GIVE IT A REST
Once primary fermentation has been completed, the beer is cooled down even further (to around 7 degrees) and left to rest. This is known as the conditioning phase. This is a crucial step in the brewing process in which all of the lovely flavours in the brew are allowed to develop and mature, we get rid of some of the unwanted flavours and more CO2 is produced, naturally carbonating the beer.
During the conditioning process, we crop (remove) the majority of the yeast used during primary fermentation while it is still active and healthy so it can be reused in another brew. If we were to leave all of this yeast in the brew it would eventually start to give us some unwanted flavours.
The length of this conditioning phase can vary depending on beer style, alcohol content and type of yeast used during primary fermentation. Generally speaking darker beers take longer than lighter beers to condition as the smooth, malty flavours can take longer to develop.
For many of our beers, including this Hurricane brew, 1 to 3 weeks is usually the perfect length of time for us to achieve the flavour profile and carbonation level we are looking for.
Once the beer has been conditioned, it’s almost ready to be packaged – whether that’s in cask, keg or bottle. This Hurricane brew is destined for the bottling line so it’s first filtered to remove as much yeast from the first fermentation as possible. We only do a light filtration, keeping mechanical intervention to a minimum which helps to retain all the vivid and defined hop flavours which can be stripped out by the sterile filtration of commercial bottlers.
As we bottle condition all of our beer we add fresh yeast and a little priming sugar, to the brew around 1 hour before it’s due to be bottled. We keep the beer cold at this stage so the yeast lies dormant until the beer is warmed up after bottling.
The beer is then fed through our bottling machine, affectionately named Priscilla by our head brewer Stuart! On a good day, when Stuart and Priscilla are getting along, we can bottle up to 4800 bottles of beer – that’s a lot of delicious fresh brew!
After the beer has been bottled, it’s placed in a warm room where it will sit for around 2 weeks at 20 degrees. The heat in the warm room actives the yeast in the bottles, triggering a secondary fermentation of the beer leading to more natural carbonation. This is a process that brewers have been following for hundreds of years and is a technique favoured by the exceptional brewing nation of Belgium and more recently in the US craft beer revolution. Bottle conditioning means we don’t rely on forced carbonation of our beers through the use of carbon dioxide. We think it gives a better flavour and allows the beer to develop in the bottle. In addition this natural carbonation process leads to finer, more champagne-like bubbles which again we think helps to enhance the flavour and gives the drinker an experience more akin to drinking a cask ale.
After the two weeks is up, we perform a number of checks on the beer before we release it for sale. These checks include making sure we’ve reached desired ABV and carbonation levels, as well as the all important taste test!
All that’s left to do is try the real thing for yourself!
If you’d like to find out more about our beers and explore the different styles we brew and how we make them, you can arrange a private virtual tasting with our resident beer geek (and Tap Room Manager) Andrew – find out more here.