A Grand Day Out

It was my birthday at the weekend and I enjoyed some much needed family time at home.  All this safe in the knowledge that I had the day of work on the Monday (yesterday), with a plan to escape the day job and treat myself to a brewday on a larger scale than my home setup.  A while back I wrote about Phil Saltonstall and his Brass Castle Brewery.   Since his launch in September Phil and his beers have enjoyed recognition at local festivals, including his Vanilla Porter (Bad Kitty) winning Champion Beer at the York & Cider Festival.  I’ve continued to watch Brass Castle developments via twitter and always intended to take up Phil’s kind offer of a brewday.

After a late start I arrived at the brewhouse, having navigated the winding roads of my native East Yorkshire countryside, as roads turn to tracks laden with mud and animal produce, and ‘passing places’ save you from the locals “drive straight and true” attitude.  The brewhouse was already a hive of activity as Phil and Assistant Brewer Ian were nearing the end of the mash.  With my keen bat senses I already knew this as I approached the building, steam billowing from every outlet.  A beautiful setting on Lord Halifax’s Garrowby Estate and a much needed increase in capacity from his 1BBL brewery back in nearby Pocklington.

Soon after I arrived I was introduced to Gavin Aitchison (News editor and pub columnist at the York Press) and Paul Marshall (Landlord of the Waggon & Horses, York).  We were given the brief tour of the brewery and then enjoyed the ensuing brewday as we chatted and quizzed Phil and Ian on their operation.  The brew was a single hopped, low abv, Pale Amber Heritage Ale and I understand this will be called Number 1 or #1 with it being the first brew at the new premises.  More information on this from Gavin at the weekend.   Despite the unfamiliar look and the obvious step up from the kit I use at home, there was a refreshing familiarity with the Victorian equipment and the manual processes that went with it.

I have seen a few modern breweries on tours and while I know enough to nod along in the right places, it’s not easy to grasp the brewing process when most vessels are enclosed, electronically controlled and the liquor, wort and beer being despatched at great speed through a mess of stainless steel tubing.  This is certainly the kind of set up that is needed once demand dictates, but at Brass Castle’s Garrowby Brewhouse this is all stripped back to two copper vessels, a hopper and a large gas burner where the coal fire once lived.  As I watched Phil and Ian work together to understand the mechanics, adjust and readjust the pipework, wrestle with levers and pulleys to raise the heavy equipment and generally overcome what many would see as limitations, I felt right at home and realised that my two vessel home set-up and faffy batch sparging process is really all that is needed to brew some tasty beer.

With the beer tucked up in the fermentation vessel and with the fun over, myself, Gavin and Paul quickly said our goodbyes and left Phil and Ian to clean up!  sadly we had left our overalls and wellies at home.  Thank you to my hosts, I had a really enjoyable day and look forward to trying Brass Castle beer again soon!

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