Unexpected Places

Sometimes you find bars in unexpected places. Cookstown Hockey Club is one such. Maybe I was a bit naive in thinking it was just some kind of training room/ changing facilities.
The Old Ticket desk
Thursday night I took part in a charity fund raiser quiz (came second by 1.5 points!) held at the venue and was unexpectedly surprised. The venue used to be Cookstown railway station, with the bar being ticket office and waiting room and the original platforms and rails forming an outside seating area. A pub with so many characterful features has been on my doorstep all along! It's been recently refurbished with a glass wall to allow viewing of the period features. There's also a real fire, plenty of seats and tables and old railway paraphernalia adorning the walls (as well as hockey club photos of course).

On walking in I found bass on the splendid bar (though was not on) and I settled for a mass-market bottled-lager instead. Whilst perusing the spirits shelves behind the bar (stocked with 10 sorts blended whisky!) I spotted some familiar shaped bottles...Wells' Waggle-dance! It transpires these had been left over from a previous tasting evening.

Real Fire!
Who's this cheeky chap?
Under the arches
Old loo locks
Yes, that is a *** in the background
Coming in a clear glass bottle and therefore highly susceptible to light strike it was with some trepidation I poured the contents into a glass. Initial signs were good with a good head of foam forming and nothing untoward in the aroma. In taste its a fairly malty number, that 5% ABV helping it to stand up the ravages of time. There's some sweetness from the honey too and a small touch of oxidation at the back of the finish that doesn't detract from the overall experience (so I availed them of their second bottle too).

I now plan to return and also let the NI breweries know that here, in this most unlikely of places, is another potential outlet for their beers (though I don't think they'd be stocking cask).


IPA is STILL dead

Last year Brewdog released a range of four single-hopped IPAs designed to showcase individual hop varieties at their best. It was successful enough last year to repeat the experiment again with four different hops, namely Challenger, HBC, Galaxy and Motueka. Brewdog weren't the first with this concept, but its done well, the same base beer is kept simple to allow the hop to shine through whilst balancing the bitterness kept at 75 for all hops for fair comparison. Hops are added during the boil, at flame-out and in the conditioning tank (dry hopping) to impart as much flavour and aroma as possible. This year the ABV has been reduced to 6.7% from 7.5%, a smart move because it's slightly more amenable to drinking all four in one sitting for comparison purposes plus takes away some alcohol from the flavour allowing the hops to do the talking alone. There's still a small number of sets available to purchase here (service has improved hugely with the shop overhaul) Read on to find out my thoughts.

Four bottles lined up and ready to go

I started in the UK by choosing challenger as it seemed as good a place as any. Challenger is a dual purpose hop (used for both bittering and aroma). The beer pours a dark amber with a fluffy beige head that collapses to a lacing after a few minutes.Gives a hint of pineapple on the nose then redcurrant comes strongly. Getting green tea in the flavour, alongside tropical fruits, the caramalt comes to the fore in the middle and a long grassy bitter finish. Its like a hoppy green tea and tastes great.

 HBC (342) is an experimental new variety from the US. Pours a darker amber than the others. This has a strong mango and passion fruit aroma. Up front its quite soapy but this is soon replaced by mango yoghurt and a fairly boisterous bitterness. Its a bit unbalanced this one but still quite enjoyable.
Galaxy is a Perle Cross.This one is more subdued than the others on the nose, spicy white pepper notes and a touch of peach. A dominant lime peel note tramples over the slightly muddy malt and none of the peach i usually associate with this hop. A touch thin and perfumed in the finish. I was a bit disappointed with this.
Motueka is a New Zealand descendent of saaz. Fairly sweet smelling pineapple nose. Fairly pithy melon bitterness, some orange peel. long pithy finish. I seem to have saved the best until last and I'm unsurprised as I really love New Zealand hops.

At ~£2.80 a bottle they're an okay price and would recommend for the challenger and Motueka alone. I have a second pack; so hope to try out some blending experiments next month, and I'll report back then!


FABPOW Leek & saffron soup with Camden Hells

I got an Ales By Mail order through the post today and in it were some bonus bottles courtesy of Paul, thanks! I was excited to find three Camden Town beers amongst these, as they of course don't make it to these parts. I have tried them before, but that was after a busy tasting in the Camden Brewdog bar; so this time they'll be given a fair go.
Proud Siblings
The new branding is out in force and looks lovely, clear and with a definite house style to make for easy identification (NB new labels coming soon apparently). Branded bottle lids meant I knew what I was getting as I pulled them out from the box.
To continue with my beer and soup range of posts I had a look at what recipes would work well and settled on leek and saffron. Very simple, just chop four medium leeks and soften in oil/butter for a minute or two, add a pinch of saffron and two tbsps of flour, then mix in two pints of vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, simmer for ten minutes then blend.

Piping hot soup, with homemade* bread  and Camden Hells

The lager is clean with just the right level of carbonation and a refreshing beverage by itself. The fruity and gentle sulphur of the leeks is really allowed to come to the fore and the saffron adds a sweet note. This plays well with the honey notes I can detect in the beer. Served with bread there's even better overlap as the two fermentation products come together, with malt notes to the fore. The crisp lager refreshes the palate between sips. Lager doesn't just have to be an accompaniment for curry...

The pale ale is just as good in bottle as I recall the draught version, first sampled last Autumn in the Sheffield Tap. Orange fruity hops and a bitter finish, but no in your face hopping here. The glass was emptied in no time!

The wheat beer has plenty of banana yeast character on the nose, with a clove spiciness coming out in the flavour. That 5% ABV is hidden, drinks like a session beer but with a sting in the tail, be warned!

They're largely how I remember them, flying in the face of the assumption that too many beers in one sitting can dull the palate.

*Alright, breadmaker


A pair of Bitches

Today is world whisky day and in honour of the occasion, what better than a whisky-barrel aged beer to celebrate? Two whisky barrel-aged beers of course!

Brewdog released their zany collaboration with Three Floyds, Bitch Please, about 6 months ago. That iteration was aged in a Jura cask. But they also secreted some away in Laphroaig casks. Laphroaig is widely accepted to be one of the peatiest drams out there, its phenolic and iodine-full character is certainly an acquired taste and one that I myself have only recently discovered.

I've gotten hold of one of the latter and decided to open alongside the original for a comparative tasting (as I am wont to do). Will my original thoughts on the beer hold true up against the souped up version?

The original first then. I gave this 4.3 out of 5 on ratebeer originally. I said "A lighter beer than I’d anticipated, chestnut brown with cream coloured head and a light level of carbonation. Fantastically complex nose, I can detect toffee, hops and smoked malt with some oak wood character. Smoky/peaty flavour certainly to the fore on the first taste with noticeable alcohol presence and a fruity sweetness that reminds me of toffos. Finishes with unmistakable sugar butteriness of shortcake an alcoholic warmth and the ghost of the wood. A good solid beer." and I largely stand by those thoughts, though the smoke and peat seem somewhat subdued in this bottle.

Two brothers in arms.
Its older, more boozy (13.5% vs 11.5%) brother next then. Its slightly darker but certainly appears the same beer.That is until you get a whiff of its aroma and its unmistakably been fraternising with that more southerly distillery. Phenol, smoke and deep heat are the order of the day and it tastes like inhaling a bonfire. The sweet toffee is still there but the subtleties are lost and replaced with vegetal peat, iodine and ash and a massive warming finish from that lovely ingrained whisky. Perhaps a touch of cola hidden in there too. Certainly an acquired taste and even one I can't take too much of. I still enjoyed the beer but it could perhaps have come out of the barrel sooner to retain some of the base beer characteristics.

As always, don't take my word for it, give it a go yourself. It may seem pricey, but for the strength its pretty decent. Both beers are still available in the Brewdog Online shop. I'm off for a wee dram.


A Real Brewer's House?

Donaghmore is a tiny village in the back roads of County Tyrone, albeit one with a beery past as is evinced by Brewery-themed road names. In keeping with this heritage, the Brewer's House hopes to open an on site microbrewery in the near future to offer their customers something unique and decidedly local.

Opened by Ciaran and Vicki McCausland last autumn, I've only just managed to venture the nine miles to investigate (something about not having a car...). On arrival I received a warm welcome from the pre-warned Ciaran, who was calling any entering Englishmen Steve in anticipation of my arrival*. After a quick perusal of the bar I ordered the sole cask offering, Whitewater Belfast Ale. Its not one I'd been keen on before but on this occasion it positively shone, bettering even those available at brewery-owned venues. A good session-strength brown bitter that I could happily have had two or three of had I been in for a drinking session.

Proper glassware too!
As it was we had been drawn by the tasty sounding grub, and after a natter with Ciaran we seated ourselves and perused the menus, accompanied by a couple of beers from the bottle range kindly opened by Ciaran. Although the range may not be the most exotic, its certainly light-years ahead of what's available in the rest of County Tyrone and the majority of Northern Ireland, with the likes of Brewdog, Goose Island, Anchor and Brooklyn available. Add to that Erdinger Weiss and Whitewater copperhead on keg and you won't go wanting for beer. The menu also features some locally produced cider from MacIvor's (new to me!), wines, whiskys and cocktails for those who are not beerily inclined.

A "small" steak
I opted for breaded goats cheese with beetroot puree, pea risotto and chocolate cheesecake to finish. The food arrived promptly, piping hot and in good-sized portions. The plates were returned to the kitchen squeaky clean, which is testament to the quality of the food. My dining companions opted for steak and Thai curry, each met with delight and a selection of desserts all looked the part. A wine and food pairing evening on the 30th looks set to be a great night, with head chef David Kennedy excelling himself with a mouthwatering array of dishes. Rumours of a similar beery event in the future certainly excited me.

Wooden bar and whisky selection
Three hours on a sunny afternoon passed swiftly by in the charming atmosphere, though we weren't hurried at all, despite trade being relatively brisk. Its been tastefully decorated throughout, with real wood floors, stained glass windows and local photos adorn the walls. Fear not though as there are still plenty of seats for those just popping in for a beer or three, stools at the bar and high tables downstairs with a mezzanine seating area too.

And what of this microbrewery? Ciaran attended a brewing course in Sunderland last year and plans to brew some 100litre scale pilot batches this year. In keeping with providing what the regulars want, the beers will be handed out as free samples. If all goes well a 5 barrel brew plant will be installed in 2013, making it the first microbrewery in County Tyrone.

 We could certainly do with more pubs like this in Northern Ireland and I for one will be returning soon!

The Brewer's house can be found on Facebook here and Twitter here.

*Well, at least one anyway.

Update: Congratulations to the Brewer's House for winning the best Gastropub in Co.Tyrone in the Irish Restaurant awards. To have achieved this so soon after opening is good work indeed!


Three Sisters

Three sisters for your pleasure
Goose Island is one of the biggest "micros" in the US. . They have a great website with suggested food and cheese pairings, which as you know is a topic close to my own heart (or stomache!) It was long admired for trying new things, particularly in creating US/Belgian hybrids. Then it was bought by Anheuser-Busch INBEV and people were worried that would be the end of it. However the brewery still continues to push the boundaries with their innovative beers and not least among them is their vintage series of larger format (650ml) Belgian inspired beers.
I recently got hold of three* of them so here's my thoughts.

Cherry vinaigrette
Madame Rose is a cherry oud bruin, allegedly akin to Liefmans kriek. The oxidation and lactobacillus vinegar notes are certainly there in the nose, but to me its much closer to Rodenbach in flavour than the aforementioned kriek. The cherries are lost in the sourness, very much a salad dressing beer. A disappointing turnout for one I had highest hopes for.

Lolita is closer to a Frambioise lambic. Its a handsome deep red with a rotting hay bretty nose and plenty of sweet raspberry. In the mouth its tart and refreshing from that raspberry and fairly dry in palate from the Brett munching all of those usually body-building sugars. I much preferred the bottle of Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus that preceded this, especially price wise (this was a not inconsiderable £15).

Fleur power
Fleur is an interesting one. Blended with hibiscus and Kumbacha tea (a fermented mushroom beverage). It pours a pale amber (picture doesn't do the colour justice) with a floral meadow aroma. It has tart red fruit in spades plus finishes with rose petals. I'm not sure what the Kumbacha adds.
Just an excuse to show off the home-made
sushi really!
It made for a great beer to pair with sushi though. Certainly the stand-out of the three for me, so a shame its been semi-retired.

*Fleur has now been retired in favour of Juliet, a new beer which I have not yet found in the UK. It sounds similar to The Shot in the Dark Lambic.

I also have the smaller beers in the "series" which I will be reviewing next month.


More Bottled Magic

Having tried the majority of the Magic Rock range (both in draught and bottle form) I was looking forward to trying the final two "specials" as sent to me by Dan Glover (@dandanglover), cheers!

First up, the Magic 8 Ball which plenty of people have been reviewing positively. It pours very dark brown with bubbly tan head. Some citrus and pine on the aroma but fairly subdued to what I was expecting. Flavour full of mango skin and lime pith, its pretty astringent actually. A touch of chocolate in there underneath it all. I wasn't all that keen on this but can see why it appeals to others.

Dark and mysterious
Bearded Lady is the bigger sister of Dark Arts (a firm favourite of mine in the Magic Rock range) and the family resemblance is certainly there. Chestnut tinged dark brown with creamy tan head that soon collapses to a lacing. Rich coffee and roasted barley notes on the nose. Spiky carbonation obscures initial flavours but finish is coffee, chocolate and tobacco. As it opens up there's some vanilla and caramel with watermelon flavours developing in the after-taste. Thick and warming, certainly a sipping beer but one of the better UK Imperial Stouts I've had the pleasure of supping.

I'd recommend adding both of these to your wish-list and look forward to other new releases this year. For a brewery that's still less than a year old to produce beers of this calibre is excellent work.


A food and beer dinner.

I like to try beer and food combos out, but they tend to be spontaneous, selecting a beer from the cupboard based on what I'm cooking. This time I decided I would decide what I'm cooking based on what beers I wanted to drink. I tried to arrange it so that the beers would go with two courses each then used my girlfriend as the guinea pig. They seemed to all go down okay so here's the details:

Vegetarian ceviche
Starter:Vegetarian ceviche...
Regular ceviche is a seafood salad originating in Mexico, so I found a vegetarian recipe using hearts of palm to look like octopus. And I don't have a martini glass so made use of my St Stefanus Glass.  

...paired with Lindemans Cuvee Rene
Garrett Oliver suggests gueuze with regular ceviche (that's how I found out about the dish) and it certainly works well here. The lime juice accentuates the gueuze sourness which acts as a great palate refresher. I'm now eating fish again so will certainly try the more authentic seafood version, which I reckon will make an even better match.

Goats cheese bruschetta with rocket and balsamic tomatoes
2nd Course: goats cheese bruschetta...
I already know geueze works well with goats cheese, those bretty funky barnyard flavours pick up on that capyric acid in the cheese to give you full on farmyard, but the lactic acid in the beer also helps to bring out those hidden citrus depths.  
If you're not a fan of the gueuze then try a hefeweisse or (as I chose) a biere de garde.

I had a disappointing experience with Jenilain ambree but glad I didn't give up the style as a lost cause because this was a superb beer. The slight wild yeasts again accentuate the goatiness but the herbal sage and slightly peppery flavours in the beer work well with both the cheese and salad. Last but not least the all important carbonation helps to cleanse the greasy cheese from the palate between mouthfuls.

Fruity salmon and tasty veg.
Main Course: Cider Poached Salmon...
Having bought a fillet of salmon and at a loss of how too cook it I turned to my Traditional Beer and Cider recipes book. I found this recipe and it works well with a simple tomato sauce, roast new potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli.

...paired with Thatcher's Somerset Vintage Cider. 
The the unused cider is an obvious pairing choice, accentuating those fruity flavours in the salmon and with enough sweetness to counter the acidity of the tomatoes.
 The 3 Monts didn't hold up quite so well, 
but was by no means a poor partner for the food.

Now with Minieggs
 Dessert: Key Lime Pie...
A dessert I've long enjoyed but never attempted to make until now. I was surprised at how simple the recipe was, the hardest part is waiting for it to set!
Melt 100g of butter and mix in 250g of crushed digestive biscuits. Spread into a 20cm loose bottomed tin, shaping the edges to 4cm. Chill in the fridge for 30mins. Combine the zest and juice of five limes with a carton of double cream and condensed milk and leave for a few hours to set. Simples.

Purple hued.
This was the only sensible choice really, a nice fruity lambic to contrast the lime sharpness and condensed milk sweetness of the dessert. This is my second and final bottle of the beer and its drinking even better than a few months ago. blackberry, sweet cream, sour lambic, tart citrus - its a great match and probably my favourite of the lot.

If you've not tried food and beer pairing at home then give it a go and why not try converting a few sceptical wine drinkers whilst you're at it?!


A tale of two hemispheres

Hops, as with all herbs, suffer from age. Those volatile compounds which make up the wonderful aromas are escaping all of the time and being lost at every stage of the process; from being disturbed on picking and drying, to being compressed on packing. Hops being left for too long become shadows of their former selves. Feeling that it was perhaps unfair that hops should not be showcased in their full glory, Sierra Nevada chose to use some freshly harvested hops in two beers with the same base recipe. They're released 6 months apart as the USA and NZ hop harvests are similarly spaced.

I tried the Southern Hemisphere harvest back in July last year. The hops (NZ hallertauer, motueka and southern cross)are picked, dried and arrive for brewing within a week.  Here's what I thought then:
A wonderful fresh hop aroma of mangos and resinous pine in this red-amber beer. It forms a thick creamy head. Initially tastes of tropical fruit and toasted malt followed by orange pith with a sweet hoppy finish. Easy drinking for its strength due to the light carbonation and hidden alcohol.

Two tasty beers.
I enjoyed it so much I tried it again 9 months on. Those hop flavours have certainly subdued now but still plenty of body in there. Its obtained the marmalade flavours that are often present in aged IPAs but still a lovely beer.

The Northern Hemisphere version uses the hops (centennial, cascade) even fresher, they're not even dried and are from field to kettle within 24 hours.
Dark amber with resinous pine, mango and orange peel on the nose. Strongly bitter with more pine, high carbonation and a tropical bitter finish. I preferred the New Zealand hopped version actually, this one being perhaps too piney to become almost car freshener. But a minor quibble really as I still scored it higher than many other DIPAs I've rated.


FABPOW Chili and Leikeim Steinbier

There has been some talk recently on steinbier; so when I spotted a bottle of it in my local(ish) off licence I picked it up. 
I decided to pair it with some chili and guacamole. I'm vegetarian and the recipe is vegan, but if you're a real carnivore you can always add some frying steak/mice after the onion has been softened.


For the Chili 
1 large onion 
3x cloves of Garlic 
3-5 tins pulses (your choice) 
1 tin chopped tomatoes 
Chili (fresh or powder form) 
Bell Pepper 
Tomato Puree 
Smoked Paprika 

Fry the onion until transparent. Add the smoked paprika and mix well. Drain and rinse the pulses and add to pan along with chopped tomatoes. Add tomato puree and water as necesarry to adjust consistency. Generous squirt of marmite to get that umami and vitamin B in your meal. Add the chilis and bell peppers and wait until softened. It tastes better if left out overnight to absorb the flavours. 

For the Guacamole
1 large tomato
1 tbs lime juice
half x jalapeno
bunch fresh corriander

Fairly simple this one, roughly chop the ingredients then blend with a hand-blender. Season to taste.

I like to make this in bulk and used 6 tins of beans this time around. The key is to vary the size and colours of the beans for more interest in the bowl and a variety of flavours and textures. My favourites include kidney beans, butter beans, flagolets and black beans but any can work well. You can of course use dried beans, but that takes some forward planning as they need to soak overnight and require longer cooking.

I don't really have any traditional German glasses for the beer so went with my Tui glass instead. How does the beer taste? It pours hazy amber with peachy and sweet caramel nose. Fairly light bodied for its ABV with spritzy carbonation, a fairly faint maltiness with a little acridity in the finish which I guess comes from the steins.

Withe the chili those smoky notes work well with the smoked paprika and the fruity flavours accentuate the fresh chilis. Overall it has a cooling effect on the palate akin to sour cream, one for those who can't bear the intensified heat of chilis when hop-forward IPAs are bought to bear.

Leikeim website here (if you can speak German)


Beer in Burton

The old Spirit Merchants
Burton...the home of IPA and Burton Ale. Its also home to a number of pubs and the National Brewery Visitors' Centre which played host to the British Guild of Beer Writer's Ingredients symposium (more on this later perhaps). 
I want to focus in on that pub heritage that makes Burton a great place to visit. Everywhere you look around the town are clues to the towns once mighty brewing status. Alas most of the buildings are no longer used for brewing...the once famous grain warehouse is soon to become a Travelodge! Its still among the greatest brewing cities in the world today with both Marstons and Molson Coors being based here, alongside a slew of micros including Burton Bridge Brewery and The Burton Old Cottage. 

Its to the site of the first of these, The Bridge Inn that we all amass for our evenings revelry. Its a traditional boozer with two separate rooms, bare floors, plenty of brass and a roaring wood fire to make everyone feel at home. There's a goodly range of beer to choose from and I make my way through 6 halves from the Burton Bridge Bitter a slightly fruitier session bitter with that clean snap of bitterness at the finish through to Burton Bridge Festival a strong mild/ best bitter with toffee and fruit sweetness.

It was here that we met our capable host for the evening, Andrew Griffiths, the local MP. He seems to know the decent boozers in town like the back of his hand and after a couple of pleasant hours in The Bridge we head to another of the brewery's outlets, The Devonshire.* This is a large single room pub that has a smaller range of Burton Bridge Ales plus a guest or two. Its homely and comfortable and I sup another pint or two whilst Andrew nabbed some of my Cheese Moments.

Our final pub of the evening was the Burton Old Cottage Tavern, brewery tap of the eponymous brewery (though now owned by a local labour councillor). Upon hearing who we're in town with the landlord promptly buys everyone a round and I enjoy a pint of the fabulous stout. Its a session strength and quite buoyant and fruity as compared the dry stouts I'm used to in Northern Ireland. There were plenty more beers left to try; so I will certainly have to return again.

The local Wetherspoon is also a good beer guide pub and whilst my Pint of Cask Bass was great, there was nothing inspiring on the pumps. A word of warning however, if you do find yourself in town of a Monday lunchtime it may be the only watering hole open!
*Tradition has it that the Coopers should be the next stop on any tour of Burton's watering holes, but it was unfortunately closed for refurbishment. What a shame, I now have to go back to Burton again...not that I needed an excuse!


CABPOM March: Brooklyn Brown Ale and Ossau Iraty

From www.artisinalcheese.com
Cheese pairings don't have to be anything fancy. Last week I picked up a bottle of Brooklyn Brown Ale from the Vineyard in Belfast and some cheeses from Sawyers Deli. On tasting the beer I knew that it would work well with Ossau Iraty, a cheese I've had many times before (you can get it in Waitrose).

Non-boring brown beer
The beer pours a russet-brown with brief beige head and smells like cadburys whole nut chocolate, with hazelnuts and cocoa powder on the nose and plenty of toffee. The body is quite thin and well carbonated with a nuttiness from brown and chocolate malts and a sweet finish. As the beer warms up a resinous pine note is evinced.
Those nutty, earthey flavours are what work so well with the aged sheeps milk in ossau iraty. The savoury cheese helps to tone down that malt sweetness and the carbonation from the beer helps to pull some redfruit notes from the cheese.


Inside a Megamaltings

The tower Maltings at Shobnall
Last Monday I had the chance to visit a UK maltings as part of the British Guild of Beer Writers Ingredients Seminar. You can read my thoughts of the day here. I thought I'd look at the production of malt in a little more detail.

Molson Coors is a global megabrewer. In the UK they produce carling, grolsch and william worthingtons' among other brands at three different facilities (Burton, Tadcaster and Alton, Hampshire). This massive amount of beer requires a massive amount of malt and its all produced in Burton on Trent. 

At this facility its just barley that is malted, but in fact it is possible to malt any number of different grains including wheat, oats and rye. The malting process aims to turn the complex starch molecules into smaller chain sugars that the yeast can then turn into those all important ingredients - alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Originally there were three maltings in Burton, though one had been mothballed due to declining volumes and is currently being developed as part of an £85 million redevelopment of the Burton Brewery site. This leaves two remaining maltins which together form the Shobnall Road site. There is an older tower maltings (visited by a #Twissup) dating back almost 30 years to when it was still decked out in Bass regalia and also what's known as the Redler plant, a younger, increased efficiency system. We got the opportuinty to have a look around the latter of these two.

Steeping vessels.
Working in the cement industry it was inevitable that I was going to find comparisons on an industrial site of this size to the areas I am familiar in, but I hadn't expected the plant to be manufactured by the same company! (Redler) Digging deeper there really are a lot of similarities with the grain being offloaded into storage silos prior to being transferred by conveyor, mixing with water, undergoing pretreatment and being kilned before storage into silos and distributed by road around the UK. In fact the only major difference is cement is produced by a continuous process and malt in batches.

Germinating Barley
The grain is first steeped to activate the enzymes then allowed to germinate in warmed vessels for a few days. It is then "deculmed"; which basically means the little rootlets and shoots which formed during germination are removed leaving just the malted grain. It is then kilned for a length of time dependent on the required colour (from pale lager malt through to darker ale malts on this plant) and then placed in silos. The Redler plant has four germination vessels and two kilns, allowing for 1600 tonnes to be in production at any given time with a turnaround time of about five days. 

Destined to become Carling?
In a year the plant makes an astounding million tonnes of malt a year (at 82% utilisation currently). The malt is used by Molson Coorrs throughout the UK but is also produced under contract for other brewers including Marstons and also Chivas whisky distillery! The site also has its own well for steeping the water, which cuts down on water pressure elsewhere and the output from the steeping process is essential for the local treatment works in providing the biological material needed by the waste water treatment bacteria. Indeed, without it the works would not be able to deal with other waste water streams.

We learnt a lot about malt at the ingredients symposium the following day, but rather than trying to summarise it here, I'll leave it to my readers to discover for themselves the joys of malt, either  in its production process or more likely, as part of a pint of beer.

I'd love to tour a traditional floor maltings and indeed those who had been were a little disappointed by the lack of tactile sensations at this massive site. However being a big science geek I enjoyed this just as much. Would love to try malting some barley myself one day.