Brewhouse & Kitchen Brewery Experience Day (Part 1), Portsmouth, £85, 10:00-17:00 Fri or Sat

Brewhouse & Kitchen is a chain of pubs that brew their own beer on the premises. They also offer a Brewery Experience Day in which you can get your hands dirty and assist them in brewing up a batch. Sounds good – I’m in!

I’m the only person booked for the day, so it’s just me and head brewer Oli Kutylowski – a cheerful, knowledgeable host whose favourite expression (‘Happy days’) reflects his enthusiasm for the job.

Brewhouse and KitchenThe brewery is a compact system open for all the pub to see: seven gleaming copper and steel vessels mounted on a tiled area with a drain for the copious quantities of water used in the process.

Today we’re making Black Swan – a 5.7% black IPA.

First, water is heated up in the hot liquor tank, then transferred to the mash tun. While it’s filling, we also bung in the grain: 70-odd kilograms of the stuff. There’s a knack to lifting each sack, getting it up on your shoulder, then gently pouring it into the mash tun without spilling. As with most ales, the majority of the grain is pale ale malt, but there’s also a few kilograms of crystal and black malt to give the beer a dark colour and some roasty flavours. The whole mass is stirred with a giant steel paddle to make a kind of porridge. Until the darker grains go in, it smells a lot like Horlicks.

After an hour or so of heating, the grain is ‘sparged’ – a rotating sprinkler arm is fitted to the mash tun and the grain is washed with hot water to extract all the fermentable sugars. The liquid – called ‘wort’ – is drained out into another vessel called the kettle, leaving behind the spent grain, which now resembles the world’s biggest flapjack.

The kettle temperature is raised to 100°C (it takes a surprisingly long time to heat this much water) and the wort is left to boil for an hour or so, with a few hundred grams of whole-leaf hops thrown in at various times to add bitterness and aroma. This recipe uses two varieties of American hops – Millenium, which smells deliciously fresh and citrusy, and Centennial, which is an almost overpowering combination of lemon and farmyard funk.

Throughout the day Oli (who, I notice, drinks only water) plies me with alcohol from their range:

  • Mucky Duck (3.4%) – a traditional English bitter with nutty and caramel flavours.
  • Sexton (4.0%) – a light-bodied pale ale with a lovely aroma of peaches and nectarines.
  • Black Swan (5.7%) – a double-punch of roasted grain and citrusy American hops.

… plus their two seasonal ales, brewed in honour of Oktoberfest:

  • Kölsch (5.0%) – the classic Cologne beer: a little like lager but with more character.
  • Bock Party (5.3%) – a take on the strong German style: dark, chocolatey and highly drinkable.

Will I still be able to make beer while under the influence of beer? Find out in part 2 …

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