Thanks for clicking!
Byre, the latest in our Farm to Glass series, is a local riff on a Milk Stout. When we make our Milk Stout usually, we add a big chunk of lactose, which is a sweet, unfermentable sugar powder derived from dried milk solids and arrives in a bag from a factory. It’s a fine, useful, ingredient and is very much also a by-product of milk production. We started thinking locally about how we could find a similar substitute nearby and this led us up farm tracks to some local cheesemakers, and to a particular derivation of their process: whey. During cheesemaking, milk is turned into curds and whey. Curds are used to make the cheese you see on the shelves, and the whey is basically waste. At a smaller scale, this waste whey sometimes finds usage as feed for some farm animals, and at a larger one sometimes becomes the whey protein powder you see in massive tins in the aisles of health food shops or finds itself as an ingredient in processed foods. More often than not, however, it has to be disposed of. This can present environmental challenges, as whey is rich in protein and sugars, it also has a high demand for oxygen which is detrimental to some fragile rural ecosystems.
We did some robust experimentation involving mixing and co-fermenting different beers with whey made from several sources of milk – and ultimately settled on an addition of whey made from milk produced by a long-established closed Burwhin herd of Holstein Friesian cows at a farm near Hutton Roof, just past junction 36 of the M6 and about half an hour from the brewery. The same milk is used to make Fellstone, a beautiful Wensleydale style cheese at Whin Yeats Dairy, on the same site. As soon as we began working with this whey we could see the potential for using it in brewing, and settled on a 20% addition to a new stout recipe, which totalled 250 litres of whey. The result is a luxuriously creamy tasting stout, with a sweetish chocolate backbone, and an interesting hedgerow fruitiness from English Bramling Cross and Northdown hops. We’ve designed the beer for balance and drinkability as usual and there is no doubt that if there were a star of the show it would be the whey, which brings the unique terroir of rolling Cumbrian pasture bang onto the palate in a manner redolent of the Fellstone cheese itself – there’s the aforementioned creaminess, perhaps a slight umami, maybe a saltiness, but moreover the unmistakeable depth of a real product from a small producer imparting its character firmly into our beer.
We really hope you enjoy Byre (an old English word for a barn that houses cows), drinking a beer made with whey which otherwise would have had to be disposed of and we’re looking forward to experimenting more with this wonderful ingredient. Cheers!