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What is UBREW?
The company is owned by friends and home brewers Matthew Denham, and Wilf Horsfall. UBREW claims to be the, first and only, open brewery. Simply that means you join as a member, turn up, and brew your own beers with their professional equipment and a community of like-minded beer lovers. Initially the company sort backing from Crowdfunding sites in September 2014, they smashed their £3, 750 target (which would have allowed them one small quality kit to share between members) receiving £12,050 from 80 backers in just 42 days. This meant 300 people had bought memberships so far, and enabled them to buy 60 such kits.
Then in 2015 they headed back to another crowdfunding site Crowdcube with the aim of getting £75,000 which would provide them a home on a Bermondsey trading estate under a railway arch. They again smashed their target reaching in access of £110,000 allowing those who pledges 14.09% equity in the company.
The business today is still situated on that same site occupying two railway arches, the space is big enough to house 300 members, 60 small brew kits, a professional 5-barrel brewery and even a “tap-room” bar. The addition of the tap room bar has meant that they are now seen as part of the unofficial Bermondsey Beer mile. This is actually a 1.5 mile span of quality craft breweries In the Bermondsey are close to London Bridge. These include Anspach & Hobday (now also open Sunday 12:00 to 17:00), Bullfinch Brewery (now also open Sunday 12:00 to 17:00), Brew by Numbers, Kernel Brewery, Partizan Brewing and Fourpure Brewing. The tap room is open to members and non-members and supplies craft beer brewed at UBREW and other breweries.
What courses do they do?
The UBREW team currently host a single course roughly two times a month. The course is an All Grain Brewing course taught by professional brewers to anyone interested in brewing at any level. The courses tend to run on a Saturday afternoon from 12.30 to 5.30.
We set about our trip to Bermondsey in South East London. Having visited Bermondsey a number of times over the years, I must admit I hadn’t come across the location of UBREW before, however a quick check of Citymapper and some good signposting from UBREW along the way, we made it with time to spare.
We gathered in the tap room located in the left hand of the two railway arches, it consists of a number or benches, a foosball table and last but not least a bar playing host to a number of quality craft beers.
As it was 12.30, there was a tough decision to be made, to have a pint or not! I opted to wait having been on a number of brewery tours in the past I gathered there would be plenty of time for sampling the delights.
Our tutor for the afternoon lead us into the second of the two arches, where the courses and brewing takes place, there were a number of tables, containers, tubes and measures a bit like a lab.
Alcohol Emporium Tip – Make sure you wear suitable solid footwear that doesn’t leak, the brewing floor has a layer of water/excess beer on from the brewing process and throughout the day you will be standing in it.
Our group gathered a mixed bunch of ages and genders, which was great to see. After introductions from out tutor it also became clear that out group had little to no brewing experience including myself. This, however was no problem at all and is what UBREW set out to do, bring brewing knowledge to the masses.
Stage 1 (Part a)
We were handed a recipe and told todays brew would be an IPA Indian Porter.
We were introduced to our equipment for the day;
- A Strike water container or HLT pot
- The Mash Tun
- Sparge Water Container
Each of these containers cost around £300 each.
Stage 1 (Part b)
Now the group began to get hands on creating a porridge consistency with the grains in the Mashtun by slowly adding hot water from the HLT Pot and grain into the Mashtun.
We then had a taste of the different grains we would be adding;
- Marris otter (Sweet to taste and acts as a base malt of around 80%)
- Biscuit malt (biscuit taste)
- Acidulated malt (bitter taste)
- Black malt (coffee taste)
As you can imagine a number of questions spring to mind as you go along, the common ones from our group at this stage were;
- Q) If the ultimate temperature of the Mashtun is 66 °C, but the gauge is 63 – 68 °C do you use different temperature for different types of beer?
- A) A stout would require a slightly higher temperature
- Q) How do you increase the alcohol of the final brew?
- A) More grains vs volume
We used nine kilos of grain, so expect our final brew to be around 6.1% in alcohol percentage.
Once we had our porridge consistency we left the Mashtun to brew it for ideally 1hr (40mins to 1hr about right).
The grains used cost around £25- 30 for our batch which is enough for a 30 litre output.
At this point we were each handed 3 tokens (each worth 1 drink from the bar) and headed to the bar for the next 45 minutes or so. This gave the group a chance to bond and also the tap room had a number of casual drinkers. At this stage I was faced with a great list of craft beers and opted for an oyster stout brewed by Brew by Numbers (pretty much next door to UBREW on the beer mile).
Stage 2 (part a)
After our break we regrouped for the next stage of the process ‘Recirculation’ a process where you recirculate the Wert. This is done by draining water from the bottom of the Mashtun and then pouring it back over the top, we added a piece of tin foil with holes in to better move the sugar around before pouring what we had drained out, back in. This process takes 15- 20 mins and is to make the brew get clearer.
Stage 2 (part b)
Sparge – Drawing the wert from the mashtun into the boil kettle while pouring fresh water from the sparge over the top. Bring to the boil, leave to boil for 1 hr.
We now had the option to head back to the bar in the tap room for a further hour.
Alcohol Emporium tip: By this stage you will have been onsite from 12.30 until about 4pm, you will have consumed a number of different craft beers 3+. We would recommend either bringing a pack lunch or heading offsite to a local café at this point.
Stage 3 (part a) Hop Schedule
After our break we regrouped around our boiling pot. Here we would now add the hops.
The hops we used;
Adding the hops happens in the stages below;
- Bittering after 60 mins boiling – So these went in first
- Flavour hops go in with 15- 20 minutes left of the boiling process as these can be volatile.
- Aroma hops go in right at the end within 5 minutes or so. This stage you really can add any hops you fancy its trial and error.
Stage 3 (part b) Wert chilling
For this process we used a wert chiller, a home brewer may use an immersion pipe (a copper pipe which you flow cold water through).
Stage 3 (part c) yeast
Next we added the yeast the yeast by sprinkling on the top of our container. The yeast strain we used was SO4 (commonly used in the UK and produces malt flavours) our tutor usually uses US05 (an American yeast that gives a hoppy flavour) There is no harm in using both. After a while we aerated our brew by vigorously stirring to make bubbles on the top.
Name that brew
Our final step for the day was to name our brew, as a group we collectively came up with and voted on the name ‘Possibly Porter’. More than likely down to it being our first time doing the process and hoping we had done it right in order to create a decent porter type brew.
Our first batch has now gone to ferment for 2 – 3 weeks, before we have the option to collect and sample the delights of what can only be described as a day of learning, bonding, inspiration and intrigue. I now feel more confident that armed with a beer brewing kit, there is a chance I could create something drinkable.
I will update you when the batch is ready for sampling.
Note from Alcohol Emporium – In order not to ruin this unique experience for those wanting to attend a UBREW course we have covered the course steps at a high level and haven’t included ingredient quantities and exact temperatures. It is worth taking a note pad if you have specific questions as you may not remember what you were told the next day;) However the UBREW team will give you an ingredients sheet and step by step guide on the process covered on the day.
Where is UBREW?
29/30 Old Jamaica Business Estate, OLD Jamaica Road, Bermondsey, London, SE16 4AW, United Kingdom
Closest tube would be Bermondsey and then London Bridge
Bus route C10, 381, 47 or 188
How much is a course?
These courses are great for all levels of brewing experience from novice to expert. They would make a great stag do, Fathers Day or Birthday present for any beer fan.
The All Grain Brewing Course costs £99.04 (for roughly 5.5 hours of brewing) and includes all equipment needed and some beers along the way!
Gift Vouchers are also available.
How much is membership?
Membership on first impression seems steep at £60 per month, but that is for you plus 4 others! It also includes o use of professional brewing equipment. Hops, yeast & grains are extra (you would probably need £25- £30 additional per 30 litre batch).
For more information on any of the above visit the UBREW website.
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