After our AGM we set up a number of ‘teams’ amongst the members to take on the organisation and running of some of the activities on the farm. The first team to get under way was our brewing team lead by our ‘master brewer’, Tom. We’d already harvested some barley from our first small crop and, using traditional methods we threshed the grain and winnowed it on tarps in the field. After leaving the barley to dry for a week, we were ready to start the brewing process proper. The first job is to soak the barley several times in water, allowing it to dry in between. We had been given some large blue tubs that helpfully fitted inside each other so Tom drilled a series of holes in the bottom of one tub and set it inside the second one. We then repeatedly soaked and dryed the barley over the course of a few days.
Next, we had to germinate the grains. For this, we used an old kids sandpit that was big enough to spread the grains out fairly thinly. We left it for a week in the polytunnel, with just occassional stirrings until the grains had grown little shoots.
Then the barley must be dried thoroughly at around 45 degrees. We were a bit stuck at this stage, but fortunately Dan offered us his home-made honey separator which could take most of the barley and keep it at the desired temperature. The rest of the grain was put in the farm’s egg incubator which could nearly get up to the right temperature. After a week of this treatment the grain had dried out until it was back to its original weight, 8kgs.
The last step before the brewing can really start was to grind the malt. We weren’t fortunate enough to have a proper grinder, but Simon managed to knock together a couple of rollers during the week that we could mount and use to grind the barley. We swiftly mounted these lovely rollers on the back of our cider press. The original plan was to power one of the rollers with a cordless drill but we soon realised that it had too much speed and not enough torque.
During the following week, Kriss constructed a handle and on the Saturday he welded it onto one roller and with a hand-cranking action we were able to grind the grain twice in fairly short order. Our barley was now ready to be brewed! Unfortunately at this stage, when we added hot water to start turning the malt into wort, our malt failed. We never got enough maltose out to make a decent brew and so the remains of the experiment have been fed to the pigs – nothing wasted!
The story doesn’t end here though, we’re going to try with professionally malted but not yet ground grain next week and see if we can workout if the grinding or the malting stage let us down. Once that’s been worked out, we’ll be ready to try again with another batch of our barley.