Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Parti-gyling at Fuller's brewery

A couple of weekends back I went to a home brewing convention. My plans for meeting up with people didn't go entirely as expected as I bumped into Ron Pattinson by the bar as soon as I'd arrived. Take it from me, going drinking with Ron does not do anything sticking to your plans.

There were a series of talks at the event and annoyingly the organisers hadn't put a timetable online. Luckily I was in time to get to the talk that most interested me, John Keeling the former Head Brewer at Fuller's talking about parti-gyling.

Parti-gyling is a way to get several different beers from the same mash, and Fuller's can potentially get Chiswick, London Pride, ESB and Golden Pride by separating the strong and weak wort into different coppers and then blending different proportions of the worts into fermenters.

John kicked off with an interesting insight into what's needed in a brewing team. He's always said you need brewers, engineers and quality assurance people, but he would now add a home brewer (though the home brewer would need to be trained up!).

He was firmly of the opinion that mash tuns produce the best wort, with less undesirable components than you get from lauter tuns. Though to be fair to continental brewing methods the places I've worked at which have lauter tuns re-circulated the wort until it was bright, which isn't something I can say about all the places I've been at with mash tuns.

Fuller's sparge to 1.005.

Fuller's have two mash tuns and two coppers, which is definitely a greater capex cost! Sadly no quadratic equation was shown during the talk. I strongly suspect they're something I could once do, so it would have been nice to see an example of the calculations and see if I could make sense of it!

Scaling up mash tun and copper size makes it harder to do small volumes of beer, and running two streams in parallel means using more energy [and fighting over utilities!]. So the strong worts (1.080) are fed into one copper and weak worts (1.018-1.020) into the other.

Proportions of wort from the different coppers go into different Fermenting Vessels (FV).

To hit target gravity Fuller's aim to be 5% over and then cut to target strength in the FV (this is liquoring back not be be confused with high gravity brewing which I really should post about one of these years).

As Fuller's go back a bit they have extensive files. 

There were bottles of modern ESB and the Past Masters version using the 1981 recipe. I managed to get a thimbleful of the latter. Pah.

The modern brew is all malt, but back in the day it was 6% flaked maize in the mash and some sugar was used. The adjuncts are handy for nitrogen (i.e. protein) dilution which helps with beer clarity and the sugar also has the added benefit of helping you make more beer without bigger equipment.

There were some questions and answers after the talk, and for those of us with a well filled beer cellar it was interesting to hear that John is now of the opinion that Fuller's Vintage Ale is at its best after 10 years. Which as is often the case makes me think that more research is necessary ...


  1. I had some Chiswick-brewed Hophead at the weekend that had a noticeable Fullers character to it; would that be a result of parti-gyling, or yeast, or just the power of suggestion?


    1. The power of suggestion is quite strong when it comes to taste! I doubt it's parti-gyled as it's too pale. Fuller's might have switched to using their own yeast, it's not uncommon for breweries to do that.