Thursday, 31 December 2009

2009 - A Year of Beer.

Roll out the booze and the buffet, ladies and gents charge your party poppers, the new year is nearly with us.

This year has been a year of great change for me, probably the biggest transition period in my life thus far. I thought I would summarise it, adding a few thank yous and nods of appreciation along the way.

This year has seen me finish university, thrust blinking and stumbling into the world of work like a newly born forest animal. Completely ill prepared by university lifestyle for getting a full time job, I got a new, zippy c.v. prepared and the search began. Initially I considered a role with the estate agency I had worked for for the past three years which had funded university quite nicely. After a quick interview involving some completely ridiculous personality profiling questions and aptitude tests I was not given a job. I then realised what a bunch of spiky haired, shiny suited, fat-tie-knotted idiots estate agents were and began to realise what a favour they had done me.

Next, I pursued a true love of mine. Food. I asked about all the local independent food buyers and producers whether there were any jobs available, alas there weren't any. Even all my contacts at the local delicatessen I worked at didn't come to anything. Somewhat disheartened and about seventy c.v.s lighter it was time for a radical rethink. Back to the drawing board. The blog I was writing at the time was focusing more and more on beer, something I had always been keen on, I have a family links in the past with brewing and thought why not!?

I called up a list of all the breweries in Kent and called them all offering to work for them in return for teaching me how to brew. In an amazing stroke of luck the Hopdaemon brewery (my closest micro) wanted someone to take on all of the brewing responsibilities. Ideally they wanted someone with experience but what I lacked in experience I made up for in enthusiasm. I was taken on. Here comes the first thank you: my boss Tonie for giving me the opportunity to start brewing in the first place and being patient in light of all my newbie fuck ups.

A few thanks now, without meaning to be gushy or sycophantic. Thanks to Mark for all the decent beers, decent pubs and being a top bloke. Barry for all the amazing beer sent all the way from Germany. Dave for always having an interesting take on things, my beerswap beers and generally being a hero at the Equity For Punks launch despite no sleep, too much beer, losing a BlackBerry and having nowhere to sleep. Andy for helping sort Beerswap and saying kind things about my beer. Mark for a couple of awesome days/evenings drinking in London, Garrett and Lynne at Bull for a couple of amazing beer festivals, you always make us so welcome. Finally to Thornbridge, Marble, Goachers, Gadds, Brewdog and all the other brewers who have made awesome beer I have drunk this year.

I hope 2010 is as interesting as 2009 has been, see you all in the new year.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Brews, News and Gnus

Ok, well no gnus. But hey, no gnus is good news right?

Ok so once again with the best of intentions I set out to start blogging again. I have been slacking but I have been flat out at the brewery with the Christmas rush. Supermarkets demanding case after case of bottles, customers ordering polypins for Christmas along with all the brewing, racking and bottling we normally have to cope with!

Lots has happened since I last updated this blog: The British Guild of Beer Writers dinner (belated congratulations to all the winners especially Mark Dredge, Dave Bailey and Pete Brown.) Here are some of us drinking some warm White Shield

Brewdog have revealed the world's strongest beer- Tactical Nuclear Penguin, which according to James for BrewDog's email might go off like a tactical nuke unless it is stored in the fridge!

I have also invested in some decent homebrewing kit-the first brew will be tomorrow. I'm keeping it simple for my first brew- Pale malt, a little caramalt and a little 150 crystal malt, Challenger for bittering and East Kent Goldings for aroma. I'm aiming for around 1042 but I don't know what my mash efficiency will be like yet! The first few brews will be a steep learning curve no doubt.

I have also wrtiten a daily diary of what exactly a brewer gets up to over the course of the week, hopefully it will shed some light on those slightly cryptic tweets along the lines of 'Washing casks again. Grrrr' or 'Scrubbing out the mash tun now, just about to come up to the boil'

Until I post those next week you can follow my antics on twitter @petebrissenden .

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Why Am I A Brewer?

On the face of it brewing seems like quite a cool career choice, every bloke likes beer right? Live the dream, make it for a living!

In reality this is a long way from the truth. Brewing involves real commitment, lots of hard physical labour- try shovelling out half a ton of spent, wet malt from a mash tun! Lifting and carrying full and empty casks, early starts (usually about 6.30/7am), late evenings and doing over 70 hours a week, weekend work and freezing cold unheated brewhouses.

Then, there are the really unglamorous jobs: cleaning and scrubbing fermenting vessels, hand filling bottles, labelling bottles one at a time in a hand loaded labeller, cleaning casks and scrubbing out the cold store. It is also a dangerous job- boiling liquid, neat caustic, phosphoric acid, steam and moving machinery are all in close proximity all the time. All it takes is one wrong valve opened, one nut not tightened properly, one wrong button pressed on the control panel and you can have a serious industrial accident on your hands.

Another thing, don't go into brewing for the money. According to here, typical starting salaries are around £16,000 a year, experienced staff can earn £21,000 a year and senior staff can earn between £26,000 and £32,000 a year. So the money isn't great, an average job in IT pays similarly.

At this point, I have probably completely confused you as to why I'm a brewer. It sounds like I hate what I'm doing for a living. Wrong. I'll tell you about something that happened a couple of weeks ago which explains why it is all worthwhile.

I went to the pub a couple of weeks ago as I usually do on a Friday evening with some mates for a pre-dinner pint or two (or four). As I walked up to the bar a guy turned round and took a long, thirsty first draught out of his pint. A smile lit up his face, he turned to me and said 'You MUST order a pint of the Hopdaemon Incubus, it is my favorite beer. We have driven down from Essex this evening just to have a pint or two of it'. This guy had no idea who I was, but it made my day, in fact it made my whole week.

That is why I brew beer for a living. The feeling of reward I get for making something that facilitates people having a good time with their friends. Seeing people drinking and enjoying the beer I have made makes all the early starts, late nights, shovelling and hours spent loading the labelling machine irrelevant. Forgotten in an instant, I'm really not sure there are many people who love their job as much as I do.

Oh, and free beer as a perk isn't bad either!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Equity for Punks

I'm sure there will be a myriad of blogs about this event over the coming days so i'll keep it short and sweet.

Yesterday BrewDog announced they are offering 10,000 shares in the company at £230 a pop. These 10,000 shares equate to a 9% share of the overall business, if all of the shares are bought it will make BrewDog £2.3million, which is to fund a new eco-brewery. If 9% of the company is worth 2.3million is 100% really worth 25million?. No it isn't. In terms of asset, including intellectual property it probably isn't even worth £1million.

Also, it was announced two new partners had joined the business having sold their share in the 1billion pound Skyy Vodka brand. These guys also own a U.S. based distribution centre and I would guess BrewDog have plans to expand and export to the U.S. This really is a contradiction in terms, a new eco-brewery is being built to have their beer shipped round the world on a great big, dirty, fuel oil burning container ship......

Finally, BrewDog is a young person's brand, there is no hiding from that. Their viral media advertising, heavy usage of bloggers to promote beer and their edgy 'punk' image attract a younger beer drinker. Not a bad thing but as a young person I really can't think of many people my age who have a spare £230 lying around to have a punt on shares in a brewery. I know i certainly don't have that sort of cash lying about!

That said and done, let us not forget that BrewDog have given the industry a real shake up since they started and that within two years they have a national brand and a massive cult following. I tip my hat to them for the sheer audacity of the equity scheme, only time will tell how successful it is. I went to the launch night last night with lots of the beer bloggers and drank copious amounts of Punk, Punk Monk, 77 and Paradox, so for that BrewDog, many thanks. I also had a long chat with Martin about the joys of hand loading 4-head counterpressure bottling machines, very geeky.

Monday, 19 October 2009

A New Blog, A New Beginning.

I used to write a blog regularly a while ago. Since then lots has changed. I have a new job which means I'm not at my PC very often, work starts at 7am and finishes about 6pm. I also found that the premise of the old blog didn't really fit with what I was interested in writing about anymore, posts tailed off.

In case you aren't one of the people who used to read my old blog here is a little bit about me:

I'm a twenty four year old lad from Faversham in Kent. I went to school locally and always had a keen interest in food and drink, working at various farms and doing so, getting to know both hard and soft fruit, how to press apples for cider and how to successfully drive tractors and white vans to their full potential annoyance to the general road user. After a brief and unhappy relocation to Portsmouth I returned home to Kent, the Prodigal Son, enrolled at the University of Kent at Canterbury and did an undergraduate degree in Biological Anthropology. If you are wondering what Biological Anthropology is, don't worry I still am too.

This summer after applying for nearly one hundred jobs (who would have thought there was a recession on eh?) I took some initiative and decided that wearing a suit and staring at a PC screen was a mug's game and rang all the breweries in Kent and begged to go and brew for them. Luckily Hopdaemon took me on and five months down the line I'm now brewing every single drop of Hopdaemon beer that leaves the brewery on my own!

In this new blog I'm hoping to write about beer. Not only beer I have made, but reviews of other people's beer too. There will be some recipes as well, not only for beer but for some tasty food to accompany your beer. Don't expect Michelin star stuff round these parts, it is all about hearty, warming home cooking.

I hope you drop by regularly to see what I'm up to, even if you don't you can always follow my condensed antics on Twitter (I'm @petebrissenden).