One of the best things about being involved in beer is getting to meet brewers and see what they do up close and personal. Drinking and selling someones product is one thing, but actually seeing where it is made and how they make it is a completely different proposition. Last Monday we were lucky enough to be invited across to Bermondsey to see Brew By Numbers (BBNo) after they had recently come down to our shop for a Meet the Brewer. Luckily, there wasn’t a Meet the Shopkeeper planned! Instead we just got to wander around and try some of their fantastic beers!
Dave, one of the BBNo founders, first developed a taste for home brewing whilst in Australia and New Zealand. At the same time Tom, the other co-founder, was busy enjoying the blossoming craft beer scene in London. In August 2011, they had decided that opening a microbrewery was the only way to satisfy their burgeoning love for good beer and they put together a rudimentary 50 litre kit. The beer they began producing, however, was far from rudimentary. A dedication to experimentation quickly began turning heads. Splitting batches at different stages of brewing meant that they were able to compare the same beers with different yeast strains, hops, spices etc. In June 2012 they upgraded to a 12bbl stainless steal brew kit that allowed them to produce their first commercial brew in November 2012.
Having done Neuroscience at University, I felt drawn to the very ordered way that they named and numbered their beers. Split over two numbers, the first is the style whilst the second is the particular recipe that batch of beer used. Having gone to the Festival of Spontaneous Fermentation in Belgium, they became enamoured with Belgian saisons. As such, it made sense that their 01 style would be a saison. Single hopped with citra, it is the perfect blend of traditional Belgian with the modern, vogue, American hoppy beers.
When we arrived at BBNo, we were greeted in their secondary archway by Chris Hall, beer blogger and newly appointed sale and events coordinator for BBNo. This second archway is mostly for storage of their hops, malts and beers before they are distributed. It also acts as a slight as a pseudo office for everyone working there. The magic happens in their original arch, about a dozen yards down the road. Here is the original brew kit they first used that now acts as a pilot, their first 12bbl stainless steel equipment, and now their brand new fermenters that, when in operation, will increase production by 50%.
No visit to a brewery is complete without a few samples! The first, 07|06 Witbier, is single hopped with saaz. Traditionally a pilsner hop, this works perfectly in a wheat beer, giving it a wonderfully refreshing crisp finish.
Next up was their signature style, the 01|06 Motueka and Lime Saison. A New Zealand hop, Motueka is brilliant in delivering a big, juicy, tropical fruit bitterness which is brilliantly cut through by the zesty lime. The typical saison yeast character, a slightly peppery and spicy finish, provides a backbone to these flavours that gives the hops and flavour a different edge. Whilst this would undoubtedly be a great pale ale, the saison character gives it something different that sets it apart from the field.
To prove that they can do the American styles as well as the best of them, we finished the tasting with 05|05 Simcoe and Chinook IPA. At 6.6% this is well in the territory of a proper American IPA. The hops give this beer the grapefruit bitterness and piney flavours that have come to embody West Coast IPAs.
Brew By Numbers are currently going from strength to strength. Ever the innovators, their shelf in the shop should be one of the first checked when you come in – you don’t know what kinda stuff they’ll have created!