My work; outside of beer, with just a little bit of it inside too.

For over twenty years I have worked as an electrical engineer within the water pump industry, working with all sorts of pumps from domestic shower pumps right up to large industrial applications.  The work wasn’t just limited to pumps though, it was all types of rotating electrical plant; if you can think of a piece of equipment containing an electric motor, I’ve probably worked on it.

The largest of which was on board HMS Ocean whilst it was docked in Devonport.  We replaced bearings on the motors that powered the ships gun compressors.  These motors were huge, 265kw and weighing nearly a ton each.  The bearings were pretty hefty too, I could easily put my leg through the centre of one!

In amongst all this heavy industrial work, I’ve kept a few brewery pumps running too. The first brewery I can recall visiting for work was O’Hanlons.  There have been a fair few others along the way, but it all started here.

Prior to becoming just Hanlons and its relocation to Half Moon, the brewery was based on a farm just outside Whimple.  It was pretty rustic to say the least, the track that led to the brewery skirted a field and would have been the ideal playground for someone like Petter Solberg or Marcus Gronholm, but for me in my van it was ridiculous.  When you eventually reached the brewery you were often greeted by a large boar that pretty much roamed free, but it was fine, you just accepted it and got on with it.

Fighting through the cigarette smoke in the office, you’d check in and find out what needed doing.  The brewery itself was served by a borehole and a well, each having their own pumps and water treatment.  The equipment had a hard life and breakdowns were inevitable, regular servicing was required too.  Even though I got to know the equipment very well, you just never knew where the next failure would be.  But the one thing I did know, was that without water, there would be no beer, so the pressure was always on to get things working again.

Once the job was finished, I’d often leave with a few bottles of Yellow Hammer.  This was the Yellow Hammer I loved, bottle conditioned and slightly hazy, I could drink bucket loads of this golden fruity delight, and did too! It was just a beautiful beer.

Back then, the thought of being self employed never even crossed my mind, I had no reason to be self employed, so why would I be?  But, like everything, I had to change.  The driving force behind this change was the arrival of our baby, Ace, and for the last seven months I have been self employed and doing what I have always done, working with electrics, pumps and water.

The brewery work has continued too, I was approached by Two Drifters shortly before Christmas and asked if I would install some water filtration plant in their new brewery. How could I say no?  A new local brewery, promising new beers, with strong ethics in sustainability and carbon negativity; this was going to be a slightly different challenge, but one I was up for.

In late 2018, Gemma & Russ Wakeham began the massive task of setting up their brewery on the outskirts of Exeter.  Located near the airport and powered by 100% zero emission energy, everything about the brewery had to be managed and controlled with sustainability in mind.  Their plans were big too.

The finished product was to be delivered locally in the brewery’s own electrically powered van, which would only be charged at the brewery by their zero emission electricity.  The use of carbon neutral couriers would enable the products to venture a little further too.

To go beyond carbon neutrality and become carbon negative, the brewery will be working in partnership with Climeworks to remove CO2 from the air.  By using direct air capture, more CO2 is removed from the atmosphere than is produced in the emissions from the production, manufacturing and transportation of the ingredients that are used for brewing.

This technique will enable Russ and Gemma to create what they believe to be, the world’s first carbon negative brewery and distillery.

The plan for my work was to install a water softener, reverse osmosis unit and an ultraviolet steriliser, along with a pump and some plumbing around the brewery.  With this equipment in place, the incoming water would be completely stripped of its chemical and bacteriological load and later remineralised to suit any style of beer.  Various tappings were installed throughout the brewery to give the option of using raw, softened or RO water.  These different waters could then be used for different processes in the brewery, depending on the requirements of the process.  A mechanical seal cooling system for the brewery pumps was also plumbed in.

The RO water was also piped over to the distillery to be used in the production of rum.  The six stills all required a water flow and return, with individual isolation and flow controls.  I modified an underfloor heating manifold to provide exactly this.  Each still has its own isolation valve and manual flow regulator, giving complete control of the distilling process.  The return water is not wasted either, it’s collected or passed back to the brewery for further use.

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Following on from this, I was asked to install the chiller system for the four fermenting vessels and cold liquor tank.  This was a big job for one man, with over seventy metres of pipe to snake around the brewery and into each vessel, along with solenoid valves, pressure regulators and commissioning valves.  A continuous circuit had to be achieved and the flow through each vessel balanced.  It had to look good too.  With this pipework being constantly on show, the angles had to be just so.  Being predominantly solvent weld ABS, you only get one shot at getting the final assembly correct, so there’s no place for any inaccurate measurements.  But when finished, it was incredibly satisfying to take a step back and just admire those angles.

Shortly after completion and commissioning, the beer entered the fermenting vessels for the first time to do its thing.  Drifters Gold was the beer of choice, a light golden beer with the right attributes for some summer drinking.  Swiftly followed by Sunrise, a peach infused pale, generously hopped to amplify the adjunct.

Both beers were due to be canned and the contract canning company had been booked weeks in advance, way before I’d even started to install the chilling equipment!  The pressure to complete in time was immense, but it all came together in the end and both Drifters Gold and Sunrise made it into cans, nestled in biodegradable can holders.

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Seeing both of these beers, and the rum, available to buy in local outlets, and directly from the brewery itself, was incredibly satisfying.  After all of the work I’d put in, which totalled well over 100 hours of labour, it was really quite overwhelming.

 

An ode to Ace.

Sorachi was its name, the hop in the beer.  Ace was his name, the little baby, my son.

A hop content on confusion.  A heart intent on fusion.

The hop divides, but the baby unites.

Disagreement.  Enjoyment.  The bizarre.  Overwhelming joy.

The hop and the baby.

They’re both Ace.

In a stout it’s dark and mysterious.  In the dark he’s sleepy and mischievous.

He’s just Ace.  But not Sorachi.

Maybe you love Sorachi, maybe you love Ace.

Or maybe you love both, Sorachi and Ace.

It’s Just Business.

Believe it or not, Craft Beer, or the very business of it, is just like any other business.  It’s sole purpose is to create profit through the production of successful products.  It is not there to make friends with everyone it meets along the way.  It will however make friends along the way, but not in the way of ‘Hey, this is my new DIPA, buy it and I’ll be your friend forever’ It does it by saying ‘Hey, this is my new DIPA, buy it, enjoy it, and then I’d like you to buy the rest of my beer’ Which of course, is exactly what you do.

You do become friends, but at no point during this process does it permit you, or anyone else for that matter, to claim any form of ownership of the brewery, business.  However, the merest of contact with the beer turns instantly into perceived ownership.  You’ve touched it, held it, tasted it.  The haptic sensation of holding the beer in your hands, it’s yours, or at least you think it is.

The successful brewery, which it is now, as you’ve drank all of their DIPA and moved on to the rest of the range, is turning a massive profit and generating some interest from who you may perceive as being outsiders.  Which of course they are not.  They are people from within the same industry, who see your favourite new brewery causing a stir by producing some great beer, and like any savvy businessman, they want a piece of it.  The equally savvy owner of your favourite new brewery sees this as a potential for investment, a way to further improve his product and expand the brand he has worked so hard to create.

Now, he can do one of two things, reject it or take it.  Rejecting investment can be detrimental to your business, however, it could earn you some further respect from your hardcore fans who have stuck by you throughout your growth.  This respect is good, however, respect alone cannot make your business profitable.  Investment and future growth will make your business profitable.  This growth, however, can only be achieved if your product is good and you have loyal fans to support your product.  Now you can see it all needs to come together, or at least in the following order; good product, loyal fans, investment and future growth.

Your loyal fans may end up criticising your decision to expand, they shouldn’t though, as truly loyal fans should welcome and embrace this investment and see it as an opportunity for you to grow and fulfil your dream as a successful brewer, businessman. In return for their support, you will continue to produce great beer that will continue to be loved.

There are of course other forms of investment, including crowdfunding.  This is a great way to draw in funds from eager fans willing to donate generously to your cause.  It’s a great way to achieve that short term goal which will assist the growth of the business.  It will also bring your fans closer to your business and its development, thus solidifying its place in the market.

What crowdfunding lacks however, is the financial clout and potentially limitless expertise and knowledge that only experienced and seasoned investors can bring.  Another thing that crowdfunding can lack is the potential to spread your brand and its products to a larger market.  The large investors however, are professionals at this and your product could literally be catapulted into areas of the market that would previously have been beyond your reach.  Areas of the market where people still respect good beer, but are not caught up in the politics of what may or may not be craft.  They just want good, reliable, consistent beer that satisfies with every sip.  Something that your favourite new brewery is good at and will be even better at once it has a little injection of investment from the correct place.

There is another issue with crowdfunding.  It is as follows, ‘why should you invest in a company that is quite clearly profitable, and why aren’t they using their own profits to develop their own business?  Usually a profitable business develops itself by reinvesting its profits to further increase its growth.  So why would it need crowdfunding?

In addition to the above forms of investment, there is another option.  The owner of your favourite new brewery could approach the investors on Dragons Den.  If you saw your favourite new brewery on Dragons Den pitching for an investment to fund larger premises, which would allow for an increase in brewing capacity to keep up with demand, how would you feel?

There is one more thing to consider too.  Put yourself in the shoes of your favourite new brewery.  You’ve worked hard to set up your own business, created some amazing products and have amassed a base of loyal fans.  All of which hasn’t gone unnoticed and some pretty keen investors are on your tail.  What would you do?

 

Reflection

I’ve been hammered at work for the last few months.  I don’t mean in the drinking sense, just physically and mentally.  Driving upwards of two hundred miles a day.  Sitting stationary on the motorway, whilst attempting to drive upwards of two hundred miles a day.  Carrying out a full days work, in-between attempting to drive upwards of two hundred miles a day.

I love my job and I don’t mind travelling for it either.  I’ve always done it, for the best part of twenty years I’ve been an engineer on the road, but when you leave Swindon at 4pm on a Friday and don’t make your presence known in Tiverton until over three hours later, well that really saps the fun out of it all.  Recently, this type of journey home hasn’t been unique either.

All of this consumption of time, over which I’ve had very little control, has been detrimental to the things I love.  I’ve barely written a thing over the last twelve months, mentally I haven’t been able to, and this has developed into feelings of resent.  Yes we’ve moved house, yes the renovations took their toll, but I’ve done the house thing before and I was prepared for exactly what that entailed.

Throw in fatigue, and frustration over the lack of creativity due to fatigue.  I’ve looked at beer in a different way recently, it’s probably looked back at me in a different way too, wondering what the hell is going on, or rather, what isn’t going on.  I’ve still drank the stuff, but more so to just chill and unwind; all creativity stops at this point.

Frustration builds, fatigue pinches and the tiredness becomes relentless; you can see where this is going.  I too saw where it was going, and decided to stop the morose cycle of depressing torment that my life was becoming.

We’re having a baby, our first human baby anyway.  We have two fur babies, Betty and Dot our West Highland terriers.  There is a metal baby too however, the 2cv.  Laura and I have been together for just over ten years, although our relationship began a little further back in the history books.  Browsing through family photos shortly after the parental introduction, we discovered that we attended the same play school.  That unbeknown closeness always remained present, as during high school we remained in touch.  We attended different high schools but shared friends outside and would often meet; little did we know that in our late twenties we would regain contact, and that contact would be for good.  We lost touch after our GCSE’s, but with the aid of Facebook we took control of our history and made it our present, and our future.

I digress, we’re having our first baby and I’m frustrated at the path my work is taking.  So I’ve made a change.  I’ve decided to put down my tools, leave life on the road and take an office based job in my home town of Exeter.  It’s still electrical, but it will be closer to home and my wife.  Both Laura and I grew up in Exeter and I spent eighteen years of my life working on Marsh Barton Industrial Estate.  I will now be returning and to start a job which will allow me to not only spend more time with my growing family, but will enable me to take back some of the control which has been out of my grasp for too long.

Having no control over your life, or the direction in which it is travelling, can have a huge impact.  It can be a whirlwind of pure delight as your ride the wave, or in my case, you can sink into the trough of insignificance and obscurity.  Obscurity, in terms of uniqueness can be a positive thing, but insignificance, or the mere thought of it, is depressing.  But fading away is not, and will never be an option.  Times get tough and shit drags you down, but you have to remember why you are doing this.

I’ve made this change because I could feel insignificance lurking and did not want it to take a hold of me.  I’d recently started to question my own relevance, not just in the world of beer, but generally.  Do I matter?  Do I really matter?  The answer is, of course I do.  But all that fatigue and frustration is pretty hard to shake off or get the better of.

We all matter, we all really matter.  We all make a difference in our own obscure way, and people love us for it.

I’m not about to hang up my blogging shoes and take a back seat while the world passes me by.  I’m taking steps to improve my life, my family’s life, regain control and fall back in love with the things I love doing.

It may not be the quickest thing I’ve ever done, but I know in the long run it will be for the best.

And you know what, that feeling of being in control is the best feeling you can ever have.

Behind the photos.

Pictures are known to say a thousand words, and in recent times some of those words about my photos have been “what the hell’ or “how on earth did you do that?’

Occasionally there is a why too, and that why is always because I strive to create something different wherever I can. The photos I’ve taken over the last few years have always been centred around the beer in question. I may use a play on words or some other link to the beer, but either way, the beer always takes the lead, and I’ll fashion a picture around it.

It started when Moor Beer hosted Craft Beer Hour and I had a bottle of Confidence, a proper Moor beer, a 660ml bottle.  I’d seen plenty of floating cans and I thought, you know what, with this bottle of Confidence I can show just how confident I am and make it float.

It did take me while to figure out exactly how I would achieve this, as I didn’t want there to be any sign of anything supporting the bottle in the final photo.  But as you can see, the bottle is floating perfectly above the Moor glass.

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This, like all of my photos was not Photoshopped, I figured out a way of supporting the bottle without any of that support being visible in the final photo.  Take a proper look, can you work it out?

Since taking this, I explored a little further and came up with the photos that follow.

Cloudwater, Seville Row.

This shot was quite simple; with Seville Row sounding similar to Saville Row, all I had to do was make sure I distributed the one beer I had evenly between multiple glasses which formed a row.

Seville

Crane Beer, Cake by the Ocean.

Around the time that I took this photo, the band DNCE released a song called Cake By The Ocean. I had a bottle of Cake, so a photo of this beer by the sea seemed perfect.

Cake Ocean

St Austell, Smoking Guns.

Not being a gun owner I thought the best way to photograph this beer was to create a little smoke around it. I’m no longer a smoker but I do vape, and after multiple attempts of vaping around the beer I ended up with something I was happy with.

Smoking Guns

Art Brew, Art Attack.

These were the first beers I’d managed to get hold of from Art Brew and all I could think of was the children’s TV program Art Attack, I grew up with this being on TV and now with these beers I could take inspiration from that program and create a beer photo.

Art Attack

Verdant/Howling Hops, Auspicious Directions of 8 Mansions.

This is where things started to get a little deep, maybe a little too deep for some, but like with my other photos, I wanted to make this a little different.  Initially I wasn’t familiar with the concept of the Eight Mansions theory, and a lot of research was required in order to create this shot.

The Eight Mansions theory is a practice of Feng Shui used to determine the best and worst locations/positions of your dwelling.  It is used to find out whether you are compatible with the house and to find your favourable and unfavourable personal directions within that house.

I adapted the rules of the Eight Mansions theory to create my photo and here’s what I ended up with.

8 Mansions

Cloudwater/Other Half, Imaginary Greenscapes.

From the moment I saw this beer, and that artwork, I knew I had to photograph it in front of a pylon.  All I had to do was find a suitable location and make the shot.  Armed with some suitable support in the form of some steel pipe, I wandered into a farmers field and set about lining up the shot. I positioned the can and glass atop the pipe in front of a pylon and lined up the can artwork with the angular metalwork of the pylon.  The final photo was cropped in order to disguise to method of support.

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Salopian, Lullaby.

Everyone loves a nice lullaby before bedtime, and I’m no different.

Lullaby 1

Wilde Child Brewing Co.

These were both shot for Craft Beer Hour when Wilde Child hosted.  I was lucky enough to have had my name pulled from the hat to receive beer from the hosting brewery, so I thought I’d return the favour and take these.

Pushing Boundaries.

I pushed the boundaries of the floating can shot with this and made it float without using the ring pull.

Boundaries

Hedonistic Existence. 

It’s a ganache stout, so rather than putting the beer in the glass, I made some ganache and used that instead.  Both the beer and the ganache went down a treat.

Ganache

Brew By Numbers.

I know everyone thinks I favour the beers of Brew By Numbers for photo’s, I don’t, honest!  But, they have given me the most inspiration for photos over the last few years. I set myself a goal too, which was to take a photo of every DIPA that The Numbers brew, although I have done a few others along the way too.

55|01, Double IPA.

Nice and simple shot using a glass desk to create a reflection so you see a double of the bottle.

BBNo DIPA 1

55|02

Unfortunately this wasn’t bottled and as such, I have been unable to create a photo for this beer.  However, I would love to be able to do so.

55|03, Fifty Five is the Magic Number.

We all know that three is the magic number, so three bottles of 55|03 it is.

55|03

55|04, Four to the Floor.

Originally inspired by the Starsailor song of the same name, I wondered how I could make this into a beer photo.  If you are musical you’ll see that the position of the glass and bottles represents the notes on a stave of a disco bass drum pattern.  The floorboards play their part too.

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55|05, Hang Five.

Hang Five is a surfing term that describes when the surfer moves to the front of the board and hangs all of their toes over the edge of the board.  I emulated this by hanging the five bottles over the edge of my table.

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55|06, Firing on all six.

This is one for the petrolheads and fans of V6 engines.  I recreated a V6 engine using bottles and devised a method of support that was not visible in the final photo.

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You’ll notice that the number of bottles used in each photo corresponds with the recipe number, this is deliberate and will continue for as long as the DIPAs do.

01|27, Meanwhile, down on the allotment..

Just a few hundred yards from our house is a small collection of allotments, so I put my wellies on, grabbed my trowel and went to photograph some beer.  One of the allotment keepers was intrigued by what I was doing, he offered to help too. He told me that the plant in the background was actually Chard, but rather disappointingly, he didn’t have any Fennel.

Beetroot Fennel

01|30, Resting on your Lorals. 

Not being one to rest on my laurels, I will continue to take shots that will make you think a little differently about that beer sat in front of you.

Loral

But I’m not giving away the secret of this photo.

 

 

The Australian dream.

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It’s that satisfying feeling of vigour you get from driving a 2cv with the roof off on a fresh, crisp winters day which is just unparalleled.

Actually, just the feeling you get from driving a 2cv anywhere is unparalleled.

Last Voyage

It’s malty, with slices of bread on its tail, but that was just the end of the voyage; with moments and levers in perfect harmony, what came before was pure IPA glory, with perfect balance in every aspect of flavour and figure.

A spicy concoction of bitterness precedes, led by an onslaught of tropical fruit with its oozing crevice hunting aroma. 

However, immediately prior to this display of wealth, it was just sat there, slowly showing off its gradually appreciating globe. 


The pour was insignificant, in that its qualities were as yet unknown. It’s removal from the fridge was as untroubled as it’s first voyage in my possession; from the bottle shop where I caught my first glance, shortly before its last voyage began. 

How was your last voyage?