When I joined Young’s Brewery as a microbiologist in 1988 it already had a terrific reputation as a training ground for future Head Brewers. Young’s had taken in a large succession of graduates who had gone on to run breweries around the world. I felt differently though. I fell completely in love with The Ram Brewery, it’s amazing history as “Britain’s Longest Continuously Brewing Site”, it’s beautiful Victorian artefacts, the iconic buildings and the wonderful assortment of characters and technically brilliant people who worked there. The thought of leaving never occurred to me – ever!
Young’s provided me with the best hands on experience I could have hoped for and I eventually passed my brewing exams and worked my way up the ranks to become Brewhouse Manager, one of the proudest moments of my life.
Everything changed in 2006 when Young’s announced the closure of the brewery such that they could focus on their pub, restaurant and hotel business. The end of a brewing legend that stretched back to the times of Henry VIII, or even earlier, was too much for me to bear and I started to consider various possibilities to enable brewing to continue. My lucky break was when I was appointed as Health & Safety Adviser for Decommissioning (fortunately, Young’s had previously invested a lot of time and money over the years to have me trained in Health & Safety). Health and Safety is not my career of choice and witnessing the dismantling and selling on of the brewery I loved was the most unappealing occupation I could possibly imagine but it kept me on site after all my brewing colleagues had moved out. I deviously waited for the Chief Engineer to go on holiday, as he was managing the decommissioning project, and then I hijacked his team of technicians and browbeat them into helping me construct the now infamous nano-brewery from scrap metal off the old plant. Nine days of toil saw the tea urn converted into a Copper, the bottle tipper into a Mash Tun and a whole assortment of redundant items modified in order to produce cask ale. The nano-brewery has been used continuously (non-commercially) ever since in order to maintain the site’s brewing heritage and we plan to brew each week until a commercial microbrewery is constructed as part of the site redevelopment. The future brewery should be open in the summer of 2017 and I am using the interim period in order to develop various beer styles which I hope to brew commercially again at my beloved Ram Brewery.