From the Duke of Cumberland’s Head, we were off in the morning to our tour of the Hook Norton Brewery, an old brewery making beer in the traditional way, powered by a steam engine. At the end of the tour, beer tasting!
This is the steam engine and the water pumps. They’re used to pump water and power all of the other functions of the brewery, like grinding grains, though they added electric power recently, they still use the steam engine some days.
The teeth of the gears that run the rest of the machinery are made of wood, so if there’s a jam, some of the teeth will shear off and the system will stop. It’s cheaper and easier to replace the wooden teeth than to bend or break something more expensive and tough to remake.
Beer making goes like this:
Grains ( Barley, typically ) is malted by getting it wet and allowing it to germinate, turning some of the starches in the grain into sugars over the course of several days. Depending on the type of beer you want, some of the grain may be browned by cooking it. The Hook Norton Brewery used to do this themselves, but the process takes a lot of space, so now they buy malted grains and have turned the old malting building into a very nice visitor center and museum.
From there, the grain is cracked into GristÂ to allow easier dissolving of the sugars into water. The grist is added to warm water which dissolves the sugars and starches in the grain.
This sweet-smelling solution is called Wort. The spent grains are filtered out ( and sold as livestock feed ) and the wort is transferred to a large kettle.
The wort is boiled to kill any bacteria and further break down the sugars. Hops ( a bitter flower grown on a vine ) for bitterness ( to balance out the sweet malt ) and flavor.
Wort is cooled and moved to a fermenting tank where yeast is added. So far, this process has taken about half a day.
The wort/yeast combination is left for about a week while the yeast converts the sugars and starches into alcohol and carbon dioxide. At the end of the week, the yeast is removed ( some is kept for the next batch ) and you’ve got Beer!
Finally, Hook Norton puts most of their beer in Kegs for delivery to pubs. Unlike most tap beers in the U.S., traditionally made ales and beers in the U.K. are not pressurized with Carbon Dioxide. They Carbon Dioxide stays in the beer from the brewing process and the beers are pumped out of the kegs at the bar using a hand pump.
Hook Norton is also unusual in keeping a small stable of horses to use to deliver their beers to local pubs.
At the end of the tour we got to sample all the Hook Norton beers. Those large handles are for the beer pumps. Rather than just moving it a little and beer comes out until you push the lever back, the bartender has to pull the handle with some effort several times to get a pint. Thus the phrase “pulling a pint”.
Jeanette, to her own amazement, found the Hooky Double Stout to be her favorite of the beers. There is suspicion that she might actually like Guinness, too. (Jeanette writes: Never!)
We also bought a few souvenirs for our lounge. I got a cool Hook Norton apron for making Happy Hour pizzas.