Week 18 Blog

We have decided to continue on with the weekly blog for the time being, as long as I can find the time. The brewery is pretty much in, and working to a certain extent. The installers have been in over the weekend supposedly tying up all the loose ends. The format of the blog will be changing though.

There is little point showing the same pictures each week. This was a great way to show the progress of the build, but now most things are in place these pictures have little point. I would much rather blog about important mile stones we pass each week, and show interesting pictures as we go forward.

So as promised at the end of last weeks blog, the week that has just passed was a busy one. Some quick statistics - 4656 Bottles bottled, 30 casks filled, 15 key kegs filled and 3 new beers brewed. It is worth reminding people that there are 2 breweries under one roof here, and we at Weird Beard are more than happy to help our friends at Ellenberg’s brewery with bottling etc. So a more accurate figure would be 30 casks, 15 key kegs and around 3000 Weird Beard bottles.

Last weekend we started by preparing 18 casks, ready to be filled with Boring Brown Beer on Monday. We are hiring our casks, but they are new and branded with our colours. To start with they needed a good clean with detergent, rinsing and then sanitising. We don't actually have a cask cleaner yet, so we needed to bodge one with some empties, bits of wood and a pump with some hose and a spray ball. This all worked surprisingly well.

And then it was Monday, our first full day filling containers. I am not sure anything can prepare you for your first day bottling by hand in a brewery. We have helped out in other breweries in the past, but the pressure is off in those situations. To start with we filled 18 casks, as these will be conditioned to a slightly lower carbonation level to the bottles. It is worth noting that we do not use isinglass or any other finning. This means our beers will be vegan friendly. The down side to this, is that our casks will take a little longer to settle, and the beer will not be as clear. We don't see this as so much of a problem, as we know beer can be good even when not crystal clear, and we are going to be dry hopping the hell out of a lot of our beers anyway, and this will throw haze.

Next came the bottles. Our process is currently very labour intensive. We start by pumping the beer from the fermenter into a bottling tank on the mezzanine, where the priming sugar is added. Then, starting on the left of the first picture, we sanitise the new bottles and stick them on the red draining trees. The person filling picks the bottles off these and puts them into our 8 head bottle filler, which is fed by gravity from the tank on the mezzanine. the bottles are slowly filled, and then placed on the next table, where someone will cap them. The capping process is very much like a day in a casino in Vegas playing one arm bandits, so I took to this like a fish to water. Boring Brown beer went into 330ml bottles, as it weighs in at 7.4%, which meant a lot more hard work.

Tuesday was a very exciting day, as we were brewing Black Perle. This is a huge favourite of mine, and anyone else who has been lucky enough to try the prototype of this milk coffee stout. The brew day did not go without it's problems, but we are very happy with what ended up in the fermenter, and can't wait to get it into bottle during the coming week. Although we did manage to get quite a lot of it into the fermenter, so as it went into the fermenter it generated a nice head, which tried to escape. We then had to prepare another 12 casks ready for Wednesdays bottling day of Miss the lights.

Miss the Lights is an IPA style beer we decided would work well in Cask, Key Keg and 500ml bottles. This was the first time we had actually filled key kegs at the brewery, and one poor keg did sacrifice it's life in the learning process. We do not condition our beers in bright tanks and pressure fill, so our key kegs are primed like a cask, so will have sediment, and essentially still be real ale. So don't be confused by the word keg. While all this bottling was taking place, Ellenberg's were brewing their fantastically tasty stout, so it was all go. But we proved that multiple things could work along side in this shared brewery.

Thursday was another Weird Beird Brew day, this time with out pale ale, Mariana Trench. This was our smoothest brew day yet, until we worked out that we had the wrong yeast for this particular beer. After some frantic tweeting, and Gregg driving out to Hammersmith, we got the yeast and pitched before the day was out. This beer is currently sat in FV4, and is looking and tasting great.

Friday, we are all aching but a busy week is drawing to an end. Today was not going to be an easy day though. Ellenberg's are almost exclusively bottling their beers, luckily in 500ml bottles not the smaller 330ml. Part of our sharing agreement means we help them when ever we can, which we are more than happy about, as they always return the favour. We managed to get through 1000 litres of their Alt, before giving up for the week. This means there is another 400 or so litres waiting for us Monday.

The Black Perle sat in FV3 was getting close to terminal gravity, so the coffee was sourced from Alchemy Coffee was added, and will be left until tasting just right.

We have not got the labels for any of our beers printed yet, so there will be a day labelling in the not too distant future. But things are very busy and very exciting around the brewery. We have many customers lined up, and a good few festivals have requested casks. So keep an eye out, it is going to be an exciting few weeks.