Red Fox – Beer Festival Brewday #1

For those of you who read this blog a few weeks ago, follow me on twitter, are friends on Facebook or are signed up for our newsletter, you’ll already know that my latest harebrained scheme is to try to brew as many of the beers for our up coming beer festival (3rd to 7th May) as possible.  To my surprise a few local breweries have agreed to let me in their brewhouses and Red Fox Brewery, Coggeshall was first up.

Me and the malt
Me and the malt

Owner & Head Brewer Russ also kindly agreed to let me have some input into the beer I wanted to brew with him.  Knowing how good he is at brewing dark beers and how much he loves his hops, a few weeks before I visited I convinced him we’d brew his first Black IPA, admittedly a contradiction in terms, but a great style of beer nonetheless, and the name ‘Foxymoron’ seemed a perfect fit.

Black IPA Malt
Black IPA Malt

Arriving at the brewery just before 8am, we got straight to work.  Russ had put a recipe together and the malt was already to go. Red Fox is only a 5 barrel brewery and we were doing a small 3 barrel run which required just a couple of bags of malt, mainly Pearl with some Wheat, Crystal, Chocolate & Roasted malt. We mashed in and set about the second brew of the day (a cuppa!). Normally a coffee man I was appeased after about an hour when we took the first runnings from the Mash Tun, almost jet black with a strong coffee aroma, it tasted like an espresso with about six sugars in it, a magnificent depth of flavour.

Digging out the Mash Tun
I did actually do some work...

Even with the exceptionally small amount of experience I have in brewing it is clear to me that about 90% of the time is spent cleaning, and as you can’t rush a good brew, there is always plenty of time to get it done. While we slowly transferred the jet black wort to the kettle, Russ and John flew around the brewhouse moving casks, washing casks, checking fermenters and making the tea while I tried not to get in the way…Aiming for a 4.5% beer with a hefty chocolate & roasted malt backbone, not too much bitterness but massive upfront aromas & a fruity flavour we added a mere 300g of Boadicea hops for bittering, we were waiting to add the additional 6kg of Chinook & Magnum aroma hops until near the end of the boil. I love hops, and I’m in my element when presented with bags full of  them, I can’t help rubbing them together, cupping my hands and taking a deep breath inhaling all the aromas from the freshly released oils. The Boadicea had a gentle sweetness and subtle spice with a hint of orange, the Magnum were more potent with a big hit of sweet passionfruit and then the smell of a freshly opened bag of Chinook filled the brewhouse, citrus, cut grass & lemongrass. It was starting to make me salivate, and luckily John came up trumps up just in time with a round of bacon sarnies.

Racking Red Fox Porter
Racking Red Fox Porter

With an hour wait for the boil we set about racking some Red Fox Porter (from which Russ had taken the yeast crop for our Black IPA), by now the sun was over the yardarm so I brought out a little something I’d picked up from the Sudbury Brewery Tap beer festival, co-incidentally some Otley Brewing Company Oxymoron (p.s. Sorry Otley, we genuinely hadn’t heard of this beer before we named ours).

This jet black beer is 5.5% with a caramel head, Otley used a specialist Carafa chocolate malt and no less than five big American hops with Chinook and Columbus at the forefront.  It’s a complex flavour with full-bodied roasted malt and a hint of chocolate, exactly what we were aiming for, a sweet malty start followed a big dry finish from the hops. A lovely beer, and great encouragement to get cracking with ours!

Fermenter Jack
Fermenter Jack

Climbing up the ladder to the top of the kettle I poured the remaining aroma hops in to the boil, gave them a stir with the brewery oar and took a big deep breath as the smell of hops once again filled the brewhouse while we finished the boil and started to put the hot liquor through the hop back. We set about transferring into the newly refurbished fermenter ‘Jack’ and pitched the Porter yeast. A quick clean up around the brewhouse we were all done and back at The Thatchers for a couple of beers by 4pm.

The next time I see this beer it’ll be at the Beer Festival in May, for now I can’t stop thinking about what food I want to match it with… could be spot on with our lamb & chilli burgers or our smoked pigeon breast & black pudding salad, then again with a hint chocolate it might just be perfect with a triple chocolate brownie, the hops contrasting the rich toffee sauce… any other suggestions?

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