The Heritage Barrel Ageing Programme will work with craft maltsters to recreate the grains used by breweries of the time, with beer brewed using recipes and processes researched by beer historians. Starting with an East India Pale Ale originally brewed in 1868 and a Russian Imperial Stout from 1859, the programme will expand to other heritage styles such as East India Porters and Krieks. As traditional East India Pale Ales were stored in barrels for 18 months, and Russian Imperial Stouts for 24 months.
Over the years, new and exciting techniques and ingredients have found their way into the brewing industry, from new hop varieties bred to cater to ever-changing tastes to new strains of grains malted in different ways. Modern methods of brewing that are now commonplace would not that long ago have seemed mad to your average brewer.
Which is a shame really, because the brewers of previous generations knew what they were doing. To produce distinctive, drinkable classic beers with the limited resources available to allow them to build large and lasting pub estates took talent and craft, and not a small amount of cunning.
The idea of Beer Nouveau up until now has been twofold: firstly to look at the old recipes that these skilled brewers used and to try and imagine how they would have brewed them if they had access to the ingredients that we do today, and secondly, to experiment still further with beer, to come up with new recipes by using as many new ingredients and ideas as we can.
The success of our recreations of historic recipes has been far beyond what we could have predicted. Over Easter 2016 we launched our wood cask programme, with six heritage ales served direct from the wooden casks they were conditioned in. This was a first for Manchester, and has since become a sought-after feature of our brewery taps.
One of our wooden casks was used later that year to showcase a recreation of a JW Lees Strong Ale from 1911 at Blackjack’s Smithfield Market Tavern alongside heritage recreations from other Manchester breweries as part of Manchester Beer Week. This brought our beer from the wood, the only one at the event, to the attention of a wider audience, including world-renowned beer historian Ron Pattinson whom we worked with to recreate this and subsequent recipes.
We now intend to take our reputation for heritage recipes and for beer in wooden casks further by setting up our own Heritage Barrel Programme.
We intend to purchase some old barrels to fill with beers brewed to old recipes, starting with an East India Pale Ale from 1868 and a Russian Imperial Stout from 1859. We’re currently working with a craft maltster to explore recreating malts from the 19th century, looking through the records of breweries such as Tetley’s of Leeds for their pale malt specifications for added authenticity.
What do we want from you, our potential investors? Money. What will we give you in return? Beer!
Starting a barrel programme isn’t cheap, but we want to make sure it’s just as worthwhile for you to invest in us as it is worth our while to create this programme. So we’re asking that you buy the beer in advance, either the IPA or the Russian Imperial Stout, or both, and we will use this money to purchase barrels and ingredients and to brew the beer. When it’s ready, we’ll hold exclusive tapping parties in our brewery for you to come along to and enjoy a first taste of these beers, brewed and aged as they were in the 1800s.
Barrel ageing beer also takes time. IPAs were traditionally stored for a year before then spending six months on a ship over to India, whilst Russian Imperial Stouts were stored for two years before their relatively short two-week journey to St. Petersburg. We’ll store our barrels for the same amount of time that the beers would traditionally have been aged, before opening and enjoying them.
We’ve found when using our wooden casks that the beer ages more quickly than in barrels due to the different surface area to volume ratio. Accordingly, we also plan to put some of each brew into our original wooden casks so that we can open them for a preview of how the barrel-aged beers might taste. We’ll therefore be opening the smaller casks of IPA and Russian Imperial Stout at six and twelve months respectively, followed by tapping parties for the larger barrels at eighteen and twenty-four months.
We understand not everyone will be able to travel to Manchester for a party, so we’ll also be bottling some of the beer, and we’ll be commissioning some special merchandise like glasses, limited edition sharing bottles, bottle openers, pin badges, and a very lovely lavishly illustrated book taking you through the barrelling process alongside the recipes and the history of the beers.
Beer Nouveau started in a converted garage in Prestwich, Manchester late in 2014, with the first bottles hitting the shelves of a few select retailers in November that year. Production capacity increased quickly until there was no more space in the garage for fermenters.
The beers met with high praise, including Satan*c Mills stout – considered by Time Out as one of the seven great beers brewed in Greater Manchester. No small achievement considering there were seventy breweries in the region and it was brewed on a hand-made forty litre kit!
In September 2015, less than a year after starting, Beer Nouveau moved out of the garage and into the former Privateer brewery, scaling up from 40 to 1,200 litres. One year later our Brewery Tap became the first in Manchester where every weekend anyone could walk in for pints of brewery fresh beer.