The first job of the day, usually at about 6 am, is mashing. The crushed malt is mixed with hot liquor through a Steeles masher which then feeds down into one of the two mash tuns. Mashing-in itself takes 10 minutes, then the mash is allowed to stand for 90 minutes to allow the conversion of starch to fermentable sugars to take place. This is a process at Hook Norton Brewery that has not changed in over a 100 years. After standing for 90 minutes, the sweet sugary solution that is created (called wort) is drained from the mash tun, and is run by gravity to one of the two coppers. The mash is then sprayed with hot liquor through a rotating sparge arm, this allows all of the sugars to be washed from the malt to maximise the extract. The run off process takes approximately 2 ½ hours.
One of the most remarkable survivors of time at this iconic Victorian tower brewery is the 25hp steam engine that can drive the machinery, just as it has done for the past hundred years. Installed in 1899 it was used to provide the motive power that the brewery needed to produce its beer and it is believed to be the last steam engine in the country that can still be used for its original purpose. We run the Steam Engine on the first Saturday of each month.
Bags of Malt have to be hoisted up to the 2nd floor of the brewery so that they can then be stored and prepared ready for brewing.
The last stage of the brewing process is racking where the beer is run into casks, a process called racking. Secondary fermentation then takes place. Then follows the most important check of all! Representative samples of each rack are taken and set up on a stillage. They are checked to assess the quality and to monitor flavour throughout the life of the beer. The beers are checked each day and the assessments are recorded.
First of all the mill is checked to ensure that it has the correct crush characteristics. The mill rolls have to be set to give the desired blend of husk, grits and flour to allow good extract and efficient run off from the mash tun. Once it has been checked, the malt is crushed in the Grist mill from where it travels to the masher and then on to the mash tuns.
The horses usually make a local delivery on Wednesdays to the Sun Inn, Thursdays to the Pear Tree and Fridays to the Gate Hangs High (weather permitting). If you are planning a visit to the brewery and would like to see the drays on their delivery rounds it is always best to phone ahead and check that the shires will be working on that day. The tour of the brewery includes a tour of the stables and we aim to have the horses in the stables during your visit but this may not be possible due to operational or weather reasons.
Here at Hook Norton Brewery, we brew small batch beers as well as one off brews on a smaller scale in our micro brewery. This allows us to trial different styles of beer and test new recipes.
Kegging is a process where CO2 is forced into the beer until it reaches the appropriate balance, measured in volumes of CO2 per volume beer. A keg is a sealed pressurised vessel that usually needs a C02 canister to dispense. The gas pushes the beer to the bottom of the keg and up the dispense tube (known as a spear) and out the tap.
Here’s a quick insight into the Hops that we use to brew our beers here at Hook Norton Brewery.
What goes on in our fermenting room…