As much as I love beer, my knowledge of how beer is actually made is very limited and I had no real idea of how a typical brewing day went. So when I was invited along by Cameron Bowden, Managing Director at Brew Toon in Peterhead, to join them for a brew day - I jumped at the chance. It just so happened that on the brew day in question, they were brewing up a very special beer, with an exceptional bunch of lads. Brew Toon had joined forces with the guys from the Peterhead Lifeboat Crew, to brew up a very sessionable, New England IPA.
The brew was due to kick off at 9am, and what better way to start the day with one of my favourite Brew Toon beers - M'ango Unchained. Seriously, I love this stuff, the smell is unreal! If you haven't tried it for yourself, then I assure you that you are missing out. Beer in hand, we began to learn about the brewing process from Head Brewer Trevor (more on him later), and what the schedule for the day was.
We (Trevor) kicked things off by starting the long process to create the mash*, which involved adding the malts to the water, and then basically waiting around until it's ready.
*mash - the hot water steeping process which hydrates the barley, activates the malt enzymes, and converts the grain starches into fermentable sugars.
While this was happening, it gave us all a chance to have a chat, find out a bit more about the brewery and how it worked, as well as what was going on at Brew Toon in general. This involved getting to sample one of their latest beers, directly from the fermentation tank - I'm not going to say anymore until Brew Toon reveals it, but I can confirm that it is a very special beer, that I am incredibly excited about!
When the mashing process was over, the wort* was then transferred over to the boiling tank for the boil to take place. This was another two part, lengthy process that involved a lot of waiting for things to happen. The first part of the process was the transfer between the two tanks, which was a relatively slow process as not to spoil the brew. The second part was the boil itself, which is also the part of the process where the hops are added - more on that later.
*wort - the liquid extracted from the mashing process during the brewing of beer.
When the wort was transferred into the boiling tank, and the boil began, it was time to start cleaning up - Trevor told us that 60% of the brewing process is actually waiting around and cleaning up after yourself. The first part of this task was cleaning out the mash tank, by removing the malts. One of the great things about brewing is that there is very little waste; all of the leftover malts (loads of them!) extracted from the tank are given to a local farmer to be used for feed, and used bottles are washed, cleaned and given to local home brewers.
While this was happening, we also used this opportunity to break for lunch, and whilst I was enjoying myself so far, it was good to get outside for a walk, and some fresh air. Once lunch was over, it was back to the brewery and it would then soon be time for probably what I'd been most excited for all day - THE HOPS! As soon as I arrived at the brewery, I'd been looking forward to the hops. The smell of hops in a beer, is one of my favourite smells, so I was incredibly excited to have the chance to smell fresh hops in my own hands, and whilst they are brewing.
Trevor measured out all the various hops that were to be used in the brew (again, I'm not going to say to much, and let Brew Toon reveal it themselves), letting us feel them in our hands and smell them, before bagging them up to be added to the boil. The way that the hops are added, is pretty much like adding a tea bag to tea - they are tied up in a muslin style bag and steeped in the boil for various intervals to add aroma and flavour to the brew. They can be added at different stages throughout the boil to change the intensity of the aroma or flavour.
Just a quick word on Trevor - I'm pretty sure he much be one of the most knowledgeable guys on the planet when it comes to beer! During each stage of the process, he took his time to explain it in detail to us, as well as a bit about the history of it too. He was also more than happy to answer any questions that we had during the day - and would always give the most detailed answer he could. He was a highly eccentric character, but obviously extremely intelligent - he was a bit like a non-drug lord, non-murderous, version of Walter White from Breaking Bad...
The aromas that filled the brewery whilst the hops were in the boil were unbelievable! I don't think I've ever smelt anything like it before. It was like the smell of baking filling your house, but even better!
Whilst we were waiting around a local home brewer by the name of George turned up. George helps Brew Toon out by brewing up small scale batches of any potential new beers that they may be trying to perfect - he is in the process of helping them out with one at the moment. George also brews his own beers under the name of Bold Brewing (check him out on Instagram), and he very kindly brought along a selection of samples for me to try. As you can see from the picture below, they are no ordinary beers, and I can confirm from what I've tasted so far - he really knows what he's doing! George then headed back home, to get to work on his latest batch for Brew Toon.
With the hops in the boil, me and Cameron took a trip to visit George at home, and check out his home brew set-up. When we arrived, I was quite amazed to see what George had done in his garage - he'd build himself a room for his own little brewery in the garage. Whilst it was on a much smaller scale of what I'd just seen at Brew Toon, the principles were the same - and I left highly impressed at what I'd just seen. It's amazing what George is doing in his garage, and it must be so helpful for Brew Toon having such a knowledgeable guy close by who is happy to help out.
When the boil came to an end, it was time to transfer the beer to the fermentation* tank, where the yeast would be added, and it would then stay for around four weeks. And with that, we were done for the day. The beer would require further hopping during fermentation, a process known as "dry-hopping", this is in order to further enhance the flavours and aromas, but this wouldn't happen for another few weeks.
*fermentation - the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms, typically involving effervescence and the giving off of heat.
After the brew was finished, I got the chance to accompany Cameron and Brew Toon's PR intern, Shaun down to Peterhead harbour so they could get some shots of the lifeboat crew on their boat to promote the collaboration. Now whilst this was pretty cool to see...IT WAS FREEZING, and I was more than happy to get back inside - although it did allow for some quite spectacular views of the harbour as the sun was going down.
I had a great day in Peterhead with Brew Toon. I can't thank Cameron enough for inviting me up, thanks to the guys from the lifeboat for letting me gatecrash their brew day, and thanks again to George for the beers! For as much as I claim to be such a beer fanatic, I'd never really taken the time to learn about how it's made - so this really opened my eyes, and educated me quite a bit!
I'm really excited for this beer to be released - I can't wait to taste it! I'm also equally excited for some of the other beers that Brew Toon have in the pipeline, I really think that they are going to do some big things this year. If you haven't already been along to check them out, then what are you waiting for? 🍻
Following on from my review of Liberty APA by Reids Gold, I'm keeping things local again with the latest beer from one of my favourite local breweries - Brew Toon. I'm a massive fan of these guys, especially their Mango Unchained and Purple Reign offerings. I originally planned to have this beer over Xmas, but for whatever reason, I just never got round to it. The beer in question is Ship Launch, a 6.2% ABV Brut IPA - an interesting style of beer that grew in popularity over the last year. Here's the official description from Brew Toon:
"Ship Launch is a new style of IPA which originated in San Francisco, fermented down to a bone-dry gravity using champagne yeast (and some glucoamylase enzyme), to create a hop-forward IPA that is crisp, sparkling and full of flavour. We’ve filled this one up with a full tank of hop fuel, so expect big citrus grapefruit aromas when you let this ship launch."
It certainly sounds like a very interesting beer and I was curious to see how it turned out.
Ship Launch pours from the bottle an almost crystal clear amber colour (the picture really doesn't do it justice), leaving about two fingers width of a lively white head. The first whiff of this beer was huge champagne aromas - it was quite a weird sensation actually... expecting beer and getting bubbly! This is followed up by some melon, a touch of biscuit and some floral notes. The first sip is again champagne, followed by a combination of grape, melon, and a touch of biscuit. The flavours are crisp, dry and come together excellently alongside the light carbonation. For being 6.2% it's a real easy drinking beer, and one I really enjoyed drinking.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this beer - it was jam packed full of interesting flavours, and it was something different from what I usually go for, which made it more enjoyable in my eyes. If you are looking for something a bit different, then I definitely suggest giving this one a go.
Ship Launch gets 4 out of 5 from me 🍻
STREET FOOD COMES TO THE BLUE TOON
What's better than craft beer & street food? Not much right?
This past weekend saw Smoke & Soul, one of Aberdeen's newest up & coming street food vendors combine forces with Brew Toon at their cafe/micro brewery site in Peterhead for a day of awesome food, quality beer & some great tunes.
The folks behind Smoke & Soul are friends of mine & while I have tried some of Brew Toon's beer before, I'd never visited the brewery - so we decided to head up on Saturday afternoon to check it all out.
First up, the Brew Toon micro brewery & cafe is a great set up. The brewery area itself is very impressive, and the cafe is very well decorated & features a window that looks into the brewery - I can imagine this being awesome on brew days!
They had a selection of their beers & draft with them also available in bottle, along with a selection of coffee's, tea & soft drinks. The food menu also had lots of good looking offerings ranging from cakes, pies & nachos (definitely a reason to come back!).
Having only previously tried the Raspberry Carronade Cream ale, I was eager to try more beers, especially their latest release - M'ango Unchained, a mango IPA. After taking our seats, that was the first beer I ordered and wow, it was awesome! The first thing you notice is the smell - it is pure mango! It doesn't disappoint on taste either, with the sweet juicy mango complimenting the slight bitterness perfectly - this beer is so enjoyable to drink.
Whilst ordering our drinks, I got speaking to Callum from Brew Toon who was a very nice guy & who kindly offered to sort me out with a beer flight so I could sample the range of beers on offer. I gladly accepted his offer & before I reached the end of my M'ango Unchained, the beer flight was brought over to our table. It was a flight of five different beers & the waitress took the time to explain each one of them; Northern Sinner, Purple Reign, Raspberry Carronade, Loose Cannon & Weekend Hooker.
The beers themselves were all very tasty, with each of them offering something different. If I had to rank the beers that I tried on the day, then it would be something like:
I've already spoken about how awesome I found M'ango Unchained, however I just wanted to say a few words about Purple Reign; this beer is amazing, I really don't think I've ever tasted anything quite like it. Whilst I'm not saying it's the best beer I've ever tasted, the flavours are just so complex & they work together perfectly to make this one enjoyable beer.
They have just announced that this week they have started barrel-ageing their Holy Smoke Chilli and Coffee Stout in a Jack Daniels 190l barrel for a small batch release that will be ready in December.
Smoke & Soul
Smoke & Soul are an Aberdeen based smoked meats vendor, ran by two friends of mine. They believe in using locally sourced ingredients to deliver the very best smoked & grilled meats to food lovers wherever they can. They are available to hire for private events, festivals & functions & will bring along a tasty menu of smoked goodness with them.
At their collaboration with Brew Toon, they had smoked pulled pork served in brioche buns, a beef brisket wrap served with sour cream, tomato, feta cheese & coriander and also mac & cheese that could be topped with any of the smoked meats. So, pretty much something for everyone! I opted for the pulled pork topped with South Carolina style BBQ sauce (from Sauce Shop), while Kerry opted for the beef brisket wrap.
The pulled pork itself was awesome; it was tender, smoked to perfection, with the perfect amount of char on the ends and the South Carolina sauce paired perfectly with it, adding just the right combination of spice & sweetness. I don't think you could ask for anything else when it comes to pulled pork? And while I can't speak personally for the beef brisket wrap, Kerry assured me that she loved it & that it tasted fantastic.
They have also recently announced a "Smoke to Order" service where they will prepare, smoke and shred pre-ordered pulled pork meat packs, which can be reheated and enjoyed at home. This sounds like a great idea to me, and take my word for it as a lover of all things pulled pork - their pulled pork is special!
Overall, we had a great afternoon up in Peterhead. Unfortunately we couldn't stay for the live music in the evening but we would definitely hope to go back sometime for another visit. I also look forward to seeing Smoke & Soul pop up at more & more events - street food is a fast growing trend in Aberdeen & these guys are going the right way about making an impact! You can keep up to date with all things Smoke & Soul by following them on their social media channels:
Also, be sure to follow all things Brew Toon to keep up to date with their awesome selection of beers:
Craft beer...in a petrol station?! It might sound crazy to some people. But not if you live in Westhill, or more recently; Peterhead.
Gary Haigh, retailer at Peterhead Motors has recently started to build the craft beer scene in the recently re-branded Keystore More at the garage. Fitting out the shop with a new 1.3m fridge, he has started stocking some of the biggest names in UK craft beer such as:
Not bad if you ask me...You can pick up some pretty good beers from that selection of breweries! And if you're just getting into craft beer & looking to try something new, then you can't go wrong with the likes of Beavertown, Northern Monk & Magic Rock.
Gary has big plans for craft beer at the garage, and plans to keep expanding on his current stock. With the help of Brewdog, he is also mid way through the Cicerone Certification Program. This is fantastic as he will be able to offer advice and tasting notes on the beer - perfect if you are new to craft beer or looking for something new to try (you don't get that kind of service in the supermarket!). There are also future plans to launch a craft beer club at some point.
To mark the recent re-branding of the store - there will be an open day on Friday 2nd June. Brewdog will be on site holding a tasting session, of not just Brewdog beers but various other beers that you can find in the store. There will also be some beers from Brew Toon Brewery available to sample. Gary will be having giveaways and prize draws throughout the day. Everything is scheduled to kick off around 10am, and run until about 5pm, with Brewdog being there from 12.30pm.
The adjacent coffee shop also offers a range of hot food and drinks for breakfast and lunch; ranging from breakfast rolls, soups, burgers, chips, pizzas, curries, pies & pastas to name but a few. They change their specials every week and post these on their Facebook page. You can phone up to pre-order your food beforehand, or take away (along with your craft beer carry out of course). The coffee shop is open between 6.30am-2pm.
It's exciting to see places like this taking such an interest in the craft beer market - this will be great for the local beer lovers, and anyone who wants to get into craft beer. Westhill Service Station has played a huge part in my beer influences, and I really think that this will have the same effect for some in Peterhead.
So next time you fancy picking up some beers in Peterhead, don't go to Tesco - pop in by Keystore More at Peterhead Motors instead and check out their excellent selection; many of which you wont find in the supermarkets.
You can keep upto date with the latest from Peterhead Motoros on their Facebook page, so go ahead and give them a like & share.
Craft Beer Comes To The Blue Toon
It seems we have new craft brewery in the North East...craft beer has arrived in the Blue Toon!
Brew Toon Brewery are a micro brewery based in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. Formed earlier this year, they have spent some time kitting out their HQ with brewing equipment and brewing their first batch of beers.
They will also be opening a café bar; scheduled for this month, that will serve cakes, speciality coffees and locally sourced deli food.
They currently have 3 beers listed on their website:
Loose Cannon - Indiana Pale Ale (4.6% ABV):
"Our American IPA is fully loaded with a juggernaut of hops that will send earthquakes crashing through your taste buds. Its strong floral and herbal aromas and sharp grapefruit notes are well balanced by its rich malt base. Its finish is edgy and uncompromising and leaves for an expressive, almost spicy palate...
This IPA is a loose cannon!"
Raspberry Cannonade - Raspberry Cream Ale (5.0% ABV):
"Our Raspberry Cream Ale is jam-packed with locally sourced Scottish Raspberries, combined with a sweet malt base making for a smooth, creamy finish. When you first open the bottle there is an explosion of raspberry aroma...and the blend of citrus hops paired with the raspberries creates an intense palate that really pushes your tart tolerance to the brink!"
Weekend Hooker - Lager (5.0% ABV):
"Get hooked on our new craft lager! Reinvented with a bold variety of malts and left to condition until the optimum moment to ensure a smooth head with a soft, refreshing finish. Earthy in aroma, expect a full bodied malt character, with citrusy undertones and an assured bitter finish."
It's great to see new breweries popping up in Aberdeenshire and hopefully Brew Toon Brewing can follow the trend of producing quality beer.
I'm definitely looking forward to trying out these beers; especially the IPA & the raspberry cream ale. Hopefully Westhill Service Station will get their hands on some 🍻