London Beer City

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Brewday is Coming!

After a long weekend putting together the racking, we’re prepared for the first brewday next weekend. Saturday will be fitting taps, thermometers, mounting the hose reel, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and all the other bits. Then we’ll hang some posters, clean up the vessels, test everything, time the boil, and generally check things out.

Then Sunday, we brew. APA or blonde? A stout would be nice, in this weather. We shall see!


The End of the Beginning

Today is the end of the beginning of Hoppy Collie. I’m sitting inside Simposio at 106 Fulham Palace Road, our friendly Italian restaurant, and the upstairs neighbour of our 200L brewery. The snow is coming down outside, while we wait inside for delivery of the shelving which will allow us to finally start brewing beer.

I bought the brew kit on the 15th of June, 2012. Preparation of the site, sourcing materials, getting additional fermentation vessels, adding plumbing, and other general work has filled the intervening months. I’ve filed seven months of nil production beer returns with the taxman, and have watched the brew kit sit for longer than I like.

But tomorrow is another day, and 2013 is the year of Hoppy Collie Brewery! With the shelving installed, there just some cleaning and light plumbing to do tomorrow. Sunday I’m brewing (along with my trusty assistant Viola) our first 200L batch of Hoppy Collie ExPat Pale Ale.

From next week, a very limited number of our bottles will be available to taste at Simposio. These are mostly trial brews, with different hopping levels, grain bills, and varied techniques (experiments mashing, sparging, etc). Our official launch night will probably come in early to mid February, when the first couple fermentations are coming mature. Hopefully we can get the Speakeasy (located in the rear of Simposio) ready in time for the launch.

Love, peace, dog cuddles, and good beer to everyone!



Hoppy Collie 1 BBL Pilot Brewery Delivered!

Yesterday we took possession of our 1 BBL pilot brewery. Without any further ado (and with Viola for size comparison):

Hoppy Collie Pilot Brewery
The Hoppy Collie Pilot Brewery

It’s not a big plant, at 165 litres per batch, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

We’re still working on suppliers, council paperwork, and waiting for some finishing on the space. But we’re on track to start selling in August. Perfect for the Olympics hangover.

Now to brew some BETA beer in the garden.


Brewing Resources (and a hint at EXCELLENT news)

Although I’m young in my brewing experience, I’m old enough to know that many, many people are much more experienced than I am. I’m making good beer, mind you, but there’s always someone who knows more than I do.

So, for those that like to brew, here are some resources I highly recommend:

Books to Read

  • Brew Like a Monk, by Stan Hieronymus. A great companion to Designing Great Beers, specifically aimed at Belgian styles. Fascinating.
  • Brewing Better Beer, by Gordon Strong. Lots of lessons from a master of the US homebrew world. A great check against what you think you know.
  • Designing Great Beers, by Ray Daniels. An excellent reference for just about every beer style you might want to emulate. Great as a sanity-check when designing recipes.
  • How to Brew, by John J. Palmer. The single most important homebrew book out there. Seriously, this is building block zero.
  • Radical Brewing, by Randy Mosher. take Designing Great Beers, throw it into the blender, and add irreverence, and you have Radical Brewing. Rethink what you thought were the rules, again.
  • Self Sufficiency Homebrewing, by John Parkes. The friendliest entry for a newb. My first book, and an excellent start.
  • The Microbrewers’ Handbook, by Ted Bruning. Not really a brewing reference, but an essential business guide to anyone setting up a microbrewery in the UK.
  • Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation, by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff. It all comes down to yeast, so we better understand it. My O-Chem and Microbio are very rusty, but this book is accessible.

Clubs to Join:

  • CAMRA. The Campaign for Real Ale: the grand-daddy of beer pressure groups. A bit dogmatic on real ale, but still a great organisation.
  • Craft Brewing Association. A brewing group in the UK with an excellent newsletter.
  • SIBA. The Society of Independent Brewers, representing small brewers (like this one) in the UK.

Courses to Study

  • Brewlab Start up Brewing. It’s the only course I’ve done, but I cannot recommend it highly enough. I am seriously thinking of an additional practical course.

Pubs/Bars to Frequent:

  • Brewdog. Selflessly (and shamelessly) promoting craft keg beer in the UK. They make amazing beer. Go drink some and see what you think.
  • The Craft Beer Company. A lovely bar with an extensive selection, but they don’t let dogs in. So not a regular visit for me and the pup.
  • The Euston Tap. Convenient for commuters, and with an excellent selection.
  • The Great Northern Railway Tavern. It’s what @TonyJLennon did next. It’s as awesome as it can be!
  • The Rake. Great selection, great people, and a perfect location for a bevvie after fighting through Burough Market.

Websites to Use:

  • BrewUK. An excellent homebrew supplier in the UK. Fantastic customer service.
  • HomeBrewTalk. The daddy of Internet brewing forums. A great resource for recipes, hardware ideas, and help.
  • Jim’s Beer Kit. The UK’s number one homebrew forum. Good group purchase deals.
  • Northern Brewer. The go-to for gas hardware. Unfortunately doesn’t ship outside North America, so you need a maildrop.
  • The Home Brew Shop. The first place I bought homebrew supplies from in the UK. My all-grain starter kit is still going strong, but I think newbs are better off with BrewUK.

I’m sure there are more resources out there. What do you use to brew and judge beer?


PS – Big news next week. I’ll give you a hint: it’s shiny, and it should be delivered to the site before any Sabbath is properly underway. We are also working on getting our first BETA Tasting event. And there’s a brewday on the horizon: any suggestions? So much to do!


Brewlab Start Up Brewing Course is Full of Awesome

I spent last week up in Sunderland at Brewlab doing the start up brewing three day course, with an additional practical day at the High House Farm Brewery. The sun woke me up before five every morning, and the nights wore on… a bit. But somehow each morning was better and better; exhaustion blunted by enthusiasm is empowering.

Twenty-something students attended the three day course, with variable levels of brewing and business experience. We had new brewery owners, a beer blogger of some repute, a pub landlord, avid homebrewers, and a couple of troublemakers (the Superfriends were definitely in that category). Ten of us went on to attend the practical day.

Here’s how it went, to the best of my memory:

Day One: The Brewing Process
Discussion of ingredients, scientific methods, cleaning, sterility, recipe formulation, and equipment. A great round up for anyone, and especially useful for those that didn’t have a homebrewing background. A number of us finished the day at the Isis in Sunderland, which had a good selection of real ale, but not a very good keg beer selection. Dinner was courtesy of Weatherspoons (there are a lot of them in Sunderland, and not much else). It was about what you would expect.

Day Two: Business Development, Beer Duty, Brewery Design,  and Marketing
Some realities on the business, the intricacies of HMRC’s death grasp on the beer industry, engineering equipment to accomplish what we talked about on day one, and thoughts on how to differentiate new products in what is already a very crowded market. All good exercises, and I am thankful that Hoppy Collie is not trying to make its trade on the back of best bitter. After the course we made our way to Newcastle, accidentally crashing a private party at the Waterline, moving onto an excellent meal and selection of beer at the Broad Chare, and finishing the night at Brewdog Newcastle, where we met Stephen, who had been brewing all night. We were, as they say, instant friends.

Day Three: Brewery Tours, Tasting, and Microbiology
We started the day by visiting three breweries: Ouseburn Valley Brewery, Wylam Brewery, and Big Lamp Brewery. Ouseburn Valley operates in a pub basement on a 5 BBL kit, Wylam on a farm with 20 BBL, and Big Lamp in a former water pumping station with 10 BBL. Each had lessons to learn, and lunch at Big Lamp’s brewery tap was welcomed, as were their excellent bitter and brown ale. We returned to Brewlab in the afternoon for an excellent session on the smells, and tastes of beer (and especially flaws). After the school-day, we ventured forth once more to Newcastle, stopping for a pint at the Union Rooms, dinner at Dabbawal, and the inevitable (and enjoyable) round or two at Brewdog Newcastle, where the lovely Helen charmed us and made with the gifties.

Day Four: Brewday at the High House Farm Brewery
Ten-ish of us stayed on for a fourth day going through the brewing process at High House Farm Brewery. If I have any complaint about the course, it’s that we didn’t really do any hands-on brewing, and while the fourth day was useful to let ideas jell, we really just hung around the brewery and asked questions as Michael, the head brewer, made a 10 BBL batch of Matfen Magic. I think we would have been better off running a full brew on the Brewlab 3.5 BBL than going on to High House, but perhaps the course would be better served by doing both. The last remnants of the party broke up, and when the superfriends returned to Sunderland, it was all we could do to eat some Chinese food at Shanghai Manor (pretty good, as it turns out), and a pint at Fitzgerald’s (busy, but frankly vastly overpriced by local standards).

Accommodation throughout for myself and a few others was at the Mowbray Guesthouse. Allison her family were great, and their puppy is absolutely lovely. I will happily stay there the next time I’m in Sunderland.

All I can say is, if you are thinking about opening a brewery, go to Brewlab. It’s the best training money I ever spent, and it all came straight out of my pocket. I cannot thank the Brewlab folk (Arthur, Richard, Dr. Keith, Piero, Mike, and Allison, in order of appearance) enough in helping me to reignite my passion for brewing.

Watch this space. There is big news coming.