We could hardly say we hadn’t been warned.
Every email communication we had received in advance of today’s visit
to the Dark Star Brewery in Partridge Green emphasised that we could expect a chilly morning and one which would be particularly cold on the feet. With this in mind I raided Mr B’s sock drawer to find a pair of socks to wear over my tights and
under my boots. The result was that my boots felt a tad tight – but I reasoned better to be mincing about on account of pinched toes than hopping about with incipient frost-bite.
I also hauled my Extremely Old Jumper out of the very depths of the wardrobe where it has been languishing for many a year. It is a hand-knitted (no, not by me!) orange jumper which reaches almost to my knees and is adorned with spectacularly
large flowers, leaves and creepers. When I wear it I look a bit like a Walking Jungle - I can’t think why I ever stopped wearing it. Now that I have been reunited with it, I think I shall wear it more often, especially if this unseasonally cold weather
persists. In the meantime I felt I could count on it to keep me warm, both inside and outside the brewery.
The trip was another organised for our Questers Group,
which I have told you about before. The Questers go on all kinds of outings, to places near and far, in the interests of offering enlightenment, extending our knowledge, adding to our experiences. And some of us go just for the fun.
We have missed the last few outings over the last month because we were afraid to book up for anything before the Youngest Grandchild put in an appearance. Questers don’t cancel
at the last minute – it would be considered really bad form. But we have three more outings to look forward to over the next two months, including a trip on a canal boat and to see some Roman remains. We were going on a trip to see a Beam Pump,
whatever that might be, but we found we were double-booked. Mr B says he couldn’t understand why I wanted to visit a Beam Pump anyway, especially as I don’t know what it is / does. He thinks I sign up for too many outings just for the sake of it.
I think it is a good thing to learn about things we know nothing about. Like Beam Pumps. Plus there will almost certainly be a country pub, somewhere in the vicinity, where we can buy ourselves a tasty lunch. Mr B says I am always thinking of my stomach...
Back to the Brewery! We had offered a lift to two fellow Questers so there were four of us in our car, bowling merrily along the A24 in search of the turn-off to Partridge
Green. I like giving lifts to people because it helps us get to know more of our fellow members. Our two companions used to be midwives so we chatted about “Call the Midwife” and Mr B told a few funny stories about childbirth based on his own experiences.
As an on-looker, you understand.
Inside the brewery we were guided through a door, over which were painted the words “The Magic Starts Here”. So far,
so Disney, I found myself thinking. We gathered around a pile of wooden pallets on which jugs of beer had been set out invitingly. “Help yourselves!” said our guide – so we did. I thought it might warm us up but it was very, very cold.
I particularly loved the names of the beers produced at the Dark Star Brewery. Who could resist The Art of Darkness, a “low gravity beer with a big heart”? Or
Revelation, a blend of aroma hops which has been dry-hopped using a Hoptimiser – which is apparently an industrial-sized hookah? I am transported into Alice in Wonderland country.
I wish I could say I remember everything about the brewing process but as usual it was only the useless information which stuck in my head. Brewers, you need to know, never talk about gallons – they talk in barrels.
A barrel equals 36 gallons and at eight pints to the gallon that’s – well, you can do the maths for yourselves. Brewers also call water “liquor” which must get a bit confusing, you might think. They also use a lot of four
letter words – like mash and wort. And do you know the difference between “early hops” and “later hops”? Nothing to do with the seasons, I’m told, but the early hops are introduced to the mix first and the later hops
are introduced, well, later. You know it makes sense.
We all trotted along to the pub afterwards for a hot meal and a beverage. I did think I should have
ordered a pint of Six Hop Ale, now that I know (even if I can’t exactly remember the details) just how much work goes into its production. But, when it comes to warming you up, you just can’t beat a decaffeinated skinny latte...