So, can you tell us how it all started for you?
We aren’t sure exactly but it sort of dropped on us out of the blue we guess. We moved up to Edinburgh as Brenn took on a contract position up there. A beautiful city, brilliant people and really good beer and whiskey. It was a combo that opened our eyes to new tastes, flavours and many different types of beers.
Brenn remembers ordering a Deuchars in a pub just off Princes Street. The barman looked at him with an utterly blank face, proceeded to correct the pronunciation and poured him the pint.
The love and affection for beer has always been there but we guess it was the first sip of Punk or the first time you managed to get your hands on a Stone, Arrogant Bastard…it was like a lightbulb moment.
What was your first brew and how did it turn out?
Our very first brew was a pineapple beer we used to make in South Africa. Because the African Summer lends itself to rapid brews, we managed to successfully brew this on a few occasions. You can’t really drink a lot of it because apart from it being on the north side of being closely associated to paraffin, it also has the added disadvantage of giving you ‘the trots’ which is South African slang for ‘the shits’. The recipe basically comes from the informal settlements and it’s a recipe that these people use to brew up a beer which is cheap and easy to make and would pretty much put you to bed.
The first brew we did in the UK was a Coopers Brew A IPA. We followed the instructions to the absolute tee and 6 weeks later, we had a standard, drinkable IPA which we were absolutely chuffed with.
Many brews later and we have managed upgraded our brew kit to a single, all-in-one system (due to space etc) and we have managed to successfully brew a single hope Sorachi Ace Pale Ale, a Blackberry Wheat Beer (with over 5 kilo’s of wild Blackberries picked by one half of Crafty), a outstanding Old Ale which came in at a hefty 8.5% (but we have both agreed that we will be brewing it every year if we can), a delectable Coffee Stout which was loosely based on Deschutes Brewery’s Obsidian Stout but with the addition of 1.8kilo’s of extra malts. We most recently bottled a clone of Mikkellers Monk (trappiest style beer) but we are going to leave that to condition for at least 4 to 6 months.
Were there any mishaps / funny moments along the way leading to now?
Nothing too major, apart from the odd boil over. Oh…yes…. we recently brewed a nice, basic IPA, hopped with Citra, Centennial and Cascade and dry hopped with loads of Citra and Cascade. Unfortunately, we landed up adding a bit too much dried mandarin peel to the fermenting wort (our intention was a nice hoppy Mandarin and Szechuan Peppercorn IPA) and by the time we had our first taste test, it was heavily infused with pithy, citrus skin sourness. We did go ahead and bottle a smaller batch and we’ll give it a go in a few weeks but we’re not holding our breathe.
Are there any pieces of equipment that you are looking to buy soon, or are converting for the future?
We might do a slight mod to our all-in-one system to include a whirlpool, but our next purchase might be a stainless-steel fermenter (Mangrove Jack or Ss Brewtech). We are also looking at maybe purchasing a 30 P Plate Chiller from Bridgewater Brewing. So, we guess nothing major, maybe just try streamline our process a bit more. Shaving a bit of time off your brew day can be a good thing.
Bottle or Keg?
For the moment, bottle and always brown. Brown bottles filter out some light that prevents the beer from going ‘skunky.’ It’s called that because if you expose beer to light for long enough, it will smell bad. Brown bottles filter out visible and ultraviolet light that causes this reaction.
We are looking at putting together a small kegerator (hopefully in time for summer).
What is your go to recipe or signature brew?
It’s got to be the Old Ale. I guess it’s because it’s the first beer that we both felt ‘we have totally nailed this’.
It’s a sort of traditional take on a Country Ale. Its darkish with fruity, sherry-like flavours and the longer its conditioned, the more developed its character becomes.
Its got 4 different types of malt, uses only Goldings to add bitterness and slight hop notes. Its fermented at between 20 & 22 degrees for 9-12 days using English Ale yeast and conditioned for minimum of 12 weeks between 12 and 15 degrees.
We have got a couple of styles that we want to try this year, these include:
English Barley Wine
Cornish Tin Miners Ale
Spicy, Citrusy Saison
Helles Bock style
What is your schedule for a typical brew day?
Usually the malts, yeast and any additional ingredients are purchased online with the intention of brewing as soon as possible but inevitably it gets put off until we both have time.
Because Chrystal does a few shifts behind the bar at FourHops in Reigate, it’s difficult to plan a brew day out and out. So, we tend to speak about it about 2-3 days before we go ahead. But it’s usually on a Friday night, Saturday and we have done the odd Sunday brew day.
It always consists of loads of sanitizing, sanitizing and yip, more sanitizing.
But it’s an epic feeling once that sparge is done and its up to a rolling boil and you are throwing in those first hops. You get that feeling of ‘I can’t wait to taste this’.
What do you love about home brewing and the industry in general?
I mean, what’s not to love about it! You are making your own beer! You determine the outcome of that brew.
We love following a step by step if we are cloning but we always try to put our own twist on things…which I guess no longer makes it a clone.
Look, to get a clone absolutely spot on is a tough job. There are so many things that determine that brew. We are convinced that stainless steel fermenting is going to produce a much cleaner, precise kind of brew but we wouldn’t know this because I currently only have the means to ferment in a plastic fermenter.
This is the kind of thing we love about brewing in general. You are constantly thinking of ways to better your previous brew. That’s a fantastic thing.
In terms of the wider Brewing Industry, because we are active on Social Media, we are fairly in tune with what’s going on and where. We try and interact as and when we feel appropriate and we support not only local breweries but just as importantly, local business.
We generally feel positive but there are also some nagging questions which we feel need to be addressed to enable the industry to compare to the US and to generally help the industry grow further and more positively. One issue we have found is there certainly isn’t enough apprenticeships/internships being offered for brewing enthusiasts with little experience other then homebrewing experience and the few apprenticeships/internships that we have seen seem hellbent on experience and we think very few are offered to women, which is another gripe we have, and which is an issue that is fairly hot in the brewing world at the moment. Women like beer…. men like beer….so why is it so difficult to break the mould and start accepting that beer shouldn’t necessarily be marketed towards a specific gender, or that breweries are ‘tough’ places to work and probably not for women, this is utter nonsense. Beer is the lovely stuff that brings people together. It’s simple…Like, Share, Drink, Enjoy! Regardless of race, gender or shoe size! LOL!
Are you attending any festivals / competitions in the coming months?
We are committed to Brighton Tap Takeover over the weekend of the 27th April, simply because last year’s event was insanely good. Laine’s really put on a hell of a weekend, with some seriously good beer.
We are keen on Beaverex 2018 having seen all the articles regarding last years event, this is something we really want to attend.
We always drop in to the local Crafty Beer Festival hosted in Croydon. They always serve up an interesting selection of some really great beer.
What are your plans for the future and where do you think the industry is headed?
Our long-term plan is all about expanding Crafty Couple. We intend stay on top of updating our website. We also have some plans to do a blog aimed at some of the key points weighing on the industry but centred more around our own take on things. We are both exceptionally passionate about beer and what it represents, not only to the individual but to the community. So, we are looking at a few more Taproom Takeover at FourHops in Reigate (we had a couple of successful events last year) as well as bi-hosting some events with local street vendors and companies.
We think the industry is still heading in the right direction, but it could probably do without the in-between fuss. What we mean is, maybe there could be some more emphasis from Beer Journo’s on a couple more hard-hitting topics but also get back to good, old journalism and get back to your roots and why they originally go into beer journalism. We dig reading articles from James Beeson, Melissa Cole and Matt Curtis but we also enjoy the less ‘direct approach’ that Jonny and Brad (Craft Beer Channel) have adopted. It’s great to highlight and discuss in-depth topics about sexism in beer etc but beer and brewing seems to have become too strict. It should be fun, enjoyable and relaxing. Who cares what you know about brewing beer…if you are passionate about it, lets talk about it!
Are there any breweries that you admire for what they are producing?
This is a bit like ‘how long is a piece of string’.
Stand out Breweries – probably Burning Sky, Partizan, Wylam, Beavertown, Kernel and Salopian.
Less obvious but still really awesome – Moor, Old Chimneys, The Three Legs, Unbarred and Tuatara.
We have both agreed that Burning Sky’s early 2016 Monolith on Keg was absolutely sublime. It’s oaky with its farmhouse aroma and the wild yeast does come through with a mild acidity.
Another one that we can’t get enough of at the moment is The Park Brewery’s Spankers IPA. In bottle…meeehh…on Keg, YES PLEASE! Its bold, juicy, heavily hopped with a really good, rich backbone of malt. It’s got a very subtle, slight bitterness on the end which we think compliments the bold, punchiness of the beer.
Finally, what is the name of your “one day” brewery?
Mmmmmmm…so we are tinkering with the idea of opening a Bottleshop/Tap Room, so we don’t want to give too much away.
But if it were a brewery, probably something like Rough Draft Aleworks or Audacity Brewing Company or The Side Project Brewing…. something like that.
So there you have it, another interesting interview with a homebrewer – a big thank you to Brennan Woollands for giving up his time. If you fancy being interviewed please feel free to get in touch.