Left: Large conditioning tanks outside the brewery.
Below: The picture I'd waited six years for.
The old brewery is quaint, rustic, and welcoming. Below, you can see the old brewing copper (boil kettle), and the grist hopper and mash tun (insulated old-school style, in wood) in the background. Black Sheep's offerings reflect this traditional approach and a taste of their ales instantly transports you back to the north of England. They do a number of low-gravity cask bitters (Black Sheep Best Bitter, a golden bitter called Golden Sheep, and Black Sheep Ale)as well as a strong brown ale, Riggwelter, which is phenomenal. They also produce a number of bottled offerings (bottled Golden Sheep, for example, is stronger in gravity and more aptly described as an English pale ale than a bitter), but all are traditional (if rather hoppy) English ales.
|Copper (i.e. boil kettle)|
|Old Grist Hopper (above) and Mash Tun (below)|
One of the coolest thing about the brewery (other than their beers, which are, as far as I'm concerned, pretty near the pinnacle of Real Ale in Britain) is that they are one of the very few breweries that still use the historic 'Yorkshire Square' fermentation system. While they still have a few of the traditional, slate, square 'squares' in use, they've mostly switched over to stainless steel, round 'squares' that function exactly the same, but are a lot easier to service and keep in good repair. Below, you can see the corner (we were on a catwalk which went directly over the vessel) of one of the brewery's three remaining slate stone squares, christened Faith, Hope, and Charity, in which tehy brewed their first-ever Russian Imperial Stout, a cask of which was recently shipped to Russia for a competition.
I should note that the fermentation room is possibly the best-smelling I've ever been in my entire life, and my wife agreed. One thing that I found really interesting is that all of these fermentors were completely open to the air (at least under the thick layer of krausen from the fermentation). The fact that their brewing process is so spot-on that they can do this with getting infections makes my tracking record as a homebrewer brewing in a closed system look downright shameful. Below, you can see a simplified schematic of how the Yorkshire Squares (or rounds, for that matter) actually work, as well as one of the round stainless steel 'Squares'.
|(Viewed from Above) Corner of Original Slate 'Yorkshire Square' Fermentation Vessel|
|Diagram of the Yorkshire Square Fermentation System|
|Round 'Square' at High Krausen|
|Brewery Tours are Hard Work...|
All in all, this is probably the best brewery experience I'll ever have. So glad we got the opportunity and yes, if I'm fortunate enough to find myself back in North Yorkshire at some point, I'll definitely be going back!
Schlafly Bottleworks, St. Louis, MO
New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus WI
In August of 2009, my (awesome!!!) wife let us take this little detour up to New Glarus, WI on the last day of our honeymoon (which had been in Galena, IL). I'd been a fan of New Glarus' beers since one of my friends from Latin class at ISU had brought home a bottle of their Wisconsin Belgian Red. It's a lambic-style ale, brewed with wild yeast and a ton of (Door County, I believe) cherries that has one of the most concentrated fruity palates/aromas that I've ever encountered in a beer. It's wonderful stuff. The brewery only distributes its beer in Wisconsin, so if you want it, there's only one way to get it.
Our GPS took us to the 'old' brewery; we didn't know that New Glarus had recently moved to their new 'hilltop' location.
I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting, but the kinda kitschy appearance of the old brewery (which doesn't really translate in the above picture) was sorta surprising considering the high-class nature of New Glarus' brews. After we got a bit of information, we headed up to the brand-new brewery, up on a high wooded hill, which can be seen from miles around.
The new brewery has a bit of the kitsch of the old brewery, but it's also a lot classier and really pretty impressive.
The doors you can see in the bottom right corner lead into a sort of beer cave, where the brewery has an immense amount of beers for sale, both current offerings, and nicely-cellared past specialties and one-offs (of the latter, I got an Iced Barleywine, Imperial Saison, a Berliner Weiss and their R/D Golden Ale with Brett). The brewery was new enough that they didn't have guided tours set up yet, but we did get to walk through the place on our own and take a look at everything. It was an ultra-modern, really impressive brewhouse and smelled PHENOMENAL. The equipment was equally impressive...in fact, I think I'd like a kettle like this...
All in all, great end to a great trip. Thanx babe!