It takes 4 key ingredients to make great craft beer – malt, hops, water and yeast. At Dunscar we add two more – creativity and Mark!
At 28 Mark is Dunscar’s youngest, but longest serving employee He is a graduate of UCLAN and has trained to be a brewer under a variety of former head brewers at Dunscar. When he’s away from work he enjoys playing football, supporting his beloved Wanderers through thick and thin. He enjoys eating and, of course, drinking with friends. After his beloved better half and beer, his other great passion is travel having visited Australia and Thailand in the last few months.
He has shown a passion and flair for developing complex beers as well as the standards. An early brew which he showed his skills on was a fruit flavoured wheat beer called Strawbeery and more recently another dry hopped wheat beer called cask 45. Here’s Marks take on his approach to brewing at Dunscar…
Brewing our Craft Beers at Dunscar
The first step is the hardest – developing a recipe. What do we want to brew? Whilst we have a regular run of our most popular craft beers, we’re always experimenting. We seek inspiration from our local northern environment and listening to our customers. Whether it’s balancing ingredients for a bespoke ale, or experimenting with combinations of the latest hops to satisfy the craft customers hunger for new flavours.
Once we refine the recipe we set to work. We’re really lucky with the North West water we use – its filtered down through the granite and sandstone of the West Pennine moors for decades and is incredibly free of contaminants and trace minerals – ideal for brewing a wide range of beer styles. Its better even than the water in Burton on Trent which has to be chemically adjusted for some types of beer – we don’t have to adjust the water at all.
Bringing water up to temperature we mix it with malt (and any other grains) in a vessel called a Mash Tun. This process is designed to extract as much sugar from the malt as possible to eventually be converted into alcohol later in the process. The mashing is done at about 70 degrees for ninety minutes before sparging washing through with water) the grains to extract the sweet and flavoursome wort. This Liquor is transferred into a large vessel known as the Copper and we bring it up to the boil. The all important hops are added to the liquor in the copper and the point in the boil when they are added affects their impact on flavour bitterness and aroma of the final beer.
Once this liquor is transferred to a fermentation vessel and its temperature dropped to around 22degrees, we add the yeast – this brings the beer to life. We use a variety of yeasts, depending on the style of beer. The liquor is left to ferment for several days developing a think foam of yeast that protects the liquid beneath from any risk of contamination. The liquors specific gravity is checked periodically to measure the amount of alcohol being generated.
Once it reaches the desired level the beer is then chilled to minimise the yeast activity and begin the conditioning process – its amazing how the character of a beer develops over the course of a few days at this point.
The time to brew varies massively between beer styles. One of the key influences is strength – the stronger the beer, the longer is needs to ferment. Some of our real ales can be ready to serve within 2 weeks from brewing, whereas an oak-aged porter can take many months to mature. Once ready the beer is “Racked”, or more simply, put into freshly sterilised casks ready for delivery to our customers.