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Quantum Brewery, Stockport

On my Christmas pub crawl round Manchester last year, I visited the excellent Port Street Beer House. Whilst there, I sampled an Imperial Russian Stout (with cranberries) from a brewery I had not heard of before – Quantum.

I posted my review of the Port Street Beer House and the beers I drank there – including the Quantum Impy (I loved it, but couldn’t taste the cranberries) – here on my blog. Shortly afterwards, I received a tweet from Jay Krause, owner and head brewer of Quantum brewery promising to add more cranberries next time he brewed it. During the following few days, we passed messages back and forth and Jay revealed that the recipe for the impy was one that he had adapted from a homebrew recipe. Growing more curious by the minute, I arranged to meet Jay in the brewery the following week.

Inconspicuous – apart from the smell

The Quantum Brewery is located in a single unit of a very small industrial estate in Stockport. There are no big ‘Welcome to Quantum Brewery’ signs, but as I climbed out of my car in the tiny courtyard, my nose told me I was in the right place. The alluring aroma of mashing malt led me straight to the right door.

I had arrived at the end of the mash, and the grains were being sparged. Although normally a solo brewer, today Jay had an assistant, a young lad employed by a local pub and being trained in the art of brewing.

Jay and I sat down with a cup of coffee – from a cafetière, no less, and let the obviously more than capable young chap get on with it. Jay is late-twenties, long-haired and gentle voiced, and he told me about how he bought Dukinfield’s Shaw’s Brewery when it came up for sale. It was run down, and little more than a hobby brewery by the time. Unfortunately the premises did not come as part of the deal, and he had to search around to find suitable premises to set up his new brewery. He got the keys to his current premises on the 1st April, 2011. The brewery’s key words are ‘local’ and ‘quality’. Everything is sourced as locally as possible, and to as high a quality as possible.

Quantum produces three regular beers – Bitter (3.8%), Stout (4.8%) and American Amber Ale (5.3%), plus a number of one-off beers, seasonal specials and a couple of series beers – Fleur series (using different flowers in each brew) and a single-hop IPA series which so far has included Motueka hops (New Zealand), Super Alpha hops (New Zealand), Nelson Sauvin hops (New Zealand), Willamette hops (United States), Summit hops (United States) and Aramis hops (France).

As you can probably tell, Jay is an experimenter. He’s been home brewing for eight years, and clearly has a talent for coming up with exciting and great tasting beer. His enthusiasm for brewing is infectious. ‘Look here,’ he says at one point. We squeeze between the brewery’s two fermenters and he points out a bucket of homebrew tucked in behind them.

‘Try this,’ he says, pouring a little beer out of another homebrew barrel. The beer was not fully ready for presentation, it was pretty cloudy, but the taste was incredible. Rich, thick, exceptionally smooth malt flavours present at the start, and just as you’re thinking ‘Oh, that’s nice!’ the hops leap out of nowhere and smack you in the taste buds. Quite sensational. He looks ruefully at the beer. ‘I can’t afford to make that one commercially – the hops are far too expensive, and as it runs to about 8.5%, the duty would be crippling.’

Quantum currently runs a 5 barrel plant, supplying 50 or 60 outlets, and sells everything that it produces. He’s running at full capacity and needs to expand. Demand is understandably high for the amazing beers produced by this tiny little start-up brewery.

As I take my leave, Jay presents me with an unlabelled bottle. ‘It’s SK1,’ he says. This is Quantum’s 7.4% barley wine. The labels for the bottles are still at the (local) printers.

I drank the SK1 (Stockport’s premier postcode) a couple of weeks later. It’s a deep ruby red in colour and has a rich fruity smell. The fruit carries through into the taste, but with an added bitterness. As the wonderful mouthful of fruit fades, it is replaced by hops, leading to a long, bitter finish. Absolutely cracking stuff, and I for one will be heading to the Stockport beer festival in June, where a barrel of SK1 will be available.

Quantum SK1 Barley wine

As I’m leaving, I mention to Jay that he just seems like a home brewer with bigger buckets than most of us. He nods, ‘Yeah,’ he says, ‘it’s really a hobby that just got out of control’.

So, if you spot an interesting beer on the bar, and see that it’s from Quantum Brewery, take a tip from me – buy with confidence!

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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My First Full Mash Brew

The planning had been done; the equipment purchased; the recipe decided on and the ingredients gathered.It was time. Time to make my first full mash beer.

I was up early (for me – not a morning person), and spent some time thoroughly sterilizing boiler, bins and other equipment. I carefully measured out each ingredient, and poured the required 8.8 litres of water into the boiler.

Malt measured out and awaiting mashing

I’m not quite sure at what point the water becomes ‘liquor’, but it’s certainly that by the time it reaches 66°Celsius. Just at the critical moment, my friend and brewing mentor, Dr Tristan Robinson arrived. Under his supervision, I gently poured the grain into a mashing bag that I had placed in the boiler. It took some time to get all the malt in, constantly stirring as it went in to ensure there were no clumpy dry patches. Eventually it was all in the bag, and we settled down to wait out the 90 minute mashing period. Every 15 minutes, I checked the temperature and gave the mash a good stir.

The malt in the mash bag in the boiler during mashing

My boiler is not very large, so once the mashing had finished, we drained the boiler off into a fermentation bucket before sparging the mash. We sparged the mash with 16 litres of liquor at about 75°C. As we drained off, the sweetness could be tasted. Sparging continued basically until the liquid being drawn off started tasting watery.

Sparging

By this time, we had about 22 litres of wort, which was put back into the boiler (minus the mashing bag, of course) and the first hops added (25g each of Goldings and Styrian Goldings). The hops come in a vacuum-sealed packet, and look somewhat unappetising, but when loosened between the fingers give off the most glorious smell.

Unappetising looking vacuum-packed hops

Once opened up, they look a lot better – and smell fantastic!

The boil lasted in total about 90 minutes, with some time being lost as we learned the eccentricities of the boiler’s thermostat. I’ll be able to do better next time. For the last ten minutes of the boil, a further 16g of Styrian hops was added, plus a few grams of Irish Moss to help the beer clear. We found that with the lid in place, the wort boiled over somewhat messily, so most of the boil was done in the open boiler. Naturally, after 90 minutes of boiling, the volume had reduced a fair bit, and we ended up with about 13 litres to go into the fermentation bucket.

Into the fermenting bin

Next came the long, tedious wait for the wort to cool to a temperature when the yeast could be pitched. I had a great little pot of live moose-like yeast kindly given to me by Jay Krause of the Quantum Brewery in Stockport. I first drew off enough wort to take an original gravity reading, and once the wort reached 30°C, I added the yeast. I had to wait a little longer before taking the OG, as my hydrometer is calibrated for 20°C. It didn’t reach this temperature until about midnight, when the OG was measured at 1.064. I made a note and went to bed.

The following morning I boiled up 7 litres of water, and when it had cooled to the same temperature as the now busily fermenting wort, I added 6 litres to the fermenting bin. Adding the extra water had two vital effects. The target volume for the brew was 19 litres, at which volume the OG was lowered to the target of 1.042. It also ensured that I’d get the correct quantity of beer from the brew. If I’d left the volume low and gone with the 1.064 gravity, the resulting brew would have been considerably stronger, but the taste would probably have been adversely affected.

First thing the following morning, the fermentation had really taken off.

The recipe I followed was for a beer of similar characteristics to Timothy Taylor Landlord. This is a great beer, and a fairly simple recipe, so is ideal for a first brew. As I write this, it is nearly five days since fermentation began. I’m expecting it to be completed in another couple of days, and then I plan to put the beer into a cask for finishing. I’ll let you know how it tastes in a few weeks.

Words and images are my copyright, please respect that. All you have to do is ask. Thank you.

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Posted by on 17 February, 2012 in Cask Ale, Home Brewing

 

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