Leopard Stout

posted in: art, brews, collabs, sales | 0

Leopard Stout was launched this week. It is a collaboration brew with Jon Tucker, who wanted to brew a beer that would age well, and he chose the foreign export style. He gave me an example of the style he respected – The Kernel’s Export Stout. We looked at two versions of the Truman 1890 recipes on which theirs was based and built our own recipe after consulting with them. We wanted a deep, rich, complex body with loads of flavors – prune, cinder, toffee, espresso, dark chocolate, molasses – but a little on the dry side, and very hoppy. We used Northern Brewer as our bittering hop, targeting 60 IBUs, and went with Bramling Cross as an aroma hop to accentuate the dark fruits imparted by the malts.

Our malt bill consisted of eight different kinds: pale ale (base malt), aromatic malt, torrified wheat, brown malt, black malt, Carafa Special 3, Special B, and CaraMunich 1. We chose the kinds and quantities to maximize flavor complexity without making it muddy, and to minimize oxidation over the aging process. The result is a beautiful black beer with a creamy tan head, with an aroma of coffee, toffee, and plum. The body is full and rich, with more coffee, caramel, dark fruits, and bitter chocolate.  The finish is sweet, light roast, and mocha, with a quick bitterness.

Despite the rich body, it’s not a heavy beer, and it’s not too sweet. Just sweet enough. And not so roasty that you tire of it.

I’m really pleased with the way this turned out and it’s only going to get better with age. I never would have brewed a beer in this style if Jon hadn’t suggested it. Jon also came up with the name of the beer: Leopard Stout. It’s described as a “foreign extra stout” on the label because, well, it’s extra special.


Leopard Stout bottles


The label art includes a modification of “Leopard in tree” by flowcomm on flickr.com and is licensed under CC by 2.0.

Laniakea Pale Ale

posted in: art, brews, inspiration | 0


Here’s a video introduction to my latest beer release, Laniakea Pale Ale, named after the Laniakea supercluster in which we live. Laniakea means “immeasurable heaven” in Hawaiian.

I had small quantities left of various hops, so in an attempt to clean out the hop freezer, I created a recipe that used them all. This American pale ale has Warrior, Columbus, Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic hops. It’s really pleasant and refreshing, and a modest 5.3%. Because it’s a “clean the hop freezer” recipe, it’s a one-time only brew. I could brew it again, but I’d have to get my hands on all those hops first. Easier said than done.

The malt bill consists mainly of lager malt, with Munich malt, wheat malt, and Belgian Aromatic malt.

The label art is of a jellyfish, because the map of the supercluster filaments reminded me of one. Also there’s that TNG pilot…

Laniakea pale ale is available in bottles at The Wine Seller (Compton) and the Arena Theatre (Wolverhampton). They should appear by now at In Spirit and Red and White, both in Tamworth. Cherry Reds at John Bright Street has a Keykeg of it but I’m not sure when it will be tapped. I’m delivering to more bottle shops, probably next weekend, if I get the labels in time. Watch this page for updates. Addresses & numbers for these outlets are listed here.

Laniakea label




Bottle Filler Fundraiser

posted in: operations, rants, technical | 0

I’ve been struggling with a puny bottle filler, which has been making my working days hell.

It’s just me at Sacre Brew – Gwen – and no one else. I have no staff. I can’t afford any yet. And, mysteriously, no one seems to jump at the chance to volunteer with helping to bottle. [Update: this has changed! I’ve had a few volunteers offer to help me bottle, and it’s been great!]

The current bottle filler is a piece of junk. It wastes a lot of beer, as well as splashing it around too much for my liking. I can almost see the beer oxidizing before my eyes. Actually, I haven’t detected any oxidation off-flavors in my beer yet, but it stresses me out even thinking of the possibility. How other brewers use this bad contraption is beyond me. I guess they just don’t care.

The worst part about the bottle filler is that it doesn’t work smoothly. It’s got four heads; each one goes inside an empty beer bottle, which hooks over a metal bar that keeps it in place (most of the time) as it fills. These heads lose their flow every 3 bottles or fewer, forcing me to re-prime them continuously, breaking the flow of my bottling. To get them primed (i.e., full of beer), I have to attach a hose to the end and suck on it before quickly disengaging it. This horrifies me in terms of sanitation but I assure you, it’s a long enough hose and I never let the beer reach my mouth. This is actually how the machine was designed to be used. Still, there’s got to be a better way!


So I asked some brewer friends what kind of manual bottling systems they used and got some recommendations. An automated bottling system costs tens of thousands of pounds, so that’s out. The best choice for me is a manual system that has excellent level control and a pump with automatic on/off. I’d prefer to buy one that will suit my needs in the long term, and not something that I will quickly outgrow within a year. Something made with quality parts that is easy to clean. So I’ve selected this model:


I’m caught in the Catch-22 of being unable to bottle beer fast enough to sell, but not having enough money to buy a better bottle filler, which costs about £1600. It’s not a lot of money when spread amongst many people, but it’s unaffordable for Sacre Brew at this time. So I’m launching an independent crowdfunding effort to help raise funds for this purchase.

It doesn’t really stop at the better bottle filler. I have 9 fermentors but can only use 4 at a time because that’s how many stands I have. I could use extra funds for other things, such as boxes, labels, hoses, dollies, etc. so any amount above this figure will be used towards general operating expenses until I achieve momentum and get into a groove – which I can’t quite get into without these necessary items. So my ultimate fundraising goal is £3500 to get into a groove.

Sacre Brew is doing well and has tremendous potential to be a successful regional microbrewery but it’s been hit by some bad equipment decisions in the startup phase. This has severely set back the brewery in many ways, though the problems have since been overcome. However, the financial loss incurred from delays, bad equipment, burnt beer, replacing parts, and so on has decimated the brewery’s savings that were supposed to cover cashflow all this time.

I still owe contributors from the startup Indiegogo fundraising campaign, so I’m not going to promise any gifts I can’t afford. All I can offer is sincere gratitude, a 10% discount on brewery sales for a minimum £10 donation, invitations to private keg parties at the brewery, a promise to continue making great beer without compromise, and an improvement in your well being from your kind and generous act.

Bottle Filler target: £1600

Total Fundraising Goal: £3500 – covers other equipment, professional fees, and supplies

Fundraising Tally as of 1 June 2015: £2975



By June people raised £2975 in funds that made the bottler purchase possible, along with some other bits and pieces of equipment. Thanks so much!

This fundraiser is over but if you want to contribute, get in touch or watch out for the next fundraiser campaign.