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Monday, 23 March 2015

Macc Homebrew Goes To Chorlton Brew Co...

It’s exciting times for beer at the moment, especially around the North West, with new breweries popping up at a rate of knots producing some truly superb beers. One such brewery to hit the scene recently is Chorlton Brewing Company. Having only been brewing since December last year, these upstarts really caught my eye as they predominately focus on brewing unfined sour beers, using long forgotten recipes with a hint of a modern twist...and I'm not talking a slice of lime here! One such beer is Dark Matter, a cascadian gose, which tastes like nothing I've ever tasted before, with the classic gose tartness playing off against the dark rich malty backbone of a BIPA. If you haven’t already tried it, definitely seek out a bottle!

I had previously tweeted the owner, Chorlton Mike (as named so not to get confused with Homebrew Mike), to persuade him to attend one of our future club meets. He kindly obliged and suggested that we were also welcome to visit the brewery at any time. I thought this would make for a good change of scenery so I planned to throw the idea on the table at the next meet and maybe arrange to pop in one weekend to help out. Before I’d even had chance to mention it at the February meet, Chorlton Mike had tweeted the unfortunate news that he was in hospital with a suspected broken leg, after a pallet of kegs fell on him! He was going to be out of action for weeks, which isn't a great position to be in with a fledgling brewery to run, so it was the perfect time to offer our assistance.

After a few DMs between some of the Macc Homebrew gang and Chorlton Mike, it was sorted - myself, Tom and Homebrew Mike had volunteered to help on the following Tuesday. This turned out to be the perfect day, a sour mash was planned for the Monday that would require finishing off the following day, and a clean IPA was also on the cards. It was going to be a seriously busy day!

In true new brewery fashion Chorlton Brew Co. is located in a railway arch, just outside of Piccadilly station, under the main line from London to Manchester, in an area that is becoming a hive of brewing activity. Within a 5 minute radius of Chorlton you’ll find Track, Alphabet, Privateer, Squawk and the new super brewery Cloud Water.

We had an idea of the general location of the brewery (there’s only so many archways), but with no signs to indicate which arch was home to Chorlton Brew Co, we did end up wandering around for a short time. We figured we were getting close when we spotted a barrel with an airlock seemingly abandoned on the street. As it was, it turned out to be home to a Brett starter they had been cultivating, segregated from the brewery so not to infect any of the clean beers. We decided to take a punt and open the door in the archway opposite...bingo, we were greeted by the smiling faces of Chorlton Mike and his assistant Alexx.

After the introductions the day couldn't have got off to a better start, with the offer of a bacon butty and a sample of Woodruff Berliner Weisse to wash it down. We’re all brewers, so will quite happily work for food and beer. The previous days sour wort was not quite sour enough, needing a couple more hours for the microbes to work their magic. So most of our morning comprised of cleaning the place up and prepping for the next brew, a Vienna heavy IPA, hopped with Nugget and Simcoe, weighing it at 6.4%. This beer was ticking all the right boxes for me!

With one and a half brews on the go, it was a bit of a juggling act. We shifted one brew from one vessel to make room for another, all without touching the HLT which was all set and ready to go for sparging. For the Chorlton guys it's still an evolving process, especially considering the average brew length for a sour being two days.

After mashing in the IPA, there was plenty of free time whilst we waited around for starches to convert and boils to boil. This gave the perfect opportunity to partake in a few samples and chat about stuff and nonsense - future plans for the brewery, beer ideas and the annoyance of label collectors. The beer was flowing (into our mouths), however, having both the excellent Dark Matter and Calibration Sour on tap, this maybe was a daft idea with such high volumes of hot and caustic liquids around. We weren't screaming health and safety, it was a measured risk worth taking!

With yet more waiting around for things to happen, we made ourselves useful and cracked on with some labelling and boxing up of the Berliner Weisse for you lucky people. For myself the day ended here, with the 6:35pm train back to Macclesfield, leaving Tom and Homebrew Mike to continue into the night. It was only the next day, when I scanned through Twitter, that I realised just how long a brew day it had been, with the yeast being pitched at 1:30am due to pump failures!

These guys still have a way to go until they get on some solid footing, but the main thing is, they're out of the traps brewing some fantastic beers that people appear to be enjoying, so things can only get bigger and better. I'm seriously looking forward to what they have in store for us in the future.