Brew day: Box Social Brewery

Brew day: Box Social Brewery

I was very excited when my friend got in touch with Box Social and I was invited to a brew day, I’m a great fan of their beers since I first had them in some of the Newcastle pubs, and I love popping into their Micro Pub in Newcastle city centre (11, Forth Street, Arch, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 3NZ )

Box social Brewery is a two year old small 6-barrel micro brewery based in Newburn, Newcastle Upon Tyne (about 6 miles west of the city centre)  Box Social’s aim is to create great Artisan craft beers with the finest ingredients.

What is box social?
To be honest I didn’t have a clue, I was told it was ‘an old peoples thing’ and I think I left it at that! but.. for you history fans here’s what the brewery say on their website:

In Victorian Britain, middle-class people had few acceptable ways to socialise and meet new people. A solution emerged, that solution was “box socials”, events held at various people’s houses where they could mix in a risk-free environment.

We are taking “Box Socials” into the 21st century, connecting people over great artisan craft beer

The Brew Day:

First of all I want to add a little foreword to the ‘Brew Day’ section of the post, and that is to say that until now I have never really understood how hard brewing was, I had a basic knowledge (very basic!) from a small brewery tour, but I only seen the equipment not beer being made. It’s long hours, physically demanding and in many senses an art, when I pick up a pint of local beer from now on I’ve a new found respect for the work that goes into making the beer happen from concept to finish.

Brew day was on Thursday the 18th of May, a bright and early start on my day off from work, I guess the prospect of a McDonald s breakfast was worth the slightly earlier alarm… it’s took me a while to finally edit this blog together as I’ve been swamped with other things, so the beer won’t be long behind!

I got to the brewery just before 9, Steve pulled up alongside us and opened up (first job was firing up the coffee machine before anything else!) Shortly after Ross appeared and after a quick caffeine fix the doors to the brewery itself were opened.
The boiler had been filled overnight and re-circulating through the night keeping it’s temperature so we didn’t have to wait for it to fill and heat up which inevitably saved some valuable time.The water today had been kept at a steady 75.5 degrees Celsius, the temperature will vary depending on the type of beer being brewed allowing for different flavours and sugars to ferment into alcohol.

Ross cleaned and disinfected the ‘mash tun’ ready for the hot water and ingredients to be placed inside.
“Mash in”, as the mash tun was slowly filled over 150kg of malts, barley and oats were poured into the tun.

 It was carefully stirred as the ingredients were poured in. As the malts were poured the room filled with a fine dust and the a pleasant  aroma reminiscent to a malty drink like ‘Horlicks’ filled the room. 

This mixture is let to settle and soak for just over an hour leading onto the the ‘sparge’ process which essentially uses a rotating shower head like device to rinse the grains and bring out all the needed sugars for the fermentation process to occur.

That’s got to be left for a period of time again, so I ended up helping out washing the returned casks, first of all they’re given a good blast with a pressure washer inside and out then inspected to make sure there’s no sediment in the cask, after that it’s placed on a special cask washer which acts essentially like a large dishwasher, it rinses the barrels, disinfects them fully then rinses them again ready for use. This (at least in my opinion) is probably the hardest part of the process there’s a lot of lifting. rolling and getting soaked, after each barrel is washed I used a torch to look inside to make sure it was clear to avoid any contamination in the newest batch of beers to go in.

5kg of hops are yet to be added to the mix, a small amount of magnum hop pellets go in for bittering, and later on a whole load of centennial hops hop for body and mouth feel 

After the larger portion of hops has been added it’s back to the boil to let the new flavour infuse into the mix, after that’s away it’s back to more cask washing, they’re a bit stubborn sometimes so the odd one needs a good going over and double checking it’s up to standard ready for filling, maybe it’s me lacking the magic touch, maybe i’m just rubbish at cleaning but there’s one cask I just can’t seem to be happy with so I end up attacking it in a frenzy with the pressure washer soaking myself in the process!

After a brief stint outside (and going in almost dry!) it was time to go back into the brew room for the addition of the hops. A whole load of centennial went in, and there we had it, the transformation complete the room now filled with a more recognisable beer smell. The a good stir later and it was allowed to cool before being transferred to the fermentation tanks, left for a few days,dry hopped then eventually it’ll find its way to a pub near you.

The only thing left to do (and I gave it a go was to clean out the mash tun, which is hard, heavy and hot work!)

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