You’ve heard the phrase “been there, done that, bought the t-shirt”.  After my visit to the Vox Bar in Huddersfield I can truthfully say all three, as I am currently sitting here wearing the said item.  Sitting behind Wetherspoons, this bar has ales on tap from every country of brewing note, as well as as an excellent own brew currently sourced from Sheffield.  I spent a very pleasant afternoon relaxing here while discussing the merits, good or otherwise, of Star Wars Episode 3 over some very good beers.  The “Vox” house beer was an excellent tasty hoppy beer and is well recommended, while the Schneider Weisse from Germany made an excellent second pint.  It was a pity that Brooklyn Brewery Ale had ran out when I visited as I have never sampled the beer on tap before, only in its bottled form.

Near this bar is a specialist Caribbean shop which sells several beers I’ve not seen anywhere else on a licensed or retail basis including Carib. Among these are Dragon Stout from Jamaica (made by the native brewers of Red Stripe). An expectedly dark beer with a hint of red, it can best be described as a blend of sweet / nutty in flavour, with other tasters online picking up cherry and dates, which I don’t disagree with.   It leaves plenty for you taste buds to think about after drinking, more than can be said for a lot of mainstream beers.  Overall an interesting beer which will interest you if you are after a stout with more depth in flavour than Guinness.  Also in the shop was a brew “Guinness Smooth”, I’d like to know how you can get Guinness any smoother, but may pay for the chance to find out next time I pass.

While in Huddersfield I also popped into the Head of Steam, that long term bastion of real ale in the town.  The brewery alone chose me to chose the Crystal Red from Saltaire despite it being a dark beer, the opposite of my usual choice.  The toffee hints in the flavour complimented a nice overall flavour and deep red colour.  Not one that will make my top 5 beers, but nice for a couple of pints.  The pub holds a stock of 6 ales on tap minimum in lovely relaxing settings and the staff know their stuff.  Both the pubs mentioned are well worth a visit if in the town and will be getting repeat visits from myself.

On a totally different scale to many brewers I mention here, I caught the Megafactories episode covering the largest Heineken factory in Zoeterwoude, Netherlands on TV.  The size of, and output from this plant is just amazing, the place even has its own water purification plant which requires high pressure pumps just to force the water through the finest filter.  The amazing thing is that the yeast used is still a clone of the yeast used in 1886, named “Heineken A-yeast”.  A small vial of this is cultured into a several gallon sized container via the natural division of the yeast compounds and then can be used to create 30 billion litres of the beer over its lifespan via repeated use.  The same yeast is used all over the world at other plants.

The plant uses 20 trucks and 600 tonnes of malted barley a day to feed production, and 450,000 litres of water per hour.  It produces approximately 500,000 bottles an hour from 14 lines  and 6 brewing streams.  200 vertical “fermentation and lagering” tanks measuring 20m tall are all part of the process.  Every number relating to the place is big, from the 1,000,000 square metres of its footprint to the biggest of all, the 2,625,000,000 pints produced a year.  That is apart from the number of people who decide when the raw ingredients or part produced beer is ready for the next stage, that number is 1, a single person who approves the hops, barley, and intermediate brews during production.  That is an immense responsibility when a single production run can cost millions of euros.

When you drink your pint you don’t often think about how many stages it goes through for just 4 main ingredients, that goes for the microbrewery or plants such as Zoeterwoude.  The process is the same.  However when you actually realise all the nuts and bolts which make this possible, that simple pint suddenly looks a lot more complicated.

Until next week, happy supping.

  1. Angus says:

    I’m glad you appreciate that just because its big doesnt mean that the product is nay less quality, i’ve been round Zouterwoude and its just a different concept of brewing even from the likes of S&N. I belive they spend circa E35m a year on improvements.

    Most breweries have their own water treatment plants by the way! Have you seen the price of towns water!

    You need to do a section on spirits – mine was the worlds best last year, distilled in Herefordshire, available worldwide!

    • admin says:

      I’ll do your plug for you shall I :^) http://www.chasedistillery.co.uk/
      Spirits are harder to write about as I don’t get a chance to sample as much. I did a bit about calvados about a month ago. However I’ll be happy to do a comprehensive review of the chase range if supplied :^)