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The A – Z of Brewtown: Part One

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By now, you probably know what we do at Brewtown – hop aboard our minibus and we’ll take you on a tour of some of the finest microbreweries in Yorkshire. But now we think it’s time to tell you a bit more about who we are, what matters to us, and some of the things we find most fascinating about brewing and drinking beer.

So, without further ado, let us take you through part one of the A – Z of Brewtown.

Well, obviously – this is the one that we specialise in. At Brewtown we’re firm advocates of drinking a little of a lot – not getting smashed, but having the chance to enjoy the incredible diversity of beer styles and flavours, and taking the time to appreciate the skill and craftsmanship in every sip. Put simply – we really, really love beer, and we want to help you to love it, too.

Barrel ageing
A beer at its most basic contains only four ingredients: barley, water, hops and yeast. But what happens if you want to add some more unusual flavours? One technique used by brewers is barrel-ageing: letting a beer condition in a cask which used to contain another drink, such as bourbon, red wine or rum. This will imbue the beer with a different flavour, which can range from a subtle hint to downright intense. Barrel-aged beers tend to be released as special editions, so keep your eyes peeled on our tours for a chance to try something really unusual.

Old beer tanksConditioning
Ever wondered why the beer you by is almost never fresh from the fermenter? Be glad it isn’t – ‘green’ beer tends to taste harsh and be cloudy, as it’s full of proteins and dead yeast and the flavours haven’t had a chance to develop properly. After primary fermentation, beer is usually conditioned: matured and often fermented a second time in a secondary container, such as a cask or bottle. This prevents the formation of unwanted flavours and allows the beer to ‘drop bright’ – for the debris and yeast to sink to the bottom, leaving the beer itself clear. Conditioning can take from two weeks up to several months or even years, depending on the beer style and the flavour the brewer is trying to achieve – trust us, it’s worth the wait.

On a Brewtown tour, we aim to give you a number of things, a great day out being top of the list. But equally important, we think, is a sense of discovery – giving you the opportunity to try a selection of unique Yorkshire beers straight from the source, and maybe even find a new favourite.

Empty glassesBeer empty glass

We’ll never encourage you to drink above your tolerance – you know how much you can handle. What we will encourage, though, is for you to try the incredible selection of tasters on offer on our brewery tours. With a sip of this and a slurp of that, chances are you’ll suddenly find yourself surrounded with empty glasses – how did all these get here?!

The primary process that turns sweet, malty liquid into delicious, alcoholic beer. If you catch any of our breweries during a fermentation, ask them to let you have a look in fermenting vessel. Be warned, though, that it’s quite a sight – the spontaneously bubbling froth can be a bit of a surprise if you aren’t expecting it!

Gravity is a measurement of the density of liquid that allows brewers to work out the strength of a beer. (It’s also a force of nature which you might experience more intensely after a few pints too many, but we won’t go into that now.) It’s measured by dropping a hydrometer into a trial flask of beer, a surprisingly satisfying experience which some of our friendly Yorkshire brewers might let you try if you ask nicely.

Beer HopsHops
These are the botanicals which give beer its bitterness and its aroma. Different hops add different elements to a beer and hops grown in different parts of the world tend to vary in flavour and intensity, from soft and floral to fresh and pine-like. Ask one of our brewers if you can have a sniff of their hops – we guarantee their response won’t be more than PG-rated.

Is there a style of beer more diverse and wide-ranging than the India Pale Ale? (Answers on a postcard, please.) From humble beginnings, the IPA has gone through any number of changes and iterations to arrive as the celebrated style it is today. The first IPAs were brewed in the UK for export to Britain’s colonies, with their strength and hop content both high to help them survive long periods in transit. These days, though, the IPA you’re more likely to encounter will be a strong golden beer, thick with hop oils and with a rich, tangy flavour. From Brass Castle’s bestselling Sunshine IPA to Northern Monk’s flagship New World IPA, our brewers create delicious IPAs of all kinds – though, of course, it’s worth tasting a good few before deciding which one’s your favourite…

We’re not saying that beer is the solution to all life’s problems, but we are saying that good beer brings great happiness. You can’t argue with that logic, can you?

You might remember that in our last blog post, we discussed the differences between what people define as ‘craft beer’ and ‘real ale’. Many believe that one is superior to the other, and there are evangelists on both sides of the argument. There are those out there who see beer served from a keg (which usually puts it firmly in the ‘craft’ category) as inferior to its cask-conditioned counterpart, but at Brewtown we’re great fans of both cask and keg – some beer styles benefit more from being served one way than the other, and we certainly don’t discriminate.

Leedsman working in a brewery
We’re proud Yorkshire patriots at Brewtown, and we owe Leeds a lot of love. From the grand interior of the Corn Exchange to the scuzzy surrounds of the Cockpit (RIP), the city truly has something for everyone – and the beer scene is no exception to this rule. Venues like Mr Foley’s Cask Ale House cater for everyone from seasoned beer buffs to ale novices; the Northern Monk Refectory and North Brewing’s taproom (as well as their flagship city pub, North Bar) are the places to go for under-the-radar beer events, tastings and launches; and Leeds Brewery’s station taproom is an ideal spot to break a journey or liven up a dull commute. Leeds, we salute you – your beer scene has never been better.

Mark Stredwick
Turn up for a Brewtown brewery tour and the first person you’ll meet is Mark, Brewtown’s friendly brewery tour operator and founder of the business. As well as being a dab hand at driving a minibus, Mark knows a thing or two about good beer – he once spent six weeks driving around north-western America in a camper van, stopping off at all the craft breweries he could find and sampling their wares. A final fun fact about Mark: he’s been a businessman from an early age having started his working life at age eight, washing his neighbours’ cars for payment in ice cream. His tastes might have got a bit more grown-up since those days, but his entrepreneurial spirit remains the same!

Enjoyed Part One of our A – Z of Brewtown? Stay tuned for Part Two, coming soon.