We’ll delve a bit deeper into these individually over on the blog but below are the major, unique parts of our process defined.
We create the base of our beers slightly differently.
Because we don’t have a brew kit of our own, we utilise the incredible community of Manchester breweries to produce wort off-site. We design all of our recipes ourselves and brew them to our specification at the cuckoo brewery. We use Fawcett’s malt, produced in Castleford since 1809! The malt is perfect for our needs and it’s locality makes it a great option in terms of sustainability.
Once our wort is ready, we pump it into large containers and transport it to our barrel store where we can then pump it out into the freshly cleaned and steamed barrels. Our barrels are all ex-red wine oak barrels which have had the wine character removed through cleaning and steaming, giving us an excellent neutral vessel for fermenting and ageing our beers. The barrels do lend some character to the beer but this comes in the shape of tannins and vanillins, flavour compounds which we’ll delve into in one of our blog posts.
Once the barrels are full of wort, we add our own unique cultures of wild yeast and bacteria, propagated in-house. These cultures change from one to the next and we do experiment a lot with how we produce these and how we blend them together. In all cases we have Saccharomyces yeasts which carry out the bulk of the alcohol production; lactobacillus bacteria which brings our acidity and Brettanomyces yeasts which bring a range of unique flavour compounds including funk, a slightly nebulous term but one of the most important factors in our beers.
The fermentation and conditioning phase can take anywhere from six months up to three years and beyond!
Blending is the most fun part of our process. After around 6 months, some of the beers start to show promise in terms of their flavour profile and readiness. We don’t want to rush this process so if something isn’t tasting quite ready we’ll let it sit for a few more months. This process varies and beers can take years to reach a state of being ready to blend.
When there are several barrels ready at the same time we’ll begin our tastings to identify which barrel will blend with which and which blend will work with the intended addition, be that fruit, hops or other. Sometimes this process is pretty simple and beers will jump out at us from the blending tests, other times we really have to carefully experiment with different proportions and blends to create the best possible combination for that particular beer.
Fruit & Hop Additions
Once we’ve decided on the blend, we’ll scale it up. If we’re dry hopping we’ll add the hops to a blending tank before moving beer onto them where it’ll steep for up to two weeks before we package the beer. Fruit on the other hand is a little different.
With fruit, we carry out a carbonic maceration – we receive frozen fruit which we add directly to an empty blending tank under a blanket of CO2. This fruit is then left to thaw and macerate over 7-14 days before we add beer on top of the fruit. This process aids in extraction of flavour and speeds up the process slightly. That said, beer still remains on fruit for up to six months before packaging.