Beer is a thing of beauty, it has thirst quenching capabilities and if consumed correctly can make you dance 23% more impressively.
When Stewart Brewing got in touch about their Craft Beer Kitchen and Brewery Tour we got so excited, we felt a little out of our depth though, we’ve only ever brewed cups of tea and we even have different approaches to that!
We had three weeks to do some extensive research, by which we mean visiting pubs and tasting lots of different beers. EdinBloggette and I have different tastes in beer, so had to think long and hard about what to brew as a team of two.
What is Craft Beer Kitchen?
It is a facility whereby anyone and everyone can brew their own beer. Stewart Brewing’s Master Brewer guides you through the process from start to finish, you even get to design your own labels for the bottles. It’s an experience suitable for beer novices as well as fully fledged beer geeks! The Craft Beer Kitchen is the very first of its kind, not only in Edinburgh and Scotland, but further still, in the U.K.
Where is it?
The Craft Beer Kitchen is situated in the main 50 Hecto-Litre Stewart Brewing premises, you get to create your own beer in the heart of a working brewery. Outwith public use, the Craft Beer Kitchen is used by Stewart Brewing to trial new and innovative recipes and to fine tune any existing brews.
Emily Gray from Stewart Brewing talks about the range of beers that customers have brewed so far:
“From a Rhubarb Sour to a gorse flower infused brown ale, recipe wise, the Craft Beer Kitchen has certainly been put to the test. The results have been incredible and I guess that is part of the appeal; our brewers look after the customer’s beer to ensure it ferments and conditions properly. Or perhaps more importantly; tastes amazing.”
This post is going to have a blatant alcohol theme, if you are under 18 you should only read this for educational purposes:
”Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.
– Arnold Schwarzenegger
Right, disclaimer out of the way, time to continue…
Although we talked a great deal about the type of beer we would brew in the run up to our big day, we hadn’t really settled on anything other than its name:
We’re all about branding, but didn’t want to scrimp on flavour or quality either. This was to be a refreshingly crisp beer that would taste like Summer.
Luckily our lack of knowledge wasn’t an issue, Miller, the Master Brewer, was on hand to answer any of our questions and walk us through the process of brewing our very first beer.
The day started off well with a couple of breakfast beers, followed by some brunch beers. This was all in the name of research, we had to become one with the final product.
Rather than go wild and create something experimental, we wanted a reliable tasty beverage, one with a slight hint of citrus that was not too bitter and not too strong. We’ll have to come up with something better than that for the label though…
First up, malt, amber malt to be precise. This was our first lesson of the day, malt is a grain that was made to germinate and then halted. By starting the germination process a grain produces enzymes that would turn starches into sugars.
I avoided any comparisons to Breaking Bad, until I spotted Crystal Malt. Yeah! Science Beer!!
A little wheat was thrown into the mix and we began grinding our malt, this was a hands-on activity requiring absolute teamwork. Even though the tasks were quite involved we still managed to capture all of our activities on camera.
Phew, that was hard work. Luckily we still had plenty of brunch beer to quench our thirst and ensure inspiration remained at an all time high.
Our brewing experience took place metres away from the actual brewery, a fellowship of fermentors watched over our every move, hopefully our beer will be so good that it needs to make use of these bad boys next time.
Craft Beer is a funny thing, I’d never heard of it until a couple of years ago and now it’s everywhere. As suspected, it’s always been around, it’s just got a fancy new name. Basically craft beer is brewed on a small scale using traditional methods and quality ingredients, it might not be as cheap as some of the big brands but it’s sure to taste better (in our humble opinion).
”Beer, it’s the best damn drink in the world.
– Jack Nicholson
Brewing beer is a lot like brewing tea. Miller didn’t say this, but it’s what I took from the day.
Our wheat and malt was poured into a giant tea bag and left to stew in the Craft Beer Kitchen kettle. At this stage I was wondering how I’d be able to install one of these in EdinBlogger HQ, the study isn’t going to know what hit it!
Brewing takes time, so we ventured back to the shop to taste some more beer (again, for research purposes).
The shop has a whole host of beers to try and buy, we assumed that the shop was an add-on to the brewery and didn’t think too many people would be visiting, the steady flow of customers proved us wrong – one customer even popped in to fill up his growler, what’s a growler I hear you ask?
A growler is a giant glass beer vessel, sold in two sizes (the smaller one has been dubbed a squealer). We think these are great value at £8 for 1 litre and £15 for 2 litre, especially as it includes your first fill of house beer. Refills come in at £4 – £5 for 1 litre and £7 -£9 for 2 litres. We love the concept, so simple and functional, perfect for house parties and eco-friendly. It’s safe to say I wanted one, but with limited fridge space I had to hold off (until I get a beer fridge).
It was time to get back to work, next up, malt extract.
It was a sack of sweet syrup, very hypnotic to watch as it oozed out and also very heavy – this brew day was starting to seem like a workout, time for another sample to replenish my reserves.
The malt extract was then spooned into our brew, I’m an expert pourer and EdinBloggette is quite the stirrer, so we each played to our strengths.
So far, so good! Our pale ale was coming along nicely.
It was time for some hops, these provide bitterness to balance the sweetness from the malt, different strains of hop will create different flavours. Our recipe is top secret and should, in theory, create a perfectly balanced beer.
”He was a wise man who invented beer.
It was time to leave our brew to stew, we took another break, tried more samples and played a game of table tennis. There’s a lot of waiting involved when brewing beer so the table tennis table was a stroke of genius – although high winds meant I kept losing. Yes, that’s right, I’m blaming the wind.
Miller then gave us a tour of the brewery, we learned a little more about Stewart Brewing Ltd and how each of our tasks translate to the larger scale. One thing that amazed us was the bottling facility, it was all done by hand using actual people. Next time you open a bottled beer from Stewart Brewery, take a moment to think that the bottle cap was put there by a person, not a machine.
We’d done so much, our day was whizzing by, our beer was missing one key ingredient. Right now we had a malty-hoppy brew, but no alcohol, something needed to be done about this!
Time to activate some yeast.
Yeast is amazing. A living organism put on this Earth to consume sugar then produce alcohol and CO2 for us to make beer, oh and let’s not forget bread. Beer and bread, two of the greatest (tasting) things you can consume, all thanks to yeast!
Our yeast was set aside to do its thing, in the meantime we added more hops to our brew. These hops were going to deliver most of the flavour, as the previous batch would have boiled away too much. The hops all have such great names, cascade was one of ours and would give us a flowery citrus-like flavour, the other hops are top secret.
Our brew was then cooled and piped off into barrels ready for fermentation. We had a taste of our murky brown concoction, it was not the most refreshing brew. Thankfully this wasn’t the end product, we still needed to add the yeast and give our brew a few weeks to ferment. Miller carried out an experiment with our brew and was able to deduce that the beer would be a little higher in alcohol content than we first anticipated, a happy accident.
”I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer.
– Homer Simpson
With our yeast poured, our EdinBrew was complete.
The hardest part is also the longest part, waiting. We’ve got another two weeks to wait before we can taste the finished product, there’s still a little work to be done in the meantime though. The graphic design team of EdinBlogger HQ need to come up with a label for the bottles. We’ve already got the name, but will have to pre-empt the beer’s taste to add a suitable description to our label. We can’t wait to share the finished design with you and to get our first taste of EdinBrew!
Two absolute novices brewed their very own batch of beer, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank Miller and all the team at Stewart Brewery for their hospitality. We had such a fantastic day, we learned so much and have a much deeper appreciation for beer as a result.
I can imagine folk with an understanding of the process would have even more fun than us, they could go wild with their brew and make something truly unique.
Here are a few of the past brews at the Craft Beer Kitchen, we can’t wait for ours to sit alongside them.
I keen to try this at home, much to EdinBloggette’s horror, I already have far too many hobbies on the go, we’re running out of space for all my projects.
The brewday would make such a good gift for beer enthusiasts, recent groups include a stag party (making a nice changes from paintball and go-karts), a couple ready to tie the knot brewed a batch for their wedding and a group celebrated an 18th birthday – what a great introduction to the world of beer.
We would happily return to do this all over again, we played it safe with our recipe on this occasion, but next time we ‘d incorporate some more unusual flavours.
Brews are available in batches of 40 and 80 litres. Emily Gray explains: “in drinkers talk, that’s 6 or 12 cases of 12x500ml bottles”. Packages start at £160 and prices are inclusive of the finest brewing ingredients, top notch tuition, bespoke labels, and beer samples while you brew! We think this is great value for money, it was such a great day out, not only will you learn loads but you’ll come away with 72 bottles of your own brand of beer.
For more information, please visit Stewart Brewing.
The gift shop has recently been awarded a 4* rating from Visit Scotland and their wall is running out of space for awards.
Here at EdinBlogger, we have our own award system and whilst our brewing adventure isn’t yet complete we will happily give Stewart Brewing an EdinBraw seal of approval:
Let’s finish with one final beer quote, this is one I should probably pay attention to:
”Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.
– Ernest Hemmingway