In an area renowned for its top-quality agricultural soil, sea air and unique micro-climate, the fourth-generation family brewery, Barsham Brewery, is producing some of the best malting barley in the world, used as the base malt for all their Norfolk beer.
Several team members from each of our Norfolk properties, The Feathers, The Globe and The Wiveton Bell, recently took a short drive to the estate to have a tour and discover more about what makes Barsham’s such a special brewery.
Come rain or shine, using a combination of traditional and modern techniques, harvest comes at the end of summer, and the malt is then blended with beautifully pure water from their own bore hole and hop varieties from around the world to craft their refined collection of Norfolk craft beers.
With over 2500 acres of fields, they are just one of three brewers who grow the Maris Otter barley used in their beers and enjoyed by many of the world’s best breweries. In their estate manager’s words, “the Champagne of barley”, it is synonymous with sweet, biscuity notes and forms the base of many typical pale ale style beers.
Another distinctive feature of Barsham Brewery is their family approach, which in turn aids the business in reaching a more sustainable target. With just five key members to their small team - two brewers, a sales manager, operations manager, and delivery driver – they can keep to a succinct and efficient production, creating over 4000 litres of beer a week. While simultaneously doing forestry work and conservation across the estate.
There are five main steps in the brewing process, so Harry, one of the two brewers, has taken us through it.
The process whereby the grist (grain) is mixed with water and allowed to stand for some time. This process takes place in the Mash Tun. The purpose of this process is to break down the starch and proteins within the grist in order to provide nutrients for the yeast to grow during fermentation.
Upon completion of the mash, they begin separating the sweet liquid that's been created (wort) from the spent grains in the Mash Tun. To ensure that they get the maximum extract of nutrients and sugars from our grist, the grain is then rinsed with water heated to 85 degrees - also known as Sparging. A rotary arm within the mash tun acts as the mechanism for this.
Once the wort has finished running off into the Copper, they are left with the spent grains. Despite the term ‘spent’, they are still very much of use. Local cattle breeder, Keith Catten, of C.W & S.M Catten Cattle Breeders, collects spent grain to use as feed for his award winning cows.
As mentioned, the wort is run into a vessel called the Copper. This is the vessel (or kettle) in which the wort is boiled. The boil serves the purpose to first improve the flavour of the beer, then sterilise it, as well as other uses. This is also the stage of the process where the brewer will introduce hops - an essential component for adding bitterness, aroma and flavour to the beer.
The wort is boiled for an hour allowing them to get the desired hop utilisation, characteristics, aroma and flavour. At the end of the boil, the boiled wort is left to stand in the vessel, after which, they will begin running the wort into the Fermentation Vessel. To cool the wort down, it runs through a heat transfer system which essentially entails cold water running along it in the opposite direction, thus allowing heat transfer.
As the wort they brewed runs into the fermentation vessel, the yeast must be added. The role of the yeast is to consume the sugars and other nutrients in order to grow. The beer then cools down which enables the yeast to settle down to the bottom of the vessel, ready for racking into casks.
The final stage of the process is to get the beer into packaging from which it can then be distributed to pubs. Typically, Barsham's rack their beer into casks, allowing it to mature. The flavour and aroma continues to develop alongside an increase in level of carbonation.
HAVE A PINT
Barsham Brewery has nailed small-scale brewing and delivers a fresh approach to creating bold flavours, while practicing sustainability, that are relatively new to the industry. An example of this forward thinking is their Honey BEAAAR (now sold-out) which is produced using honey from bee hives on their estate and £10 from each firkin sold goes to the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
Other beers include their true-to-style Golden Close IPA, brewed with malted Maris Otter Barley to the russet coloured best bitter, Bitter Old Buster, that's brewed with three of Britain's finest hop varieties. Both of which are on-tap at The Feathers this Friday (20th October) when they do a Tap Takeover. Their beers are also on offer all-week-long at the majority of our pubs.
Our team enjoyed their pints at the Barsham Estate after a fantastic tour, followed by an evening at the street food festival they hold on the last Friday of the month. Their last one of the year is Friday 28th October, so take a look at the line-up here.
Thank you to Tom and the Barsham Brewery team for introducing us to their brilliant beers and showing us around! If you would like to find out more about them, click here.