Brewday with Framework Brewery, January 2019

A day off. The chance for a lie in? Cup of tea in bed, lazy breakfast?

No. An hour extra in bed, then up, scraping ice from the windscreen (which took ages), and off to Leicester to brew beer. Picking up regular MOFAD drinking companion Alec on the way, we were soon at Friday Street, home of Framework Brewery, in Leicester.

Built circa 1898, the former Leicester Corporation depot was designed by the Leicester-based architect T.W. Pettifor. Corporation depots / yards were once plentiful across the city but many have subsequently been redeveloped. This site went on to become home to a framework knitters, and is one of only a handful of Corporation depots to remain in the city. It is considered by many as the best example, due to the intactness of the buildings.

Part of the depot is now occupied by Framework Brewery, Leicester’s first craft brewery who are proud to be part of the city’s rich cultural present and are inspired by its craft-driven industrial history.

Alec & I were here at the invitation of Sean, proprietor of my pub of the year, The Needle & Pin, in Loughborough. As regular customers, we have consumed one or two pints there, so we were offered the opportunity to help brew something which will be on sale in a few weeks. Sean was already there, chatting with Andrew, owner/brewer and his son Noah, described by his t-shirt as “assistant brewer”.

We had already planned our brew, so the ingredients were ready to go. I was live tweeting the day over on https://twitter.com/TryEastMidlands as part of my #Tryanuary regional co-ordinator duties…

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I’m not going to give too many spoilers as to what we are creating, but the malts that you can see might give you a few clues. The liquor was steaming away nicely on the opposite side of the brewery…

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Liquor is a brewer’s fancy name for water. Our selection of malts were pumped across the brewhouse, and injected into the mash tun (that big metal pot above) whilst being sprayed with water. Brewing is like baking, and Andrew explained that a moist malt mixes much better than a dry one, hence the use of water before it hits the mash tun. As it arrives, it has to be mashed in. We took turns at this, and here is Alec on duty…

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After everything is mixed together, it starts to do its thing, extracting all of those lovely sugars from that malt. The beer is mashing. Next, it is time for a cup of tea, one of the most important parts of the brewing day, and something that also has to be mashed to get the best results.

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After tea and chat, it’s time to sparge. Sparge means to “moisten by sprinkling with water”, and is the process for separating the sugar from the barley. After the mashing process is complete, the grains, water and sugar are all in the mash tun.

Hot water is sprayed across the top of the malt, and sinks through, picking up those lovely sugars on its way to the next vessel, where it will be boiled. This is “wort”. Sparging is best done slowly so that the maximum amount of sugar can be extracted from the malt. Here is the wort on its journey…

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Once it is all sparged, the spent malt is left in the mash tun. If you have timed it right, you will have gone out to fetch a hot sausage and egg cob (Leicestershire speak for bap), so Noah will have the privilege of digging out the mash tun. The spent malt was later picked up by a local farmer to feed to his livestock. You might spot some shoots in there – the heat makes it sprout.

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Next is is time for the boil. The boiling process takes that lovely sweet wort and sterilises it. Boiling releases the alpha acids from the hops that you have just added, and they in turn release some bitterness to complement the sweetness. After the boil, it is cooled and the hopped wort is transferred into a fermentor where the yeast is added, and the magic really starts. The yeast gobbles its way through the sugars, turning them into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is how it looked after its first night of sleep…

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Whilst all of these processes were going on, there was a lot of time for other tasks. The biggest one was racking off a batch of Foxpaw into casks. This means filling casks with beer, as opposed to the 1980s Australian definition, which means “on your bike” (rack was a slang term for motorbike).

We filled 30 casks with tasty fresh beer, which was then rolled into the cold store for a little rest, before it goes out to beer lovers around the region.

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A great day of brewing, and we are realling looking forward to tasting the result. Andrew and Noah were very generous with their time and sharing their passion and brewing knowledge. We talked about loads of stuff during the day. Thanks to Sean for setting it all up, and to Andrew and Noah for leading us through the process.

The mystery beer is gobbling up some sugar at the minute and will be launched at The Needle & Pin on Thursday 7th February. As well as the “plain version” there will be other special casks available, with additional flavour combinations. You’ll just have to wait and see what those will be…

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