Friday 31 March 2023
1. Walking/cycling/busing to work. An easy win: leaving the car at home for short journeys is a no-brainer, so that’s what we did.
2. Breadcrumbs: the guys at TOAST are pioneering the use of waste bread (there’s an eyewatering amount, daily) in brewing. We replaced 5% of our high footprint malted barley with negative footprint waste bread crumb.
3. Raw barley: the malting process adds footprint to barley, so we replaced a further 5% of our malted barley with raw barley. We can’t replace it all, because a) we need enzymes from the malt, so it wouldn’t work, and b) even if it did work, it wouldn’t taste like anything resembling a modern cask pale ale (ie, the brief).
4. Super Pale Malt: after barley is germinated by the maltster it needs to be dried in an oven, where it picks up a bit of colour. Super pale malt isn’t dried as much, using less energy in the process, and making our beer super pale!
5. Reduced boil time: this would have been a great idea, but we realised it wouldn’t produce a clear pint, and we couldn’t find a way round that in our brewery. We could make a cloudy beer this way, but that wasn’t in the brief either. So we binned the idea for now and will spend sometime pondering it. It would reduce our energy requirements significantly.
6. High gravity brewing: here the idea is to brew our sugary wort a bit stronger (5%), and water it down a little after the boil, saving on the energy used for boiling. This is relatively common practice and A Good Idea (but don’t take it too far, or the beer will be rubbish – Ed).
7. Using locally grown hops: hops grown within 30 miles, and delivered in bulk once a year, direct from the farm, have the edge over those shipped from afar in small amounts. This is common practice at GADDS where we use a lot of the fabulous East Kent Golding variety, grown up the road.
8. Using new UK hop varieties: ‘modern’ cask pale ale suggest some big, punchy flavours often found in hops grown in the USA, New Zealand or Australia. However, the UK hop industry, known primarily for its exquisitely balanced, classically understated hops, is fighting back, breeding some exciting new varieties full of intensity. We used Harlequin (passion fruit and peach) and Jester (grapefruit and tropical fruit) to flavour our IPA, and they were grown right here in the UK.
9. Solar: in brewing we control fermentation temperatures using electricity hungry chilling machines, and the stronger the sunshine and the warmer it gets, the more the machines work and use energy. Luckily for us, this suits solar panels perfectly as they work best when that sun is out. At GADDS’, on a reasonable day, all our electricity is provided by the solar array on the roof.
10. Carbon dioxide capture: all alcoholic fermentation produces CO2 at a rate of about 1 gram per gram of alcohol, so fermenting your evening litre of ale releases about 35 to 40 grammes into the atmosphere. But, this CO2 was absorbed from the atmosphere by the growing barley, so it’s classed as ‘biogenic’ and doesn’t increase your carbon footprint. That said, capturing the CO2 from fermentation is a super way of removing it from the atmosphere, so that’s what we do at GADDS’. Once it’s cleaned, purified and condensed into liquid in a mobile storage tank we take it over to the local bottling company, to be put back into beer.
11. Enzymatic cleaning: as every thoroughly modern householder knows, enzymes are the boss of cleaning these days, and they’re moving into the brewing industry. They’re very good at breaking proteins and starches down, and they’re environmentally friendly. Historically we brewers have used caustic soda at high temperatures – it’s quite a nasty chemical, with a high footprint, and we’re very glad to be seeing the back of it. All casks of Earth Day IPA will be cleaned with enzymes, as will the fermentation vessel.
12. Vegan finings: for the last hundred years or so brewers and wine makers have clarified their drinks using a protein derived, typically, from fish. We don’t know what the footprint of the fish is, but we do know they’d prefer to be left unmolested, so we’ve found an alternative method to drop the yeast out making Earth Day IPA vegan friendly.
13. For good measure, and to make up for not reducing our boil time (see 5), all Earth Day IPA will be sold in casks for consumption in the pub. This avoids single use packaging, stores the beer at 12°C in the pub (instead of 6°C in your fridge) and gets you all into your local hostelry, so you can switch the central heating off! Win:win.
We’re not claiming this beer will save Earth, but it was a lot of fun and allows us to open discussions on how we can all help to make a difference. Ours is the most ancient of industries, steeped in history and carried out using artisanal methods bestowed on us by previous generations. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change, and adapt, whilst retaining the fundamental way we make beer, and the consequent fabulous pint. So, whilst you sup on a pint or two of Earth Day IPA, raise a glass and TOAST everyone determined to make a difference.
Here’s to change!
PS Look out for Earth Day IPA in all the usual local East Kent hostelries of choice from around the 14th of April. Or come to our tasting, tickets here.
Friday 10 March 2023
Bakers (The Belgian Bar, for short). 21 years of ups and downs and changes and no changes, and we’ll all have time to reflect and recount on all things GADDS’, Kent, brewing, and beer over a few pints of iconic cask ale at the Brewery’s 21st Birthday Cask Beer Festival, at the GADDS’ Taproom, this Good Friday and Easter Saturday.
Of course, timing is everything and the worldwide craft beer movement (taking encouragement from Thanet CAMRA, no doubt) got underway. New breweries were springing up all over the place and the number in Kent began to rise from the 9 it had been stuck on for a few years (OK, name all 9?). Change was afoot for GADDS’ too, as we moved operations from the Belgian Bar to our new home up at Hornet Close, and focused on producing cask ale for the pubs and people of East Kent. But whilst the number of Kent breweries was rising, the number of handpumps available wasn’t (yet) and sales were flat, at that just-about-enough level. In the ‘old days’ we’d always get a decent mid-summer boost from the Canterbury branch of CAMRA, and their Kent Beer Festival, who could be relied upon to buy up to 10 kilderkins from each of the Kent breweries, equating to a 25% uplift in sales in a week for us at GADDS’. As the number of new brewery openings accelerated, this much appreciated bonus diminished, and we went off to music festivals, where cool, local cask ale found favour in an otherwise sea of short poured Heineken.
A couple of years after the big move to Hornet Close, a combination of a localism movement, the ongoing annual success of the Planet Thanet Easter Beer Festival, an emerging craft beer revolution, and a rise in the number of Kent breweries, produced a growing interest in (and demand for) local beer that finally began to take effect, and our phone started to ring. Local publicans were at last open to the idea that cask ale might just work for them. Sales rose strongly and we rebuilt the brewery, purchasing Dark Star’s old kit and tripling capacity. By this time we had long had our core beer range of Numbers 3, 5 and 7, alongside Seasider and Dogbolter, and we organised our specials into an annual seasonal range, adding such beers as She Sells Seashells, Rye Pale Ale and Summer’s Day.
It was in September 2009 that, taking inspiration from a visiting brewer from Falling Rock in California, we tentatively brewed our first batch of Green Hop Ale, not really knowing what we were doing, how it would turn out or what might happen next. The brewing gods smiled upon our efforts and the rest is history. The popularity of Green Hop Ale far exceeded anything anyone expected and continues to grow year by year, so much so that today we brew nothing else during harvest. Sadly in 2020, following a global collapse in demand for hops due to a big fall in beer consumption during lockdowns (I know, the headlines would have you believe we were all pickling ourselves in booze, but the truth is that the drop in hospitality drinking far exceeded the rise in home tippling), our much loved local farmer, Humphrey Hulme, was forced to quit his lifelong love of growing East Kent Goldings hops, and focus on his core fruit business. We’d used Humphrey’s EKGs in most of our beers for 18 years, and they had become the very lifeblood running through the brewery. These kind of blows can knock a business sideways, but this one turned out to be not so bad afterall – we moved our hop contracts over to the fabulous growers on Syndale Farm, John Clinch and his daughter Anna, who have produced, in the last two years, the most amazingly good EKGs this author has seen in 30 years.
Today, in 2023, in a post-pandemic world, with certain parts of the country (principally London) reporting plummeting cask ale sales, and brewers all over the UK moving into keg, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the future looks bleak for both GADDS’ and for CAMRA. Quite the opposite, in my mind – cask ale is the fastest, freshest way of producing beer, with the very least amount of processing, and, delivered to (and drunk in) a local pub it has the smallest carbon footprint of all the beers. It’s also extremely delicious, and these attributes will ensure cask ale will survive, and flourish, long into the future. And where there is cask, there is a local CAMRA branch.
Friday 2 December 2022
Friday 18 November 2022
Utopian: "modelled on, or aiming for, a state in which everything is perfect; idealistic."
Collaboration: "the action of working with someone, to produce something."
Also Utopian: "a fabulous craft brewery in Devon, specialising in perfecting the art of lager brewing with British ingredients."
Also collaboration: "the whole should be greater than the sum of the parts."
For a number of years we've harboured the desire to create a delicious pilsner using freshly picked, undried, 'green' hops (East Kent Goldings, to be specific) - crisp and clean, with an elegant, floral, green hop aroma. So when the good people at Utopian Brewing suggested a collaboration, we jumped at the chance.
It's finally ready, and you can order it here, in time for the official launch on Wednesday 23rd at both the Ravensgate Arms in Ramsgate, and at Topsham Brewery and Taproom, in Exeter, if you're down that way. Read on if you're interested in how it was brewed.
One of the secrets, the main secret in fact, to brewing great pilsner is in the fermentation - to secure the 'clean' part of the specification, this must be conducted at distinctly chilly temperatures of around 10°C, slowing the yeast down to a relative crawling pace. Now, our own yeast wouldn't get out of bed for anything cooler than 14°C but, luckily for us, the Utopian strain, no doubt (nefariously) first obtained from a centuries old Bavarian craft brewery in a hollowed out walking stick (or such), is a master of the colder arts. These ninja strains possess a princess and the pea characteristic, and must be protected from the real world at all costs - basically, if it isn't at just the right temperature, in just the right fermenting beer, in just the right shaped fermenting vessel, it has to be undisturbed, and close to freezing, in the dark confines of a medieval cellar below Munich. For this reason, very early on the morning of our brewday, the yeast was rushed up from Devon, packed in ice in the back of a brewers' campervan/yeast ambulance, compassionately cared for by the very highly qualified, German trained, Utopian Brew Master. This set the tone for our collaboration.
Syndale Farm near Faversham, towards the end of harvest, was the early morning meeting venue. Farming father and daughter, John and Anna Clinch, grow the very finest East Kent Golding hops in the world here - the 'brick earth' land blessed with cool, springtime, on-shore breezes and warm, sunny, mid-summer sunshine that this hop variety loves. Walking this land is essential to set the tone for green-hop-brewing, followed by hop chat with pickers and, finally, collecting a van full of freshly picked, green, and aromatic hop cones. It was a tough harvest this year, the bines coming under a lot of water stress due to drought conditions. This isn't good for the farmers as the crop is consequently short, but it's great for brewers and drinkers as the hop flavour and aroma tends to improve. These are the best EKG this author has seen in 30 years.
Once back at the brewery we made beer, mashing UK grown 'Czech' pilsner malt and loading our hop stash very late in the boil, before pitching the sleepy, unsuspecting Utopian yeast.
German trained brewers behaving strangely
Fermentation was cool, and slow; if it's a super clean brew you're looking for, you need to be patient. Once all the sugars have been used up, the temperature is dropped slowly, and daily, to get below zero without upsetting the pernickety yeast (most off-flavours in beer are due to brewers upsetting pernickety yeast).
After 2 weeks of fermentation, and 6 weeks of cold lagering, the Green Hop Pilsner was canned, and kegged, unfiltered. And here we are - it's in warehouse, and ready to ship on Monday.
We do our own thing at GADDS', and rarely collaborate, but we do strive for Utopia, and when we find it, this beer will be on tap.
Get some here, and use the code "sawitontheblog" for a 5% discount (a reward for reading all this way down the page, thanks).
Friday 9 September 2022
The UK’s small brewers (those producing below 100,000 HL/yr) account for the production of approximately 215 million litres of beer, at an average ABV of 4.6% (3.65% ABW). Taking into account fermentation vessel (FV) losses (10%), stoichiometry informs us that the total amount of CO2 produced by this fermentation is:
1.1 x 3.65% x 0.9565 x 215 = 8.26 million kgs, or 8,260 metric tonnes (t), or 0.038 kg/l.
Until very recently, all of this was vented to the atmosphere.
Of this beer, around 100 million litres are packaged flat, into cask. Therefore, 115 million litres of small brewery beer is carbonated, and, whilst some of this will undoubtably be carbonated via a spunded fermentation, the vast majority will rely on liquid CO2 purchased on the wholesale market, not only to carbonate the beer, but also to back pressure vessels and fillers in order to prevent that carbonation from escaping.
Bottling, canning and kegging in small brewery packaging facilities typically uses up to 0.05 kg per litre to carbonate the beer and run the filling machines. Therefore, as an industry, we are on the one hand releasing 8,260 t of CO2 into the atmosphere as a result of fermentation, and, on the other hand, purchasing 5,750 t of CO2 from the wholesale market to put back into the beer. In the days of plenty, marrying these two CO2 streams up (one out, the other in) via technology wasn’t considered worth the hassle, despite the engineering being already fully available (albeit in a macro form). Recent price rises in wholesale liquid CO2 (and a couple of industry-wide droughts of the stuff) have changed the dynamic; two firms have entered the market, seeking to provide a solution that matches up this supply with the demand, by capturing the evolved CO2, rendering it fit for use and liquidising it for storage and transport. Earthly Labs, based in the US, have developed a CO2 recovery unit for craft brewers above the 15k hl/yr scale, and have some units operational in the US. Dalum Beverage Engineering from Denmark have developed a unit suitable for brewers producing 5k+ hl/yr scale, of which there are two already operational in Denmark, a third recently installed at GADDS’ The Ramsgate Brewery in the UK, with more units on their way to the Faro Islands, Norway, Bristol and beyond. This paper is an attempt to explain the principles and reality of capturing fermentation-evolved CO2 from a small brewery, and transporting it to a craft drink packager for reuse, in place of wholesale gas.
The installed system consists of collection pipework, a foam trap, the capture unit and transport/storage vessels.
CO2 is collected from closed FVs via the CIP arm. Following the lag phase, active fermentation clears the vessel headspace gas (air) and the O2 content is monitored via a handheld unit held at the CIP arm. Once below 0.6%, the collection can begin. The CIP arm is connected, via a 1-inch braided hose, to a manifold leading to a 1-inch collection main, a PRV (in case of unit failure) and a foam trap. The system is designed to operate at 0.25 bar, a low enough pressure not to trouble the yeast or flavour profile of the beer.
From the foam trap, the CO2 enters the capture unit and is now monitored for O2 content by the unit. Should the O2 content stray above 0.6%, the gas is vented until O2 levels lower. In reality, oxygen levels in evolved fermentation gas fall to below 0.6% within a few hours and don’t increase thereafter.
Low pressure scrubber
The gas enters the base of a 3m tall, narrow cylinder filled with surface area busting stainless steel pall rings. Cold water is trickled down the column as the gas makes its way up it. Here, alcohols, esters and other impurities are picked up by the water (thereby separating them from the gas) and the resultant effluent is collected as a ‘grey’ water supply.
On leaving this column, the clean gas runs through a solids filter and onto a 3-stage compression process, with intermediate cooling and water removal stages. The Dalum designed, oil-free, variable speed, single stroke, 3-stage compressor is right at the heart of the unit. Gas is compressed to 35 - 45 bar in the multi-cylinder piston chamber, regulated to 60°C, and the moisture removed is collected as grey water. Between stages 2 and 3, the gas passes through a high-pressure sulphur scrubber.
The dry gas, now at ambient temperature and high pressure, passes through a column containing inert aluminium oxide desiccant, for super drying. The degree of dryness of a gas can be expressed in terms of the dew point – the temperature at which, under constant pressure, the gas has 100% humidity. The lower the dew point, the drier the gas. On exiting the dehydration columns, the CO2 has a dew point typically of -60°C.
At 35+ bar, the super dry gas now only requires cooling to 3 or 4 °C to liquify and enters a Dalum designed glycol cooled condenser, and on to a reboiler. Constant boiling releases O2 molecules from the liquid phase CO2, which migrate back through the condenser and are vented off periodically. Purified, liquid CO2 collects in a small tank at the end of the system and is pushed into 240 litre transport vessels.
Collection, storage and transportation
The brewhouse at GADDS’ produces 26 hl of wort per brew, fermented in either single or double batches under a top pressure of 0.25 bar. After a lag phase of around 8 hours, a single fermentation will evolve gas with an oxygen content below 0.5% and at a rate of 1.5kg/hr for approximately 48 hours. A handheld O2 monitor lets the brewers know when to hook up the fermentation to the collection system (generally 16 hours from yeast pitching). Some CO2 is lost through the initial stage of fermentation, due to high O2 content, and some remains in the beer at the end. With good management, 75% yields have been achieved, with an oxygen content of <6 ppb, measured with an Orbisphere (wholesale liquid CO2 at the bottling site measures 20 ppb O2). A burette is used to demonstrate purity >99.99%.
The vacuum insulated transport tanks, mounted on a skids with casters, and equipped with internal vaporisers, are used to store and transport the collected gas to the bottling site. Under the ‘small limit’ threshold of 1000kg for CO2, these can be transported legally without any onerous specialist safety equipment.
Once off-loaded at the bottling site the tanks are connected to the CO2 systems simply via a standard 3/8-inch line and a secondary regulator. Due to the high quality, this recovered gas is reserved for carbonation rather than providing back-pressure in vessels and fillers.
This compact unit has a footprint the size of a pallet, but delivers a game-changing service to the small brewer. The engineering is inspired, and the quality of the build first class. This isn’t a noisy machine; it sits and rumbles quietly, hissing every now and then to let you know it’s still working. And though reliability is excellent, you won’t get the best out of the unit unless you make the effort to engage with the principles, learn to drive it, and flex your collection system to suit. This is all well within the reach of the practical brewer, and there’s a handy remote management system that records and rewards your efforts. In the interests of balance, I’m desperately trying to find something negative to say about this, but I can’t. In my opinion, as an engineer turned brewer, this is awesome.
 This report is primarily about technology that has recently become available to the smaller brewers – it has been available to those brewers above 100k HL for some years.
 SIBA Members Survey 2021
 Balling, Carl. J. N., Die Bierbrauerei. Verlag von Friedrich Temski: Prague, CHZ, 1865.
 SIBA Members Survey 2021
 South East Bottling internal audit.
Friday 12 August 2022
Brewing beer involves the fermentation of sugars (from malted barley) by yeast, producing alcohol, and carbon dioxide (CO2) which is largely vented off to the atmosphere. The very largest brewers, your Heinekens and your Molson Coorses, have huge great bits of equipment that capture this CO2, purifying it and condensing it into a liquid form they can then use for the kegging, canning and bottling of the beer. The smaller brewer, however, cannot capture this CO2 and must let it go, and then, in a cruel twist of circumstance, buy liquid CO2 to put back into the beer and to run the kegging, canning and bottling machines. Crazy eh?
But not for much longer. A genius Danish engineer, Kim Dalum, has successfully miniaturised the CO2 capture technology for use in smaller breweries, and the very first one in the UK is here at GADDS’, undergoing full sea trials.
To give you an idea of the scale of the CO2 given off during fermentation – here at GADDS’ it accounts for around 25% of our carbon footprint. We’re hoping to capture 2/3rds of this, reducing our fp by 17% in one go. We then sell the purified CO2 to our bottling company who will put it back into our bottled beers, reducing their footprint at the same time. Our aim is to prove the technology and concept, and then show other small brewers how it can help them, and their footprint.
Back the engineers, they have the answers.