A Leap Into The Dark – A Brewday at Quantum Brewing

“She said I’ll throw myself away, they’re just photos after all.

I can’t make you hang around, I can’t wash you off my skin.

Outside the frame, is what we’re leaving out. You won’t remember anyway”

(“Go With The Flow” – Queens Of The Stone Age)

(Clip courtesy of Chanchoconhipo – YouTube)

Nearly 15 years ago, I moved to London due to a promotion. Without my family and with my third child only 10 months old. I was miserable. As sad as I could possibly be, short of being stalked by the black dog. What saved me from the pits of despair was work. And XFM.

At that time, XFM was a determinedly left-field Indie Rock radio station based in London, playing the stuff you simply didn’t get on Radio 1. I spent a lot of time listening to the radio then. A new colleague called Tony introduced me to XFM and also tried to indoctrinate me into a love of Metal. I got as far as Metallica and Queens Of The Stone Age. He introduced me to a song that only contained 8 actual words. Repeated. With the exception of the word “and”, they were all the names of drugs. The song? “Feel Good Hit of the Summer“. I was hooked.

After nearly 18 miserable months, I got my dream move back up North to be with my family and threw myself into work again, but with the added joy of seeing my kids at night.

I returned to Manchester, but the love of Queens Of The Stone Age stuck. I bought the album “Songs For The Deaf” on its release in September 2002. I put it on in the car…and waited. The first track is called “You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar But I Feel Like A Millionaire”. It is the first track that PHYSICALLY moved me. It starts with a dialled down bit of power guitar, then, at exactly the 1 minute mark…BANG…my head was thrown back into the headrest!

This album remains in my all-time top 10. “Go With The Flow” was (alongside “No One Knows”) the standout single complete with strange performance video….

The lyric just haunts me and paints a picture of disposability and despair, set against a  rollicking rhythm, propelled by the thunderous drumming of Dave Grohl – his best performance for me.

I just love it. OK?

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It all started with a Vodka. A very smooth almost creamy textured Vodka by all accounts. Well, when I say “by all accounts”, I actually mean “in the opinion of The Arch Nemesis”!

This was all before The Independent Salford Beer Festival.

The idea was floated by the genius that is Jay Krause and he was up for a Stout made with…..Buckwheat! It seemed to appeal to his particular brand of beery madness! So, plans were made for a special beer for the Festival, only for that old Rabbie Burns phrase to bite us on the ass. Timing wise, it just didn’t quite work out. A damn shame really.

However, that thought stuck with Jay and not long after ISBF, he was back in contact and wondering if we still fancied it……A rhetorical question if ever I heard one!

So, on a cold late November Tuesday, I find myself in Stockport, cold and hoping that The Arch-Nemesis had picked up the hint and bought a coffee at Stockport Station whilst he was waiting……As if…..so having turned up earlier than needed, we hunted down some griddled pig and a hot steamy coffee.

Finally having consumed our steaming coffee and salty piggage, it was back to a previously locked industrial unit on Hempshaw Lane and to where the magic happens with (almost) monotonous regularity…the lair of the Craft Wizard that is Mr Jay Krause and Quantum Brewing!

The idea was rather simple. Brew a Stout. With Buckwheat. However, when Jay started to mention the amount of dry goods that were to go into this mash, something did NOT compute. Well, it did actually, but on a rather bigger scale than the Arch-Nemesis & I had thought. Nearly a QUARTER TON of malt! Then it hit me. This was to be no glugging Stout. Oh no. This was going to be a beastie and no mistake! Pale Malt, Chocolate Malt, Roasted Barley, Cara Malt and Buckwheat. With the appearance of Euan (he of Port Street) we cracked on…..

It. Just. Didn’t. Stop.

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With the Hot Liquor (that’s water to – post-Mitchell – plebs like you and me!) at the right temperature, in went the first 25kg sack of Maris Pale, with Jay initially mashing then me taking over so that the sadistic streak in him could chuck sack after heavy sack into the mash tun….

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Each time that consistency of texture had been achieved, the call went up “ready for some more……?” (Another of them rhetoricals!)

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“Ready for more….”

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If you can’t see any further capacity in the mash tun….your eyes aren’t deceiving you. This was Full. To. The. Brim.

This was a seriously heavy mash and took a hell of an effort to break up the inevitable clumps of barley and buckwheat, but, with a huge effort, we managed it.

Upon the commencement of the transfer to the copper, bittering hops were added, a mix of Cluster & Bramling Cross at about 2.5 kg and then the sparging could start to help extract all of the malty goodness from this dark and devilishly gloopy mash. And it didn’t matter how much water was added. The wort was impenetrably, almost satanically, BLACK. Oh my! It was THAT black, that the hops turned black.

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(Some gratuitous hoppy Copper action)

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(“Black Hops”)

It smelled ……beautiful.

It was upon transfer to the FV that something almost instantly magical happened. Jay primed the yeast with some of the coal-black wort. Within minutes, smells of red wine and port just oozed out. The aroma of things to come. Primed, the yeast was pitched in and left to do its lengthy work. The wort had a gravity at between somewhere near 1083, so this should pan out at around 8.5% abv, maybe slightly higher, dependent on fermentation.

This was a fun day, enlivened by a little “rubber band Olympiad” (see below) and finished off with a mini crawl around some excellent Stockport pubs, topped off – for me – with an absolutely stunning pint of Oatmeal Pale by Brass Castle in The Magneta very pleasant surprise find indeed.

The Arch-Nemesis & I are very grateful to Jay and Euan for what was a hugely enjoyable, fun & surprising day (WE had no idea this would become an Impy, honest! And I ached for two days after some SERIOUS mash tun digging!

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(Jay & Euan’s rubber fetish reaching new heights!)

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(Some of the spent malt – These are gonna be happy local cows!!!)

This beer is likely to debut at The Manchester Beer & Cider Festival at The Velodrome at the end of January. As with the Allgates Sloe Stout last year, this beer will be first on MY dance card! I can’t wait to taste it (but am going to have to!)

On that note…til next time…(new bar Wigan Central write-up!)

Slainte!

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