Our Process

While the essence of brewing lies in experience and attention to detail (especially hygiene) the one absolute essential is a good palate. Being able to taste, criticise and evaluate your beers and others is where brewing succeeds or fails. Ingredients are a level playing field apart from some exotic hops - all breweries have access to the same set of ingredients. And as many breweries have proved, you don't need fancy kit to brew great beer. Good beer comes from understanding how best to use those ingredients, creative imagination, and attention to the vast minutiae of brewery operation. Oh, and don't ever be boring.

We use almost exclusively British malt, buying continental European malt only when we can’t source those specific types in the UK, e.g. Cara Wheat, Munich II, acidified malt for kettle sours. In particular we just love Bairds roasted malts which we know from experience are up there with the very best from any other maltster.

We’re not fussy, we’ll use hops from anywhere – so long as they’re great quality. We use a wide range of hops in very carefully constructed blends in order to ensure consistency and hedge against poor harvests or swings in demand for individual hops. Of course we’ve got our own little favourites including Admiral, Amarillo, Celeia, Centennial, Citra, Columbus, Fuggles, Goldings, Hallertau Blanc, Huell Melon, Mosaic, Simcoe.

This next bit is REALLY important - we’re firm believers that yeast is the most important part of the process. To quote Roger McBride (original Hopback brewer with John Gilbert), “Yeast is at least 40% of your beer”. While our house strain isn't unique, its does help differentiate our beer from most others. We took a lot of time to choose the right yeast, rejecting the first choice after the initial 2 brews. Our yeast is kept healthy with occasional acid washing and a re-pitch every 20 to 30 weeks. We bring in specially cultured wet yeasts for beers like Saison or Wit. It’s just not possible to do justice to some beer styles without the correct smelly little fungus. All of our yeasts are supplied by the microbiology wizards at Surebrew – superb service and great advice.

Red Cat’s kit is all made by Malrex in Burton on Trent to our own specific requirements. We run it at either 11 BBL (brewers barrels) or 16 BBL. It’s what many folks refer to as a traditional English mash system, with a fairly deep mash tun and no rotating blades or heating (but that’s on the wish-list). The copper is fired by a Riello 100kW gas burner which drops back to about 30kW once the boil has been achieved. This gives a superb rolling boil and excellent conversion of hop acids to bittering form. Fermenters are steep closed conicals with cooling panels & insulation on cone & sides.

We use plain old tap water. I know, you thought we’d dug our own well – sorry to disappoint. Central Hampshire water is pumped up from chalk aquifers way underground, so it’s not only incredibly pure, it’s 100% saturated with calcium carbonate making it slightly alkaline. That’s perfect for dark beers ‘cause the natural acidity of coloured malts balances the alkalinity. For light beers we have to adjust with acid water treatment, converting the calciulm carbonate to calcium sulphate (gypsum) and calcium chloride. We don’t add extra gypsum or other hard water salts ‘cause Hampshire water has plenty enough calcium in the first place.

Water treatments are specific to each beer, depending on the quantity of roasted malts and determined through experience by monitoring mash pH (which we like to see around 5.3 to 5.4). Mash is usually about 66C, sometimes a bit lower if we’re worried about the level of malt modification. We’ll go up around 71C for beers where we want more mouthfeel. Boil is usually about 1h 10m and depending on the beer can have hop additions pre-boil (to help keep foam down), various stages during the boil, end of boil and post boil. Yeast is always pitched according to cell count via microscope, and yeast is harvested from the cone after chill to 14C. Dry hopping is done after yeast harvest, to keep the yeast clean.

Enough Talk, Let's See Some Beers