Thanks to their unique brewing method, Romsey’s Flack Manor make beer that’ll have you going back for seconds, or thirds…
When Nigel Welsh formed FlackManor in 2009, there wasn’t a brewer in Romsey making quality cask ale. That’s all changed, for not only is Flack’s beer brewed in Romsey, but it uses locally grown barley and it’s made with a unique brewing technique called the double drop system that adds extra flavour and depth. We spoke to Nigel and business partner Terry Baker to find out more about the beer that we should be drinking now.
Firstly, tell us about this double drop method that you use.
Nigel Welsh: Our double drop way of brewing is one that was used widely in Victorian times. It gives extra depth of character and flavour to the beer. We collect the brew on the first day in our collection vessel and then the following day we drop it into a fermenting vessel. This leaves behind a lot of the process matter and dead yeast cells, so in effect you’re cleansing it. We think this gives an extra complexity to the beer and a better flavour. First, purifying or “cleansing” of the partially fermented beer, by leaving behind protein deposits (cold break) that had sedimented to the bottom and those that had collected in the first rocky head.
Another thing that sets your beer apart is your use of local ingredients…
NW: Yes, we have a farmer five miles up the road who will be growing our barley this year. We use Maris Otter malt, malted for us at Warminster Maltings, where they source their barley from Hampshire and Dorset primarily. We think it gives extra flavour and depth to our beer, and it’s nice to know they’re just down the road.
Are your hops local, too?
NW: Our hops come from Herefordshire, Kent and Worcestershire. The English brewing industry decided to copy what the Americans were doing, which was adding humongous amount of hops to their beers to the point where all you were tasting was hop and you weren’t tasting the other ingredients. While there is a place for American hops, if you’re producing English ale, why wouldn’t you use English hops? Beer needs to be balanced so you can taste all the other ingredients in it.
You produce seasonal as well as permanent beers, but what beer should we be drinking now?
Terry Baker: Beer is a very situational thing and you apply the beer to the situation you’re in. What beer should we drink at the moment? Seeing as there’s blue skies, frost still on the windscreen, and a bit of a breeze that cuts right through you, I would say that the Black Jack Porter is the perfect drink at the moment, because it’s a little bit higher in alcohol, has a lot of body, and a lot of rich, roasted type flavours.
How does your porter compare to other dark beers on the market?
TB: The trick is balancing all the flavours so you can taste them as you’re drinking it, some of them will come through as you get through the pint, but nothing should overpower you. With our porter, yes you get a smokiness but you also get a bit of liquorice, a bit of molasses, and with the full body and slight spiciness from the Goldings and Fuggles hops. The expertise that we have in brewing is to balance the flavours so you get a little bit of everything rather than a lot of one thing and not much else.
It sounds like beer is becoming like wine tasting!
TB: Yes, I tend to call them ‘beer festival beers’, because at a beer festival, you’re likely to use your tokens to buy a third of a pint and you’re going to judge that beer on a third of a pint. Some of these flavours can be a little overpowering, they’re very good for the first third of a pint, they’re ok for the second third, but by the time you get to the last third, you’re struggling with it and it’s not leaving you wanting another of the same. All our beers are available for beer festivals, however perhaps our beers are more balanced than some. When drinking our beer, the first mouthful will be the start of the journey and the second will start to deliver the other complexity of flavours with the third mouthful completing the experience – wishing only for more!
You also do bottled Romsey Gold. How should people store that at home?
TB: It depends on personal taste. If I was having a bottle of porter at home tonight, I probably wouldn’t put it in the fridge, but if I was having a bottle of Romsey Gold in the summer I might put it in the fridge for an hour just to put a little bit of a chill on it.
Are there any chefs who use your beer in cooking?
NW: Yes, the chef at the New Park Hotel uses Black Jack Porter to produce a Black Jack Porter bread. It goes down very well apparently! People have been using Double Drop and Hedgehog for their beer battered fish. Little Bee Bakery has also used our Black Jack Porter to make a chocolate for a lovely rich flavour.
Matching beer with food
Nigel Welsh invited Annabel Smith, a beer sommelier, to Flack Manor for a beer matching event. The winner on the night was Romsey Gold and Tunworth camembert. Here are the results…
What is it: A crisp and refreshing pale golden ale. Balanced by Fuggles hops and the flavours of First Gold hops.
What it goes with: Tunworth cheese.
What is it: A clean, rich golden ale with an initial sweetness and a bitter finish, leading to an old fashioned zesty linger.
What it goes with: Cheese and watercress tart.
Flack’s Double Drop
What is it? A true pale ale. Pale in colour and ample body, balanced with the distinctive hop character of Goldings and Fuggles hops.
What it goes with: Spicy chorizo, Parma ham and green olives.
What is it? Rich amber ale with a deep biscuity maltiness that’s balanced with grapefruit and spicy lemon from Challenger, Pilot and English ‘new world’ Cascade hops.
What it goes with: Old Winchester cheese.
Black Jack Porter
What is it? Smooth dark ruby coloured beer with rich aromas of toasted malt. An initial sweetness is followed by a lingering hop finish and hazelnut after notes.
What it goes with: Salted caramel chocolate.
Where to buy
You can buy all these beers from:
‘Flak Shack’ Brewery Shop,
8 Romsey Industrial Estate,