Whilst in the UK over the Christmas holiday period I had the chance to meet up with a brewer from my hometown area in the North-East of England. Andrew Smith is the owner of The Gainford Beer Cooperative which began life in 2013, we met for lunch to chat about his brewery venture.
Andy spent 10 years homebrewing beer and particularly enjoyed researching traditional recipes then replicating them with an emphasis on using the correct ingredients, dialing in the process and only ever changing one aspect for each iteration in order to more accurately assess the impact of any change on the resulting beer.
He has a 10 gallon system at home comprising of the following:
- Electric Boiler which doubles as an HLT (Hot Liquor Tank) and Brew Kettle
- Cooler-based Mash Tun with fly-sparge
- Copper coil chiller
This system is still used for brewing test batches for the brewery.
In 2013 Gainford Beer Cooperative Ltd was formed and teamed up with Wall’s Brewing in nearby Northallerton to start producing experimental batches using their 5.5 BBL (British Barrel) system which comprises of the following:
- Mash Tun with fly-sparge and stainless-steel false bottom
- Electric Boiler (used as the Brew Kettle)
- Hop Rocket (optional)
- Plate Chiller
- Fermenters (1000 imperial pint or 125 imperial gallons converted dairy tanks)
This contract brewing arrangement works well for both companies as it allows Gainford Beer Coop to produce full batches without the need for major investment in equipment and premises whilst at the same time enabling Wall’s Brewing to fully utilize their system when not being used to produce their own beers.
Branding & Bottling
The original beer labels used by Gainford Beer Coop were designed in-house but recently these have been revamped by Curious12.com with each label explaining the company’s values on one side and describing the beer on the other.
Most of the beer produced is bottled and sold through various local shops with some also being kegged for pubs and the occasional festival. Sales is largely carried out by word of mouth and direct marketing within the area.
Following primary fermentation at the brewery the beers are siphoned into plastic casks for lagering (which includes the ales) and then they are primed with liquid sugar for a few hours before bottling the beer ready for conditioning, sale and ultimately consumption.
Range of Beers
The current range of beers includes variations on a number of styles by changing the combination of hops used in each batch, such as:
- Belgian Saaz Blonde
- Hersbrucker Kolsch
- Mosaic Blonde
- Saaz Premier Cru Kolsch
Other beers in the pipeline and planning include:
- 80 Shilling (or 80 /-)
- Schwarzbier (or Black Lager)
- English Bitter or English IPA (India Pale Ale)
Gainford Beer Coop’s emphasis on ingredients includes the use of malted barley from Thomas Fawcett & Sons Ltd of Castleford. Hops come from a variety of sources including Mosaic from Oregon in the USA and numerous ones grown at home by Andy which include:
- Cobb Golding
- Early Bird (a Kentish variety)
- First Gold
- Styrian Goldings
Nelson Sauvin is also used in some of the beers and this is obtained from the USA.
Back in 2013 the brewery tried using liquid yeast but encountered problems with viability and long lags before fermentation began fully so now they used dried yeast e.g. Fermentis K97 for Kolsch.
It is interesting to compare the relative lack of red tape to begin a brewery in the UK compared to the hoops and hurdles over here in the USA. As a consequence it means there is also a lower barrier to entry financially to begin a brewery. Without the three-tier system it is also possible for a brewery to self-distribute their beer which is not the case in most states within the USA.
I would like to thank Andy for his time and samples of beers kindly provided – look out for these featuring as Beer Of The Day over the coming weeks.