Innovation

Some businesses seem to hit the nail on the head when it comes to their mottos or catchphrases. The first brewery I worked for, Tui Brewery in New Zealand, has a fantastic advertising campaign entitled “Yeah Right” which pretty much takes the piss out of anything and everything it can. I would probably be right in saying that this campaign helped to cement Tui’s place as one of the top selling beer brands in the country.

I’m not going to wax lyrical about Tui as a beer though. It’s touted as an East India Pale Ale, which I’m sure it would have resembled way back in 1889 when Henry Wagstaff stopped off at the Mangatainoka River, made a cuppa, thought it was fantastic and set up a brewery there, but it’s definitely moved away from this style of beer. People will probably laugh at me, but I think it’s a pretty good beer. It’s consistency, like any beer from larger brewery groups is second to none, it’s served nice and cold and slakes the thirst as well as any 4% brown draught lager will and I know for a fact that DB Breweries quality control is awesome (yeah, okay maybe I was a brewery microbiologist for them for a while).

As always, I digress. Breweries often come up with great slogans or mottos that help market their products for them. I think that Dogfish Head with their “Off Centered Ales for Off Centered People” is a cracker and completely epitomises Sam Calagione’s fantastic, whacky and wonderful approach to brewing. I guess even Wychwood Brewery’s “What’s the matter Lagerboy” campaign is effective, even if it does create a divide between cask ale and lager and insinuate that you can’t enjoy both.

I don’t quite know how Guinness would get away with “Guinness is good for you” in this day and age, even though recent research has indicated that beer actually is good for you, being full of antioxidants (like the ever-touted “oh-so-great for your heart” red wine). Then there’s the recently discovered research that certain hop compounds (Xanthohumol in particular) have testosterone blocking abilities, thus helping with the prevention of prostate cancer (links in well with the recent Movember event we held at the Coach and Horses, raising over £2,500 for prostate cancer awareness). I should also mention that brewer’s yeast is a great source of B vitamins, lots of riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, even folic acid as well as a bunch of trace elements and minerals. Maybe we should be arguing against the fining of beer… de-yeasting it surely makes it less nutritious for us?

But I suppose my favourite motto of all, and I know I sound as cheesy as hell when I say this, our motto. Innovation, Passion, Knowledge. Everything that beer means to me is encompassed by this simple slogan. It probably means bugger all to some of you, others probably think it’s quite pretentious or a bit wanky, but I’m sure there are a few of you out there who read it and understand it. Maybe you’re a brewer, or someone who loves beer, in fact it can apply to anything you do and that’s yet another reason why I think it’s pretty cool.

Thornbridge as a brewery has been built on this creed and I really hope it rings true as we progress as a brewery. I look around me now as I sit at my desk tapping away at the laptop. I see Stefano, arms cleaned like a surgeon, working away fastidiously in our microbiology plating room organising the new yeast propagation that moved into 200 litres of fresh wort today. I see Mauro, a student we have from Sardinia, already initiated into the way we do things and carefully pipetting yeast nutrient media into sterilised glassware. Andrea slaves over a couple of computer consoles, meticulously recording every part of the process, leaping out of his chair as an alarm sounds and he has to go and see to another part of the brewing process, earlier, his nose deep in hops as he weighs them out. Dave and JK on the brewery floor, cleaning and chatting and talking about beers they’ve tried recently while making sure every thing is done perfectly and to the letter. Matt, brewing up at the Hall brewery today but always in contact, telling me about the new technique he is using to extract as many aromatics as possible from the vanilla pods that have been used in today’s brew. Hell, even I still have the intense warm and aniseed-laced character from some Tellicherry Black Peppercorns that I chewed with gusto… all in preparation for a cool new beer we have on the horizon.

That’s what brewing should be about, it should be about excitement and interest and fascination with new ways and ingredients and approaches. We have this here and it’s awesome!

Which brings me into the plan that has been devised for the coming year. I was going to describe it, but might as well just show you the email I sent out instead!

The Concept – Do what we do best. Create innovative, interesting and unusual beers using choice ingredients and a range of different processes.

This element of innovation is essential. It may involve different types of brewing practice, different yeasts, unusual or different beer styles than we have done before, different post-fermentation modifications or bottling techniques etc.

The Approach –    One of these beers will be brewed per month at Thornbridge Hall with a different beer to be chosen every month.

The brew-plan is to include all relevant information, be well researched, methodical, analytical and scientific and explain everything from the initial thoughts behind the beer, your inspiration to brew it, why you want to brew it, what ingredients you are going to use, how you will approach the process, any relevant research you have done on the internet or by reading books (correctly referenced) and anything else that you think is important with regards to the novel processes, ingredients and beer style that you are to develop.

The Action – In the plan, you will be expected to outline all raw materials including extracts, IBUs, pitching rates, times and temperatures etc. If you are looking at using other ingredients, a link to these materials would also be of use.

So hopefully this will mean we’ll get some really interesting craft beers coming out in cask (and maybe even in very limited bottlings) with all of us brewers already strapped firmly into our thinking caps! In fact, I’ve edged in to do the first one of these beers next week, so you’ll just have to watch this space to see what it is! The beers will all be brewed at the Hall brewery and this is really a continuation of what we used to do on our one barrel pilot plant with the Alchemy range. Ending up with only a couple of casks that I would put on at the Coach and Horses meant that not many people got to try them though. This should mean a batch size of 30-40 casks, so we’ll be able to get them a little further afield to see what people think.

I can’t wait!!!

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4 thoughts on “Innovation

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Innovation « Thornbridge Brewers’ Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Im with you on everything but Tui. Although the esters have been brought under controll recently, and I was one ofthe judges that awarded it silver Medal as a New Zealand Draught at BrewNZ.

    I suppose Continious Fermentation was innovation , dark dark inovation!

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