Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

Flipside Brewery Bottles

I have now been able to follow the first brewing of the year at Flipside Brewery from start to finish – from the initial mash right through to bottling. Last step will be to taste the Frank-in-Stein I have been following.

I am rediscovering my taste for beer but I have a lot to learn about how the flavours are created, to understand which ingredients provide which characteristic.

Flipside Brewery, Russian RoubleBrewing is an interesting challenge for a photographer – most processes take place in closed vessels. I am treating my initial photographs as the equivalent of artist’s sketches. I will be spending time analysing them and planning how I will shoot the brewing process in the future.

Brewing as a process has changed little since it started more than a thousand years ago. A medieval brewer would recognise the process, at least as carried out by a craft or microbrewery. Apart from electric pumps and heaters it is essentially unchanged.

The malt (germinated barley grains) is mixed with water at about 70C (155 degrees F) in the mash tun for an hour or two. The resulting liquor, the wort, is transferred to the copper and at the same time the mash is washed or sparged to extract as much sugar from the grain as possible. After checking the sugar level is right for the beer being brewed (adjusted if necessary) the wort is then boiled for ninety minutes with hops and in some cases other flavourings added at various stages; early for flavour later for aroma.

Checking Original Gravity NA200058After boiling the liquor is transferred to the fermentation vessel, it is filtered through the hops in the copper and a separate filter. At Flipside they pass the hot liquor through a heat exchanger to cool it to around 24C (74F) to create optimum conditions for the yeast which is added, pitched, at this stage. The heat exchanger transfers the excess heat to cold water which is used to top up the hot liquor tank (to around 80C, 175F) ready for the next mash.

Fermentation takes around 3 days during which time the brewer harvests yeast to use in the next brewing. Breweries maintain there own strain of yeast for consistency as it contributes to the character of their beers. They even keep a master sample, a backup if you will, of their yeast off the premises (refrigerated and in a nitrogen atmosphere) so that they can grow a new batch from time to time to refresh the yeast as otherwise it will change over time.

Flipside Brewery casks awaiting filling NA270021Once the fermentation is complete it is racked off into casks with a little sugar to allow a little further fermentation – such living beer is known as “cask conditioned”. It is allowed to settle and clear for a few days before some of it is bottled, the rest will remain in casks and be sold as draught (draft) beer. A little sugar will be added at the bottling stage so that the beer will be “bottle conditioned” – when opened there will be small deposit of yeast in the bottom of the bottle as the beer will have continued a small fermentation.

Bottling line NA310013After another couple of weeks the beer will be ready to drink and will continue to improve for several weeks when it will stabilise; it will keep for up to a year unopened.

So now I will need to plan my next photography sessions, I will do so as I work my way through Flipside’s selection of beers. This is important of course, as a professional one has to take researching the subject seriously and Flipside alone has around ten different beers, plus occasional specials to sample, Then of course there all those other breweries with which one needs to compare. Over the rest of 2014 I aim to record events at Flipside Brewery as they have some exciting plans in the pipeline and I aim to be around to chronicle them.

My thanks to Maggie and Andrew Dunkin and their team for allowing me to follow the Flipside Brewery Year.

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