It's been over a year since my last confession.

I've been brewing. On and off. I've been getting frustrated by the lack of perfection I've managed to achieve. But I've been learning.

I still don't have a brewery. It's still kitchen based. But I've met a lot of brewers and worked in a lot of breweries. One of these magicians allowed me to brew a proper batch of beer on his kit. A 600 litre professional brew.

It was special, exciting, tense. I still don't know how it's going to turn out. Whether we were able to scale up my pilot brew to a full scale brew successfully.

It looks good. It smells amazing. But it's not ready yet. My first born is still waiting to be born.

I have a name though: Memento. A reminder of things to come. A memory of all the hard work that's been.

I'll let you know when.


Man discovers it's OK to like beer

Men don’t have it easy these days. We're told we need to be metrosexual, a gym rat, hirsute, bald, tattooed, a hipster. But it all changes so quickly. David Beckham is clearly trying to embrace all the trends simultaneously. And if he’s confused, then what about the man on the street?

When were we told that we had to drink wine? That’s what I want to know. And why did we listen?

Now, I have nothing against wine. I’ve been drinking it almost exclusively for the past decade. I even have some that is ageing nicely somewhere in some warehouse. And I like wine. But at some point when you hit your early thirties, someone decides that you need to grow up. You settle down, get married (or not), have kids, stop going out, start throwing dinner parties and start drinking wine. Beer literally withers on the vine.

For the past decade, I rarely entered a pub. Too much work, too many kids, too exhausted. And I am not alone. So we drank at home. Just to take the edge off the screaming, you understand. Sometimes that involved gin but more often than not, it would be wine.

Maybe it’s beer’s fault. Too bland. Too similar. Not enough taste. Not enough choice.

But in the interim, wine has been marketed as the sophisticated choice and it has stolen the middle class. Perhaps they deserve each other. But I want to fight back.

I have discovered beer (I don’t think I’m the first).

And who knew that beer could be every bit as varied and interesting and complex? It’s cheaper than wine. It’s better value than wine (the best beers in the world still cost less than a bottle of plonk from the supermarket). It goes better with food than wine (yes it really does). It’s less alcoholic (usually) so you can enjoy more of it.

The world of beer is booming these days. I’m going to fight my small little corner of the middle class world and re-introduce beer into polite society. Please join me. We need more in this fight.

You will find that it’s OK. Climb in. You’ll feel safe. 

It’s OK to drink beer again.


Hard labour...

I was very fortunate yesterday to be able to 'help' out on a brew at Brixton Brewery. It was a great day. Not only is their beer awesome, but they have a great group of people aiming to keep it that way.

I spent valuable time with Jez, one of the founders, who offered hints, tips and advice for which I am very grateful.

I was told before I started all this, that the beer community was friendly and helpful and I can now confirm that it really is.

Try their beer if you haven't already (the Reliance Pale being racked yesterday is a good start). And if you can find any Electric IPA made on 15th October, then that particular one is likely to be pretty special...

It's not about the money

Should I try and set a goal? Write a business plan? Set out what I’m trying to achieve here? I have always strived to achieve. If so, what should my goals be this time?

Money is usually the goal. And not a good one. It tends to lead to greed, selfishness and narrow mindedness. I should know. For too long, it was the only thing that mattered. 

Of course you need money to live. And you need enough to pay the bills, feed your family and put a roof over your head. But I don’t think the world needs me to continue striving for more and more money. I think it needs me to be nicer. Kinder. To continue to grow. To improve my knowledge. My self knowledge. To work to improve my community.

How much have I really learned since I left school? (The ability to write a great spreadsheet doesn’t count.) Until recently, I had hardly learned anything at all. Hardly tried anything new. Now I’ve been surfing, learned to code, tried my hand at writing, caught a travel bug and a love of beer. Is that good? Is that an improvement?

Perhaps not.
I have no job. No prospects. And an uncertain future. But I’m going to do something that I love and pour my heart and soul into it. I’m going to brew beer.

And see what happens. 

Life's too short

A good friend of mine is lying in hospital today. A friend for over twenty years. He had a heart attack yesterday whilst running a half marathon. He’s one of the fittest people I know.

I can’t concentrate on anything.

All I know is that he’s sedated. And in intensive care.

I know I’m not alone. All his friends are doing exactly the same as me right now. Hoping. Wishing for good news. And struggling to do anything else.

God knows what his family are going through.

But it does give me pause. A smack to the head reminder of the old cliché about life being too short.

Too short to be in the office at weekends.
Too short to be away from your kids for long - missing out on them growing up.
Too short to be spending your time with people you don’t really like.
Too short to be working somewhere, doing something that you don’t love. 

Experience counts...

10,000 hours of deliberate practice. That’s all the rage these days. The answer to talent. Nobody is born a world beater. They out-work you and have done since they were kids.

And I happen to believe this.

The problem is that I’ve never brewed beer before. Never experimented with airing cupboard demijohns in my youth. And while it’s not a complicated process (beer has been made for thousands of years, after all). I firmly believe that experience counts. It’s part art, part science.

So, how to short cut the learning curve? How to ensure I don’t make alcoholic horse piss?
The first thing I’m going to do is to brew constantly. On my pilot kit. It’s a small set up, only 20L. But it’s for practice, not for commerce. It’s to help me get closer to my 10,000 hours. Churn out a new beer every week. Bottle it. Send it out to my wide circle of friends / tasters / locals. Get feedback and use that feedback to make changes and improve.

My long-awaited pilot kit - a Williams Warn personal brewery - arrives tomorrow. I discovered it when I was travelling around New Zealand earlier this year. I visited their factory and ordered one then and there. It’s a remarkable bit of kit. And I hope it’s one more element in the journey towards professional brewer. 

Product samples...

 Mock ups of my crowler cans

Mock ups of my crowler cans

I've ordered a canning machine from the guys at Oskar Blues in North Carolina. They call it a Crowler - a combination of a can and a growler.

They use it for customers to take home fresh beer from their brewery and bars. You fill it straight from the draft tap and seal it then and there at the bar. I'm a big believer in cans to keep beer as fresh as possible and they're so much easier to transport.

I'm going to use these oversized cans for my samples, at least initially. To send out to potential customers and to get feedback from my tribe of early adopters - you lot out there! If you're interested, please get in touch.

The machine and cans come from the US and should be here in 6 weeks or so. I'll post a photo when it gets here. (And no, there isn't yet a Picklebarrel Porter, though it sounds interesting...)