It all started with an unearthly alarm call around 7am. Certainly an unnecessary time of the morning for a publican! A couple of quick double espresso’s and Clive arrived in the car park, ready to head down the road to Red Fox Brewery. Clive had very kindly invited me on his Brewery Experience day to ‘help’ brew the beer that guests to his and Kate’s wedding celebrations at The Thatchers will be enjoying in a months time.
A warm welcome from Brewer and owner Russ and we were straight into it. Russ explained that we were brewing a small batch one off beer ‘Bee Foxed 2’ commissioned by the National trust for the second year. A honey beer with Coggeshall honey from National Trust bees. To compliment the natural sweetness of the honey Russ picked a mainly pale malt and goldings bittering hops. Later we would add the orangey Aurora and lemony Nelson Sauvin hops for aroma.
First job, get the grist going. Adding the malts (Maris Otter, Crystal and Tipple) to the Mash Tun with water from the local well to create a filter bed. We sparged (filtered through the grain) for an hour during which time we started the second brew of the day. This time with milk and sugar! We enjoyed a few stories from Russ’ colleague John about his recent trip to The USA and the Lucky Bucket brewery. After that it was back to work, cask cleaning. Rest assured myself and Clive took this very seriously and were under close supervision, these will probably be the casks our beer will be in soon!
Next we moved the wort to the Copper with the honey and Clive added the Goldings hops to the boil. Just before the Mash Tun was completely empty we snaffled a cheeky taste of the small beer or ‘last runnings’, preferable to tea in my opinion! Brewing is a time consuming practice, so while we waited another hour or so for the liquor to boil we dug out the Mash Tun, the spent grain will go to local livestock and compost for the farm. All this hard work called for a bacon sarnie and another cuppa, and John came up trumps.
After breakfast there was more cleaning to do, the casks we already cleaned (twice) earlier were now to be steam cleaned with the steam coming from the copper, a quick splash of specialist disinfectant and they’re done. Just in time to add the Nelson Sauvin and Aurora hops and give them a good old stir with the Brewery Oar. The smell was amazing, hopefully this citrussy combo will really compliment the honey making sure it’s not too sweet, just like a good hot toddy!
After Clive had a good old go on the Brewery Oar it was time to filter our Liquor, cool it and send it to the fermenting vessel. Russ pitched the live yeast in (it’s from a good parentage and can be traced all the back to the 1800’s!). The yeast works by fermenting all of the sugars we extracted from the grain into alcohol, CO2 and more yeast, or as Russ put it ‘It eats sugar, farts and parties’.
One last job to make sure we got the full Brewers Experience, casking a batch of Red Fox Bitter Russ brewed earlier that week, I made sure I picked a full one for The Thatchers! After that Clive and I attempted to help but mainly got in the way as Russ and John systematically flew around the brewery cleaning from top to bottom before we could finish for the day.
Finally we off to the 19th hole, The Alma in Copford. A Greene King Pub which has a special dispensation to serve Red Fox Hunters Gold, it was in such good shape I wasn’t even tempted by the other Guest Roosters Yankee, an old favourite of mine. A few lovely sandwiches for a late lunch and we were off leaving our beer in Russ and John’s capable hands for the next few weeks. For those of you wanting to try it, we won’t have it on sale until the back end of September, watch this space…
As I am sure you can tell, we had a fantastic day. We were really looked after by Red Fox and would highly recommend The Brewery Experience to any beer lover. It costs around £80 per person and includes 36 pints of your beer. Contact Russ to organise your day.