To celebrate our sixth year as a publication we have once again teamed up with Sheffield’s Abbeydale Brewery to release a crisp 4.1% pale ale for the third year running. They must be doing something right, because in the past we’ve sold 18,000 odd pints of the golden nectar in less than two months. Hopefully […]

To celebrate our sixth year as a publication we have once again teamed up with Sheffield’s Abbeydale Brewery to release a crisp 4.1% pale ale for the third year running. They must be doing something right, because in the past we’ve sold 18,000 odd pints of the golden nectar in less than two months.

Hopefully you are sitting with a copy of the magazine and a pint of Now Then 6. Good. The purpose of this page is to give you some in-depth background information on the provenance of the ingredients. For more about the brewing process, watch our video from back in 2012, embedded at the bottom. But for now, over to the knowledgeable Dan at Abbeydale Brewery…

NT-6Y-Beer-Clip-PRINT

The Barley

Since Abbeydale Brewery started in 1996 we have always used Thomas Fawcett & Sons as our malted barley supplier. Malted barley is used in brewing to extract sugars for the yeast to convert into alcohol but also for flavour. The Fawcett family have been making malt in Castleford, West Yorkshire since the late 1780s and became a limited company in 1919. As one of the oldest family-run businesses in the UK, they have over 200 years experience and still operate on their original site.

In simple terms, barley is taken in from farmers, slowly dried and steeped in water. The steeping induces the germination process that encourages enzymes within the barley corn to break down the tiny walls around the starch cells that we want to get at during brewing. Stay with me! Once this process has been initiated, the barley is then kiln dried to stop the enzyme activity and any further breakdown of the corn. We don’t want mush. It’s now called malt and needs to be milled or crushed slightly so we can start converting all that lovely starch, first into sugar and then into alcohol. You can see how we do that in the below video. But this article isn’t about us – it’s all about the farmers who provide us with the tools to make beer in the first place.

milled-malt2

There are many different types of barley a brewer could use – Halcyon, Optic, Pearl or Golden Promise. But the barley that commands a premium and the only one we use at Abbeydale is Maris Otter due to its high quality and consistency for cask-conditioned beer. Our Maris Otter can be tracked back to Westfield House Farm in Driffield, Wold Newton. This family-run farm in East Yorkshire is owned by Mark and Sally Lockwood. Mark’s father bought the farm in 1973 and up until last year – at the age of 78 – continued to operate the combine harvester.

The farm has always produced quality barley from the beginning, mainly the Maris Otter variety for the likes of Black Sheep Brewery. Also grown here is an old spring barley called Golden Promise which goes off to breweries like Timothy Taylor. The farm boasts 450 acres of Yorkshire wold arable farm land and the soil composition is 12-inch clay over chalk, apparently ideal for growing top quality malting barley. Maris Otter is a temperamental barley, refusing to grow well if the conditions are not just right, ultimately leading many farmers to plant other varieties.

0752012 harvest at Westfield House Farm, Driffield

The Hops

On to the hops now. Our brewers, John Parkinson and Mark Garratt, were delighted to be invited down to our hop merchants Charles Faram & Co for a forecast of the season’s hop harvest. This mainly involves rubbing and smelling hop samples and deciding which have the best attributes for brewing. One particular gem that came to light was this season’s Bramling Cross hop.

Using our detective skills again, this hop can be traced back to Hoads Farm in Sandhurst, West Kent, currently owned by Anne Nicholas and run by her eldest son Christopher. The family at Hoads Farm has been growing hops since 1939 and is part of a 350-acre mixed farm comprising hops, vineyards, cherries and arable land. Here the Nicholas family grow 100 acres of hops. Like farmers in other parts of the world like New Zealand and the US, Christopher diversified into grapes in 1986. Hops are perfectly paired to be grown in unison due to similar soil composition and labour requirements. Other hops varieties grown here include Admiral, Target, Pilgrim, Challenger, Progress, Goldings (Cobbs & Early Choice) and a more recent wild hop addition that Chris has propagated himself called Epic. Chris stumbled upon his exclusive hop growing wild in a hedgerow and decided to take it under his wing.

But back to the point. Bramling Cross suffers from a lack of dormancy. Despite being the most difficult variety to grow, Hoads Farm produced the best Bramling Cross hops in the south east for their 2013 crop, scooping up several awards including the Sandhurst cup. John and Mark from the brewery thought so too and we were lucky enough to get our hands on some.

2013-11-21-07.13Alex and Sebastian Nicholas holding trophies including the Sandhurst Cup for the best overall sample of hops from the 2013 crop grown at Hoads Farm. Alex, 22, runs the hop picking machines. Seb, 24, runs the oast house, where the hops are dried.

You can find a video we’ve done on hop growing and picking down at Pridewood Farm in Ledbury, Herefordshire on YouTube.

Interestingly but not unexpectedly, it’s a delight to find that our growers are family-run businesses. It’s apparent that the best way to communicate passion for their trade and the importance of the processes involved is by handing them down from one generation to another, all knowledge retained from father to son and mother to daughter. Not many people make things anymore, but the Lockwood and Nicholas families do, and we do too. They are the ones who make us brewers look good!

This malted barley (Maris Otter – premium because it won’t grow) and these hops (Bramling Cross – premium because they won’t grow), along with our finest Yorkshire water are the only raw materials used to make this Now Then 6 beer. We put an Abbeydale stamp on it with our own yeast.

Tell us what you think on Twitter:
#NowThen6@AbbeydaleBeers@NowThenMag

Abbeydale Brewery
Now Then 6
Hoads Farm, Kent