We start by pitching the malt (or “grist”) into the mash tun and carefully wetting all the grains to form the mash, which is hand-mixed by our artisan brewers until it reaches the perfect consistency. This process activates natural enzymes which convert starches in the grain into sugar, which will later be fermented into alcohol.
We then “sparge” the converted mash by sprinkling water over it, which slowly drains through the wet grains. During this process the sugars, along with a myriad of subtle flavours, are dissolved into the water, which becomes the wort.
The unhopped wort is passed into the copper (a giant kettle), and this strong flavoured, sweet liquor - which at this point tastes like a sweet, malty bedtime drink - is brought to the boil. We then pitch the whole hop flowers into the copper and boil them in the wort until just the right amount of flavour and bitterness have been infused into the liquor.
The boiled, hopped wort is cooled and passed into one of our closed-top fermentation vessels, where the yeast is pitched and allowed to work for several days, busily fermenting the sugars into alcohol, until the desired alcoholic strength is achieved.
At this point the beer is quickly cooled, which temporarily puts the yeast to sleep and stops the fermentation process. Some of the beer is then transferred for processing into bottles. Our bottled beer is the same beer as we sell in casks – not a special recipe that tastes different. At Keltek we use a subtle process for bottling which retains the original flavours of the beer whilst still giving it a good shelf life.
The rest of the beer is prepared for casking. At this point many modern breweries offering cask ales then pass the beer into closed conditioning tanks, making it easier to clear the beer when it’s subsequently put into the cask. However, we believe that a far more pleasing pint is achieved by following the traditional method of cask-conditioning whereby the chilled beer is filled directly into casks where it is allowed to warm up. The yeast then wakes up and ferments the last little bit of remaining sugar, adding a gentle, natural effervescence to the beer which then has a perfect head on it when it gets served in the pub. It takes us a little longer this way but we think it’s worth the effort to offer the most traditional of ales.