Hook Norton brewer: high quality and value level key for cask’s future

Hook Norton brewer: high quality and value level key for cask’s future

That is the opinion of Hook Norton brewery supervisor Andy Thomas who not too long ago reached the ultimate three in an Untapped beer brewing competitors by means of a HIT Training programme.

On high quality, the 31-year-old explains: “One factor with Hook Norton is all our pubs are in a 50-mile radius. That means we actually do have good management on our cask beer.

“It’s a giant factor for us to have that management. We’re all the time ensuring high quality will be higher. We do cellar programs as effectively so anyone who works in our pubs goes on a course.

“We even have a strict regime on the brewery the place now we have our pattern room, so we’re all the time tasting the beer as effectively. This means now we have a ‘recent’ and ‘mid life’ and the ‘greatest earlier than’. We’re continually checking it by means of its course of to ensure there are not any points.

“If we do get a pub that claims it isn’t certain if this beer is true, we are able to return to that cask and examine it for any points. So, sure, we’re very tight on that.”

He provides the Banbury, Oxfordshire-based brewery tells the licensees and managers of its 30 pubs – and the websites they promote to that aren’t Hook Norton pubs – if they aren’t certain concerning the high quality of a beer, inform them so it may be checked first fairly than promoting a beer that’s “not so good as it must be”.

He says: “We bought 5 stars in just about all our pubs for high quality management from Cask Marque previously yr.”

Big problem

Thomas started working for Hook Norton within the barrel shed seven years in the past. His job included cleansing cask barrels earlier than he progressed.

He reveals: “I needed to get into beer and brewing, and needed to be taught extra about it, so went from the cask cleansing space after which labored my method up. About three, 4 years in the past, simply earlier than Covid, I bought the job as brewery supervisor.

“It’s a giant problem as a result of the brewery might have fairly simply introduced in somebody with extra expertise however they needed to somebody from in-house.”

His job now includes coping with all of the substances coming in from the world over. He works with maltsters, Charles Faram on the hops the brewer makes use of plus all the opposite contacts and suppliers regardless of having a brewhouse workers of simply 5 individuals.

Sure, there’s the much less thrilling facets corresponding to paperwork and audits Thomas can also be very concerned with the brewing aspect of issues together with analysis and improvement (R&D).

“We’re very fortunate Hook Norton are very forthcoming with us and permit us to make new beers and having a play with the pilot brewery,” he says.

Thomas explains how he used the experimental brewing package to make his personal beer for the HIT Training competitors.

“I did a little bit of R&D down within the pilot plant and, from there, brewed a beer so we’re very fortunate in that method.

“We have loads of free rein, and with the brand new taxes [that are lower when breweries manufacture beers at 3.4% and below] we take into consideration brewing to these ABV ranges a bit bit extra now.

“We’re not attempting to do 6%, 7% and eight% beers as a lot now, and [the stronger variants] should not actually our market, so we’re actually enjoying round with these decrease ABVs in the mean time.”

Tax bracket

Hook Norton’s flagship beer Hooky is a 3.4% ABV bitter so is in that tax bracket and was already there earlier than the responsibility charge for sure proportion drinks was launched.

We do get free reign to do another beers and it’s not simply James [Clarke, Hook Norton managing director] or me who’re making the recipes, the boys will come to us and say ‘oh I’ve bought this concept, can I give it a go?’ and more often than not it’s a ‘sure, go for it’.

“We have our core seasonals which were round for some time however with the pilot plant, we do promote these however we don’t actually push them out as seasonals.

“If we brew it, we’ll then promote it together with our advertising workforce.

“We additionally take into consideration the time of yr if one of many lads says to us ‘can we brew a stout?’ and it’s center of August, we’re more likely to say ‘let’s maintain off and possibly do it later within the yr’.”

Yet a few of the beers which have began off within the pilot plant – which has a capability of 5 brewers’ barrels, which is the equal of about 1,440 pints of beer – have ended up going into the “huge brewery” after which gone business.

Thomas gave a rundown on the HIT Training course that he studied at Nottingham University.

He explains: “You go on an apprenticeship course for 18 months and undergo the entire brewing course of from uncooked supplies to the completed product. I consider you go to the college six instances inside these 18 months for 2 days.

“You will work on a sure facets when on the college so it is likely to be mashing after which the subsequent one is likely to be brewhouse after which boiling and all by means of the entire course of to beer ending.

“After the 18 months, you’ll then you might have a check and a stroll spherical of your individual brewery the place the examiner will provide you with questions and it’s important to clarify how your brewhouse does it but in addition how different brewhouses do it and what different tools you should utilize and issues like that as a result of each brewery is totally different.

“It’s an excellent course and I used to be going to do it earlier than Covid however ended up doing it after the pandemic.”

Great expertise

Emanating from this, he acquired an e mail from HIT saying it was operating an Untapped beer competitors the place brewers needed to put a recipe collectively and ship it again for paper judging.

A panel then appeared by means of all of the entries and from there they introduced it down to 6 entries and people six individuals then needed to brew their beer so Thomas did simply that at Hook Norton and despatched it again.

The remaining six was quickly minimize to a remaining three and Thomas had made the minimize and went to The Oval cricket floor in central London the place the ideas of the judges got and a winner chosen.

Although Thomas didn’t win, he mentioned “it was a very nice expertise”.

He states: “I used to be very shocked. I’m not going to lie. I didn’t count on to go that far into it however I needed to do that beer, which is known as Millhop (5.2% ABV).

“I needed use simply the 4 substances of malt, yeast, water and hops, and I needed to supply a beer that was fairly a standard English IPA however with a twist so I used a hop known as Harlequin, which is an English hop that’s fairly new within the Charles Faram hop breeding programme.

“It got here out commercially about three or 4 years in the past and I needed to advertise {that a} bit as a result of some individuals would say English hops should not fairly of the requirements of American hops with the enhance in aromas, and so forth. whereas I consider in case you work with these hops in the fitting place, you’ll be able to actually get these notes​, and I used to be very pleased with it.

“I additionally needed to market it in cask as a result of Hook Norton is predominately cask and I needed to let individuals know there’s so many nice beers on the market in cask and that you may actually do no matter you need with cask – if it’s hoppy, it doesn’t have to enter a keg and be chilly and fizzy, for instance.

“When we brewed it, it did truly exit commercially. We didn’t transfer it as much as the larger aspect of the brewery however offered the remainder of what I brewed and it offered out. That’s all the time signal when it sells out and I heard some good suggestions from a few our pubs the place it was in the stores.”

Thomas provides Millhop is more likely to come again subsequent yr however most likely gained’t be brewed till “it begins getting a bit ‘summery’ once more”.

The cut up of brewing at Hook Norton, is 60% cask, 10% keg and 30% bottled – most bottles go to supermarkets, some go to pubs and a few are even being despatched to Australia.

Thomas says: “We are sending a few our merchandise to the Czech Republic: our Double Stout (4.8% ABV) and our Old Hooky (4.6% ABV) goes into kegs after which will get despatched out to the Czech Republic – that’s been a very nice enhance.

“But we’ve seen a 20% drop in cask however we all know that’s taking place in every single place.”

Try a pin

When quizzed on the standard facet of cask beer when needing to be offered inside a three-day window, Thomas mentioned: “That is the battle in the mean time. We have tried to assist as a lot as we are able to. We purchased about 200 pins (4.5-gallon containers) to assist pubs. If they aren’t fairly promoting a firkin, attempt a pin.

“A pub is aware of it has three days with that pin and the subsequent one is stillage and able to go. It helps when a firkin takes up loads of house as effectively.

“If you’re then promoting that pin in two or three days that’s nice, we’d fairly you try this than have a firkin on and attempt to get 4 or 5 days out of it and lose that high quality.

“Customers have a look at the model, not the pub, if that pint is dangerous.”

Customers usually count on cask beer to be cheaper on the bar however how can that be the case when a lot effort goes into it and it’s the envy of bars the world over?

Thomas says a brewer ought to work out the worth you cost by gauging your product on how good it’s.

He argues: “We’ve seen over the previous few years breweries entering into there and undercutting [the price of cask] a bit bit. It’s making your product not value what it must be.

“People count on cask to be cheaper, nevertheless, Timothy Taylor’s, for instance, is an costly cask to purchase however when it’s good, it’s bloody good – they need to cost that value.

“We additionally cost what we predict that beer is value and most weeks we’re promoting 30 to 40 brewers’ barrels of Hooky – that’s rather a lot for cask however individuals are shopping for it as a result of they know they’re going to get product.

“If that pub doesn’t need to pay that and need to go together with any individual cheaper then truthful sufficient, stand your floor and say that is what my product is value and I’m going to maintain it this value. I’m not going to drop it.”

Thomas provides pubs are combating as exhausting as some other business and may, equally, stand agency on an honest value for cask.

“If we went to a pub they usually mentioned ‘I’ve simply purchased this beer for £60 and also you’ve bought to match it with yours’, in I’d be like, ‘effectively, no, I’m not going to cost that. If you need to have it, you’ll want to settle for our value’,” he says.

“We’re not going to undercut our product as a result of all you do then is extra hurt down the road for everyone else.”

Relationship is vital

The cask argument goes full circle again to high quality for Thomas.

He says: “There is that stigma a bit bit nonetheless to at the present time with cask such because it’s bought to be this or that color and so forth however the principle factor is high quality. We can speak all day about the way it ought to look however we must be concentrating on high quality and that’s what we do right here with our entire 50-mile radius factor.

“Getting management of it’s the most important factor and having that relationship between the brewery and the pub is vital. We have our brewers exit with our gross sales guys and they’re going to have a day in commerce. We’re inspired to exit have a half-pint to examine it.

“If the standard isn’t there, we’ll speak to the pub and get it sorted. That doesn’t occur fairly often however we’re all human and it does occur.”

He believes the cask beer market will decline a bit bit extra however will plateau after which rise a bit bit extra once more as a result of there might be a development of it coming again.

“It’s like the entire thing vinyl records – they was outdated however they’re coming again once more,” he argues.

“I believe that would be the identical with cask beer. We’ve bought all these different breweries doing a little bit of cask beer, those that predominantly make cans or keg they usually’re placing a cask beer on the bar as a result of they understand it’s product.

“We want the bar workers to speak to clients and attempt to push cask a bit. If individuals are available and say ‘what beers have you ever bought?’ Try to push these cask beers.

“If we are able to get that product to be tasting good for these three days after which taking it off, whether or not it’s a firkin or a pin. The backside line is high quality and we have to get that again once more and type of fall again in love with it once more.”


by way of MorningAdvertiser All News https://ift.tt/DNsuA3v

November 10, 2023 at 02:29PM

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