A fortnight ago we found ourselves under the Victoria railway line arches in our wellies, gazing down a chute into the depths of a mill where freshly poured malts were filtering through the first stage of Marble Beers' brewing system.
Here's Joe demonstrating.
We were still digesting an earlier brewery tour courtesy of Matthew Howgate, the Head Brewer here who has been captaining a sturdy ship since taking the position at the start of this year.
This has included increased production of the core Marble beers, including Lagonda IPA, Manchester Bitter and Pint, along with less frequent, more selective specials.
Our brewing expert and guide for the day is Slav (above), whose work behind the bar at the nearby Marble Arch pub has led to a successful transition to become a respected brewer within the company.
Also working on the Marble team was Johnny (above), who originally applied to a part-time bartending advert and subsequently became a Marble van driver, taking the finished ales to several pubs and bars both near and far. He is now embarking on a traineeship to become a brewer himself and is due to take his exams next May.
As the natural starch in the malts was converted to sugars in 66°C brewing water in the first tank, our ale was still a distant pipe dream. 50 minutes later and with a malty mash now formed, we had the basis of our future alcohol.
But after the sugary liquid has flowed from that tank to the copper kettle, the addition of hops started to offer the scent of our end product. We used Herkules, Simcoe, Riwaka and Columbus.
While all these ingredients are brewing, Slav checked a sample of the yeast under the microscope ahead its inclusion at the final stage.
The used malts were cleaned out of the first tank and deposited into barrels to be taken to a local farm and fed to cows, which apparently follow the sweet scent of the barrels in the delivery van on its arrival. I climbed inside the tank to finish the cleaning process.
Once this process has been completed, the all important final stage begins. As the nascent beer lowers to the correct temperature, it was migrated to its brewing container.
Yeast is added along with oxygen to stimulate the yeast.
Last but not least, we can have a taste of the final mixture with its week of brewing ahead.
The limited edition 3.7% pale ale brewed with oats and five hop varieties will be on rotation in pubs across Manchester from Friday 27 June. Look out for the pump clip above.
Words & photos: Ian Pennington