Last October, we reported on the Sheffield Wheat Experiment in which 200 local people planted wheat. A year later, the wheat was harvested, allowed to dry and threshed. Two kg of the resulting 130 kg of grain went to local brewery Grizzly Grains to form part of a collaborative brew. A kilo of the remaining harvest was the seed for the second sowing of the experiment and the rest became flour.
Over two hundred, 33 cL, bottles of Growers’ Union, 5.2% ACV resulted. After a suitable maturation period, the beer was recently sampled as part of an online tasting event led by Sam. A brief introduction from grower, Ruth Levene, included the obvious: ‘What happens in beer tasting stays in beer tasting.’
Sam then provided a succinct description of the brewing process and explored the main differences between ale and lager. Over 40 participants then progressed to Helles Lager, 4.1% ACV, a gluten-free beer from the nearby Triple Point Brewery. This summer beer was a little incongruous on a cold January evening. However, the traditional light hops and floral malt flavours were evident. As one participant put it, ‘tastes of Germany.’
We then moved to the main event; the first commercially-produced beer that has included ingredients grown in our garden: Growers’ Union. This unfined, unfiltered bottle conditioned beer is a hybrid of styles. The nose, and taste, is predominantly malty, but includes notes of apple, biscuit, caramel, dates, dried fruit, honey and toffee. In short, an excellent use of locally grown wheat. The label was designed by local grower, Rachael McNiven.
Throughout the evening, Sam expertly responded to a series of questions as we progressed to the final beer of the evening: Grizzly Grains, Tilt Hammer, 4.9% ABV Stout. The original home of the brewery was above the Rivelin Valley, home to many such hammers in the 19th century. This traditional bottle conditioned stout has notes of blackcurrant, chocolate, coffee and even a hint of liquorice.
As the Sheffield Wheat Experiment goes into its second year, I look forward to the 2022 edition of Growers’ Union, a beer which is likely to reference Belgium, targeting a style which will allow the wheat to dominate.