For the past six weeks I've been learning firsthand about the differences between homebrewing and the world of commercial beer as a brewery assistant at Weird Beard. It's been extremely hard work but also very rewarding - the bruises, scaldings, thermal burns, chemical burns, cuts, grazes and acid swallowing was all worth it when drinking a cask of something I'd been involved in from brew to packaging.
One of the privileges of the past few weeks has been to design and brew a new beer with my fellow brewery assistant, Chris Taylor. Together with his partner Emma, Chris is one of the country's most talented homebrewers, and has been working part-time at Weird Beard for the past few months in addition to his full-time job. We've homebrewed together a few times, but it's been a lot more fun working with a kit 72 times bigger!
The idea for our beer came from my previous job. My old team drank a lot of fantastic coffee from the roasters at Hasbean - in particular, their blueberry-packed Yirgacheffe Naturals from Ethiopia. I brought my last pack of beans into the brewery on my first day, and while drinking it with Chris, we came up with the idea of brewing a Coffee IPA in the mould of Kernel's long-lost Suke Quto IPA.
Chris came up with a killer mix of Chinook and Amarillo hops to provide tropical fruit and some complexity, and Mosaic hops, both as a steep and dry hop, to complement the blueberry notes from the coffee. We wanted to aim for a very pale, clean and dry beer to let the hops and coffee sing, so the malt bill is very simple, with 95% pale with a little bit of wheat.
We added the coffee in three different ways - crushed in the underback, fresh French Press coffee added directly to the wort, and several kilos added to the fermenter along with the dry hops. We did almost manage to completely ruin an FV with the amount of hops and coffee beans we threw into it - but we think it was worth it. In lieu of a grinder, here I am smacking it up ready for the underback:
The first keg of Out of Office is going to be on the bar at my leaving party at Brewdog Shepherds Bush on Saturday 18th October, along with a couple of other Weird Beard rarities like Hive Mind (which has been reformulated for 2014) and the much-vaunted low-alcohol Dark Hopfler. Hope to see you there!