Located next to the award-winning pub The Stag & Hounds in Melton Mowbray and founded in 1983, Baz Parish’s Parish Brewery at Burrough on the Hill is the second-oldest microbrewery in Britain. After a varied career (from international boat delivery driver to employee of Everards), Baz eventually found himself as the owner/landlord of a free house in Melton Mowbray. The next logical step? Open a brewery! Baz explained simply “I had the space so why not?” His experience at Everards, and spending a lot of time in their brew-house, gave Baz enough knowledge to progress with the build. Starting off in the cellar of the Stag and Hounds, they have moved around over the years before settling into their current residency. The brewery is built around a single unpressurised FV of 20BBL. Mash tun, kettle, HLT and CLT complete the setup, producing traditional cask beer with a few wild cards along the way.
We joined Joe from Big Skies Brewery and the team at Parish for a look at their packaging procedure. Joe had helped with the brespecial bitter, fuggles, challenger, cascade, wing of Parish Special Bitter (weighing in at 4.2%, a classic English style using Fuggles, Challenger and cascade hops) a few weeks previously and it was time to move this latest beer from FV to cask. In total 69 of the 9 gallon casks were filled and moved to a separate temperature controlled outbuilding to naturally carbonate under secondary fermentation. The unusually favourable British weather, coupled with the manual labour, made the going tough, and copious quantities of cold soft drinks were provided by Baz’s wife to keep up morale.
Once the hard work of cask filling was completed, attention turned to cleaning of the FV. Alan who works with Baz had the envious task of climbing in the FV to give it a good scrub. Pointing out that “cleanliness is next to godliness” Alan dutifully set about his task. In addition all hoses, fittings and seals were removed to ensure everything was sanitary for their next brew.
Inevitably, talk turned to one of Parish Breweries more maverick beers, ‘Baz’s Bonce Blower’. This beer has had many incarnations but currently is brewed to an ABV of 12-13%. A serious beer not to taken lightly. Back in 1984 this was brewed to a whopping 23% and held the Guinness book of records for strongest beer! This brew has been a competition winner many times and was awarded East Midlands regional champion beer several years running.
The recipe is closely guarded but we did manage to find out that it contains black treacle and is boiled overnight to get these bonce blowing strengths. Here at Brew Day we object to a 90min boil but these guys will literally boil all night to achieve their goals.
Alan tells us about a challenge they used to have in the pub years ago. Willing victims would have to drink 3 pints of the formidable Bonce Blower, then attempt to walk unaided into the garden, around an oak tree and back to the pub without falling over. The prize – £50. Despite many trying no one ever managed it.
Before we head back to Brew Day HQ Baz gives us his advice for home brewers. First and foremost it’s cleanliness. “You can’t brew a good beer unless you have top notch cleaning” Parish breweries fastidious cleaning regime ensures that there are no unpleasant surprises along the way. Secondly, temperature. From mash to fermenter Baz likes his temps to be tightly controlled. This ensures a proper conversion in the mash and a clean fault free ferment in the FV. “People often ask why their home brew has faults, odd tastes or not fermented properly, more often than not it’s a temperature issue or they have not cleaned and sanitized enough”
Leaving Alan and Baz and the dogs to continue cleaning we bid them farewell, having been great to see a traditional English brewery setup in action.