Q&A with John Magill, Owner-Brewer at The Powderkeg Brewery

You say Craft Beer is the future of beer in Britain and the fastest growing sector in the UK alcohol market.

You can compare craft beer’s potential with developments in the food industry. In many ways, Britain’s ‘real ale’ is still bedded in the 1970s, when food was still largely traditional English fare: pie and mash, roast beef and the like – tasty, comforting but unsophisticated. Access to authentic recipes and exciting ingredients from around the world has lead to a foodie revolution – the industry is booming, standards have skyrocketed, everyone’s interested, and we are all happier for it. This is the effect that Craft Beer has the potential to achieve for beer in the UK.

So how will Powderkeg be part of that?

Our brewery is built from brand new equipment, custom-designed to enable us to apply all the latest techniques. At Powderkeg we brew internationally-inspired beer styles. We will be launching with a German Pilsner called Cut Loose and an American Pale Ale named Speak Easy, but each will have a twist. For example, ‘Cut Loose’ is brewed using entirely traditional methods and ingredients sourced from Germany, but it will be brought bang up to date with a gentle ‘dry-hopping’ with a hop from New Zealand that will infuse a hint of lemon and lime.

What’s different about the hops?

New World hops from America, New Zealand, Australia, even Japan, are at the heart of our beers. We liken the difference to the terroir of wines. The climate and soil in which these hops are grown promote entirely different flavours in the hop flowers. With a skilled hand, we can draw out subtle hints of tropical fruits, citrus fruits, even white wine notes. This might sound a bit out-there for beer, but the results are stunning.

Aside from the brewing process, how is the company doing things differently?

We are making important progressions in the way we package our beer. For a start we are beginning the rehabilitation of the keg. Keg beers got bad press from CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) in the 1970s, but why hold a 40-year grudge against an inanimate object?  It was only ever the beer the breweries were putting in the kegs that was at fault.

Our beer is a local artisan product – hand-crafted in small batches, naturally carbonated during fermentation, matured to its best at the brewery, then quality tested with friends.  There is nothing artificial or industrial about the process. Packaging in kegs is then the perfect way to make sure that the beer at the bar is the beer we meant it to be, because the beer will not change once kegged.

Another further innovation is our use of ‘one-way kegs’. These containers keep the beer in perfect condition but are light weight and can be simply recycled at the point of use. They offer an 80% reduction in packaging weight resulting in huge improvements in our fuel emissions when transporting the beer. They also eliminate the need for all of the energy and chemicals that might otherwise be used to wash dirty kegs. So despite being disposable, they are actually a more environmentally-friendly option than traditional steel containers.

Sounds good. Any other green credentials?

Based at Greendale, we are able to utilise green energy from the new anaerobic digestion plant: electricity is generated at the plant, so that the spent grain from each brew is used to power the next.

Catch them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/powderkegbeer

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