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On The Brewtown Bus with Ouse Boozer

This article was written by Melissa Reed, joint editor of Ouse Boozer, and was first published in Ouse Boozer Issue 131.

Brewtown Brewery Tours People standing in front of the Brewtown Tours van

We joined a group of six on a tour of three breweries near York lead by Mark Stredwick, setting off from the York Tap at lunchtime.

Our group included Steve who is a freelance beer writer, Matthew and Nadine from the University of York St. Johns complete with a questionnaire for the research they are doing and Melissa and Allan for Ouse Boozer.

 

Our first stop was Half Moon where Jackie welcomed us and showed us around the brewery.Beer making machine

Half Moon has a 4.5 barrel plant and brew four core beers plus two specials a month and fit in the stout and IPA from time to time as well. Currently, they only have two fermenters, which limits them to two brews a week, so they are planning a new ten barrel fermenter to increase capacity.

Jackie Rogers explained the brewing process and told us a bit about the history of the brewery. The fermenters and other vessels all come from the pharmaceutical industry and were adapted by a local fabrication engineer.

The cold store used to be within the small brewery, but in order to accommodate visitors, it has been moved to a shipping container freeing up space for a taproom. We made good use of this for the next stage of the tour – beer and food matching, guided by Jo, a local beer and food expert. All the food was from local producers.

We started with the Old Forge Bitter which was paired with Fuller’s white multi-seed bread and red onion marmalade. The tangy chutney really brought this traditional bitter to life.watching beer in the making

Next up was Bramling Moon, brewed with Bramling Cross hops. To start with we just tasted the beer to see if we could get the signature blackcurrant flavour from the hops. I got a sudden rush of the blackcurrant flavour once I’d held the beer on the centre of my tongue for a short time. We paired this with St. Helen’s Farm goat’s cheese. This is a mild and creamy cheese which balanced the bitterness of the beer.

The third beer we tried was F’Hops Sake which had a floral or grapefruit flavour from the Cascade hops. This was paired with Mounfield’s Sausage, which I passed on, but everyone else seemed to enjoy. Allan’s comment was that the sausage brought out the fruitiness of the hops.

Our final beer was Dark Masquerade, a ruby/brown ale brewed with chocolate and dark crystal malts. This was paired with Guppy’s Orange Shards chocolate. A dark beer and chocolate, mmmmmm, what more can I say?

We were then given our five-minute warning by Mark and then, sadly, it was time to move on.

 

Our second stop was Hop Studio, where Dave Shaw met us and showed us up to their taproom. Their brewery is a ten barrel plant and they can brew up to four times a week. We tasted the beers as we talked about the brewery and beers they have produced so far and the plans for the future.Hop Studio owner

The first beer we tasted was the Blonde and Dave told us about the malts used for brewing with some samples on the bar for us to taste. We could also see their new pump clips which were in use for three out of the four beers available.

The second beer we sampled was Gold which is brewed with Motueka hops.

The taproom is open every Friday afternoon and early evening and has proved popular with people working nearby, especially in the summer when they spread outside the brewery.

The taproom looks down on the main brewery floor, giving us a birds-eye view as we sampled the beers.

Hop Studio Brewery labLast year Hop Studio brewed 36 different beers, so this year they are planning to focus on the best beers they have done so far.

The third beer we sampled was Humbug, which is brewed using German smoked malt (Weyermann) which was smoked over beech.

The conversation turned to the brewery capacity, limited as usual by fermenters. Most of the beers brewed here ferment within a week, but the American style beers can take a little longer as they are dry-hopped in the fermenter and their lager ferments over two weeks. As a result on average, they only manage to brew three times a week.

Our final beer was Chocolate – this was the white version of the white and dark pair they produced. The aim was to produce a beer that tasted like a Milky Bar! It was barrel-aged for six months in bourbon casks with vanilla and was delicious.

 

Our final brewery was Ainsty Ales, where we were met by Andy Herrington and head brewer Alan. The name of the brewery comes from the Ainsty Wapentake. They opened the ten barrel brewery on 1st October last year and do three brews a week.Metal beer tank

They aim to take advantage of local ingredients as far as possible – there is a honey producer on the farm, so lookout for a seasonal beer with honey sometime next year, They have also planted Challenger hops which should be ready for a green hopped beer in September or October.

We started our sampling with Ainsty Angel, a session ale brewed with New Zealand hops Rakau and Dr Rudi for aroma.

The second beer was Flummoxed Farmer, a blonde brewed with Challenger, Cascade and Amarillo hops.

We then headed into the brewhouse to have a look around.

 

Alan focused on the latter stages of the brewing process, starting with measuring the gravity of the beer and calculating the ABV. We checked one beer that had only recently gone into the fermenter and one that was nearly ready. Alan explained that you need to stop fermentation just before you get to your desired final gravity so there is some sugar left for the secondary fermentation in the cask.

Alan focused on the latter stages of the brewing process, starting with measuring the gravity of the beer and calculating the ABV. We checked one beer that had only recently gone into the fermenter and one that was nearly ready. Alan explained that you need to stop fermentation just before you get to your desired final gravity so there is some sugar left for the secondary fermentation in the cask.

Men in their beer making factory

Once we had finished looking around we returned to the taproom, which they hope to open on Thursdays and Fridays soon along with a bottle store to continue our sampling a conversation.

The brewery is also used by Eyes Brewery who have started up like a cuckoo brewery to get established before moving to their own brewery.

Once again our time at the brewery came to an end and we had to return to York. We all had a great day out and can recommend one of these tours to anyone who would like to visit three great local breweries.