A Day in the life of Barney

Our new feature looks at a typical day in the life of our favourite people from the world of beer. This month, Barney’s Beer founder Andrew “Barney” Barnett takes us through a day at his Edinburgh brewery…

We’re definitely not early-birds at Barney’s so everything starts at around nine by weighing out the different varieties of malt we’ll need for that day’s brew and start mashing in. Being very much a micro-brewery, everything is still done by hand so mashing-in involves a very high-tech paddle, much like a boat oar, and some old-fashioned elbow-grease. Once the grain and hot liquor have been combined we leave it to infuse, allowing the starch from the grain to break down into fermentable sugars.

The (tea) kettle goes on for a much-needed break while the progress of the beer in the fermentation and conditioning tanks are checked. If all’s gone to plan, one of the beers should be finished its fermentation and ready for maturation and beer from conditioning is ready to be racked into containers, or for transfer to the bottling plant.

After the beer from the conditioning or fermentation tanks has been transferred, the vessels will be cleaned and sanitised in preparation for use later in the day.

We’ve started collecting the sugary malty substance that forms the base of all beer – and creates that unmistakable amazing smell of a brewery – ‘sweet wort’ from the mash tun and transferring it to the copper where the solution will be brought to the boil and hops will be added. The run-off can take as long as two or three hours to maximise the extract. Because the run-off is quite long, it’s the time of day when we can catch up on other tasks – like putting together new recipes or trial brews, loading and unloading beer from the bottlers, ordering raw materials…

Lunch – and dog walks in The Meadows for Barney and Mhairi’s dogs

The unpleasant but necessary job of de-ullaging casks usually happens throughout the afternoon in between checking on the run-off. In the simplest terms, de-ullaging refers to washing all the gunk left in casks and kegs. We ensure the containers are thoroughly rinsed, then washed and sanitised ready be filled again with beer. There is an old brewer’s joke that a brewers job is 10% brewing and 90% cleaning up.

In preparation for today’s brew, a fermentation vessel has to be – you guessed it – cleaned! The fermentation process in brewing has to be done under completely sanitary conditions so thorough cleaning is essential.

The run-off is completed, and the wort is brought to the boil and the first lot of hops – the “bittering hops” – are added. After that, all of the spent grain – over 200kg worth – needs to be dug out of the mash tun, and the tank is cleaned ready for the next day’s brew.

The second load of hops – “aroma hops” – are added to the boil and the finished hopped wort is transferred to the fermentation vessel.

Once the transfer is completed, we “pitch” the yeast in to the top of the vessel and leave it for the next 10 days to allow the magic little micro-organisms to metabolise the sugars yielded in the mash and turn them in to ethanol and carbon dioxide – essentially, they make the beer fizzy and alcoholic! After this it’s time to tidy up the brewery for the end of the day.
Throughout the day, as well as brewing, the rest of the team are delivering beer around town, tackling marketing, sales, social media and answering enquiries. In such a small team, everyone has to wear many hats, and everyone has multiple roles to make sure the beer is not only made and tasting great but is also sold and distributed

We finish up between five and half five then it’s a short jaunt over the alleyway to The Royal Dick for a pint, or if it’s the weekend we’ll head down to The Pitt Market in Leith.

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