Yes, Auchentoshan beer!
Knowing that I am an enthusiast of all things malt (and that I was actually a beer writer before writing about whisky), my contact at Morrison Bowmore Distillers sent me two bottles of an ale that was made at the Auchentoshan distillery.
I cracked open the first bottle the other night and enjoyed it very much. Above is a very rudimentary picture I took of it with my Blackberry shortly before I drank it. (It was a little yeasty–my fault for not letting the bottle settle before drinking it–but I was too eager to drink it.)
Here are the specifics on the beer, directly from Jeremy Stephens, Head Distiller at Auchentoshan.
I spent several week putting together different recipes and doing small scale brews of around 17 litres.
After a few dodgy batches, I was finally happy with two recipes, which became Summer Gold and Triple Conditioned Ales.
I then bought in a few new pieces of kit and converted the yeast store into ‘The Brewery’.
A summary of the process is outlined below:
The malted barley is mashed in the distillery mash tun and the wort is transferred into the washbacks as usual.
A few buckets of the incoming wort are taken from the wort transfer line and poured into two 100 litre stainless steel boilers.
The gravity of the wort is usually too strong for ale production, so it is diluted with water to a lower starting gravity.
The temperature of the wort is raised to around 65 degrees C and a small amount of crystal malt is added and held for 30 minutes.
The temperature is then increased to 100 degrees C and brought to the boil.
At this point, the bitterness hops are added to give the beer its characteristic bitter taste.
After 45 min of boiling, copper finings are added to help precipitate and remove the hop solids to help give a clearer starting liquid.
After a further 15 min of boiling, the boilers are turned off and the late hop is added to give the desired fruity aroma.
This is then left to infuse for a further 30 min.
The hopped wort is then cooled on transfer to a 200 litres stainless steel fermenter (essentially just a big cylindrical bucket!) to around 20 degrees C and ale yeast is added.
Once full, the fermenter is moved into the tun room where the wort is fermented for around 2 days and the gravity drops to around 1008.
Towards the end of the fermentation, two lots of finings are added to the green beer to help remove the solids to give a presentable ‘bright’ beer.
The clearer beer is then transferred into pressure kegs, where a small amount of primings are added to facilitate secondary fermentation and are left to warm condition for 3 days. The pressure is let off the kegs after around 24 hours to release any unwanted gases and resealed and conditioning continues.
The kegs are then moved to cold storage for around a week, after which time, the beer becomes clear, fizzy and drinkable (at least, I think so!) We normally get around 150 litres of beer per batch.
The beer is then either left in keg, from where it was dispensed as cask ale at the Festival or transferred into bottle along with a tiny amount of primings for bottle conditioning. The cask ale can be drunk immediately, but the bottles are best left for around 3 weeks to lose their sweetness and allow proper conditioning in bottle.
The Triple Conditioned is made similarly, but with more malt adjuncts, different hops and is primed with 3 substrates: honey, wort and sugar (hence the name ‘Triple Conditioned’).
The biggest problem was to ensure consistency as each batch performed slightly differently.
I will aim for a lower final alcohol concentration next year, as although the beer is very drinkable in bottle for the first 3 months, it does take on a much fuller body with less fruit and more malt as it ages. Reducing the alcohol content to around 4.5% abv would help reduce the ‘syrupy’ nature of the aged beer. However, beer drinkers who like a strong, fizzy ale would probably be advised to leave the bottle for a few months to achieve these flavour changes. I gave the best before date as 5th October as I didn’t have time to do proper ‘forcing tests’ (shelf-life tests), so didn’t want to take any chances with the general public complaining the beer had gone off! However, it should be good until well after Christmas.
Please remember to put the beer in the fridge for a short while (10 to 12 degrees C is optimal or below 6 degrees C if you’re entertaining lager drinkers) and keep it upright as it does contain a small amount of sediment. Please also pour carefully as it is likely to be quite gassy now, and you don’t want to bring the sediment at the bottom of the bottle into the glass (unless, like many beer enthusiasts, you like the natural flavours and haze of the yeast and other settled products).
We sold 850 pints of Summer Gold Ale and 170 pints of Triple Conditioned Ale in 6 hours at the Festival – that’s a pint every 20 seconds!
We also packaged 750 bottles for sale, of which 250 were sold at the Festival and all but 9 of the remaining 500 bottles were sold in the shop. You have 2 of the remaining 9 bottles.
Yes, and now I have just 1 of the remaining 8 bottles! Cool stuff going on at the distilleries.