Learning the hoses (ropes)
By Chris Nicol - assistant manager/brewer at Shilling Brewing Company
We’re finally up and brewing. It’s profoundly rewarding to have a hand in creating beer onsite, and to be able to watch it being enjoyed by actual living breathing customers. This has been a long time coming.
The brewpub concept was announced internally over a year ago, and from January until June was being developed and moulded from the darkest of dark corners by myself and the rest of the senior management team, Stu & Elaine. Like nomads we sloped from wifi spot to wifi spot, taking shelter from the rain and cowering our newly-withered eyes from the blinding sun in equal measure.
As the months passed, the concept strengthened, we changed our food offering completely, restructured bars, built spreadsheets, researched products, attended events, wrote and re-wrote menus, ordered and re-ordered and re-re-ordered sundries, hired a head brewer, built a team, and after a whirlwind final week or so, we were in the building.
Now would probably be a good place to state that I had never brewed beer prior to this project. I had an understanding of the process in broad terms, which was strengthened and solidified by attending a course at Brewlab Sunderland (Sunderland is NOT excellent for a night out), and coloured in a month touring brewpubs in Colorado and getting a handle on the concept (it was a tough month).
So here we stood, in front of our shiny new brewhouse, and it was time to get brewing. Our head brewer Declan, brought with him a wealth of experience which I’m more than happy to leech off of, and the first few brews went seamlessly enough. I guess I can see that the process of learning a to brew on a new kit is all about problem solving. I’ve lost count of the number of things we ‘need to figure out’, and doing so is an interesting part of the process. From figuring out the valve configuration between the mash tun and the kettle, to sourcing the right hose tails to move our beer between the three floors of the brewhouse, we’re being kept busy. Nothing compares to the highlight of my week though, the shovelling of the spent grain from the mash tun!
At this point, we’ve only completed a handful of brews, and have been able to launch the Black Star Teleporter, a heavily malted porter with eight different malts, and finished with a hint of roasted coconut. That will soon be joined on the bar by Timatanga, a fresh pale ale with an abundance of tropical fruit.
Our brewing schedule will be ramping up in the coming weeks and months, and we’re expecting to be veering wildly from stockpiling an arsenal of our core brews to experimenting with new ideas, but we’ll just ‘need to figure that out.’
I'm not even sorry about the addition of so many gratuitous photos of myself here. To see some more of the team, check out our Instagram