New Project for Muddy Wellies

“Making beer is a lot like drinking beer; large periods of inactivity interspersed with rapid action to make sure you have the right pint”, writes Phillip Steadman, first year agriculture student. “This was just one of the many lessons we learned during a recent trip to Bath Ales’ micro-brewery in Hare House, near Bristol. As the newest members of the Royal Agricultural University’s Entrepreneurs team, we were invited to help create the new Muddy Wellies ale, ‘Hedgehog’, and commence the brewing process. The new ale will sit alongside the other Entrepreneurs’ University ales, ‘Original’ and ‘Golden’, but will standalone in the respect that it has been a unique creation just for us.

“After rolling out of bed at an eye watering half past seven, we set off to Bristol excited for what the day had in store. After arriving at Bath Ales’ headquarters, we were kitted out in high visibility vests and name badges, and then given a tour of the facilities, the shop, the conference room, the warehouse and most pleasingly, the bar, which was fully stocked with great beer. After the tour we headed over to the brewery itself and this is where we met master-brewer Shane.

“Part-artist, part-chemist, part-magician, Shane has free-range of Bath Ales’ micro-brewery; creating whatever he likes from a seemingly endless list of ingredients. This has included a chocolate ale with a hint of chilli, or perhaps a fiery Pilsner with a dash of mint, but whatever creation you could convincingly conceive will be, and probably has been, crafted by Shane. Guiding us over to the corner of the building, Shane explained what the cornucopia of Copper that he worked with actually did, and step by step went through the brewing process. We arrived to a dark coloured liquid (known as wort) flowing out of the Mash Tun, the first vessel in the brewing process, containing distilled water and the malted Barley. We were able to sample the wort which released a malty sweetness onto the palate and Shane said that as brewing continued and with the addition of hops, the sweetness would be replaced with flavour and bitterness, more favourable in many beers. The wort was pumped into the copper or boiling kettle and whilst being heated to 100oC inside the kettle, we had the task of clearing out the spent maltings from the Mash Tun, a job that took about 10 minutes and produced about 150kgs of wet barley. Shane informed us that at the main brewery, it takes twice the amount of time to shift over 1.5 tonnes of barley, using manpower alone!! When the kettle was boiling, the hops were added in three stages. The first addition of hops was for bittering and was an English variety called Bramling Cross. The second addition of hops was for flavour and was an American variety called Nugget. This, Shane said, would produce a citrus-rich taste, very popular in many modern beers.

“The mixture was brought to the boil and ‘whirlpooled’ and the third, and final addition of hops was added which was a blend of two hops, Cascade and Nugget and gave the ale its aroma and flavour.   The solids formed a pile in the centre of the kettle and then pumped into the fermentation tank, where yeast was added. The beer was destined to sit in the tank for 4 days before being casked and delivered to us! All that was left was to return our name badges and have a quick and well-earned pint before heading back to University less sober but nonetheless wiser on the processes that go behind making fine ale.

Fancy a pint of ‘Hedgehog’ yourself? Why not come down to the RAU to sample the newest ale on the market!

The RAU Entrepreneurs are holding a tasting and feedback session on Thursday 16th May at 6.00 pm, open to all staff and students who are welcome to try this new ale.

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