Adam is a graduate from Brewlab having successfully completed the Certificate in Practical Brewing course. Since leaving Brewlab, he is now head brewer at Bragdy Mon – Anglesey Brewhouse in Wales. Here is his story.
On finishing full time education at 16 years old, I completed my GCSE’s and joined the British Army, where I spent four years serving with the 22nd Cheshire regiment. Primarily, I was based in Chepstow Wales for several years and completed tours in Northern Ireland, Kenya (desert warfare training) Belize, (jungle warfare training) and culminating in Cyprus at the end of my military career. I enjoyed my time in the British Army, but after serving for four years, I decided that a change was needed. In truth, I had no idea what I wanted to do in the next chapter of my working life. For this reason, I spent fifteen years embarking on a number of roles within the sales and customers service industry, something I could do with ease and confidence, however it did not provide me with a passion and drive to do something I loved. I always felt that my skills were best suited to creativity and practical work, but as with a number of people my need to earn money and survive was the most important thing to me at the time and is the reason why many jobs roles I took on probably didn’t suit my skill set. I grew up in Manchester but also spent five years living in Lincoln. I now currently live on the beautiful Island of Anglesey, (where our brewery is based: Bragdy Mon – Anglesey Brewhouse.
What inspired you to get into brewing?
Speaking honestly, I developed a taste for ‘craft beer’ quite a few years back now, and started to really enjoy drinking them, moving away from the more commercial beers sold in pubs and shops. I enjoyed sampling local independent breweries beers such as Wincle Brewery in Macclesfield, Buxton Brewery, in Derbyshire, Torrside Brewery in New Mills and other UK breweries like Beavertown. I also started to enjoy sampling beers on offer at various local micro pubs, Vinehop in Poynton as an example.
I love the challenge of being able to brew a diverse range of beers, using a number of different ingredients of my choice. Thus, creating my own take on craft ale styles that I enjoy, but more importantly our customers enjoy too. I relish the experimental process of brewing and like creating something from scratch right through to completion. The direct feedback we get from our customers gives me job satisfaction and the impetus to create more.
Please tell us about your route into the industry and your set up
I was fortunate enough to be offered the chance to work in a family run business alongside my Father in law at Bragdy Mon – Anglesey Brewhouse. Here, I am fulfilling a dream of brewing my own beer, managing my own workload and priorities, and designing my own product. It was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to miss; around four years ago when he informed me he was planning to retire, move to Anglesey and open his own brewery, asking me to come on board as Head Brewer. I then began with earnest, researching a career in brewing and running a brewery until we moved over to Anglesey as a family in the Summer of 2017, where my career in brewing officially began.
We are a small brewery based in Anglesey and have been brewing for just over a year. We use a five gallon all grain system called ‘The Grainfather’. We have five fermenters, so we have achieved around one hundred and fifteen brews in that time. I feel I still have so much to learn, hence the investment with the Brewlab course. I’ve done one or two short basic brewing courses (with no formal qualifications) and plenty of personal research such as brewing literature and Youtube videos. So, mainly self-educated as best I can to date.
What inspired you to do the Brewlab course?
The reason for choosing to invest in the 3-week practical brewing certificate course at Brewlab is because after brewing on such a small scale in our current location we are now in the process of upscaling to become a commercial brewery. This means after a short time picking up some practical brewing experience, I feel that I lack the theoretical and scientific knowledge of brewing that would enable me to progress further in this industry. In addition to this I would relish the experience of having more supervised practical experiences, which I believe I will gain from the course.
What areas of the Brewlab course were most beneficial to you?
On return to the brewhouse and having now brewed for a couple months since the course, the parts of Brewlab that were most beneficial are without doubt the science and correct brewing techniques that back up the natural, practical parts of the job. I had already gained limited practical knowledge previous to the course, by brewing on a small scale in our current location and set up. However, the course gave me the theoretical knowledge and better understanding of ingredients and techniques used in the brewing process. In further detail, I now understand how to treat water and create the correct water profile for the particular ale that you are attempting to brew. I now have a thorough grasp of the brewing process as a whole and in particular, how to get the best out of the ingredients used in the entire process. We are, without doubt seeing a huge improvement in the beers we are now producing thanks to knowledge I gained on the course.
In summary my skill set and knowledge has improved dramatically, and is now reflected in the beers that we produce. It is a course that in my opinion is a ‘must’ for all brewers at any level. Though it was rather challenging and more academic than I thought it has been thoroughly valuable to the longevity of my career in brewing. There was plenty of information to take in, in a relatively short space of time, but it was all relevant and I managed to succeed in retaining the majority of it. I will add that as difficult as I found some areas of the course, the reward and satisfaction on completion of the course is probably the pinnacle of my working life so far. I have attained a great sense of achievement, so I thank you all at Brewlab personally and wholeheartedly for that.
Was there a part of the course you particularly liked/enjoyed?
I really enjoyed the practical brewing days, it was here that importantly for me I gained a better understanding of the brewing process which was one of the fundamental reasons for me attending the course in the first instance. I also enjoyed learning how to create a recipe from scratch and working out the various elements to the recipe in order to create a unique brew. I have been enriched by grasping the theoretical knowledge that I felt I was lacking in, therefore the academic lectures and delivery of the course on a whole was very rewarding.
What plans do you have for the future?
The current brewery is sited in a small industrial unit, using a Grainfather brewing system to produce bottle conditioned beer. The proposal is now to scale up production from the current 2.0 Brl (3.4 hl) per week capacity by at least 10-fold and eventually getting up to 20+ Brl (34 hl) per week within the next few years. Anglesey has a relatively small local population throughout the year, but this is boosted through the summer months by the many tourists who visit Anglesey. The brewery hopes to capitalise on this summer trade by being able to have direct sales and provide a destination for visitors.
The current nano-brewery is now at capacity both in terms of both production capacity and there is no available space for any great expansion of the brewing capacity within the current buildings. Therefore, a decision has been taken to relocate the brewery to a new site, still on Anglesey, and into a brand-new building in order to house a larger brewplant along with sufficient production and storage capacity for the foreseeable future.
It is hoped also that the proposed new brewery will be a showpiece brewery and be visible, and accessible, to the public on a daily basis via an on-site shop and visitor centre/tasting bar.
Whilst the new brewery’s main function would still be to supply beer to off-site trade and local retail outlets, a significant volume could be expected to be sold on-site through a shop and visitor centre/tasting room. It is anticipated that there would be quite a significant seasonal production variation, with the area seeing increased visitor numbers during the summer months. The visitor centre would form an important part of the overall sales strategy going forward, engaging directly with its customers, allowing them to see a working local brewery and educating them in the brewing process.
The brewery intends to continue to concentrate on supplying a tight range of high-quality bottle beers and will look to extend its sales capability through producing keg and other forms of small pack beer possibly including can and cask at some stage in the future.
For the present, the main focus will remain with bottle products and a larger bottling plant will be set up alongside the brewing operation as part of the new brewery operation. This will produce both bottle-conditioned beers, as at present, but will also be able to produce brewery conditioned (sterile filtered and carbonated) products in keg or other packaging formats.
The brewery currently has three core brands:
- Rhosneigr India Pale Ale (IPA), a 4.3% ABV golden ale with good hop character and easy drinking. This beer came out on top during the tasting trials and has become Anglesey Brewhouse’s initial core brew and has already gained recognition by winning a medal in the Great Taste awards 2018.
- Trearddur Bay Extra Special Bitter (ESB) 5.5% ABV is auburn and has a more malty character.
- Beaumaris Strong Pale Ale (SPA) 6% ABV has now been launched and proved very popular at the 2018 Beaumaris Food Festival.
Going forward the brewery intends to extend its core range and bring out a range of seasonal beers.
It is anticipated that over the first few years of the new brewery’s operation, particularly during the busy months in summer, the average production of the brewery per week will rise quite quickly to 10 – 20 Brl per week. Thereafter it should continue to rise steadily, with the addition of more vessels, to the likely maximum of production capacity of the site, which would be 50 – 60 Brl. Based on the likely production volumes, it is suggested that the brewery install a 10 Brl Brewhouse (capable of brewing between 6 Brl and 10 Brl per batch), along with three 10 Brl Fermenting Vessels and four 10 Brl Conditioning Vessels; these may initially be dual purpose vessels (DPV’s) used for both Fermentation and/or maturation of the beer. These would be added to as production increases.