Brewing 812

Having been a Hook Norton Brewery Tour guide for a number of years I had seen many brews in process but I now see things from a different perspective. This is because I recently had the pleasure of actually helping ‘hands-on’ to brew a Beer that was being brewed especially for a project I was involved with. That project was establishing a Memorial to eight airmen who died as the result of a Boeing B-17 bomber crashing near Great Rollright on December 23rd 1944. The Team involved with the project are shown above.


The process started with a meeting with brewer Rob Thomson, here we gave him a brief outline of the crash with the crew details. We discussed with him the possibility of creating an authentic ’1940′s Brew, or somehow link it to our Crew. After this initial discussion Rob suggested we leave him to think about it.

Well, I must say we were thrilled at his suggestions. Following his research in the Brewery archives, he told us that traditional beers of the time were pale and slightly sweet with low hop rates and low to medium alcohol content, there were some rare strong ales topping 5.0% ABV but these were not the norm.

Apparently the brew house at Hook Norton had been in full swing just two days before the tragedy, brewing P.A.B (Pale and Bitter), on December 21st 1944. This was a light coloured beer with low bitterness and at 3.4% ABV it was mid strength for the time.

Based on this Dec 21st 1944 brew, Rob suggested using a similar malt base recipe for our ’812′, to yield the appropriate base sugar, colour and balance combination.

To give us the right bittering and aroma balance, the choice for hops in ‘812’ comes from combining UK and US varieties with an attempted reference to the US home state of the flight crew.

In all, 5 hops were chosen for ’812′; Fuggles and Goldings are traditional UK varieties used here for bittering. UK grown US Cascade was chosen as a link between the two nations, with US Amarillo and Chinook being tenuous links to the crew. Amarillo imparts Floral, Citrus and Orange notes to the beer. Chinook imparts Grapefruit, Citrus and Pine notes.

So there it was, Rob planned ’812′ as a Brew of 3.5% ABV using a Malt mix from Dec 21st 1944 and carefully selected Hops from both UK/USA, reflecting the ‘Special Relationship’. Date set for Brewing was April 13th.

Come Brew day, to give a brief overview, Roz, Tony and mself arrived and Rob quickly put us to work mixing the Malts in the mash by hand. I’ll never forget that steamy aroma as we stirred things in! With the mash settled at 148 degrees, we moved on to weight the 5 different hops ready for the copper. While the malt was mashing in, it was time for breakfast!

An hour later, with mashing in complete, Rob started to run off the sweet Wort from the mash into the copper. Although looking like beer, the Wort of course is the sweet extract from the malted barley. We actually tasted some, it was delicious!

With the Copper filled it was time for us to add the hops and boil the mix. While the boil was going on it was time to empty the spent malt into a stillage and clean out the mash tun.

With the boil complete the brew was cast form the Copper into Fermentation vessel 10 where yeast was added to eventually give us a brew of 3.5% ABV.

’812′ would now be in Fermentation until racked into casks on April 20th. Early sampling reports from Roz indicated that it was very good indeed! Eventually I too got to sample some, absolutely delicious! Well done Rob!

I’m told it was the first beer to sell out at the recent Banbury Beer Festival. If you get the chance, try some ’812′, you won’t be disappointed!

You too could brew your own beer alongside Rob, contact us at Hook Norton Brewery.

James Tobin