Elephant School x Solvay Society x Half Pint Gent – The Inverted Abbey Series
It’s the hottest day of the year, it is a good 33 degrees outside in the Brentwood country side, Ethan Kannor, Roman Hochuli and I are standing directly beneath a strip light cutting open bags of malt in Brentwood Brewing Co. My face is melting away in the heat! Despite this sweaty embarrassment, I am excited to be involved in the first day of a new Essex collaboration project.
Belgian beer is what changed things for me when it came to liking beer and loving beer. My first trip to Brussels was a turning point for me when it came to writing posts on this blog. So when Ethan Kannor, from Brentwood Brewing Co and offspring Elephant School Brewing Co, contacted me about brewing a Belgian inspired beer I jumped at the chance. The ideas changed a few times in the lead up to the brew day, and in that time fellow Essex friend Justin Mason had introduced us to one of Essex / East London newest brewer, Roman Hochuli from Solvay Society.
Elephant School is a branch off from Brentwood Brewing Co, allowing Ethan to experiment and brew more unusual less traditional ales. Beers like Sugarpuff, a honey wheat beer which as the name suggests tastes just like the breakfast cereal, or Porter in a Storm, the new excellent chocolate and cranberry porter brewed with Justin Mason. Ethan likes to have fun and throw the brew book out the window at times, which can be found when drinking their White Elephant, a golden mild brewed with coriander. I love the name Elephant School, it is named after an elephant school run by British East India Trading Company on the old Essex Regiment army base, which was still running up in till 1959 in Brentwood.
Solvay Society Brewery has recently moved into the old Ha’Penny Brewery located on Aldborough Hall Farm in North Ilford. Taking name inspiration from the Solvay conferences held in Brussels, which brought together great minds in chemistry and physics thus leading to the creation of some ground breaking discovers and inventions. Solvay Society hope to take the same philosophy into brewing beer. Although Essex on the map I must admit I always think of Ilford as being East London, but for Solvay Society this is an excellent location as they can tap into both the London and Essex market. Originally from Brussels Roman has been living in the UK for the past 9 years and has been brewing for 4 of those. He opened up the brewery in 2014 moving from a few different pub addresses, taking his Belgian upbringing and applying it to modern English beer styles, giving his beers (in my opinion) a unique taste compared to other beers being released at the moment. The Belgian Pale Ale is very good, and the Saison is refreshingly dry which was perfect on a hot day like it was when we all shared a bottle mid brew.
I was excited to hear that Roman was joining us on the collaboration, not only for bringing some Belgian authentication to the beer but because it was great to see two Essex breweries do a collaboration together. I hope this is the start of something, and we see a few more Essex collaboration brews in the near future. It was pleasing to see Ethan and Roman exchange different brewing stories, experience and tips while brewing together.
As the brewing team developed so did the beer itself, after a discussion about Belgian beer and the different styles, and in particular Trappist beers, we decided to take the Belgian background of Solvay Society and mix it with the adventurous personality of Elephant School. We wanted to take something typically Belgian and flip it on its head and really push some boundaries, Elephant School style. The Inverted Abbey Series was born.
There is some debate about where and why Belgian Dubbels, Tripels and Quadruples get their names. One theory they are called this is because the Belgian monks that brewed them would always brew a single (or Patersbier), the Dubbel would be the same base beer but double the amount of malt, three times as much for Tripel and four times for the Quadruple. There are much simpler stories that it just down to the climb in ABV strength. Whatever the real story there was one thing we all agreed on, we loved each of the styles.
A Belgian single beer was traditionally a beer brewed by the monks for themselves to drink, it would be much like a pale ale and around 4.5%, it would rarely be seen outside the ministry they brewed within. Westmalle made the Dubbel famous with their incredible version of a Dubbel, and they are arguable the bench mark for what a Tripel should be also. Typically, now you would find Dubbel beers dark and around 6-8%, full of sweet dark fruit flavours. A Tripel would be golden and ranges anywhere between 8-10% with Quadruples being the big 10%+ belters! Single beers have can also be compared to the slightly more commercial Abbey golden beers. Just think of beer ranges such as Chimay, Rochefort, La Trappe or a non-Trappist series like De Halve Maan Brewery.
With this in mind we set out to do something different, starting with the first beer of the series, Cheru Kol. A single Belgian inspired beer, not pale like it would be traditionally but a brown singe ale which has been brewed with dried figs and a bit of rosemary. A Cheru Kol was the name given to the smallest training instrument that mahouts used while training elephants. We think the name Cheru Kol really fits in with the beer being the smallest ABV of the series.
As for the future, following the style of The Inverted Abbey Series we could be seeing a pale Dubbel with some extra special flavours, maybe a black Tripel or even a white Quadruple? Who knows, the ideas are still brewing in the old think tank!
It would have been rude not to soak up some of the hot sun that day, so a trip to The White Horse pub in Brentwood for lunch was on the cards when we had a break. The White Horse is a lovely traditional county pub where you can always find a good selection of Brentwood beers available and some really great pub grub.
After lunch it was back to work, with a little bit of a beer sampling from the Brentwood Brewing Co cellar! Even though it was super hot a pint of Porter in the Storm went down a treat, but once all the brewing was done there was one extra special bottle waiting for us in the fridge. No brew day would be complete without something special to share with new friends. Brewed a couple years back, Van Kannor is a 7.7% champagne beer which has been triple fermented, hand riddled and produced using traditional champagne methods. I’ve been lucky enough to try this special beer a few times, first at SX Bottleshare, then at the Brentwood Brewing Co birthday beer festival and most recently on this brew day. I honestly hand on heart think it’s the most complex beer brewed in Essex I have ever had. Each time I have drank it I think the beer has improved and grown, this time was no exception with even the flavours developing throughout a single glass and completely changing when dumping the yeast in the glass at the end of the bottle.
It was a really good day, I’ve gone from drinking Brentwood Brewing Co beers around Essex in the early days of my beer drinking, to being really excited about the experimental beer styles Elephant School have been brewing, to actually help brewing a beer at the brewery. I can’t wait to try Cheru Kol, it will be available at the Elephant School beer festival on October 8th down at Brentwood Brewing Co, all pints will be £2 (enough of a reason to go alone!), there will be other Elephant beers (and hopefully glasses of Van Kannor!) available and you may even see Roman’s and my face down there with Ethan. The beer will be available in cask, key keg and bottles, if you are interested then give Brentwood brewery a shout.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the relationship between Elephant School and Solvay Society grows, especially with the future beers in this series, hopefully the Inverted Abbey Series is a hit and people enjoy this English Belgian mashup of experimental Trapp-ish beers.
Brentwood Brewing Co & Elephant Brewing Co
Address – Calcott Hall Farm, Ongar Rd, Brentwood CM15 9HS
Twitter – @BrentwoodBrewCo
Facebook – Brentwood Brew Co & Elephant School
Instagram – BrentwoodBrewCo
Solvay Society Brewery
Address – Unit 8, Aldborough Hall Farm, Aldborough Road North, IG2 7TD
Twitter – @SolvaySociety
Facebook – Solvay Society
Instagram – Solvay Society
Disclaimer – As I helped out to create and brew this beer, I will of course think it is the bollox.