The Krafty Braumeister
It was a glorious sunny day when I popped down to the Eastlands industrial estate after work. Knocking on an open door I stepped into a small unit and saw Ulli, owner and brewer, washing down the floor. At the same time I was met by the delicious smell of fresh wort in the brew kettle. Sadly, the technical hitch mentioned above means I can't bring you the photographic evidence, but even if I could you wouldn't get the smell. Ulli explained that he had just finished sparging and was getting the wort up to the boil before adding hops. After a few minutes of pottering about, Ulli stepped into his cold store and came out with a couple of bottles of Rut & Wiess for us to sample while we chatted outside in the sun.
Ulli's professional background is as a specialist in the Rule of Law. Essentially this means teaching judges and police officers, especially in less developed countries, about the principles of justice. Around six years ago he found himself in Baghdad without a ready supply of good beer and decided that he would just have to brew his own. By his own admission, Ulli's early attempts at homebrewing were not at all successful, but, as he points out, yeast isn't very happy at 46 degrees Celsius. Undeterred, Ulli set out to learn everything he could about how to brew successfully, even in those quite challenging conditions, leading him eventually to completing an IBD Diploma in Brewing. A year ago he found himself settling in Suffolk with his wife and decided to step up from a 50 litre homebrew kit to a 240 litre microbrewery. Ulli explained that it has taken him a year to work his way around all the legal requirements, only now being ready to release his beer commercially.
At the moment Ulli is selling just one beer, Rut & Wiess (Red and White), although the beer in the brew kettle as we were chatting will be a new line going on sale in about 4 weeks. I confess I was a little confused by the name of Ulli's beer - shouldn't it be Rot & Weiss? I didn't dare pit my O'level German against a native speaker so I was glad when Ulli explained that the name was in the dialect spoken in Cologne, his home town, and that the beer is named for the colours of the flag of Cologne. The beer itself is broadly in the kolsch style, although it is based on a pre-war recipe. This means that it contains some wheat malt, and it is unpasteurised, unfined and unfiltered, unlike the kolsch that is brewed by most commercial breweries in Cologne in modern times.
Ulli uses German pilsner malt and some wheat, which he mills himself. He brews two batches to fill his two primary fermentation vessels and them combines these in a 400 litre vessel for secondary fermentation. Ulli's beer is bottle conditioned; he primes the beer using the traditional German method of keeping some of the wort unfermented and adding that to the beer before bottling. After bottling Ulli lagers the beer for around four weeks.
I am no expert at all on kolsch style beers but Rut & Wiess certainly seems a good beer to me. Weighing in at 4.3%, it has a slight malty sweetness to start, which is well balanced by a moderate bitter finish. After losing the photos of the beer that I took on my first visit, I had to buy a couple of bottles to take some more photos, and I have to say that I was more than happy to do so.
Rut & Wiess is currently on sale at Russell & Newnes in Aldeburgh, and the Emmerdale Farm Shop near Yoxford. You can also drink it at the Thorpeness Dolphin and the Parrot and Punchbowl. In its first week it has sold well and been re-ordered. Meanwhile, Ulli is busy talking to other potential outlets. His second beer, which will be available in another few weeks, will be a Bavarian wheat beer called Blau & Weiss, after the colours of the Bavarian flag.
On my first visit, Ulli gave me a bottle of beer to sample. I also have to say that he is a friendly guy who would be difficult to dislike. However, I do not believe that either of these facts has influenced my opinion of his beer.