The Bermondsey arches is a beacon for the craft beer community in London. It's an area where you can drop by Brew by Numbers, Four Pure, Partizan, Ansbach and Hobday and The Kernel.
There is one place in this stretch where if you are a home brewer wanting to use some larger equipment, or if you are a brewing novice wanting to learn some more about how four ingredients make the drink we love, or even just stop off for a couple of drinks, is the place to go. This place is UBrew.
Open for almost a year now in the Bermondsey arches in east London UBrew has been welcoming brewers and patrons through it doors and sharing their passion for beer with them. It is not your usual place, the atmosphere is one of excitement and experimentation where people can visit to brew, learn or just enjoy a craft pint. The public can join them as members and then use the equipment that the owners have carefully sourced and maintained to allow you to create some magical brews. Their passion for beer is infectious and you can't help but be inspired by the people and staff.
I visited to take part in a brew day with Stu (@stubrulondon) and a bunch of people who were looking to learn a bit more about all grain brewing. Our beer for the day was a London smoked Porter, which just happens to be one of my favourite styles. We started our brewing journey at midday where Stu took us through the grains which we were going to use and got us to taste each one so that we could understand what flavours they might impart into the beer. The grains that we used the make the grist were Maris Otter, Crystal, Rauch, Rye, Chocolate and roasted barley. Each one of the grains provided us with a different flavour from smokey to mild chocolate to biscuit. This tasting got me thinking about delicious the final product was going to be and I couldn't wait to get going.
Mashing started under the watchful eye of Stu, we were told of the consistency that we were aiming to achieve, porridge like, and were talked through why we perform the mash and how starch is converted to fermentable sugars. He also explained why consistent temperature is important to ensure that no unwanted flavours are generated. Next up was the sparge which is where we re-circulate the wort, liquid containing the sugars and flavours of the grain, through the mash to extract more sugar and to also remove any unwanted particles and flavours. At this point the colour of the beer was spectacular it had taken on the expected dark porter colour from the chocolate malt which promised so much.
This led us into the boil where bitterness and flavours are added through addition of different hops. The hops we used were Target for bittering, Willamette and Mount Hood for flavouring it was explained to us the reason behind with some hops having a higher alpha acid content creating bitterness and that late addition hops are for flavour and should be added at the end of the boil to prevent these flavour compounds being driven off from the beer.
Yeast is a wonderful thing and requires a but it has a very specific temperature range in which it likes to operate. Therefore, we rapidly cooled the beer through a heat exchanger to achieve the desired temperature before transferring the wort to the fermentation vessel where we pitched the yeast.
The fermentation vessel was then transferred to the fermenting room and in a few weeks cannon fire Porter will hopefully be ready for tasting, a day which I can't wait for! UBrew is a special place and with there being so many people happily brewing away you can't help but get caught up in the love of it. This is the perfect place to learn, experiment and explore the world of brewing and craft beer, so in a paraphrasing of Arnold Schwarzenegger from Total Recall "Get your ass to UBrew".
My day spent with UBrew was one where it really made me excited to start home brewing again, I have recently got too caught up in trying to think of my own recipes and forgot what it is all about BREWING! I have to thank UBrew for giving me some perspective and reminding me that it is all about actually getting your hands dirty and brewing.
Costs and brewing scales
Membership: Starting from £50 per month which can be shared across four people
Scale: 35L, 50L and 100L, there is soon to be a larger scale installed as well.