Office brew: Rua
WORDS: Cian Hurley PHOTOS: Richard Croasdale
Thursday 08 March 2018
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Brewing with Ferment was a great way to finish up my beer journey for 2017. In September, I’d moved to Edinburgh to study brewing and distilling at Heriot-Watt University, after many years spent home-brewing in Dublin with a group of friends (we called ourselves the Trappist Hunks).
While still doing my undergraduate degree, we entered a university-wide homebrew competition, for which we took first, second and third prize, with our Irish Red Ale taking the top spot. After the judging, we went out for a drink with the judges, Alex Lawes and his partner Sophie De Vere. Needless to say, a drink turned into a few, which turned into a late night session back in their house, drinking their homebrewed imperial stout, followed by me waking up in their attic the next morning with a pretty sore head!
While the competition was small, we won a hundred quid, which allowed us to upgrade our equipment and bolstered our confidence. Of the six of us that brewed together, two are now working in the craft beer industry. I’m so grateful for that opportunity that I’ve offered to put up the prize money so that the competition can be run again this year.
Alex is now the founder, owner and brewer behind Whiplash Beer, probably the most exciting brewery in Ireland at the moment, while Sophie looks after all their artwork. So, when I saw he Alex was going to be in Edinburgh for a meet-the-brewer event, I was eager to go along and see how he was getting on. It was here that I met Fraser, the owner of Ferment, who had just been on a “fact-finding” (beer-drinking) trip to Ireland, and so the plan to come in and do an office brew with the Ferment crew was born. What beer to brew? The answer was obvious. The symmetry of it all was too perfect not to re-brew of the beer that put all these events in motion.
I find that most commercial Irish reds are lacking in body and flavour, so I brew mine to really deliver on both fronts. I use oats for 12% of the grist to bolster body and mouthfeel and use several speciality malts to give a rich colour and deliver plenty of malty, caramel notes. A single, early hop addition of East Kent Goldings contributes moderate bitterness but minimum flavour and aroma. Finally, I ferment with the classic Irish ale yeast to give some subtle fruitiness and hopefully leave a hint of diacetyl lurking in the background. Is it traditional? No. Is it delicious? I think so.
I had never used the Grainfather before, though I had admired and envied them, so I was excited at the chance to try one out. The brew day went very smoothly, the Grainfather’s controls are very intuitive and the whole process is way less involved than my old rickety set-up. I did a single-infusion mash at 69oC so as to limit the wort fermentability and maintain body in the finished beer. I had originally intended to do a 90-minute boil to try for some kettle caramelization but time-constraints on the day meant a 60-minute boil had to do. Of course, no brew day is complete without a hiccup, and on this day, the water pressure in the office was not enough to run the wort chiller. This was solved by several trips to the supermarket to buy a rather ridiculous amount of ice.
All round I think the brew day was a success and I’m excited to taste the results.
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