A large group of beer lovers gather at 4 Pines’ Brookvale Brewery (the “Truck Bar”) to brew a beer. This isn’t going to be a delicately organised affair – rather we will split into three small groups. Each group will choose an ingredient for the beers – one group the malt, one the hops and one the yeast. The groups will not know what the others have chosen until the end. This is our 4 Pines Russian Roulette Brew.
First up is Team Malt. They’re given eight malts to choose from, ranging from a light pilsner malt to a dark chocolatey Carafa malt. Multiple malts are used in a beer, collectively called the malt bill. Our malt bill will include Carared, a lightly toasted malt which will give the beer a red colour, and Cararye, which is malted rye rather than malted barley, giving the beer a spicier taste.
Team Hops gets a whopping 10 choices of hops. Some of them will add aroma, some of them will add flavour. They range from citrusy to floral, tropical to spicy. Hops used in breweries are usually found in pellet form for ease of use, although the hop plant itself is a flower.
Hops are chosen by democratic vote. We have a good sniff of each bag and vote on our favourites. We pick Simcoe, a bittering hop, Amarillo, with a citrus aroma, and Hersbrucker, a German hop usually appearing in light beers such as Hefeweizens and Pilsners that does not go with the other two hops at all.
This is the mash tun/brew kettle, where all the brewing magic happens. Crushed malts are added to water to make a sweet wort in the mash tun, before the mixture is transferred to the brew kettle, where the mixture is boiled and hops are added at various stages.
Finally, it’s time for Team Yeast. Here, brewer Henry is holding two of 4 Pines’ house strains US-04 (English Ale yeast for the ESB) and US-05 (American Ale yeast used for almost all other beers). Henry makes the mistake of showing us some experimental yeast packets in the fridge. We pick neither of the house strains and instead go for a Canadian/Belgian Hefeweizen yeast.
Usually, a 4 Pines beer would travel from the brew kettle into one of these giant fermenters, where the yeast is added. The fermenter sits at 18 degrees for around 3 weeks as the yeast converts the sugars in the malt into alcohol. 6,500 litres of beer are made in the brewery at one time. No doubt that these tanks will always be busy fermenting 4 Pines’ Pale Ale and Kolsch, their two most popular beers.
Our beer will be made in this little test system, since we don’t need hundreds of liters of it. Perhaps if it proves popular it can be brewed on a bigger system. That’s generally how new beers get introduced – 4 Pines’ head brewer plays on the 500 L test system at the Manly Brewpub to make the Keller Door releases. If the public likes it, it can get made on a larger scale.
So, what happened to our beer? It came out deep red in colour at the target 7% ABV. Although we were allowed back to the brewery to try it, we were warned that the drinking experience was akin to “smelling banana bread while having your tongue shaved with a grass flavoured razorblade.”