Bearing in mind that it’s all about lust in the february issue, the brewing feature doesn’t necessarily get off to the best of starts.
It’s 8am on a freezing morning on the Longueville Industrial Estate. Tatty old clothes are the order of the day, and you can still see your breath in front of your face even having walked inside. No offence to my fellow brewers, but lust is about the last thing that springs to mind.
I’ve been signed up on a one-day apprenticeship at the Liberation Brewery with fellow novice Jo Reed, whose day-job is marketing for Liberation Group. Both of us have been on our fair share of brewery tours before, but have never previously rolled our sleeves up and donned our wellies. Jo’s size-five boots are rejected because they still have Jersey Live mud on them, so she gets a replacement pair of size-nines, and we’re good to go. Ready, steady, brew!
We’re not helping brewer Pat Dean with any old ale, but a batch of Liberation Rouge that is to be submitted for the biennial Brewing Industry International Awards. Liberation won two gold and a silver last time around, in 2011, and hopes are high for further success. No pressure then…
Many breweries are automated these days, including the larger of Liberation’s two plants, but Pat’s ‘office’ is a more bijou affair, and that means being hands-on, whether or not your wellies fit.
We kick off by heaving half a dozen 50-kilo bags of malted barley into an outsize (4-foot-high) saucepan, known as a mash tun, and adding hot water to give a big batch of porridge.
After an hour or so the liquid part of the mix, known as ‘wort’, is drained off. The solids are shovelled out into dustbins by yours truly to be sold off as animal feed – their journey across the Island will be chronicled in a future issue of Gallery, although I’m washing my hair that day.
The wort is transferred to a copper kettle, twice the height of the mash tun, and boiled with hops, which are the main source of flavour for beer. As with the barley, there’s a specific recipe of different amounts of various hops for each different beer. Hops can cost as much as £17 per kilo, and are sourced from around the globe, with England, New Zealand and the USA being major growers.
Further hop flavour is imparted in another vessel, known as a hop back, after which the wort is transferred into a fermenting vessel. It has been as high as 70C during the process, but now is down to about 20C, a suitable mark to pour in a couple of gallons of gloopy light-brown yeast, which will start to work on the sugars in the wort and, by turning them into alcohol and carbon dioxide, making wort into a more appetising four-letter word – beer!
Once the yeast is added, which would typically be around seven or eight hours after getting started, it’s necessary to sit back and wait. Fermentation times vary, but this batch of Rouge – about 300 gallons in all – will be ready in about four days, by which time thirst levels, and perhaps even lust levels, will be at bursting point.
Jo and I are thanked for our hard work by Pat, even though we are setting off without helping him finish off the clearing-up. We pledge to come back for another brew on another day, although if ‘our’ beer wins an award, we may get signed up by a Premier League brewer on a mega-bucks deal. Who knows, it might even involve a lucrative Wellington boot endorsement clause – if that’s not something to lust after, then what is?
Know Your Brewing
The international beer awards (iba) have taken place, with the exception of a hiatus in the late ‘noughties’, every two years since 1984
Judging is a mammoth process, taking place across three days with a team of 30 judges from across the world. This year’s judging is in burton-on-trent in mid-february
Liberation’s head brewer is paul hurley, who is approaching 30 years of service and has been an iba judge on four occasions. He admits to being sick with nerves before his first judging session in 2000.
Judges are never given their own beers to taste, instead being allocated to other categories. But in 2011 paul was able to witness the awards that put jersey on the brewing map: a gold for liberation ale, and both silver and gold (in separate categories) for mary ann best.
As well as the jersey brewery at longueville, the liberation group has 69 pubs across the channel islands, 44 of them in jersey as well as distribution, retail and wholesale arms
The six brewers who make all the beers have a combined total of 160 years of experience.