FOUR NATURAL INGREDIENTS
The water – or liquor – is extracted from our chalk wells 200ft beneath the brewery. It’s amazing to think that we use the same liquor supply as the monks in Bury St. Edmund’s Great Abbey did 1,000 years ago. It was good enough for the Benedictine monks of St Edmund and it’s good enough for us! By adding extra mineral salts, we’re able to replicate brewing liquors from Abingdon, Nottingham and Essex.
Here in Suffolk, we’re lucky to have lots of sunshine and fertile soils. Much like the rest of the nearby East Anglian countryside, this area produces the best malting barley in the world. Malted barley contains sugars and when we ferment these using the yeast, we make alcohol. It’s also the malts that give the beer its fantastic colour.
It’s the hops that create each beer’s distinctive character – its bitter flavours and its individual aroma. They also act as a preservative and an antiseptic. Our hops mostly come from Kent, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. But we do use some international hops too – from as far away as Tasmania!
Finally, our magic ingredient is yeast. It’s the yeast which transforms the sugar to alcohol. There are several strains of yeast, each of which give a different characteristic to our beers. Did you know that we sell our excess yeast to Marmite? Love it or hate it, we don’t like to see anything go to waste!
THE BREWING PROCESS EXPLAINED
First, we extract the liquor – or water – from the wells and pump it to the top of the Brewhouse. We screen the malt so that we know we’re only using the very best. Then we crush it to produce grist.
We mix the grist with hot water to form a porridge-like mixture called mash and pump it into the ‘mash tun’. Mashing takes place around 65̊C and produces a liquid called ‘sweet wort’. We transfer the sweet wort to the copper, which acts like a giant kettle. Next, we add the hops to the copper. We boil them together with the sweet wort for around an hour. We then allow the mixture to cool.
Once it’s cool, we transfer the wort to the fermentation vessel and mix it with oxygen on the way. We then add – or pitch – the yeast, which converts the sugars to alcohol. It also produces carbon dioxide, giving the beer that little bit of fizz. The yeast usually takes around five days to ferment. And once the fermentation is complete, we have beer!
We can then bottle or barrel the beer, label it and prepare it for delivery across Britain and around the world ready for you to enjoy at your favourite local.
The craft of brewing Strong SuffolkHere in Bury St. Edmunds, we’re the only brewery in the UK to continue producing 18th century-style ‘country beer’ – in fact, our Strong Suffolk is one of the things that makes us so unique! It’s a blend of two beers – Best Pale Ale (BPA) and Old 5X.
We cherish Old 5X here at Greene King. It’s very strong – at 12% – and is stored in three wooden oak vats at our brewery in Bury St. Edmunds for at least two years. The area inside the brewery where the vats are stored were once tunnels that linked the monastery with the local abbot’s house: convenient for lie-lowing monks at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries.
The lids of the vats are covered in marl – a word in Suffolk dialect for the sandy gravel that covers much of the county. The weight of the marl stops the effect of the secondary fermentation from opening the lids.
While Old 5X on its own can taste very tart and sour, Strong Suffolk hits the spot. The vintage ‘country beer’ has a spicy, oaky, sherry wine and iron-like intensity on the aroma and palate with a profoundly sour note.