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Murder in the mash tun

Friday afternoon at Camden Town Brewery in North London looked like the scene of a serious crime. The strawberries picked earlier in the week for the second annual batch of Strawberry Hells Forever were splattered on many surfaces and on numerous people’s clothing.

It was also an actual crime scene – certainly for the basic food blenders from Argos that is. A number of the £10 appliances couldn’t take the pace of blending required to puree the 350kg of fruit needed and their motors burnt out.

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Blenders bite the dust

This was the amount of strawberries going into the whirlpool after the boil for this year’s batch of the pinkish tart brew that went down very well last year. This should produce around 60 hectolitres compared with the 15hl last year when the whole fruits were thrown into the brewing vessels and clogged things up somewhat.

The Argos blenders are the low tech solution to last year’s problems that should ensure a more efficient production process that will ultimately see very roughly five strawberries going into each pint of beer.

Catching up with Rob Topham, head brewer at Camden Town Brewery, at the scene of the blender crime, he tells me: “Pureeing the strawberries means we’ll get all the flavour out. Last year some fell to the bottom of the whirlpool. It was a nightmare.”

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Rob Topham, head brewer, Camden Town Brewery

It is clear he is relishing the opportunity to play around and wallow in pureed fruits, and is hoping this sort of experimentation will be a much bigger part of the activities at this existing brew site when the company opens its new brewery in Enfield later this year.

Enfield is not that far away from the present site but it is clearly not Camden Town so keeping the original brewery is important to the company’s credibility – especially now that it is owned by AB-InBev.

[For those who don’t know London then it is worth pointing out that the present site is not actually in Camden Town but it just up the road in Kentish Town.]

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Topham says he will be working across the two sites, with the original location used to produce Hells and Pale Ale but more importantly as the base for R&D. “At the moment we are flat out here so it will be good fun when the new brewery comes into use. We’ll then look to do some other [interesting] things here,” he says.

Let’s hope it includes further flavoursome beers like Flue Faker (based on the smoked beers from the German town of Bamberg) that was sampled on my visit. The original batch last year did not contain enough sweetness for the taste of Topham who added Vienna and Munich malt to the original Cara Pils malt bill.

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Flue Faker: more of this please

When combined with the smoked malt imported from Bamberg brewery Spezial this year’s brew transports me back to a recent visit to the German town. But back to the strawberries, whose impact on the 2016 vintage of Strawberry Hells Forever will be revealed on August 1.

Glynn Davis, editor, Beer Insider