York Brewery is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year, and with four of their beers being served in Chapter House, we took a tour of the brewery with Brand Manager Neil Arden to find out how the beers are made. In 1996, the craft beer revolution was still years away – but Tony Thomson and Tony Smith decided they wanted to make great tasting beers. They chose a spot a stone’s throw from the historic royal entrance to the city, Micklegate Bar, and set about producing handcrafted real ales to the highest possible standards.The Brewery has gone from strength to strength, as York CAMRA’s (Campaign for Real Ale) 2014 beer census showed than in the 83 pubs serving local ales in and around the city, York Brewery’s Guzzler and Yorkshire Terrier were found to be amongst the top five local ales served (first and third respectively).
The brewing process
Brewing involves four simple ingredients: malt, hops, water and yeast.
York Brewery uses mainly Yorkshire grown malts, and it is malt which affects the colour and ABV (the alcohol percentage) of the beer. Barley is the preferred malted grain for beer, but wheat, rye, oats are also commonly used in brewing. Malt which has been lightly roasted will produce a pale beer, whereas deeply roasted malts will produce darker beers. During fermentation, the yeast eats the sugar from the malted grain, converting it to alcohol and carbon dioxide – the more sugar available, the higher the alcohol content of the beer.
Up until the 15th century, beer was made without hops. Once their preserving power was discovered, these cone-shaped flowers came to be used in brewing and are responsible for the bitterness and aroma of the beer. Hops around the world have different qualities – from British hops with spicy, floral and earthy notes, to European hops with floral and resinous qualities to the citrusy hops of the USA. Australian and New Zealand hops are also becoming more commonplace, with their fruit-forward flavours from stone fruits to citrus. Just like wine, the terroir (the French term that describes a wine’s sense of place when you taste it) can affect the hop’s flavour too – an American hop grown in Britain will taste different to its American cousin.
Yeast is the final element in the brew and it’s most definitely the workhouse of the brewery. Each brewery has its own strain of yeast which evolves in different environments. York Brewery have had their own strain of yeast since opening and even have some stored in the National Collection of Yeast Cultures just in case the brewery’s stock is damaged by fires or floods. Yeast provides flavour too – so if the brewery used another strain, the flavour of the beer would change from what we know and love.
It takes ten days to make a beer from start to finish: the first eight hours involves extracting the sugars and hop flavours, the next seven days for fermentation and then three days are spent conditioning. It’s this final stage where the flavours develop and where the sulphur compounds (formed when the beer is first made) need to be released.
The brewery also tries to recycle as much as possible – used hops go to local allotments for mulch and used malt goes to feed some lucky cows at a local farm.
York Brewery beers in Chapter House
Join us in the bar to try some of York Brewery’s brilliant beers:
Guzzler – Crisp and refreshing, it’s an easy drinking session ale at 3.6%. Perfect to match with creamy fish and chicken dishes.
Yorkshire Terrier – York Brewery’s original beer and a multi-award winner. This 4.2% premium golden ale, fruit and hops dominate the palate, with a clean bitter finish. Try pairing with roasted meats and tomato-based sauces.
Minster Ale – a seasonal brew, this golden ale has a trio of American-grown hops to bring a citrusy punch, with Pacific Gem from New Zealand providing a refreshing, lingering bitterness. The perfect pint for your fish and chips.
Centurion’s Ghost Ale – this multi-award winning dark ruby ale has a smooth roasted malt palate, with a subtle bitterness and flavours of autumn fruit. Just the thing to pair with red meats, game and rich sauces.
Neil’s top tip for cooking with beer is to use a light ale in a stew or casserole. Dark beers releases a lot of their residual sugar in cooking, and for a slow-cooked dish, there is a risk the sugar could burn. To get the most of the dark ale flavour, add some to your gravy. The perfect combination!