My work; outside of beer, with just a little bit of it inside too.

For over twenty years I have worked as an electrical engineer within the water pump industry, working with all sorts of pumps from domestic shower pumps right up to large industrial applications.  The work wasn’t just limited to pumps though, it was all types of rotating electrical plant; if you can think of a piece of equipment containing an electric motor, I’ve probably worked on it.

The largest of which was on board HMS Ocean whilst it was docked in Devonport.  We replaced bearings on the motors that powered the ships gun compressors.  These motors were huge, 265kw and weighing nearly a ton each.  The bearings were pretty hefty too, I could easily put my leg through the centre of one!

In amongst all this heavy industrial work, I’ve kept a few brewery pumps running too. The first brewery I can recall visiting for work was O’Hanlons.  There have been a fair few others along the way, but it all started here.

Prior to becoming just Hanlons and its relocation to Half Moon, the brewery was based on a farm just outside Whimple.  It was pretty rustic to say the least, the track that led to the brewery skirted a field and would have been the ideal playground for someone like Petter Solberg or Marcus Gronholm, but for me in my van it was ridiculous.  When you eventually reached the brewery you were often greeted by a large boar that pretty much roamed free, but it was fine, you just accepted it and got on with it.

Fighting through the cigarette smoke in the office, you’d check in and find out what needed doing.  The brewery itself was served by a borehole and a well, each having their own pumps and water treatment.  The equipment had a hard life and breakdowns were inevitable, regular servicing was required too.  Even though I got to know the equipment very well, you just never knew where the next failure would be.  But the one thing I did know, was that without water, there would be no beer, so the pressure was always on to get things working again.

Once the job was finished, I’d often leave with a few bottles of Yellow Hammer.  This was the Yellow Hammer I loved, bottle conditioned and slightly hazy, I could drink bucket loads of this golden fruity delight, and did too! It was just a beautiful beer.

Back then, the thought of being self employed never even crossed my mind, I had no reason to be self employed, so why would I be?  But, like everything, I had to change.  The driving force behind this change was the arrival of our baby, Ace, and for the last seven months I have been self employed and doing what I have always done, working with electrics, pumps and water.

The brewery work has continued too, I was approached by Two Drifters shortly before Christmas and asked if I would install some water filtration plant in their new brewery. How could I say no?  A new local brewery, promising new beers, with strong ethics in sustainability and carbon neutrality; this was going to be a slightly different challenge, but one I was up for.

The plan was to install a water softener, reverse osmosis unit and an ultraviolet steriliser, along with a pump and some plumbing around the brewery.  With this equipment in place, the incoming water would be completely stripped of its chemical and bacteriological load and later remineralised to suit any style of beer.  Various tappings were installed throughout the brewery to give the option of using raw, softened or RO water.  These different waters could then be used for different processes in the brewery, depending on the requirements of the process.  A mechanical seal cooling system for the brewery pumps was also plumbed in.

The RO water was also piped over to the distillery to be used in the production of rum.  The six stills all required a water flow and return, with individual isolation and flow controls.  I modified an underfloor heating manifold to provide exactly this.  Each still has its own isolation valve and manual flow regulator, giving complete control of the distilling process.  The return water is not wasted either, it’s collected or passed back to the brewery for further use.

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Following on from this, I was asked to install the chiller system for the four fermenting vessels and cold liquor tank.  This was a big job for one man, with over seventy metres of pipe to snake around the brewery and into each vessel, along with solenoid valves, pressure regulators and commissioning valves.  A continuous circuit had to be achieved and the flow through each vessel balanced.  It had to look good too.  With this pipework being constantly on show, the angles had to be just so.  Being predominantly solvent weld ABS, you only get one shot at getting the final assembly correct, so there’s no place for any inaccurate measurements.  But when finished, it was incredibly satisfying to take a step back and just admire those angles.

Shortly after completion and commissioning, the beer entered the fermenting vessels for the first time to do its thing.  Drifters Gold was the beer of choice, a light golden beer with the right attributes for some summer drinking.  Swiftly followed by Sunrise, a peach infused pale, generously hopped to amplify the adjunct.

Both beers were due to be canned and the contract canning company had been booked weeks in advance, way before I’d even started to install the chilling equipment!  The pressure to complete in time was immense, but it all came together in the end and both Drifters Gold and Sunrise made it into cans.

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Seeing both of these beers, and the rum, available to buy in local outlets, and directly from the brewery itself, was incredibly satisfying.  After all of the work I’d put in, which totalled well over 100 hours of labour, it was really quite overwhelming.

 

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Hanlons bar and restaurant open for service!

So last Friday night saw the opening of the bar and restaurant at Hanlons Brewery. This is a new venture for the brewery and one I had been looking forward to for a while. As you’ll know, I’ve always loved their produce and this was a chance to sample their brews, at source, and also to taste some food cooked with their beers. I booked my place, yes a lone place, but one where I knew I was never going to be alone.

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I arrived and felt at home instantly, it was so nice to walk up the stairs and into a bar packed full of people there for the support of the brewery. I headed to my table, yes, I had a whole table, all to myself! Where else can you go and receive this kind of attention? Well clearly lots of places, but they won’t have the character, nor the ambience, of being sat deep within in the brewery, surrounded by vats crammed full of the exact reasons that brought you there. Looking out from the bar you can see right down into the brewery, and when you take your seat down there, being surrounded by blue lights, makes you feel like something really special is happening, and it is, just peer up through the windows above, and it’s all right there, but all around you, something is brewing.

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The nights food was a set menu, as will be the plan for the following weeks, but this is a set menu that you’ll love. Steak and ale pie cooked with Port Stout, served with Yellow Hammer bread! I say it was served with bread, but to be honest it was served with butter and a side of bread. Imagine your student days, where you don’t have a butter knife, so are forced into serving a whole block of butter with your bread; It certainly beats the poxy cube you receive with your toasted tea cake on a traditional coffee morning. Anyway, back to the food. I was so ready for this, and nothing was going to stop me from enjoying it. It was like something my nan had cooked, so amazingly homely, comforting and of superb quality. For an opening night, Hanlons really have set the bar high, good luck chaps, lets hope you keep this up for the foreseeable future.IMG_2537

And coming away with some Hanlons goodies really topped the night off.

Beer & Bacon I hear you say?

So last Saturday and Sunday, this happened. The inaugural Beer and Bacon Festival in Topsham. I had my instructions which were to not get drunk. Well, I’m sure I could cope with that. All I want is a tiny little taste………of as much beer as I can lay my hands on! The food was good too, but much of it resembled something like a Peppa Pig jigsaw. Don’t get me wrong, I love bacon. Who doesn’t? But the real reason for the visit was the beer after all.

Now on stepping up to the bar I see a few names I recognise and some I don’t. The Exeter Brewery and The Exe Valley brewery were present along with Branscombe Vale Brewery who brought with them Branscombe Mild. Now this beer is something of a rarity in these parts as apparently us southerners don’t drink a pint o mild any longer and most of it ends up a little further north!
Hanlons were also here, unfortunately their Copper Glow had all been drunk but the Port Stout was still on. Now if you like a good malty, toasty, chocolatey stout, this is one for you. It’s not heavy at all and the tickle of port and fruitiness of the hops just finish it off nicely.

Now, tucked in the corner of the main marquee I made a truly fantastic discovery; The Occasional Brewing Company. These guys have only been around for a matter of weeks, but they really know how to brew something special.  When I saw a chalk board with the words Hop, Porter, IPA and Fragaria, I knew walking away would be a mistake.

Small batches, rammed full of passion, knowledge and the odd fake moustache, have lead to some truly outstanding and unique beers. It’s so refreshing to see a new, local brewery, so excited by their work.

The flavour the OBC have managed to cram inside their beers just blew me away. The pales’ are all so fruity and bitter, and their dry crispness really makes for a clean drink. The porter, which I will add was supplied with a full background talk on its history, is sublime. Massive fruit notes but malty and toasty at the same time. Really quaffable and oh so addictive!

I was intrigued by the Fragaria, as not only had I never seen a beer by that name, but if I’m honest I’m not sure I’d even heard the word before? Fragaria, a genus of flowering plants in the rose family known as strawberries for their edible fruits. Now that’s all well and good for the biological geeks, but what about the beer? I’ll be honest I’ve never been a fan of fruit beers, but this is different, very different. Forget Frulli and all the fruity wheat beers, this has a refined taste of strawberries with a subtle hint of vanilla coupled to a fine stout base. All of this makes for a beer that’s in a league of its own. It’s just sweet enough without being overpowering and the smoothness of the vanilla and stout really make this beer a joy to drink.

Right, that leaves just one more Occassional Beer. The horrendously massive Imperial IPA. I truly believe they lost count of the number of hop varieties they crammed into this beer. It also wouldn’t surprise me if they forgot they had this brewing, and ended up with the truly breathalyser insulting 9.6% ABV when they realised it was still there! Now for me, this is what it’s all about. Unashamedly, almost offensively, massively hopped pale ale. Surprisingly darker than I expected, but still with a glorious deep golden hue. This beer is immense, like the Yorkie of beers; no balls, need not apply. This is a brew to savour, if you can manage to not sup it all up at once. Your heart will race as it sets your buds on fire. All those hops really set it off and you actually end up with a very drinkable beer. The aftertaste almost burns as it sets your mouth alive. And all of that happens long after the aroma rids you of all known nasal ailments.
I’m so impressed with the Occasional Brewing Company, you now have a customer for life.

Brewery saved!

Well its been a while since my last post, sorry guys. So whilst i’ve been away I’ve been pretty busy discovering new beers and new tastes. Theres a lot to talk about including a tour of the Meantime Brewery in Greenwich but first I feel I need to keep things local. As you’ll know from my last post O’Hanlons Brewery have gone through some change and are now defunct. But fear not they have been reborn under the Hanlons name. A local chap, who was a longtime fan of the brewery, heard of their trouble and stumped up to save them. Now brewing at a new site just outside Exeter, Hanlons have continued with what O’Hanlons started. All the favourites remain and The Hammer has a new lease of life. It’s fantastic that the beers brewed can continue in their life and have not been allowed to be a thing of the past. I wish the new owners well and hopefully they can keep the locals happy with some familiar beer. Continue reading