Key to the project was the installation of what Frederic Robinson's head brewer, Martyn Weeks, claims is the world's largest hopnik a straining device that extracts flavour from whole hops.
"In the past, hops were added directly to the boiling wort a sweet liquid extracted from the malted barley to extract the hop flavours, but unfortunately many of the delicate aromas would get boiled off and evaporate," says Weeks. "The great thing about our new hopnik is that it allows us to pass the boiling wort through a bed of whole leaf hops without losing any of the hop aromas."
The brewhouse is designed to make passing beer through the hopnik optional allowing the brewery to manufacture to existing recipes while also providing it with the opportunity of making new beers using different hop varieties, Weeks adds. "Our new hopnik allows us to produce smaller volumes than previously possible and therefore we can afford to take more risks, push the boundaries and experiment to greater heights."
As part of the refit, new kettles, boilers and holding tanks, were also installed. These will help to reduce water use by about 70% and energy consumption by 30%. Work started in January 2011. The brewing equipment has been operational since last Easter.
Frederic Robinson is currently developing a number of new products and these will be launched later this year, says director of marketing David Bremner. Experimentation with different hop varieties will provide the brewery with a unique selling point, which it will market at point of sale, adds Bremner.