05 April 2015

Bell St Brewery, Henley-on-Thames - Honey Bee launch

The Brakspear brewery at New Street, Henley-on-Thames, closed in October 2002. Brakspear Bitter (3.4% ABV), Brakspear Oxford Gold (4.0% ABV) and Brakspear Triple (6.7% ABV) are now brewed by Wychwood (owned by Marston's PLC) in Witney.

Brakspear has 145 pubs including the Bull on Bell Street, Henley-on-Thames. In January 2013, the pub was refurbished and opened on 29 March 2013 with a new 4 barrel brewery visible through internal windows of the rear dining room. Malcolm Mayo, formerly Quality Manager at Wychwood Brewery, is the Head Brewer of Brakspear's Bell Street Brewery.
Brakspear Special (4.3% ABV) is the regular beer brewed at the Bell St Brewery. It has been brewed by Brakspear for over 40 years and the original recipe is still followed.
The latest beer to be brewed at Bell St Brewery is Honey Bee (4.4% ABV) a golden ale brewed with honey from beehives at Orwells, a Brakspear pub near Shiplake, renowned for its good food. 20p from every pint of Honey Bee sold is donated to The Bee Cause organised by the Friends of the Earth.
A pint of Honey Bee and a beehive from Orwells
At the Bell St Brewery Honey Bee launch event on 31 March organised by Shiel Porter, I enjoyed the opportunity to taste the beer and tour the brewery with Liam Trotman and Ryan Simpson of Orwells.
We entered the brewery from the courtyard and were greeted by Head Brewer, Malcolm Mayo.
Fermenting vessels in back room of the brewery
One of the fermenting vessels contained a recently brewed beer and was frothing over at the top as the yeast worked to convert sugar into alcohol. Malcolm described the brewing process and showed us some of the malt and hops used. As well as the honey from Orwells, and Willamette hops, about 5% of the malt used is from oats and about 95% is from barley, including Maris Otter pale malt, for the Honey Bee recipe.
Malcolm explained that the honey needed melting in the kitchen before it could be used. About 20kg of honey is used in each 4 barrel To maximise the natural honey flavours in the beer, most of the honey is added at the end of the boil in the copper, after the addition of some late hops and cold water. Some sterile honey was also added to the fermenting vessel at a later stage. Malcolm showed us some leaf hops from the chest freezer where opened foil packets of hops are stored to keep them fresh.

Malcolm Mayo (left, by the Mash Tun), Liam Trotman and Ryan Simpson (R)
We moved into the 'window' part of the brewery and here Malcolm showed us the Hot Liquor Tank, the Mash Tun with a sparge arm inside and the Copper which is heated by electricity.
Paul de Zylva (L) and Tom Davies (R) with brewery behind
Back in the dining room, with refreshed glasses, we now heard from Paul de Zylva, Friends of the Earth, about The Bee Cause campaign, which is supported by several organisations with Bee Worlds including the Co-Operative Group, Marks & Spencer and Brakspear pubs. It was interesting to learn that there are 266 species of bumblebee and solitary bee but only 1 species of honeybee.
Paul mentioned that since a Bee Summit organised by Friends of the Earth 2013, the UK Government agreed to introduce a National Pollinator Strategy. After his speech, Tom Davies, Brakspear's Chief Executive thanked Paul and presented him with a Brakspear tie featuring their trademark bee. Wendy Gupta and Saminder Kharay from Friends of the Earth wore bee outfits and make an eye catching contribution to the launch.

Honey Bee will be available on draught from Orwells, the Bull on Bell Street and several other Brakspear pubs in Henley and the local area including the Dew Drop, Hurley and the White Hart, Nettlebed.

Further Links:
Brakspear story about Honey Bee, including list of pubs where the beer is available: Brakspear News (1 April 2015)
History of the Bell St Brewery: Brewing in Henley
Brakspear Brewery History: Brewing in Witney

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