Thursday 22 September 2011

Things I’ve learnt about beer and breweries in the last few weeks

This is my third week of working in a brewery and already I’ve learnt a lot of stuff which I didn’t know before....

Making beer is a lot more than filling a mash tun, transferring it to the kettle, then the fermentation tanks and then filling some containers a few days later. I’ve got a whole new respect for the work that brewers do, the stuff you don’t get shown or told about on the brewery tours; the hidden work that goes into making beer.

Duty is a real bastard for the brewing industry. Seeing how much the brewery pays in a month is just shocking. To work hard to make great beer to then have to pay the government a large wad of money before you can sell it is annoying.

I also didn’t previously realise that just 0.1% ABV makes a difference so it’s no wonder there are so many low ABV beers around and no surprise that big brewers keep shrinking the ABVs on some of their flagship brands.

Tank management, especially if you’ve got more than two tanks and most of them contains lager which is in tank for over four weeks, is something I don’t think I’ll ever have the organisational skills to manage. When new tanks arrive, as pictured above, it takes even more organisation. In November we've got five more tanks coming.

Likewise the organisation of deliveries. Beer goes here, things get picked up from there, and so on. It hurts my brain thinking about it. I’ll happily stick to drawing pictures of beer mats and ‘researching’ other brewery websites.

Beer branding is hard to get right and easy to get wrong. There are many bad ones out there but also lots of great ones.

Brewers listen to strange music. I’m going to spend a day or two in the brewery soon and I’ll be bringing my McFly tapes so we can listen to something good.

There’s lots of things going on all day in a brewery. Most of it is still new to me so I get easily distracted and like watching it. My favourite thing at the moment is either standing in the hop store or watching the Camden Wheat ferment – it bubbles ferociously and I watch it giggling like a one year old saying, ‘look, bubbles!’

Beer on tap in the office is dangerous...

An hour and a half commute each way sucks balls. What sucks even more is that it costs me £400 a month to do it and I end up standing half the way. This also impacts upon blogging time until I move flat nearer to work. 

Working in a brewery is every bit as hard, fun and exciting as I thought it’d be.


  1. McFly? Seriously?

    Also, check what the rail company's policy on standing is -- I know our local provider gives vouchers as a matter of course if you spend more than ten minutes without a seat.

  2. I suspect that train companies in the SE would be out of pocket very quickly if they did that.

  3. Haa, I just tweeted the same thing as Owen commented.

    McFly though. Am seriously shaking my head at you!

    Glad you're enjoying it and learning so much!

  4. Nice summary of your brewery baptism and some brewery truths shared! I must admit I was envious when you informed us of your new job... although I have since looked closer at the workings of a brewery and in particular the necessarys to start one up. It's taken me weeks to get over the realisation, the disappointment, that it's not all happy clappy "lets go brew a beer". Having got over that initial shock I have now replaced my thinking cap and am sat in front of a large drawing board waiting for something to materialise.
    P.s. I'm still envious of your new job! :)

  5. You can't go wrong with Lady Ga Ga. You get free grog in the job?

  6. I don't even know what McFly sound like. God I'm old. The only music we've ever had in the brewery is Polish dance music, which is not to be recommended.

  7. I used to work for a brewpub, doing their design and advertising. I wasn't at the pub, but rather at their main office, off-site. We had a keggerator right in the office. Work stopped at 3pm on Friday and everybody had a pint... or five.

  8. The weirdly diverse music that's heard in a brewery is brilliant. It certainly opened my mind.

    And I will just confirm what other people have said. I hope you are joking about McFly. You are a grown man. If it's true I may have to stop reading your blog

  9. Ed - so you listen to pole-dancing music … were you brewing the Pole dancing beer?

  10. Welcome to my world. And as for music, it has to be heavy metal.

  11. Duty really is a major issue - and I had no idea until I had a conversation with James and Andy from SummerWine about it. In fact, the higher rate for higher strength beers comes in in the next and bloody Mcfly!

  12. Similarly to what Leigh said, I was talking about duty with the Saras from Triple FFF and Brewsters at the Project Rouge launch and they were discussing a mistake were one beer had been on the books as one percent ABV higher fer years and all the trouble it caused when they reaslised.
    Its hearing that sort of stuff that makes me moan less about having a non-beer day job.
    Still, so pleased for you that you get to giggle over yeast and that you'll be a London dweller soon. We truly will never stop running into you then!

  13. Man, who knew a little McFly love would get such a reaction?! :)

  14. I was brought up on Zeppelin, Free, Rory Gallagher, Man and Skynyrd but I like McFly's Star Girl.

  15. Mark, you're young, but not McFly young surely?