Monthly Archives: October 2012

The brewing process

As promised in my previous post, below I’ve outlined (with a lot of help and pictures from a tour around St Austell Brewery) the beer brewing process.

Stage 1 – The mill

St Austell Brewery uses the tower brewing system over five floors.

At the very top, 4 tonnes of malt from Maris Otter barley is crushed into a coarse flour known as grist in the mill.

The wooden mill on the right dates back to 1887 – while there is nothing wrong with it, it is a little slow so St Austell Brewery have installed a more up-to-date version (red and green steel on the left)

Stage 2 – The mash tun

On the next floor down, water (known as liquor) from St Austell Brewery’s own private well is mixed with the grist to make a thick porridge called the mash.

During this process, enzymes from the malt convert the starch into sugars and the resulting sweet liquid (known as wort) is filtered out for the next stage of the brewing process.

Steel mash tun

Stage 3 – The copper

In the copper, hops are added to the wort and the resulting mixture is boiled for 75 minutes. This sterilises the liquid and allows the flavour aromas to develop. Depending on the style of beer, different hops from around the world may be added.

Dried and pellet hops

An original copper (or ‘brewing kettle’)

Due to the high temperature, a lot of the liquid evaporates at this stage, taking some of the hoppy flavours with it so the wort is then passed through a second bed of hops to inject more of the desired flavour characteristics.

It is then rapidly spun to create a whirlpool allowing excess sediment to sink to the bottom to be removed. The resulting liquid is then cooled to below 15°c ready for the addition of yeast, which would die at too high a temperature.

Stage 4 – Fermentation

At this stage, brewers yeast is added to feed on the sugars in the wort, converting them to alcohol and carbon dioxide. During this process a frothy head forms on the surface of the beer (this is known as ‘top fermenting’) which is removed towards the end of the fermentation ready to be used again.

Steel fermentation vessel

Stage 5 – Racking

After a few tests in the laboratory, the brew is ready to be filled into casks where secondary fermentation occurs adding a little spritz to the resulting beer.

Brew is added to sterilised steel barrels

While I haven’t gone into the nitty-gritty science, I hope this provides some insight into the world of brewing… Now you know how much love goes into that pint you’re sipping!


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Make mine a pint

I’ve never really paid much attention to beer, however recently a colleague of mine recommended that I have a flick through ‘300 Beers to Try Before You Die!’ – a comprehensive guide to all kinds of beers from around the globe, from Belgian fruit beers to British real ale, by leading beer writer Roger Protz.

My interest sparked, on a recent holiday to Cornwall, I couldn’t resist a visit to St Austell Brewery – founded in 1851 by Walter Hicks, this family-owned brewery is now run by Hicks’ great-great-grandson James Staunton. For just £8, you can go on a guided tour round the working brewery to find out how real ales are made (in the next post I’ll explain the process further), try various samples, and enjoy a pint (or half) in the bar.

The St Austell Brewery portfolio contains various award-winning ales including HSD, Tribute, Proper Job, Trelawny, Smugglers, Admirals Ale, Dartmoor Best, Clouded Yellow, and Korev, most of which I managed to try while at the brewery (small samples that is, not full pints!) and purchase in the onsite shop…

5% abv
Not for the faint hearted, Hicks Special Draught is full-bodied and ruby in colour, with dried fruit aromas and complex spicy hop flavours.
The perfect match to medium-rare peppered steak.

4.2% abv
St Austell’s best-selling beer, Tribute was originally created by Head Brewer Roger Ryman to celebrate the 1999 solar eclipse (then called ‘Daylight Robbery’). Pale amber in colour with ripe citrus flavours, this is easy-drinking Cornish ale at its best.
Enjoy with light chicken or fish dishes.

Proper Job
5.5% abv
My favourite of the lot, Proper Job, an authentic India Pale Ale (IPA) is golden and deliciously malty, with grapefruit flavours and a light texture.
Serve this at a picnic or as a great alternative to Bucks Fizz at a wedding reception!

3.8% abv
A recent addition to the range, made using a blend of English hops and Galaxy hops from Tasmania, this ale is much lighter on the alcohol than St Austell’s other beers but it fully delivers on flavour. With stone fruit and biscuity characters, it is nutty and delicious.
Serve with smoky meats at a BBQ before the weather fully turns.

Smugglers Ale
6% abv
This blend of dark ale and barley wine, brewed and stored in oak whisky casks is rich and warming with spicy flavours and complex notes of vanilla and toffee.
Enjoy after dinner with some hard cheese.

Clouded Yellow
4.8% abv
This wheat beer, named after a migratory butterfly from continental Europe, has been brewed with vanilla, cloves, and coriander to give a spicy nose and tropical fruit flavours.
Perfect with spicy Thai food.

Strawberry Blonde
4% abv
This special brew was created earlier this year for balmy summer evenings using juicy Cornish strawberries to give a refreshing and light fruity beer.
Serve alongside a big bowl of ripe English strawberries.

You can purchase St Austell beers from their website but if you’d like to get hold of an authentic Cornish beer in your local supermarket, Marks and Spencer’s Cornish IPA, brewed at St Austell Brewery is the perfect partner to a mature cheddar Ploughman’s on a Sunday afternoon.

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Great value wines at the Co-op

After completing my first half marathon yesterday in London, I had three things on my mind – sleep, food, and a large glass of wine (after rehydrating of course).

Having raided my local Co-op for cheese and crackers to munch on, I picked up a bottle of Baron de Ley Rioja Rosado – bright pink with notes of strawberry and red cherry, this juicy wine, reasonably priced at £6.99, was just the ticket.

Baron de Ley is a very good Rioja producer – guaranteed to satisfy after a long day, and it is one of many gems on the wine shelf in the Co-op. You can often pick up a bottle of Torres Viña Sol on offer for less than £5, and I’ve spotted a couple of great German wines in there too such as Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett. It is well worth having a browse down their wine aisle and you can even learn a thing or two about wine on their website!

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