Enjoying the good weather lately? Us too. After a long winter, the first glorious heat of the summer sun would put a smile on even the grumpiest of people. Lambs are frolicking in the fields, barren earth is suddenly bursting with the shoots of new growth, our hops are winding up their support lines to reach the sky and … you get the picture.
With temperatures rising, producing lagers in our brewery has become more energy intensive. Lager comes from the German word, ‘lagern’, which means ‘to store’. Lagers benefit from cold temperatures of 2-4 degrees Celsius while the beer conditions and ages. Clarity and a clean flavour profile is also achieved by a decent lagering period when yeast and sediment drop out of suspension and accumulate at the bottom of the fermentation tank, a process that allows us to produce lagers without the use of fining agents (i.e. no added crap in our beer).
Here at the brewery of course, higher temperatures mean more energy consumption. The chiller has kicked into life and is whirring away as if to spite us. Opening the cold room door is a feat best undertaken under the cover of darkness. We were lucky this winter as temperatures were low anyway and kept our energy consumption on the low side. With summer upon us however, an ale beckons, utilising Mother Nature’s warmer temperatures to ferment at.
At the brewery, we’ve had long conversations (we’ll call them ‘conversations’!) about seasonal brewing. Being keen to be as environmentally friendly as possible, we avoid peak hour brewing, normally mashing and boiling at off-peak hours (hello, 4am. Nice to see you. again.) which limits demands on energy generation. We recycle everything in sight, going so far as to hammer bent nails straight (and my thumb crooked). Water is the easiest to recycle, handily stored in 1,000 litre bulk containers which we can then use for cleaning. But what if we took it one step further and brewed ales in summer and lagers in winter – the ultimate environmentally friendly brewing schedule?
Of course simply switching from lagers to ales to stouts, porters or even barley wines isn’t without a few headaches. Probably the easiest thing to rectify is the different malt, hop and yeast materials that are required. Far more difficult is the marketing aspect – it’s not easy to simply switch wholesale production from season to season and declare products off market for six months. Then again, other companies or products are renowned for it – Cadbury produce their Cadbury creme eggs only at Easter and Christmas while the craft brewing scene is well known for seasonal offerings (oktoberfest, Christmas beers)
Yet despite the obvious problems from a marketing point of view, the idea still appeals hugely to us. We were determined to be as eco friendly as possible when starting the brewery, familiar with the ever increasing amount of floods in Youghal that seem more commonplace as the years tick by. We could potentially ‘overbrew’ lagers in winter and overbrew ales in summer, making the maximum of the natural temperatures available to us. The down side – more finance for materials required up front, trying to estimate volumes required for six months supply, fermentation tanks tied up with beer.
It would be super cool to achieve though. Brewing beer in tandem with Nature’s temperature has been the driving force for a lot of the different styles of beer throughout the world. It is nothing new in the sense it has been done for hundreds of years. Only in the recent past has beer become ‘something’ that is produced in a highly clinical, mass market, additives galore and cheapest raw materials system. In a sense, the notion of going back to an era prior to temperature controlled rooms and all you can consume electricity might actually be taking two steps forward.Pages: