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Two beers from either end of the hoppy spectrum
Monday 03 August 2020
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Long-time readers will already be familiar with Stu Mostów’s charming origin story, but for the uninitiated this highly regarded Polish brewery – based in the beautiful historical city of Wrocław – was started in 2015 by co-founders (and childhood sweethearts) Greg and Arletta Ziemian. They are both absolutely lovely, apparently have a policy of only employing other lovely people, and make great beer. Which is perhaps also why they are one of Europe’s most prolific collaborators.
“It’s been great becoming better known in the UK, and we were really excited when [Beer52’s] Callum told us about the idea for Hop Explorers,” he says. “We gave him a few options, and in the end he decided to take two of our beers, a German-style lager that’s kind of our signature and a big juicy NEIPA. So really beers at opposite ends of the spectrum!”
I remember being bowled over by the lager fresh from the tank on my first visit, but Greg is keen to reassure me that it’s got even better since then, thanks to some tweaks to the water chemistry and hopping programme that really allow the classic European hops to shine.
“For bitterness we’re using Magnum, going into the boil to add that distinctive short and clean bitterness. And then whirlpool and cold-side, we’re using two varieties which are noble, Bavarian hops from the Hallertau region; one is called Tettnanger and the other is Hersbrucker. So, the combination of these two hops gives this a little bit of a floral, herbal top layer, which makes a really nice complement to a clean, crisp pilsner.”
The second beer is a boldly hopped New England IPA, with plenty of body and sweet malt, to enhance the tropical flavours of the classic US hops.
“This one is obviously a more modern approach to brewing,” says Greg. “New England is a cool style that’s a little bit sweeter, and we use a special yeast strain from a Canadian laboratory called Escarpment – really nice guys, and we tried New England yeasts from a load of European laboratories, but we found Escarpment’s worked best with the hops.
“The result is a very hazy beer, juicy and full bodied. The hops we use… Centennial has obviously been around for a while, it’s a classic, but I don’t think it works well as a single hop - it can be a little one-dimensional. Comet is I think relatively new, and of all the combinations we tried, this was the one that gave us the profile we were looking for. So it’s a nice mix of classic and modern US hops working together.”
It’s clear from the scene of activity behind Greg that things have moved on somewhat since I was last over in Poland. Stu Mostów’s brewery floor (a cool former cinema) is now crammed to the rafters with shiny new stainless steel, and I ask what else has been happening since we last caught up.
“Well you can probably see we’ve almost tripled our output by adding extra tanks,” he says.
“We also got a canning line recently, though that was a bit of a disaster. We bought it from a German firm, and they delivered it the week before lockdown, but then of course couldn’t send any engineers to commission it, so it just sat there. In the end we just decided to install it ourselves, with the supplier on Skype walking us through it. We learned a lot, but it was kind of an expensive lesson because we ruined a lot of beer with cans that were potentially oxidised and had to be destroyed. But it’s up and running now, so worth the effort!”
Related to this, the brewery has also made a big investment in its in-house lab. Greg is clearly proud of this, but it really just reflects Stu Mostów’s long-standing policy of putting its money into areas that will improve the quality of the beer. This has resulted in kit that is unusually highly specced for a brewery of its size.
“We test every batch we release, which is critical to ensure quality and shelf life after leaving our brewery. As you know, we’re very picky and very particular about how we package, so that’s one of the things our laboratory is able to do. And improving our quality will continue, because we never cut corners on these one-time purchases – we think long-term,” he says.
But I’m probably most interested to hear about a project that Greg had mentioned a couple of years ago, and which I’m very much hoping has got off the ground.
“Ha! Yes, we’re going mixed fermentation now, in a second site not far from here,” he laughs. “The first beers were released last year. As you can imagine, these things take a lot of time to come to fruition, and we didn’t want to release anything until it was ready so it’s just been a few barrels so far. But we’ve also collaborated with Little Earth Project in the UK on a beautiful mixed-ferm table beer using the old house bacteria strain they’ve developed.
“So yeah, I’m pretty excited about it because wild beers, mixed fermentation beers are becoming pretty popular here now, and we’ve been one of the pioneers within this style in Poland. We can’t wait for more of the beers we’re sitting on to come through!”
That’s strong enough for me to vow a trip to Poland as soon as the travel restrictions have lifted. Let it be soon.
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