Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Beers of Welbeck Abbey far

So far (fingers crossed!) the beers I've sent out have been a success.

'First Brew' which was a really grapefruity, lemony zesty pale at 4.3% went down very well indeed. We've bottled bucket loads of it, although we've added too much priming sugar to it so it's super fizzy like a lager. Although this isn't how bottled beers are meant to be, my lager-drinking consumers are saying it's lovely and they want loads of it. It is a lovely beer, although really very similar to what many microbrewers are producing so I'm reluctant to keep it as a core product - maybe just a special brew every so often.

Henrietta is going down a storm, it's a very easy drinking pale which is well balanced. Good fresh hop aroma with a subtle bitterness, and a decent bit of body. It drinks like it's well over 4%, despite only being 3.6% - a good trick I think. Very pleased with that one, and it'll be a keeper. Not sure about a permanent name though. Henrietta? Henrietta Harley? Something totally different? Thoughts please.

Ernest George (4.2%) is also going really well, it's very different from your usual microbrewery ale. It's a very deep ruby bitter which has plenty of dark crystal, roasted, chocolate and black malts, and Challenger, Bramling Cross and Willamette hops. In my neck of the woods, this is going really really well because it's different. Not sure if the recipe could do with a little work but I probably need to sit and drink a couple of pints in a good pub to decide. Not having a brewery tap is a bit annoying. This one is the brew which got stuck and wouldn't ferment any further. With a little persuasion it got down to 1011 which was OK - meant it was very very lively though and not quite the right ABV. Second batch is now cooling and behaved much better!

Red Feather (3.9%) amber bitter is brewed with loads of crystal malt. I think it's OK, but the style of beer, ABV, and recipe don't seem to be winning me many customers. People are saying it's OK, but I've got loads to sell this week so we'll see what they say after this batch has gone out. Not sure if it's a bit safe and averagey.

Then there's the black beer - attempt one is called Portland black. This one also got stuck but at 1013, and unfortunately is very very stuck. I've tried everything and today repitched it with an extra 2kg of yeast which I'm hoping will make it drop by 3 degrees to 1010. Fingers crossed. Also, it's not black enough. Anywhere near in fact. I'm going to speak to Nigel (Kelham's recipe God) about it tomorrow to get some advice. I want a teeny tiny little play plant which I can practice recipes and do fun stuff on.

Anyway, enough ramblings for now, just thought I'd keep you updated.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

To brew or not to brew...

Well it's been a fair while since I blogged (again), you'd think I was trying to set up a new brewery or something....

Things are going really well at Welbeck Abbey Brewery now - we're finally producing some cracking beers and selling quite a lot of it. I update the official blog with current beer info last week so have a snoop at that if you want to know exactly what we're brewing.

I've been trying to work closely with the local CAMRA groups. I'm really lucky because I'm in the middle of Nottingham, Sheffield, Lincoln, Chesterfield and Derby, and to be honest I need all the help I can get.

I'm determined not to follow suit and brew lots of highly hopped, high ABV beers which is often what many micros do - I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but I'm trying to brew beers which the consumers in my area want to drink.

I spoke at the last Nottingham CAMRA meeting and was very honest with them all. I explained about what I thought I needed to brew, and thankfully they thought I was at least pointing in the right direction! The grand plan is to brew a 3.6% pale, a very dark 4.2% bitter, and a 4.5% black beer. I wan't sure about the ABV for the pale, or that even a mild/black/porter was right, but after talking to Notts CAMRA I'm now set on my range.

OK, so there's nothing in there of a particularly high ABV, but I can have higher ABV monthly specials. Why? Well, many of my customers drive to the pub so don't necessarily want a high ABV, and often they don't want to spend a fortune on a pint so by keeping ABV down I can keep cost down (grr beer duty!), and at a higher ABV I'll be able to bottle condition a cask of each special knowing that it will keep well.

During my talk I also explained that I am trying very hard to find customers, but don't really know their 'patch' particularly well and would appreciate any help with finding good pubs to supply. I had a great response from this and have had lists of pubs sent to me!

The approach I'm taking is all centered around talking to publicans and CAMRA to make sure I brew exactly what normal people actually want to drink, not what I think they want to drink. I just hope it works...