Beer Nouveau & Barley Wine

Sited under the railway arches on North Western Street in Manchester, Beer Nouveau’s The Temperance Brewery may not be the obvious choice for a feature on Burton upon Trent obsessed blog The Beertonian, but there is a very important connection which will become apparent later …

“I started homebrewing when I was fourteen and I’m now in my mid-forties so I’ve experimented with most styles,” says Head Brewer Steve Dunkley. “I used to run pubs back in the 90’s, before going into IT and about four years ago went commercial with brewing again. I started Beer Nouveau in my garage and ran it as England’s smallest commercial brewery for a year before deciding that it just wasn’t really a long-term option.”

If you want to see how Steve started, he shares all his secrets on his web site where he shows in great detail how to build a nine gallon brewery using old key kegs for under fifty quid.

He quickly found suitable premises: “When Privateer Beers decided to sell up and move on, I bought his kit off him in-situ and moved in. A year later the people we were sharing the railway arch with moved out so we expanded again to include a regular weekend brewery tap. The kit itself was handmade by Privateer, it’s six barrels with a fourteen barrel mash tun which allows us to do the big beers in single mashes.”

“I’ve always had an interest in heritage brewing,” Steve reveals. You can probably see where this is going because if Burton has one thing in abundance, it is old beers! “Mostly it stems from the belief that for all these big breweries to have got so large and to have survived for so long the beers must have been good. And by recreating the recipes I’ve been finding just that. They take longer but they’re definitely worth it.”

Steve is a great believer in attention to detail: “Recently I had a tonne of Chevallier kilned to my own pattern (Tetley’s 1860’s pale) to properly recreate an IPA and the difference is very noticeable.”

It was this passion for heritage brewing that led to him working with recently relaunched London brewer Truman’s. Of course Truman’s were once known as Truman, Hanbury & Buxton and along with their London premises on Brick Lane in Spitalfields they owned The Black Eagle Brewery on Derby Street in Burton, moving there in 1873 and staying until 1971, the brewery being demolished in 1974. They owned several pubs in Burton: Prince Alfred (a.k.a. Alfred Ale House) on Derby Street which was once the brewery tap, British Oak (a.k.a. Old Cottage) on Byrkley Street, Eagle on Thornley Street, Hanbury Arms on Sydney Street and the Roebuck on Station Street. The new Truman’s are based  at The Eyrie in Hackney Wick opening in 2013 and they hold the original brewery archives; found here are the all-important recipe books.

“One of Truman’s brewers did indeed come up and brew it here with us, it was a proper joint brew rather than just sharing a recipe or sending someone from the sales team along to have their picture taken,” says Steve. “I think our unlikely collaboration came about and worked for a few reasons: Truman’s are a forty barrel brewery; I’m a six barrel. They’ve a big team of staff; I’m a one man operation. Those are benefits when it comes to our collaboration, because I’m a one man brewery I get to decide what I want to brew, and when, which means I can make the decision to brew something that might not sell and I can change my brewing schedule on a whim. I’m small enough to be able to brew a big, powerful beer that might not be popular; with only eighteen firkins to shift rather than the 160 or so that Truman’s would need to sell if they brewed it on their kit. Plus brewing on my kit also makes it qualify for Small Brewers Relief, making it a lot more commercially viable for something like this. The other benefit of my kit is that although it’s a six barrel brew length it has a fourteen barrel mash tun so I can do big beers in single mashes.”

A big beer you say? How big do you want? 1916 No.1 Burton Barley Wine at 8.3%! Now that is massive!

“The barley wine itself is truly something else,” you can hear the pleasure in his voice and if this doesn’t get you drooling, what is wrong with you! “To be honest I think we initially released it too early; it was ready and tasting very good, but now that the stuff I’ve got in wooden pins has aged a bit (they’ve been in there since January) it’s tasting absolutely stunning. It’s smooth and light bodied, there’s no booziness to it, just an underlying awareness of alcohol. The wood’s worked with the remaining sugars to dry it out and give it vanilla notes, and the hops are hints. The whole thing is incredibly well balanced and very, very easy to drink.”

How easy you may ask: “We had a guy at the bar last night drinking pints of it! No one who has tried it hasn’t liked it; most are surprised that it’s as light as it is and that it’s not as boozy as they were expecting. I think they’ve got an idea of barley wine in their minds based on modern ones and this is completely different. A bit like how heritage IPA’s are nothing like modern ones!

“Unfortunately there isn’t much of it, just the 5 barrel brew length we did,” hardly surprising if there is a chap drinking it in pints! “Truman’s took ten firkins and I believe they were sold before we’d even finished brewing it and I put a barrel’s worth into an old whisky barrel that’s ageing before bottling in time for Christmas. I did bottle some of the un-aged barley wine, which will be available on the brewery website when I sort that part of it out but again there isn’t much.”

And there’s more to come: “It was a risk brewing a big heritage barley wine but it’s definitely paid off. We’re talking with the guys at Truman’s about the next collaboration we’ll do from their brewing records, hopefully we’ll bring them all back eventually!” @BeerNouveau @trumansbeer


If you fancy trying this at home, Steve has very kindly detailed the recipe below:

Malt: Chevallier 43%, Maris 24%, Extra Pale 12%, Flaked Maize 12% and High Enzyme (Weyerman Pilsner) 9%

Grain varieties have changed a lot over the years and keep changing, but we used Chevallier as our base malt because it’s an old grain (1824 I think) and was still around in the late 1800s and would have been very similar to grain around in the early 1900s. Maris Otter was the second grain because it has a high biscuitiness like Chevallier and Extra Pale bulked it out as they originally did to take advantage of cheap grain available. The Pilsner malt was a substitution, I’ve found brewing older recipes and with Chevallier in particular that mashes have to be a lot longer to get the sugars out. The enzymic content of the malt just doesn’t seem as high as the records would suggest, so putting in some pilsner malt takes care of that and brings the gravities up.

We were aiming for 1.079, but even with a longer mash and the pilsner malt we only got 1.072. Our final gravity was lower though, the records showed 1.020 while we got 1.009. Originally the beer would have gone into wood, so fermentation would have continued as it aged bringing that 1.020 gravity down further. So overall we’ve hit the right alcohol, just in a slightly different way. The flaked maize along with the Chevallier gave it a wonderful golden / amber colour and a slight residual sweetness, but not a cloying one.

Hops wise, not as many as you’d think for a beer that would have sat for a bit, with an overall IBU of 43. First wort hops as the beer went into the copper were Goldings to 22 IBU and at the start of a 90 minute boil we added Cluster to 6 IBU. At 30 minutes to go we added more Goldings up to 15 IBU and no late addition or aroma hops. However it was dry hopped with more Goldings.

We did want to use the original Truman’s house strain yeast, but we weren’t able to for this brew, so we used Nottingham this time for two reasons: firstly I like it, secondly it likes my kit. It’s a good solid yeast with similarities to the Truman’s house yeast.