Brewing with BrewDog

Dead Metaphor – Scottish Chocolate Breakfast Stout

About a month ago Rich from thebeercast.com and I were invited to brew a beer with Brewdog. We both jumped at the opportunity and a few emails later the wheels were set in motion and the questions starting piling up.  What beer should we brew? What have Brewdog already done well? What haven’t they done?

My first thought was a stout.  Brewdog have done many fantastic hoppy beers so I think they have that well-covered.  Both Paradox and Cocoa Psycho are stunning imperial stouts and Rip Tide (when it is available) is great too, but to my mind they hadn’t really made a big splash with a milk stout.

The genesis for the idea to brew a milk stout came from three directions, Left Hand Brewing’s Nitro Milk Stout, To Øl’s Sort Mælk and Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Vanilla Shake. I’ve really enjoyed both the Left Hand and To Øl beers in the past but had never managed to get a bottle of Beer Geek Vanilla Shake but, my god, how good does that sound? So with those thoughts in motion, I mentioned my idea to brew a coffee, chocolate, vanilla milk stout. A really sweet beer, verging towards a dessert beer, but not as strong as the likes of Southern Tier’s Crème Brulee.

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Image courtesy of Brewdog (Zarah Prior)

After a few emails between Rich, James Watt and I, the beer became a coffee, chocolate, oatmeal milk stout or as I like to see it, a Scottish Chocolate Breakfast Stout. The concept was agreed on and now we had to make this idea a recipe. After looking around the internet for milk stout recipes I chose John Palmer’s Sweet stout taken from his book “Brewing Classic Styles” as a template from where we could begin. I quizzed people on twitter for coffee recommendations, chocolate and hops Melissa Cole suggested golden oats and brown malt, Ryan Reschan said Magnum hops all great ideas that found their way into the final beer.

With the electronic equivalent of the back of a cigarette packet, it was passed over to James and Stewart Bowman, Brewdog’s head brewer, to formulate a recipe and make this hair-brained scheme a well-considered blueprint for a dark beery breakfast.

5:14am Saturday 7th September 2013, Ibis Hotel, Aberdeen. I woke up with a woozy head and a million and one things running through my mind about the day that lay ahead of us. I couldn’t sleep, too excited like a child on Christmas day. After getting up and devouring a plate of greasy meat, Rich and I were met by Zarah, Sarah and George we jumped in a taxi bound for Fraserburgh. Thick fog filled the air as we neared the tip of the North East of Scotland, welcome to The Broch!

So this is it? This dilapidated old brick industrial unit is where Brewdog have been brewing from since 2007 until only a short while ago? I could only laugh in amazement that THIS is where all those beers were produced for so long. It’s fair to say the old brewery has changed a bit since the migration to Ellon and a lot of the kit has been taken out but this is where it all began.

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Image courtesy of Brewdog (Zarah Prior)

Shutter doors were rolled up and we stepped out of the rain into a familiar setting of concrete and stainless steel. The old brewhouse contains the HLT, mashtun, kettle and a number of fermenters. Basic by Brewdog’s standards but very similar to many micro breweries operating around the country. The two adjoining buildings house an impressive number of wood barrels containing beers ageing and maturing, waiting for their turn once the time is just right, to be bottled. The smell in these rooms was wonderful, earthy and slightly damp but with the “Angel’s Share” wafting around in the air.

Brewer George Woods is the lone-wolf brewer at the Dystopian Puppet Hobby Centre.  He worked the day whilst dragging on hand-rolled cigarettes, dressed in a battered Brewdog shirt and Select Botanicals Group “Simcoe” truckers cap. Despite the remote location this is his dream job, this is where Brewdog can really enjoy themselves and create all manner of brewing mayhem. He’s more a natural brewer than a cerebral one.  As he remarks, “Others brewers brew with their brains, we brew with our balls”.

George cranked up the 90s ska-core on the stereo and we got down to business. Lines of malt bags were opened and the HLT came up to temperature. George ascended to his roost on the platform next to the mash tun and switched on an engine that delivered the grain from the brewery floor up to the mashtun and it was Rich and my job to get that grain up there. We rolled up our sleeves and started dumping sack after sack of pale, black patent, brown, wheat, carafa, crystal malt and oats into this ramshackle device to create the mash bed. A fun start to the day and certainly shook off the cobwebs left by last night’s beers.

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Image courtesy of Brewdog (Zarah Prior)

 

Having mashed in, we took a table and chairs into the small patch of land outside the brewery bathed in sun. Zarah and Sarah wandered off to get some snacks for us and we grabbed a bottle of beer from a crate. Steven, one of the brewers at Ellon, dropped in to help out on the brew day on his day off. I’ve not laughed so much in a long time as he entertained us with stories of his time living in the area.

Due to certain restrictions with the kit, the run-off took quite a while so the next couple of hours were spent sipping on bottles of beer and troffing down a stunning fresh fish supper while George and Steven cleaned and prepared the fermenting tank for our beer.

Wort was transferred to the kettle and us lazy bloggers ventured back into the brewhouse. Rich had the questionable joy of digging out the mashtun as I stood on the floor piling it into a large hopper which was then taken away via a forklift truck. A heroic effort from our lad from Edinburgh, Rich mustered the last dregs of energy and hoisted himself out of the steel vessel. Digging a mash tun is in many ways akin to toiling a field of crops whilst in a sauna.

As this was going on, Brewdog’s Captain, James Watt, arrived. We discussed the finer points of the brew – Should we use cocoa nibs or 100% Venezuelan cocoa?  How much Brazilian Sertão coffee should we add? A small amount of Magnum hops were added for bitterness, plus shavings of 100% Venezuelan cocoa that had been grated down from stocky little bars of pure chocolate. Rich and I climbed back up to the gantry to add handfuls of cocoa for another photo opportunity. We then jumped in the car and left the real brewers to finish the boil , add the coffee and transfer it into the fermenters.

What an incredible day.

Dead Metaphor will debut at IMBC in October and then soon after will be launched at Brewdog in Edinburgh and Leeds by Rich and myself at our respective local bars.

I can’t wait to try it and hope you all enjoy it too.

Please check out Rich’s blog about our brewday: Dead Metaphor – a Brewdog brewday

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