Ageing in the wood has historical and romantic connotations. Modern breweries use wood to mature and flavour beer but it wasn’t always so. Sir John would like to give a little history.
Thank you Steve. Right into the 20th century brewers used wood because that is all they had. Casks made of staves bound by iron hoops were made by hand by coopers. There was nothing special in this; indeed many commodities were transported in wooden casks such as flour and meat. Sizes of casks were standardised, so if a barrel of beer was purchased, the buyer knew he had 36 gallons. In fact, a 36 gallon cask is called a barrel. Other sizes of cask had their specific designation ie., a 9 gallon cask is a firkin.
Some beers were deliberately aged in the wood for a secondary fermentation by brettanomyces. Porters were aged for up to a year in massive vats of thousands of gallons gaining a vinous character much loved by Londoners. The vats became so big that they could be a hazard. In 1814, at the Horse Shoe Brewery, owned by Henry Meux and Co., one of the hoops failed, releasing enough porter to flood the street and kill about eight people.
Not all beer was deliberately aged for flavour. Nineteenth century running beers would not have been in the cask long enough to benefit from wood ageing and many foreign brewers lined the cask with pitch to seal it.
Wooden casks have ceased to be generally used, being expensive to make, and difficult to clean and sterilise. However, there are new cooperages appearing, making new casks to satisfy the increasing demand from craft brewers. Many brewers obtain previously used casks from whisky, wine and rum makers to benefit from the residual flavours.
We use whisky hogsheads to mature Temptation, Imperious and Diabolus. Currently, there are six hogsheads of Belgian style Redemption for next year and we have six more hogsheads of Bombay 106 traditional IPA . Imperious has been bottled and should be out for Christmas. World Beer Award winner Diabolus is nearly sold out, so hurry if you would like some.
Two New Draught Beers
Smokin’ Gun features beech smoked malt from Bamberg, Vienna malt and English red crystal malt in perfect balance. This beer is about wood smoke and rich dark sugar. Gentle English Northdown and Challenger hops provide an earthy backdrop. Perfect for the dark winter evenings and bonfire night.
Hopbound is a golden IPA. American Cascade and Lemondrop hops added late in the boil create a wonderful grapefruit aroma. Not too bitter for an IPA, the subtlety of the hops shines through.
New Bottling Machine
After many years on a manual filler we have taken the plunge and installed an automated bottling machine. Whereas previously we could fill 3000 bottles per day, we can now fill 2000 per hour!