Tea in bed followed by a dash to the brewery to skim some yeast off Friday’s brew. Home in time for breakfast with wife Anna and six year old Ben, who will get my brain working with a steady stream of questions: ‘ When did the big bang happen? Do spiders have brains?…’ Walk up to school, then back to my home office (kitchen table) to open my spread sheet of pubs. The morning is spent ringing round landlords for orders, planning my deliveries and replying to e mails. After lunch I’ll visit a couple of pubs to see how the beer is going, or to try and win over a new landlord, collecting empty barrels if I pass any pubs I deliver to. Home by 5pm.
I sort out invoices for the day’s deliveries, then get down to the brewery to load up. Off up the Tyne Valley, sometimes via Durham or Sunderland. I stop to chat to Landlords if they are around. Lunch is a sandwich at the wheel and I reply to e mails and texts, tweet a little on my phone during the day; my smartphone has made running the brewery so much easier, so I have a minor panic every time I can’t find it, which is several times a day….
Another day of delivering, in Newcastle and then northwards. I love this trip, Bamburgh and Seahouses never fail to deliver on the scenic drive front. Delivering takes up a lot of time but over the 18 months I’ve been brewing it’s enabled me to get to know landlords and managers personally. We have a school leaver starting work with us soon, so that Anna and I can focus more on our business development and corporate links with RNLI – we’ve donated over £9000 for the Lifeboats charity so far with our ‘3p per pint’.
Anna and I head straight to the brewery and get down to the final stage of cleaning barrels – hot caustic washing. These have to be spotless, and sterile, before we fill each one by hand. The beer is piped out of the fermenting vessel, finings (a clearing agent) are added to each barrel, and then they are sealed. By 1pm we’re nearly done and can stop for lunch – in the sun if we’re lucky. Then I jump into the fermenter and start scrubbing. It has to be clean as a whistle, and ready to take the next brew. A few more deliveries on the way home and I’m done by 6pm
6am. It’s brew day- the sooner we get going the sooner the weekend begins. We crack on and raise a cheer if we manage to ‘mash in’ (get the malt mixed with hot water, the first stage of the brew), before 8am. The brewing process is a mix of huge activity and lulls, when I can reply to e mails and have a cuppa. Anna and I each have our own roles, things we like/dislike doing so we work well as a team, although it will be ‘all change’ with the new recruit. I get the ‘boil’ underway by 11am and add different hops for aroma and flavour. They’re always English varieties as all our beers are traditional ales with all English ingredients. The hot liquor is crash cooled as it is transferred to the fermenting vessel. Then I add the yeast which I’ve harvested from the previous week’s brew, and stored in the fridge. Phew! Brew day is physically demanding and we get home at 4pm pretty exhausted. A pint of beer is the refreshment required! Then a pasta supper, and more ‘20 questions’ from Ben, plus a chapter of Harry Potter before putting him to bed at 8. It’s the weekend! We pray that no one wants ‘emergency beer’ delivering tomorrow….quite often they do.
Since writing this for an article in a local magazine, we have trained Sean Hardy, our marvellous assistant brewer, who now works full time for us, enabling Anna to focus more on accounts, marketing and sales – but she’s on call when Sean’s away or we have emergency deliveries!