One Sunday, a fair few years ago now I arranged to meet an old friend of mine who was passing by our brewery and wanted to have a look around. My friend was the Head Brewer of a successful, well respected brewery who, at the time had recently expanded to an all-singing all-dancing 50 bulk barrel plant in brand new premises.
I did not know what he’d think of our shall I say, eccentric Victorian tower brewery with its pot pourri of salvaged brewing artifacts and bespoke fabricated stainless steel vessels moulded into a building that did not appear to have one straight edge or surface; for all the World like a rustic Gaudi creation (well’ if you squint a bit and have had five pints of Pigormortis1).
So I gave my friend the tour and at the end of it whilst supping a pint in our South facing yard in the Spring sunshine we talked…..brewing and beer. (Well there’s a surprise!). He told me that he could control the fermentations in the new brewery from his smart phone. (I didn’t really know what a smart phone was then, but I did have a wood burner). He could check the temperature of any brew, initiate cooling or heating, even ‘rouse’ a brew if necessary. The Green-eyed monster was awaking within me and then he said, “You know, I envy you”
“You envy me?” I replied, somewhat surprised.
“Yes.” He said, “You’re a craft brewer.”
Well I had to laugh and said, “Craft brewer. Is that a euphemism for doing everything by hand?” And then, on a roll adding, “Sometimes having to come in here 3 times on a Sunday because I might, just might have a brew ready for cooling at the end of the day or needing regular attention to get it to finish. And working 7 days a week because yeast doesn’t stop working so neither can I. You envy me?”
“Yes.” He said, “Because you’re doing it for real”
I guess he was saying that he was beginning to feel disconnected from the very thing he loved doing. But I think that ‘craft’ has come to mean something different now in brewing although no two people can agree on what that is. I heard recently on the radio that a British ‘craft’ brewer has opened a plant in Ohio in the USA and the brewers run the whole caboodle from a computer screen.
So maybe we’re not craft brewers here. Artisan perhaps? Yeah, I’d settle for that.
So World domination is not on the agenda here, but I’d like to think that, on a visit to Gloucestershire, finding and trying a Uley beer in one of the glorious pubs in these parts is on the bucket list of must-do things. We all hope that pubs are able to re-open one day soon. Meanwhile I guess I’ll sit by the wood burner with a ‘carry out’. From Uley of course.