Last week I actually brewed my first proper beer. Previously I’ve done home brews an assissted with brews at Brentwood Brewery, but this one felt very different. This was my own creation under the expert guidance of Andy Skene. This is a collaborative brew with Andy at Dominion Brewery. If you do not know Andy or Dominion the I’ll fill you in.
Canadian Andy has been the brewer at Pitfield Brewery for several years producing their excellent range of organic beers. The beers are some of the first organic beers that I tasted, but are also some fantastic flavours and styles of beer. Andy is now relaunching the Pitfield brand and starting his own operation Dominion Brewery to produce some really special beers. His first beer under the Dominion label is Yukon Gold, first sampled to rave reviews at Rochford Beer festival – I was planning to visit last night to sample myself but found all trains along the line cancelled due to train hitting person at Goodmayes. Turns out that train did NOT actually hit anyone! – thankful no one hurt, but frustrating as was looking forward to a taste of Yukon Gold. Had to be content with a pint of Tribute at Essex Arms in Brentwood watching my beloved Arsenal qualify for the group stage of Champions League.
Getting back to the story of my brew, I was very much looking forward to working with Andy’s expertise. We agreed on the brew being an American style pale ale. Malt mostly crystal malt with a little caramalt to give it a little more body. I then wanted a great helping of hops. The beer is to be called Mayflower Gold, so I wanted a mix of American and British hops. British Pilgrim hops were used for bittering with late addition of American Willamette and Cascade for aroma. We aimed for an ABV of 6.5%, so with this level of alcohol and hops it will be something special!
Friday 16th November arrived at Dominion brewery, well wrapped up after Andy’s warning that the brewery can be pretty cold. We made a start with the mash straight away – filling the mash tun with hot water at just the right temperature, then lugging bags of malt over my shoulder and pouring into the mash tun. After giving it a good stir it was then a case of putting the lid on and letting the enzymes in the malt do their job. After just over an hour it was a case of sparging – spraying the malt with more hot water to extract all the sugars and other great flavours from the malt and pumping into the kettle. It was then a case of boiling up with Pilgrim hops and then adding great big buckets of aroma hops near the end of the boil. The beer already smelt great! Beer was then cooled and pumped into the fermenters prior to adding the yeast – original gravity checked and spot on for the aimed for ABV. Big thank you to Andy – really enjoyed my day brewing with you and learnt plenty.
Fermentation has now proceeded for the past week and we are ready to bottle tomorrow. Half size champagne bottles have been ordered, to emphasise that this is a special beer. After conditioning the beer should be ready for mid December – should be something fantastic to crack open for Christmas parties and on Christmas day – I’ll be trying it with the turkey! If anyone is interested in taking some bottles, or could be an outlet to sell it then please let me know (I hoped to have my own retail unit ready for Christmas but these things always take longer than planned). Once bottles are ready I’ll let people know how they can get hold of them.
So why Mayflower Gold? Most of you will probably know that the Mayflower is Billericay’s symbol. The Pilgrim Fathers met in Billericay prior to sailing on The Mayflower to their new life in America. I see this beer as my Mayflower, leading me to a new life in brewing. So British Pilgrim hops are very appropriate, with the American hops for the journey to America. As beer styles go, the trend for going back to original strong alcohol IPAs and use of American hops in pale ales have produced some of my favourite beers recently.