Thursday, 9 June 2016

Friday the 13th

Friday 13th, a date which some people dread, for me however, the 13th May was a day to look forward to - ½ day annual leave and a trip over to Four Pure in Bermondsey to meet with Head Brewer John Driebergen. He had agreed (or “been volunteered”) to show me round the brewery and talk me through their brewing process, but, with a particular focus on one of my favourite beers, the Session IPA. I wanted to know a bit more about the beer I was going to review with Steve and Mark, for the season 10 curtain raiser of the Beer O’Clock Show podcast http://www.beeroclockshow.co.uk/ to be released on Friday 10th June.
My allotted time was 3pm, so, I left work at 1pm and headed south, well, as far as The Pelt Trader, where I shared a few beverages with one of my partners in crime, Clayton. It was a nice sunny afternoon when we left the Pelt, however, strolling over London Bridge admiring a view I never grow tired of, I realised I might be cutting it fine time wise, so, decided to get the Jubilee line over to Bermondsey. The thing is you see, Four Pure are on the outer reaches of the Bermondsey Beer Mile, so, unlike me, give yourself plenty of time to get over there, especially if walking down Blue Anchor Lane, where you will find a fantastic chip shop on the left, hard to walk past, sadly, on this occasion I had no choice (memo to self - plan better next time).
However, i did get there on time, and within a few minutes John appeared, introduced himself, handed me a not so snazzy pair of protective glasses and so began a very pleasant 2 hours in the company of someone who knows his stuff (he was previously at Meantime before he joined Four Pure in 2013, before any beers had been produced, in fact, pretty much before it became a brewery!).
As my focus was on the Session IPA, John basically walked me through the process, which when explained to you by an expert always sounds so simple. It's not. Amongst all the lovely shiny fermenting vessels, I was shown a Hop Gun, how fantastic does that sound? A Hop Gun. (This is where the Mosaic, Simcoe, Cascade & Centennial hop pellets all come together for a bit of a dry hopping party) A brilliant name for a piece of equipment that allows the maximum extraction of flavours from the hop pellets that they use in their beers.
By this time I had sampled the Session IPA at two early stages of development, when the yeast had been added and post Hop Rocket. You could taste the direction of travel, but, it was far from the finished article, in fact, it takes 18 days to produce this beer.
Next, we went for a walk, not far, around 100 metres to another unit that has recently become an extension of the brewery. This is where the canning takes place, but, only after the beer has been piped (yes, piped) the 100m from the brewery. They run along the wall behind the industrial units, John tried to put a dampener on proceedings by saying there was probably only water in it that day (in my head it was Session IPA or Pils, what does the head brewer know anyway?). They then pass the beer through another shiny silver machine called a Centrifuge, where more technical stuff takes place (translation: Magic), eventually ending up in tanks where it will lager (it was years before I knew that this basically meant to store) for 7-10 days before being kegged or canned, incidentally, this is their only method of dispense for these beers. They were also the very first UK-based craft brewery to start canning their core range.
Aaahhh, the canning line is a wonder to behold, a cross between advanced space age technology and an ACME device built to catch the Road Runner (it fills 12,000 cans an hour, but, sadly was inactive when I was there), oh, and it is silver and shiny too, in case I forgot to mention that.
We went back to the brewery (where the tap room was now open and already serving thirsty customers) to enjoy a chilled Session IPA.
Time to be a bit professional and ask a question and make a legible note of the answer, "Why the rebranding of your core range?" the response was simple "Time for a change, after all, the staff see these cans every day". John did expand further, explaining that the background picture illustrates what inspired each of the beers, for the Session IPA it is New York. I must say I like the rebrand, it manages to remain familiar yet new and different. While I remember, I did ask a question earlier as well (look at me go) - what has been the impact of Session IPA and Pils appearing in M & S stores up and down the country (train beer anyone?), well, those two beers alone make up 25% of their output, it's no wonder they needed a new canning line!
This brought me to the end of my visit to the brewery, I really enjoyed my time with John, thanks again for sharing your insight and knowledge (and thanks to owner Daniel Lowe for arranging in the first instance), really appreciated it.
If you get a chance to visit the tap room, please do not hesitate, you won't regret it. Failing that, avail yourself of their core range, then their seasonal, actually, just try them all (I have been giving it a good go recently), and with 35 unique beers brewed in 2015, plenty to choose from! 2016 and 2017 look like they will be just as exciting, if not more so (I am eagerly awaiting the burgundy barrel aged beers myself).


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