We sat down with Arthur Bryant, head of training at Brewlab to get his thoughts on the challenges facing newcomers to the industry.
What are the areas of the sector you simply can’t afford to avoid?
“In recent years we have noticed an increased interest in carbonated craft beer packaged in bottles, cans, or kegs. Traditionally, brewers would rely on casks as the main package format and this was relatively simple to deal with in comparison. For carbonated beers however, people need to learn the theory not just from a technical perspective, but also from a health and safety perspective too. If people want to exploit the opportunities for carbonated craft beer, they need to know how to deal with pressurised systems and understand how to use gas laws such as Henry’s law.
In addition to dealing with carbonation, brewers today need to understand how to brew with quality and consistency. This is partly due to the increased competition facing brewers today, but also due to higher expectations from the drinkers themselves. To brew with high quality and consistency, brewers need to understand the theory behind brewing practices in detail and how to use basic analytical measurements such as; gravity, ABV, yeast count and viability, water chemistry and pH control. Taking the measurements is helpful, but understanding what they mean and how to react to them is now very important”.
What are the questions you have been asked time and time again?
“The most common questions we get asked are concerning how to correct failures such as; poor pH control, poor microbial control, and inconsistent ABV. Again, this demonstrates the importance of getting to grips with these parameters and understanding how to use them to your advantage in controlling quality. As we deal with a lot of people who are just setting up, or who are in the early stages of brewing, we also get a lot of questions related to equipment, such as; where to source equipment, and which type of equipment is required”.
What are the potential pitfalls and of course, the positives too!
“The biggest pitfall we come across at Brewlab is neglecting the business side of brewing. We have seen excellent brewers who are capable of producing good quality beer fail to succeed because they have not developed good quality sales and marketing strategies. This is why we now incorporate these essential skills on our training programmes.
On the positive side of things, it is great to see enthusiastic people succeed in producing something of their own, which other people also enjoy. At Brewlab, we hold “open nights” where our students get to showcase their beers and receive first hand feedback of the beers they have developed, brewed and packaged themselves. I am happy to say that most of the time, the feedback is positive which really delights the student brewers.”