I was quite priviliged to be invited, strictly as an observer, to an ‘all female’ brewing day at Burley Street Brewhouse in Leeds a couple of weeks ago. For those unfamiliar with the Leeds brewing landscape, the brewery is in the cellars of The Fox and Newt on Burley Road, LS 3.
The ladies only brewing session was the idea of Katie Marriot (pictured centre), one half of Nomadic Beers, a recent addition to the Leeds beer scene. Together with Ross Nicholson, they brew their own Nomadic brews, as well as the Burley Street Brewhouse range, which is on sale upstairs and at sister pub The Packhorse on Woodhouse Lane.
They brew on a four barrel kit in what is quite a tight space underneath the pub and with the number of fermenters they have, they can brew five times every fortnight. The current Nomadic Beers range is a bit of a moving feast, with no permanent core lines. I’ve tried them in various bars and pubs across Leeds, as well as at festivals, and they’re making some decent beers. I see they’ve got their Nomadic Raucher on at Beertown 2017 (18th – 21st May), which is impressive, given the heavyweight range of 60 brews and the calibre of brewers on offer in Malton that weekend.
Originally the idea was to hold the all female brew day back in March to commemorate International Women’s day. This had to be put back a little as Nomadic Beers was still finding it’s feet at that time. The later start means that Katie’s beer will be now be available for Women on Tap, a festival celebrating women brewers at Harrogate’s Little Ale House, weekend 19th – 21st May. It looks like it will be a really good event with some top quality beers on offer, live music and talks/tasting sessions by Melissa Cole (advance ticket required).
If you think that Katie is a raging feminist, then you’d be very wrong; she’s just lovely, and very keen to raise the profile of female brewers, in what is still very much a male dominated industry. Something I strongly support.
I’m not entirely sure that the two assistants, illustrator Christine Jopling and Fox and Newt crew member Izzy Bailey actually realised what they had let themselves in for. As they dug out the mash tun Katie informed them that brewing was probably 90% cleaning up. I’m not going to say who said it, but I definitely heard one of them say, “She never told us that!”
The ‘all female’ beer they were brewing was a recipe of Katie’s – Itza, a Chocolate Orange stout. It looked quite interesting. Marris Otter, Chocolate, Caramalt and Black malts, as well as roasted barley, torrified wheat and cacao powder went into the mash tun. Katie wouldn’t tell me what the hops were, apart from they were British. They smelled nice, all lined up in two containers alongside a third one, full of oranges which Katie had quartered and roasted. The oranges were going in at the end of the boil with the second bucket of aroma hops. If Katie thought the beer was a bit short in the orange and chocolate departments, there was a plan to add more fruit and cacao powder at the dry hopping stage.
I had a taste of the wort as it ran off. Almost black, with some serious molasses, prunes, dates and chocolate on the aftertaste. I tried some of the finished test brew as well. Nice! A hint of orange, dark treacley flavours and the dates and prunes elements that were almost reminiscent of a grown up sticky toffee pudding, along with a subtle chocolateyness. It wasn’t what I was expecting, it was more sophisticated, and it drank like it was a proper beer, rather than a novelty type brew, if you get what I mean, very balanced too.
Katie explained she had been trying to achieve a Green and Black’s mature type of flavour, rather than a Terry’s Chocolate Orange thing. A wonderfully accurate way of describing it, which summed up exactly what I was thinking. She seems to have pulled it off, although she said the final brew may be slightly different to the one I tasted as she had used a different type of chocolate the second time around.
The name Itza is a reference to Chichen Itza, the now ruined Mayan city in Mexico, a civilisation famed for their love of chocolate. The clever graphics on the pump clip reflect all the various influences, including symbolic reference to Foxes and Newts! The artwork, along with the company logo and other stuff, is the result of a collaboration with artist Christine Jopling, who was acting as assistant brewer today.
If you see Itza on the bar then I recommend you give it a go. It’s going to be on sale in the Fox and Newt and The West Riding Refreshment Rooms (the very excellent boozer on Dewsbury station), or you could order a cask direct from Nomadic Beers. If you’re really curious about women brewers then I suggest you get along to Harrogate and try Itza and some of the other beers at Women on Tap the weekend after next.