Nowadays younger brewers coming into the trade can go to college and get a degree in brewing before they start to develop their art – for me it was the traditional way … “sitting with Nellie.”
This expression is borrowed from the old Lancashire cotton mills where young newcomers got their training by sitting with experienced staff – in my case it wasn’t Nellie it was another Pete!
Pete taught me the basics but then you really start your education by doing the job. It’s often said that brewing is straightforward and easy …except for when it starts to go wrong!
I believe the real skill of a brewer is knowing how to stop a brew going wrong in the first place, recognising something is not quite right at a very early stage and then having the experience to correct it before its spoiled.
Cleanliness is critical – we must ensure that all vessels and pipes are thoroughly cleaned after use and that casks are sterilised before filling. Also critical is the importance of temperature control from mashing in, through boiling the wort with the hops, through to cask storage …its absolutely key to a producing a quality beer.
One of the biggest changes I have seen in my time as a brewer is the choice of ingredients but most importantly the increase in the range of hops that are available to brewers. These new hops offer a wide range of flavours and aromas, but I think it takes a lot to beat a good old British hop and I like to stick to these for the most part. The British hops are more subtle in their taste and smell and less complex than their new world counterparts. They allow me to produce beers with a consistently great taste, brew after brew and that’s what all beer drinkers want.