The slow-brewed method

IMG_3396Philosophy. Making slow-brewed ales, is all about getting back to basics. There is beauty in simplicity. Age-old, simple brewing techniques, sustainably using locally available resources, and nurturing the natural biological processes in brewing to patiently allow them to take their course are what we are all about. It’s a down-to-earth approach, which creates beauty through simplicity.

These days most breweries across the world have industrialised and largely automated the brewing process to gain significant economies of scale – allowing them to brew far more beer in much less time. This has become true for so many aspects of our lives – from the food we eat to the homes that we live in. Our lives and the way we occupy ourselves have often become so far removed from our immediate environment and the basics of life, that we rarely get to enjoy the existential satisfaction one gains from basic creation – baking the bread you eat, building the house you live in, or creating the art you enjoy.

Small scale. Slow-brewing techniques take time and are labour-intensive, making them quite difficult to replicate on a large scale these days. Since early 2015 we have been operating our 300 litre oak barrel and wood-fire brewhouse, mostly making 600 litre batches. This is brewing on a cottage industry scale. It is sustainable in its footprint and management. By the end of 2016 we hope to build a larger stove and kettle, and bring in more oak barrels to run a brewhouse with 900 litre capacity per brew. This volume would allow us to continue our 100% hand bottling practice, as it is a volume that can easily be bottled in one single day with our low-tech, 3-person manual bottling set-up capable of rinsing, filling, capping, boxing and stacking in conditioning room at a rate of 650 bottles per hour. Our typical batch size has been around 1800 bottles per batch, now shifting this up to 2500 bottles per batch with the help of a couple new refurbished 900 litre maturing tanks. To put this in perspective: most of the craft beers you know and enjoy would likely be made at a brewery in 5,000 or 10,000 litre tanks, if not much, much bigger.

Methods. Though contemporary brewing can be as much a craft as it is a science, brewing is a skill that has been practiced in many cultures for millennia, and passed on through generations. Brewing, just like baking bread and other practices, is something that anyone can do with the basic equipment most any kitchen has. Traditionally, it was was practiced at home, usually by the person or people in charge of cooking for the family or tribe. Later it was even practiced in many taverns and inns to serve travellers or barter with suppliers. We may have come up with a few little innovations for the integration of our methods into a contemporary brewing facility, but the basic methods are a blend of various traditional techniques that we have learned of in our endless study into the art of brewing.

Look out for future posts in which we will go into much further detail about our methods, which include: use of a wood-fired stove; oak barrel malt mashing and straw filter lautering (extraction); natural brew water conditioning through spontaneous fermentation; use of natural sour malt mashes to raise acidity of a beer and nutrients; open fermentation in a shallow vessel, cascade aeration; secondary fermentation, bottle/keg conditioning and aging; manual bottling with gravity fed, syphon bottle filling equipment.