A little while ago, me and my partner went off to the London Fields Brewery for a “Brewing Masterclass”. Having had a stab at making some homebrew mead before (and it failing spectacularly), I was very excited to see learn how I could avoid making 20 litres of vinegar again.
So at 10:30 we arrive at the Tap Room, which feels more like a cafe than a bar, and have a cup of coffee while we wait for the class to start. The other attendees slowly trickled in, and once everyone had arrived we went through to the brewery.
In the brewery itself, we were given a short overview of how London Fields brew their beer and the adapted process we would be using. We were also given a short talk about different hops and barley, the malting process, and the effect that all these variables had on the beer. We would be using a mixture of three different malts, which would mean we were effectively making a homebrew version of LFB’s Hackney Hopster, a Pacific Pale Ale.
Once we had a good grasp on what we were doing, it was off to start brewing in earnest! We added hot water (called mash liquor) to our malt to create a mash, and this was then left to stew for an hour. I always though that brewerys were meant to smell really bad, but this smelt amazing: like hot sweet treacle with straw. Lovely.
During this downtime (and a few others in the process) we had some time to kill, so what on earth were we to do? Try the finished article obviously! We went back into the Tap Room and tried many of the different beers on offer. Something that was interesting to me as a (not totally inexperienced) beer drinker was to be able to taste the difference between cask and keg beers next to each other. For all of the beers, the cask was noticeably nicer, which I had always been told was the case, but it was interesting to actually experience it.
Returning to the brewery, we added more water, and then it was time to “sparge”. This meant that we drained the liquid out of the bottom, and re-added it into the top. We repeated this process a few times, in order to get as much of the sugars out as possible.
We drained out the liquid (called wort) into a large metal pot, and put it onto the burner to boil. This is because it was time to add the hops, which we dumped in and stirred around. The smell at this point became very bitter and heady. The mixture needed to boil for an hour to get all of the flavour out of the hops, so it was time for lunch. And much more beer.
As we ate lunch and chatted, it was clear that there was a whole range of experiences on the course. Some people regularly brewed their own beer, and some had never brewed before. It was really interesting to hear people’s stories about what had/hadn’t worked, and the setups that they had at home. It made me, with my rented London flat, very jealous!
After lunch, and more than a little merry by this point, we returned to our brew. We added a second round of hops, more “fruity” this time. After that the wort was passed through a heat exchanger to drop the temperature from almost-boiling to under room temperature, and straight into our demijohns for transport home!
Once home, all we needed to do is add the yeast, put the airlocks in the top (so they don’t explode – very important), and then wait for a few days!
After fermentation, you can bottle the beer, however we didn’t have any bottles so kept it in its demijohns. This has worked perfectly, and it’s still very drinkable a few weeks later.
All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day out, and to top it off we had a vast quantity of beer to take home!
If you want to have a go yourself, you can find all the information on the London Fields website.
Have you been on a brewing course? If so, let us know! We’d love to attend a few more to see how they compare.