it also helps to drive off stuff that we don't want carrying through into the finished wort. Compounds like dimethyl sulphide, which has an almost baked bean, cooked vegetable, sweetcorn character to it is never desirable in your pint and it also removes some aldehydes that could potentially cause off flavours through oxidation downstream.

We add whole hops at various stages during the brewing process. In our Copper we generally add around 25-30% of the hops at the start of the boil for bittering, the longer a hop is boiled for the more bitterness is extracted from it and an hour is usually enough to extract the maximum level of bitterness from the hops, with about 15 minutes to go we add our flavour hops which will give the boil just enough time to extract the flavour compounds from our hops. Finally at the end of the boil we add our aroma hops, it is important as mentioned before not to boil these for very long at all as the aromas will simply disappear up the chimney, in fact for several of our brews we chill our wort to around 80 deg C before adding our aroma hops.


Fermentation and finishing

Once the wort has finished boiling it is left for 10 minutes or so and then transferred through a plate heat exchanger to one of our four fermenting vessels. The plate heat exchanger is a very clever piece of kit and by pumping the hot wort through it one way and conversely pumping cold liqour through it the other way we get the hot wort cooled to our required fermenting temperature (20-22 deg C) and our cold liquor is recovered to our Hot Liquor tank at around 75 deg C ready for another brew. In theory we could then start another brew although in practice for us that rarely happens (Thankfully!).

It is now that we add yeast to our wort and over the next 2-3 days the yeast feeds itself on all our lovely sugars and gives us in return, heat, CO2 and most importantly alcohol. It is imperative that we ferment our beers at a steady temperature and this is achieved by having a comprehensive cooling system that constantly monitors the temperatures in each fermenting vessel and keeps them steady. Potentially in brewing there is nothing more damaging than letting brews get carried away and overheating, left unattended a brew could reach 28-30 deg C and this would lead to higher fusile alcohol flavours among other things, not good!

Once our beer has fermented (We begin with an Original Gravity (OG) and end with a Final Gravity (FG) and this drop in gravity is also used to calculate the alcohol content, usually expressed as Alcohol by Volume (Abv). Once the beer hits its designated gravity, the beer is then chilled down ) we cool it to 17 deg C for 24 hours, this allows it a good rest from all its hard fermenting and helps get rid of any diacetyl present (Think buttery flavour in beer, again not necessarily nice). We then chill it to 6.5-7 deg C and after another 24 hours it is ready to put into casks.

When putting the beer into cask we add a compound called isinglass finings, a very pure source of collagen protein that helps the yeast cells bind together. The collagen has a positive charge and yeast generally tend to be negative. This allows flocs of yeast cells to form and as these increase in weight they then precipitate out on to the bottom of the cask leaving the beer above it nice and clear.

The beer is then cellared for a week at 10-12 deg C and is ready for consumption.

To find out more about our brewing process, or to see it first hand, why not come along to the brewery in person with one of our brewery tours?