Covenant: Wedding Beer Brewday at Summer Wine
Last year, soon after Kate and I got engaged, we were out on a pub crawl around Leeds with Dean from Mr Foley’s and Andy and James from Summer Wine Brewery. Andy said that as a wedding present, he and James would brew a beer for the wedding. We would decide what it would be and come to the brewery and help brew it.
It was one of those extremely generous offers that you think is a very nice thought, but don’t really think will be followed through in the cold light of day. To their credit, and our gratitude, James and Andy remained keen to do it and we arranged to brew it this weekend, for our wedding at the end of next month.
Kate and I had been batting around a few ideas about beer styles, with the special problem of trying to conceive one that would be of interest to James and Andy and ourselves, without being so bitter that it would be overly challenging to the palettes of our guests, who are not, in large part, seasoned hopheads.
We considered a few options, including a session pale and a stout, but ultimately, with James, decided on a red/amber ale made with New World hops, with the aim of producing a beer which was autumnal in appearance; had a decent malt body for a level of sweetness and balance; and hopped in a manner that created a lot of American hop aroma without being very bitter.
James took this quite sketchy brief and came up with a recipe which he had ready for us when we arrived early on Saturday morning. We spent the next eight hours helping James brew the beer. Well, “helping” in the way a toddler “helps” their mum cook. Digging the mash tun was hopefully useful. The beer already has a wonderful colour and, we think, shows a lot of promise. Although I’d been to breweries before and brewed from a kit, this was the first time I’d actually seen a whole brewday on a commercial level. It was fascinating how much I didn’t already know.
It was also great to spend the day with James and Andy talking about beer, their plans for the future and what they’d achieved over the last three years. Summer Wine is a business built entirely from ambition, knowledge and very hard work. It would be a cliche to say that they produce “uncompromising beers”, but their whole way of working reflects an ethos of producing the best beers they can and continually improving them.
Their new bottles reflect this. Having had, and observed, unhappy experiences with bottle-conditioning in the past, and being unable to find a contractor to bottle in the way that they wanted, they have installed a new and unique bottling system for unfiltered and unpasteurised, precisely carbonated, non-bottle conditioned beer.
Towards the end of the day we got to try some of the new bottles, which are currently available only from their online shop, which launched on Friday. All four of the initial line (Barista, Diablo, Kahuna, Rouge Hop) are great and in particular I think that their flagship IPA, Diablo, and their espresso stout, Barista, transferred very well indeed. The Barista benefits from a restrained carbonation whilst Diablo has retained its superb aroma.
Our beer, which we’ve named Covenant, is now fermenting away on an industrial estate in Holmfirth, awaiting dry hopping. As well as being on cask at our wedding reception, it will also be sold into pubs. It will hopefully be available in Mr Foleys and, very excitingly, may also be in Newcastle for Twissup in November. Let me know if you get to try it.