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 neutrality; this was going to be a slightly different challenge, but one I was up for.

The plan 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.

IMG_0006

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.

IMG_0005

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.

 

Advertisements

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?