Thanks to a recently installed dry hopping system from Hoptimiser, a London specialist in distinctive handcrafted beers is not only benefiting from a boost in the aroma and consistency of its products, but is saving on yeast at the same time. Brixton Brewery installed the system shortly after the recent expansion of it’s brewing operations to a facility some ten times larger than the company’s original premises.
- Brixton Brewery now able to re-pitch yeast and make significant savings
- Strength and consistency of aroma enhanced
- Hoptimiser dry hopping system used on a daily basis
Like so many good things in life, the story of Brixton Brewery started over a pint. Couples Jez and Libby, and Mike and Xochitl, met in Brixton’s former Hive Bar. Not so long after, they started a brewery with the goal of putting Brixton on the map for great beer. The couples secured a railway arch in 2013 and Brixton Brewery was born.
Such was the team’s success in creating a range of IPA, APA and Pale Ale brews, as well as lagers and porters, that demand soon began outstripping supply. Gone were the days of delivering beer on foot to local shops and restaurants; beer from Brixton Brewery could now be found in every corner of London and across the south of the UK, with plans afoot for nationwide coverage.
Today, this rapid expansion is being further aided by recent investment from Heineken, which now owns 49% of the business. The partnership has allowed Brixton Brewery to take advantage of Heineken’s distribution network for deliveries outside London. In addition, the investment helped the company with its much needed expansion.
Despite commercial property space being at a premium in London, the team could not see itself operating from the suburbs, so when completely by chance a suitable (much larger) space became available just 600 metres from its original site, the deal was closed quickly.
In the summer of 2018, the brewing operation of Brixton Brewery opened in a facility that has seen capacity rise from 300,000 to 1.5 million litres a year. Everything at the new site is bigger, even the tank sizes have increased from 1,000 or 2,000 litres at the previous facility, to 5,000 or 10,000 litres at Milkwood Road. Their original site has been retained for ‘specials’, and remains the location of the brewery’s tap room.
“With a rise in demand there comes a commitment to enhance efficiency; we didn’t relocate to simply produce more beer, we wanted to improve our processes,” says Lead Brewer Alberto Iglesias, who today is one of 25 full time employees at Brixton Brewery. “Among the methods we have long-thought would influence this factor, was better dry hopping. There were a number of issues with our previous method. For instance, we would add hops at the end of the fermentation process, so we couldn’t re-use the yeast – it was still in suspension. We knew that investing in a dry hopping system such as the Hoptimiser would save a lot of money and improve beer quality, a win win!”
Dry hopping the future
Some six months after opening its new brewery, the company began experimenting with dry hopping after fermentation. However, without sufficient movement, the hops would either float or simply sink without really mixing. This type of situation is where a professional dry hopping system can pay real dividends.
After investigating the market for a suitable solution, and viewing a Hoptimiser dry hopping system in action at fellow London brewery, Beavertown, Brixton Brewery began a two-month trial with a DH45 from Hoptimiser, a Torqueflow-Sydex brand. A full testing process was completed, including the re-use of yeast.
“The thinking was that we could save money in yeast and add even more quality to our beers,” states Mr Iglesias. “Such was its success that in September 2019 we invested in a Hoptimiser DH90 with 40kg capacity.”
In terms of the new process, the beer is brewed and fermented normally, before the temperature is altered as part of a controlled procedure. For example, a typical beer at Brixton Brewery is fermented at 20°C raising the temperature to 22°C at the end of the fermentation for diacetyl rest and to speed up the last phase of the fermentation. Once the gravity is stable, the temperature is reduced to 15°C for two days. This drop of 7°C makes the yeast flocculate. The yeast is then harvested for use in the next batch of beer, at which point the dry hopping process can commence with the Hoptimiser DH90.
“Apart from saving on yeast we definitely get better aroma using the Hoptimiser, and on a more consistent basis,” says Mr Iglesias. “Previously, trying to manually add the hops to the fermentation tank would lead to slightly different results each time. However, using the Hoptimiser after fermentation means we can achieve a repeatable process and outcome based on following the same steps for the same amount of time. Every batch is now just as ‘hoppy’ as the previous one.”
Beers produced by Brixton Brewery draw upon traditional flavours and ingredients, with a dash of bold new world flair for distinctiveness. The company looks to America and mainland Europe for inspiration but is rooted in its very British appreciation of ale. All of its brews are unfiltered and unpasteurised for maximum flavour and freshness. The core range is best characterised by bitterness, balanced by rich maltiness and rounded out with hop aromas and flavours. The company loves experimenting with big, interesting flavours, but always seeks balance.
“Our new Hoptimiser is certainly being put through its paces, with three or four tanks a week now passing through the system,” concludes Mr Iglesias. “Ultimately, it provides greater control over our process and helps us keep brewing consistent, top-quality beer.”