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Sarah Hughes Brewery Visit, 12 October 2012

 

Ten MCB members plus two partners and one guest were standing outside the door of the Beacon hotel in Sedgley by opening time at 12.00. We were met by Simon, the brewer, who he showed us around in two groups because of the confined space in the small Victorian tower brewery.

 

 

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The wort is then run off by gravity into a well-worn boiler, made of laminated sheets of copper. A quantity of wort (the final spargings at a gravity of about 1005) is held in reserve in case it is needed for adjustments during the boil that lasts for two hours. Hops are added at the beginning of, and also during, the boil.

 

On brewing days the hot liquor is run into the mash tun and then the malt hopper is opened enabling a pre-determined amount of malt to be run into the water. The level of water required varies according to the beer being made and is measured by counting the exposed rivets in the mash tun. As the malt is added the grist is stirred with a very large paddle; hard work as Simon observed, especially when a thick porridge consistency is achieved.

The strike temperature is 72 degrees and the temperature falls to about 68 in the middle of the tun after all the malt has been added. The outside of the mash tun is simply insulated with staves of wood and the lid is made of planks of wood. The mash period is one hour and by the end of the mash the temperature has fallen to around 62 degrees. The mash is then allowed to rest for a further 90 minutes.

We climbed up the steep and narrow stairs of the tower to the penultimate floor where the mash tun is located. There is another small floor above this where the hot liquor tank and opening of the malt hopper are located. The sacks of pre-crushed malt are winched up to the mash tun floor and then carried up the last set of steps to the top of the hopper. A “modern” innovation is an electric winch that has replaced the former hand-operated device.

We climbed up the steep and narrow stairs of the tower to the penultimate floor where the mash tun is located. There is another small floor above this where the hot liquor tank and opening of the malt hopper are located. The sacks of pre-crushed malt are winched up to the mash tun floor and then carried up the last set of steps to the top of the hopper. A “modern” innovation is an electric winch that has replaced the former hand-operated device.

Both the above pubs had a good range of beers on, at attractive prices, and in very good condition. The highlight for me was the Mill Green Brewery Tasmanian Hop Devil. A so-called Black IPA, and a hefty 6.0% with plenty of Topaz and Galaxy hops. However, although hoppy, it was well balanced and very easy drinking.

Stairs HLT SHLT SFV

The beer is conditioned for some time before it is judged ready to be sold. The period varies according to its strength; for instance the Sarah Hughes Ruby Mild (6% abv) typically matures for three to four weeks.

 

This was a fascinating visit and gave a glimpse of how brewing used to be practised before the rise of very large breweries and the advent of modern computer controlled plants. A truly memorable experience.

 

The photographs were all taken on the day by Phil S.

 

Ron

MCB Co-ordinator

The wort rests for five minutes before it flows, again by gravity, into a large, open topped, stainless steel, rectangular tank, containing a portable s/s filter. Most of the spent hops remain in the boiler. The wort is then pumped through a cooler before flowing by gravity to the ground floor into a fermenting vessel. Yeast is added at a temperature no lower than 21 degrees and after seven days the green beer is put into barrels. The yeast is skimmed during the fermentation period and this is refrigerated and saved for the next batch of beer.