Beer is one of the most popular drinks in Britain, and is as much a part of our culture as brick red telephone boxes, Morris dancing, and afternoon tea! Given its rich history and little-known making process, we were very excited to be invited along to a beer brewing masterclass with Home Brew Depot.
Simon, the head brewer, greeted us upon arrival and began the session with an introduction and explanation on what the day ahead would involve, then poured us all a drink to get started. We got stuck in straight away with the barley mashing, combining the grain and malt with around 18 litres of water in a mash tun, and mixing it with specially designed paddles. The barley actually tastes pretty good on its own, but the aim is to not eat all the grain first…
The mixture then sits for an hour, so we all gathered round and had a group chat about beer brewing, getting to know each other and talking about our brewing experience and drinking preferences. Being the only girl amongst 14 men meant my experience wasn’t quite up to scratch, but Simon was overly accommodating and not in the least a ‘beer snob’, even when I told him I preferred lager!
When the hour was up we headed back to the mash tuns to have a look, seeing how much water the barley had soaked up. The smell was quite something! Taking it in turns, more water was gathered which we had to sprinkle over the brew in a ‘rainfall effect’, using the paddles to disperse the water rather than dumping it all in one go, meaning the sand filter effect stays in place. We then used the tap at the base of the mash tun to decant the brew into large containers, which then went to boil.
Whilst we waited for the boil stage, a menu was handed around so everyone could choose a freshly baked pizza for lunch – cooked right in front of us! Simon also poured us another beer to enjoy, and we all sat around chatting and drinking whilst the brew bubbled away (and Simon did all the cleaning to make sure the containers were sterile!). Bittering hops were added to the brew after a few minutes of boiling, then just before the boil stage finished, we added the aroma hops to give it that distinguished flavour. Finally, we rapidly cooled the brew in ice buckets so it could be poured into demijohns to take home.
All-in-all the masterclass was highly informative and a wonderfully unique way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I learnt a great deal about the beer brewing process, and may even try some ales next time I’m down the local! Huge thanks to Simon for inviting us along and putting on a great experience. If you’d like to try the half day beer brewing yourself or know someone who would love it, there are two venues in London that operate throughout the year, making it a great gift for Father’s Day or Christmas!