Big Announcement

A few weeks ago we quietly celebrated our 2 year anniversary, a huge milestone for our little brewery. We want to say a massive thank you to all our customers and everyone who has helped us along the way.

2 years has flown past while we’ve been constantly learning, improving and growing. Speaking of growing, as most of you who visit the brewery already know, we’ve been struggling for space in our little room in the Castle. Because of this we’ve been on the lookout for extra space for while now, and what started as a search for storage space has evolved into something even better.

We are now in a position where we can announce what we’re planning – we are opening Portsmouth’s first* MICROPUB!

We have secured a fantastic location on Eastney road in Milton which has huge potential. Over the next few months, a former newsagent notorious for selling out of date crisps, will be transformed into….. The Brewer’s Tap – a Micropub serving all the beers we brew at the Castle, as well as showcasing a diverse range of craft beers that we love from other small brewers. We are super excited to get to work on this location, there’s loads of potential for the local community to use the space, which includes a large upstairs area which will be made available for groups, workshops, classes or whatever is needed.

We will be keeping the brewery at the Castle, and will continue to brew there and open up at the weekends. The Brewer’s Tap will be a venue where we can serve beers to drink on and off-site, hold beer tastings, educational events and loads of other things which the Castle is just not set up for. On top of this there’s a large, easy-access cold storage space which we so desperately need! Exciting times.

 

While reading this, you might have noticed I’ve been using the term ‘‘we’’ a lot, I’m using that term a lot recently because another person joined the business earlier in the year. Our regular customers have probably seen Dan serving beers in the brewery at the weekends, but he’s also been helping out behind the scenes, brewing and being involved with all aspects of the business. His involvement has helped us be more focussed and given us more options when planning the future of the business. Getting the business this far has been a challenge for me in many ways and even though Lorna has been a huge help**, she’s been busy running her own business and looking after our son Jack. To add to that, Lorna’s brewing up another little one – due in December. Who needs sleep anyway!

For some reason Portsmouth has (until now) been left behind by the micro-pub revolution. Quite a few have opened recently in the surrounding towns and cities, yet none in Portsmouth. There are many hoops to jump through to get a new licensed premises and it’s not something which we are expecting to be easy. We have done everything we can to mitigate any concerns the council and local residents might have, but it only takes a few apprehensive people to block anything new and interesting ever happening.

This is where we need your help. Our planning application is now live on the Portsmouth council’s planning portal and has all the details of what we are looking to do. If you want to find out more, please follow this link and check it out. If you like the sound of it and want to see this become a reality, please leave a comment. Every positive comment will really help get this granted. I would offer a beer for every person who comments but that might be classed as bribery!

Email planning.reps@portsmouthcc.gov.uk
quoting reference number: 18/01152/FUL

Check out the full application here:
http://publicaccess.portsmouth.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=summary&keyVal=PB8KRTMOGWT00

We will keep the updates on this coming regularly. If you don’t already, follow our journey on instagram: @southseabrewing  and @thebrewerstap

Cheers everyone!

*I’m amazed there aren’t any micropubs here already, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone already has plans to open one. The nearest one has recently opened in Gosport, the Four Ale taproom.
** I really can’t emphasise enough how much Lorna’s enthusiasm, patience and hard work, has helped. It’s sometimes lonely building a business on your own, so sharing that journey with someone makes it a lot more fun and that’s what keeps us going.

DIYnot

I’m writing this post to explain and justify some of the questions that people have asked when I’ve said that I’m buying brewing equipment from China. The short answer for those of you who can’t be bothered for the whole story is this: it’s a risk, but for the price, you can’t beat the quality.
But the whole story is a bit more complicated and if you’re interested in this kind of thing, I’ll explain my experience so far…

I’ve always been a firm believer in DIY. Doing it yourself is not only cheaper and more exciting, but you learn something new along the way. One of the main reasons I got into brewing in the first place was because I liked beers from America which were expensive and hard to find over here, so I looked online to find out if I could make them myself.

The internet is a great resource for things like that and I usually turn to Google and YouTube when I want to learn something new. Pretty much everything you could ever need is there at the touch of a button. You want a specific variety of hops from New Zealand? No worries. You want to learn how to build a 3 tier brewhouse from parts you can get at B&Q, you got it!

When I initially built the brewery we now have at the castle, it was a result of many years of learning and researching. Another homebrewer turned pro-brewer had started off his brewery using food grade stainless steel tanks from Italy, where these types of tanks are household items – used for making wine, olive oil or beer! They are incredibly cheap compared to stainless steel vessels made specifically for brewing, even the raw materials would cost more here than you could buy these tanks ready built in Italy. But they were just plain tanks, to turn them into a brewery, you need to do a bit of DIY.

Our Italian tanks have served us well and there’s nothing wrong with them really. Having adapted them as much as possible, they are suited to our basic brewing needs. But there’s a few things which I wanted to change on the fermenters which would involve TIG welding, which is something I’ve never done.

My DIY attitude was, now I need to learn to weld. So I started watching hours of YouTube videos on how to weld and what equipment works the best etc etc. It was starting to take up a lot of time before I’d even had a go or bought any of the pretty expensive equipment needed.

I spoke a customer of ours who mentioned that they worked in breweries doing hygienic welding. He said that even though what I wanted was possible, it would be very tricky due to how thin the Italian stainless tanks are. He gave me a rough indication of time and cost, which was a lot and that wasn’t including materials. It sounded like even a skilled professional wasn’t too confident.

Time is something which I don’t have a whole lot of anymore. And while I still believe that DIY is a good option, there are some things which are best left to professionals. Fermenters are probably the most important part of the brewery. Keeping yeast happy is what brewing beer is all about. A good fermenter creates a happy environment for yeast. If i tried to build my own, they need to be exactly as required, and that would be one hell of a challenge for a first attempt at welding! I pretty much gave up on the idea of doing it myself, and instead got in touch with a few brewery manufacturers for quotes.

What I was after was 4 x 400 litre fermenters with cone shaped bottoms and able to hold pressure of 3 bar. Also they had to fit through an 82cm wide door!

Brewery manufacturers in UK were quoting around the 4-5k mark for each fermenter – way out of my budget.

Looking for alternatives, I asked for recommendations from professional brewers who buy equipment from outside the UK. Germany has a great reputation for its brewing equipment and a price tag to match, Czech Republic is slightly cheaper and still high in quality.  Then there’s a whole bunch of Italian manufacturers who traditionally make wine equipment but recently jumped on the craft brewing revolution and produce equipment for that industry as well.

Some professional brewers recommended getting tanks direct from Chinese factories and a few companies were named as being better than others. The general consensus is that you can get good equipment from China for a good price, but it’s a minefield out there and taking a gamble on cheap kit from an unknown Chinese manufacturer is a bad idea. Reading up on the internet revealed some horror stories of Chinese tanks developing rust and leaking!

In an attempt to do my own research, last september I went to a brewing industry trade show in Munich called Drinktec – it was mind blowing and definitely worth visiting if you’re interested in beer. It’s also held just before Oktoberfest so combine the two for the ultimate beer experience!

As much as i wanted to visit the beer festivals, I was there for business and more specifically to meet the manufactures who were exhibiting, see their equipment and get prices. Although having a free pint of Pliny the Elder IPA with Logan Plant – founder of Beavertown brewery was probably the highlight of the trip!

I came home with a suitcase full of brochures, quotes and freebies, and a completely new understanding of the technologies and innovations in the brewing industry. There were a huge number of Chinese manufacturers exhibiting and their kit on show was almost identical to the vastly more expensive German equivalents. There was a good reason why all the German equipment had NO PHOTOS signs all over it, the Chinese are definitely good at copying.
I decided that for the budget I had, getting exactly what I was looking for from a Chinese manufacturer was viable and an option worth exploring.

So with quotes from about 50 different manufactures all based in the same region of China, I began by narrowing down the options by getting referrals from their existing customers. Some suppliers only had a couple of referrals from Chinese customers, some had referrals from huge breweries like Heineken and suchlike. What I was looking for was referrals from UK microbreweries that I had actually heard of and could inspect the kit they bought. Only a handful of manufactures could provide that, and it really made the difference in confidence.
In the end I choose a company called Tonsen, who had been recommended by Loka Polly brewery and Breakwater brewery, both these UK customers spoke highly of the equipment they bought from them and were both in the process of ordering more from them. That was music to my ears.

I spent weeks going over the specifications, making sure every valve, every angle, every dimension was exactly as we needed, until we had the design finalised and the price negotiated. I had confidence in their ability to produce what we wanted, but one of my biggest concerns was how we would get these tanks from the factory to our brewery in one piece. I’ve never imported things from china before so I didn’t know where to start – cue the google search.

Tonsen were happy to include delivery in their quote, but that would only get it to whichever port I asked for, after that it would be my responsibility to get it through customs and from the port (Southampton) to the brewery – only a few miles so how hard can that be? I thought I’d just take my van down to the port, load them up one by one and take them to the brewery – simples. Well luckily one of our customers is the port manager at Southampton and he talked me out of that idea and gave me some good advice, which was to use a importing agent.

The world of freight forwarding is full of jargon and pitfalls which can catch out the inexperienced and end up costing them a fortune in hidden fees, something which I really couldn’t afford! So there are a few terms which I had to get my head around; EX-WORKS price basically means the goods will be yours at the factory doors. FOB means free-on-board which means the seller gets the goods loaded onto the ship in China and from then on it’s your responsibility. CIF means Cost Insurance Freight, which means the seller includes the price of getting the goods to the specified destination port, but not unloading or any of the arrival fees, which can add up.

Tonsen’s CIF price was tempting, as it seems like getting it to Southampton is nearly the entire journey and the last leg to Portsmouth would be fairly easy in comparison to its voyage up to there. However I was warned that the CIF price would leave a lot of unknown charges passed on to the buyer when it lands. So i decided to get the FOB price from Tonsen, they would pack the fermenters into wooden crates, load them into a container and take them to Qingdao port. At that point our importing agent would take over and their price included the shipping, import fees and insurance to get them to the door of the brewery.

If anything goes wrong, insurance covers it, apart from one thing – force majeure. Force majeure is something which no one has control over – an act of god. Basically if there’s a tsunami and my container falls off the ship – it’s good bye, if a war breaks out and the ship gets commandeered by militants – no fermenters for me. These are things which no contract or insurance covers. Obviously ships bring goods in from China every day and what is all very straightforward and commonplace, seems quite scary to me! The control freak in me would want to go to china in my trusty van and pick them up myself!

So with all the steps agreed and in place, all I had to do was the small task of wiring the money over and they would start production, which would take 3 weeks. One of the tips I was given when reading up on buying brewing equipment from China, was to use an escrow service such as Alibaba trade assurance. Essentially this service holds the money until 30 days after the goods are received. Once you are happy with everything, they release the money and the factory gets paid. That seemed like a no-brainer, Tonsen were happy to use that service and it gave me an added level of confidence in sending thousands pounds to someone I’d never met!

So that’s pretty much where we are up to. The money was sent, production started and within a few days I was being sent photos of the fermenters being built. Lots of photos and about a month later they were loaded up in a massive wooden box on the back of a slightly dodgy looking truck. As of today – 21st July 2018 our fermenters are being loaded onto the cargo ship which will start it’s month long journey across south east Asia, past the bottom of India, up the Suez canal, through the Mediterranean, and up the Atlantic coast of Spain and France until it reaches the Solent, where it will closely pass Southsea Castle before docking in Southampton. We will be tracking the ships progress on a live shipping map, so when it’s passing, we’ll go out on the ramparts of the castle and watch our container sail by.
Exciting!

I’d like to talk about why we wanted new fermenters and the technical details of what we ordered, but I’ll save that blog post for once they arrive. Fingers crossed!

 

One Year On

Around this time last year all of this was just a concept – a small, fragile idea that had nearly all odds stacked against it’s success.
The beers were merely recipes floating around in my head, the 7 stainless steel tanks that would become the brewery, were in transit somewhere between Italy and Southsea.
To try and make some sense of it all and show my vision to everyone, i made a 3D model of the brewery and uploaded a video of a virtual walk-through.
Here it is:
It definitely helped others to visualise my plan and understand the layout.
Yesterday someone came to the brewery with a 3D camera and took some pictures for google. You can now see inside and (virtually) walk around the brewery on google!
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When i saw them online it reminded me of the 3D model i made and it really made me proud to see that my idea had infact become a reality.
Thank you to everyone who has helped us on this journey so far, everyone who’s bought our beers, given us encouragement and praised our efforts.
At the moment it’s full steam ahead, all 4 fermenters are filled to the brim. We’ve got beers brewing for the new season, we are making new beers for some of our favourite local restaurants and collaborations with other independent businesses.
Exciting times ahead!

New Addition To The Team

This blog post is a bit of a summary of the last few weeks, so much has happened I thought it would be good idea to update everyone. Mainly – I’ve become a father!!  I also want to talk about some of the plans we’ve got for the brewery. Exciting times!

It’s been quite a wild ride since opening the brewery in July. We had an absolute blast that day and i still need to get round to inputting all the email addresses into a list so i can thank everyone personally.

We have been open a few of the weekends since the launch and the brewery tap has been in full flow. The 2-pint cartons seem to be going down really well with all the events happening on the seafront and with all the good weather we’ve been having. We had 2 beers on at victorious festival, Casemate IPA and Low Tide Pale Ale. They were both sold out by the end of the first day!

The biggest news is that I’ve become a Dad to a little baby boy! Lorna gave birth to Jack Eastwood on Wednesday 31st August. He’s a little angel and we are totally besotted with him.
We didn’t know if it was going to be a brewer or a brewster so it was a nice surprise to have a boy.
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Most breweries employ helpers, but in the true DIY style of the Southsea Brewing Co. – we made one instead!
I’ve already made him a mini mash paddle so he can get stuck into his first brew.

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So if you see me asleep on the floor in the brewery, now you’ll know why!

One of the things which has been getting more frequent are the requests for our beer from pubs. This is great to hear but I rarely have enough beer to fulfill these orders. Being such a small brewery, our primary focus is on bottling our beers and having these available in the brewery for visitors to buy. I’m expecting that over the next few months the number of people coming to the brewery at the weekends will be less,  allowing me to have enough beer spare to sell to the local pubs, events and other outlets which have been so supportive and patient while we get up and running.

We are brewing non-stop at the moment. All 4 of our fermenters are constantly full, 2 have been tied up for a while with the strongest beers we make – Six Wives and Heavy Artillery. Both are tasting amazing and will be ready by the end of September. Going by the number of people asking for these beers, they probably won’t be around for long! I’ll announce when they are ready for pick up from the brewery.

Our website is still in development, but I’m hoping to get that finished by the end of the month as well. Until then keep an eye on Facebook for the latest news. There’s so much to do, I could really do with some help, hurry up Jack!

A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

What a great time to be a beer drinker in Portsmouth! There’s more choice than ever on the taps with so many bars serving decent beers from all round the world. Also we’ve got new breweries popping up left right and centre in and around Portsmouth, with a new one starting in Gosport as we speak. This really encourages me with my newly-born brewery in Southsea.

Some people may see other local breweries as competitors, but I don’t see them that way. To me, our collective competition is the bland, mass produced beers churned out by the big brewers – Fosters, Carling, Stella etc. The way I look at it; the micro brewing industry is working together to push these big boys off the pumps slowly but surely, and the more people who are converted to ‘decent’ beer, the better for all of us.

The times when the only people in pubs drinking ales instead of lager were old men are long gone. Nowadays everyone is trying different styles of beer and appreciating the various flavours, much the same way people think of trying a different wine off the menu to match with their food. I think this shift in attitude towards beer has created room in the market for lots of breweries without stepping on each other’s toes.

The mega breweries relying on their big name brands have been caught asleep at the wheel, while the market has moved on from being pacified with fizzy, yellow water, modern beer drinkers are now demanding flavour. This is where the smaller micro brewers who make interesting, high quality products which push the boundaries of traditional beers can overtake the big boys.

Portsmouth CAMRA – Interview

Portsmouth CAMRA feature local breweries in their Ale Mail publication CAMRAlogo3and they have been writing updates with kind words about The Southsea Brewing Co. for a while, so I thought I’d turn the tables and write something about them for a change.

 
CAMRA has received a bit of flak recently due to the founder saying ”craft beer doesn’t exist” live on BBC breakfast. I wanted to find out more about the organisations stance on the beer industry as a whole and who better to ask than the chairman of our local branch – David Blaikie.

Interview with David Blaikie – PSEH CAMRA Chairman

Hi David,

So you’re currently chairman of the Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Campaign for Real Ale – can you give us a bit of background about yourself and how you got to where you are now?

I moved to Brighton in 88 and discovered Real Ale. I came from Northern Ireland the land of Guinness, Bass and Lager. Even in 88 the choice of English ales was tremendous compared to Ireland. I remember going to a London Beer festival (89?) and being amazed by the choice and variety, I was hooked. I quickly bought CAMRA life membership and calculated I needed to live about 12 years to break even.

In 1992 I started beer scoring every beer I tried. A note book was filled, then transferred to a Psion PDA, then a Palm Trio and eventually into an iPhone 3Gs, 4s, 5s, 6s. I recently scored / reviewed my 4000 Real Ale / draught beers.

My job forced me to relocate from Gatwick to Swanwick and I decided it was time to get properly involved in CAMRA through PSEH (Portsmouth South East Hampshire).

There has been a sharp rise in the number of breweries starting up both locally and around the country, what do you think has caused this and how do think they can all compete in a crowded market place?

The explosion in the brewing world is really tremendous. I think there are many causes. The world is becoming more cosmopolitan. World travel has given us much more adventurous taste buds. The American craft beer market has opened consumers (and brewers) eyes and taste buds to excessive creativity and extreme tastes. I’ve visited the USA 6 times and every time I’ve been amazed by the beer scene and become a self confessed hophead. Brewers across the country have also opened up to more adventurous brewing. Brewdog springs to mind but is just one of many 100s “pushing the envelope”. Modern Breweries happy to challenge the old malty status quo.

Competition is a real issue. Brewery saturation may happen soon but until then I love the choice and variety. I love being a home brewer and thankfully have no urge to go professional in a really crowed market.

You mention excessive creativity and extreme tastes, do you think the trend for experimental style beers will last, or do you think that the more balanced beers will be the ones that stand the test of time?

Interesting question and I have no concrete evidence for my gut feelings.
I suspect the ale consumer market is segmenting into two camps. The traditional ale consumer who knows exactly what he/she likes to drink and the experimental ale consumer who is always looking for something different. Experimental beers will always please experimental drinkers and traditional ales (like Doombar) will always be appreciated by drinkers who know exactly what they want. CAMRA welcomes all Real Ale drinkers regardless of their Ale drinking preferences. I suspect traditional ale consumers may remain in the majority for a long time. For the Brewer this means 2 types of ale drinkers to catered for; the traditional consumer who demands an absolutely consistent ale year in year out and the experimental consumer who is reluctant to drink the same ale twice.

Some people have accused CAMRA of being stuck in a time warp and refusing to acknowledge new trends and technologies in the craft beer industry, how do you feel about these accusations and do you think CAMRA has a real understanding of the beer industry as a whole?

CAMRA has a long history and was born in a world where Real Ale was in real danger of extinction.
CAMRA is the Campaign for Real Ale. By definition CAMRA can never be the Campaign for Craft beer or the Campaign for any other future beer invention. So the criticism that CAMRA is stuck actually has a grain of truth. The organisation is locked into the definition that founded it. However that definition is a key strength of the organisation. CAMRA is certain about what it stands for and is in a clear unambiguous position about what it promotes. In England Scotland and Wales the proliferation of hand pumps can be seen as a victory of CAMRA, but still represents a platform for further campaigning. Northern Ireland is a special case where the battle for Real Ale rages on and the hand pump is still threatened with extinction.

The CAMRA definition talks about beer which has fermented in the container it’s served in, ruling out techniques for clarifying beer such as pasteurisation which effectively kills any micro organisms. Do you think the use of finings is an acceptable alternative, or would you prefer your beer ‘‘au naturel’’?

I think the flavour experience of modern ales is much more important than the clarity. I’m not a fan of pasteurisation because I believe yeast adds some extra flavour elements to the beer.
I use Irish Moss and protafloc in my own home brew and have no issue with commercial breweries who do the same but leave the Ale in touch with yeast on the premisis where the ale is served.

I have enjoyed pints in various brewpubs that have been a bit cloudy due to the ale being served a little bit too quickly. I sit and enjoy the cloudy ale thinking, that will be clear in 3 or 4 days time if the brewpub could just keep the ale in the conditioning tank a bit longer. As a home brewer, I have the patience to wait for the ale to clear. I understand the commercial pressures to sell the product ASAP. 

I know you are a home brewer yourself and I’ve tried some of the beers you have made, you’re certainly not afraid of using hops! What are your favourite commercial beers at the moment? Which breweries would you recommend we keep an eye out for?

My taste buds are tuned towards extreme hops and extreme bitterness and I don’t know why. My favourite (Non American) breweries are: Arbor, Beavertown, Brewdog, Bristol Beer Factory, Darkstar, Hook Norton, Kernal, Oakham Oakleaf, Magic Rock, Marble, Mordue, Siren, Titanic and Thornbridge.

I think they call it lupulin threshold shift! You’ve mentioned some great breweries there; I hope my brewery will be on that list one day!

I went to craft beer rising last week and noticed there were not many hand pumped beers on offer, most being dispensed from kegs, why do you think new breweries are choosing this method of serving their beer and how do you feel about it?

I think the American Craft Beer explosion is rippling through our domestic brewing industry. Craft Keg as a dispensing method has some practical advantages over Cask Conditioned. I particularly enjoy sampling a single beer when it’s offered as craft keg and simultaneously on hand pump. I still believe that the best fresh cask conditioned will out perform the equivalent craft keg, but I welcome the opportunity to be proved wrong. New breweries have an open experimental approach to brewing bold beers with original unusual ingredients. I recently tasted a cask conditioned Salted Liquorice Stout, an amazing combination of flavours that seriously worked. New bold beers with the “craft” tag are finding new young drinkers who have no knowledge or understanding of Watneys Red Barrel.

I also think economic issues are also driving the modern brewers towards craft beer. If a brewer has to choose between selling Real Ale at £3.50 a pint or an equivalent craft beer at £4.50, he has a significant incentive to go down the trendy more expensive craft route.

Yeah, I think the skill of good cask cellarmanship is whole other art form of the industry which is in danger of being lost as more pubs hire inexperienced staff, which in turn can give a bad experience for people trying cask ale for the first time.

There’s no doubt that CAMRA’s campaign has been successful in getting people interested in beers that aren’t mass produced lagers, do you think their work is done now? Where do you see CAMRA in the future?

CAMRAs promotion of cask conditioned ale has been successful. This success gives CAMRA the mandate to continue promoting. That promotion is just as valid in Portsmouth as it is in the parts of Northern Ireland where hand pumps do not exist. Cask Conditioned ale has a clear definition that is the cornerstone of CAMRA. Craft is a much more ambiguous product. Lager is in slow decline. As long as CAMRA has the mandate of its 175,000+ members it has a long future ahead, promoting Real Ale.

OK great, I’m sure there’s a lot more we could talk about over a beer but let’s save that for another time.

Thank you very much!

Follow David on Twitter: @Nikonvscanon

David has also provided the following useful links:

Our local Branch Web site:        http://www.psehcamra.org.uk/

Our Gosport Beer festival site: http://www.portsmouthcamrabeerfestivals.co.uk/gosport-winterfest.html

The National CAMRA site:        http://www.camra.org.uk

CAMRA Pub Database:              https://whatpub.com/

Winchester Beer festival:          http://www.winchesterbeerfestival.org.uk

Southampton Beer festival:     http://southamptonbeerfestival.org.uk/tickets/

American Home brew site       http://www.basicbrewing.com
Southern Hants CAMRA site:  http://www.shantscamra.org.uk

On line Brewery Calculator:     http://www.brewersfriend.com/abv-calculator/
IOW Beer Bus weekend:          http://iwbeerandbuses.co.uk

Portsmouth Pub Database:      http://portsmouthpubs.org.uk/portsmouth-pubs-map/

My own Flicker photo stream: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nikonvscanon/

 

 

 

 

Brewdog Recipes

In case you haven’t seen, Brewdog published recipes for all their beers a few weeks ago. My newsfeed was suddenly inundated with posts about how hard it’s going to be to get the already rare hops they use, in the quantities they use, but that’s another story.

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Releasing recipes is quite a forward thinking move from Brewdog, and I really respect the breweries that don’t try and hide anything from their customers by using ”our secret blend’’ of hops or malts or whatever. I wonder what percentage of Brewdog’s customers actually brew beer or even care what goes into it. If KFC released their closely guarded secret recipe, how many of us would try and cook it for dinner? (Maybe Ken’s Fried Chicken would change slightly)

I have always been keen to help others brew better beer by sharing my knowledge and I feel that it’s important to be honest with people about what goes into the beers you make. However my friends and family voiced their concerns that I was being too open with people about the equipment and ingredients I use, because I was giving away my trade secrets!

I have the different view on this; apart from a certain amount of my own trial and error, everything I learn about brewing is from other breweries or people who publish their experiments on the internet, on forums or in books. I have a huge amount of respect for everyone who has offered me valuable advice or knowledge, and I feel I owe them a favour. So when I see their products for sale, I’m much more likely to buy them. It’s great to have open conversations about beer with anyone and I learn just as much from speaking to the people who drink the beers as I do from the people who actually design the recipes. Sharing information is all part of the craft beer movement and how it got to where it is today.

Recently Cloudwater’s DIPA experiments have been widely received and their blog post about this beer was full of technical insights about the production methods they use and the thought process behind the recipe design, they even named their sources for inspiration. This valuable information was then distributed to their peers (or as some would say competitors) to review and comment. An old fashioned view would think of this as a very un-wise business decision, but in reality it worked in their favour to gain respect for their scientific approach to brewing and gain huge interest in the beer which went on to sell out both versions 1 & 2.

So Brewdog releasing their recipes won’t mean people will stop buying their beers and just drink clones, it will only cement their position as figureheads and innovators of the craft beer industry.

Respect.

Hot Walls

Back in 2011 I saw a post on the Strong Island blog about an art exhibition they were hosting at the round tower in old Portsmouth. I went along and enjoyed seeing the work of local artist’s displayed in an ancient building which I had never set foot in before. I went away thinking how cool Portsmouth is with all its history and creativity. Over the years I kept seeing updates about a project nick-named ARTches, which planned to turn that part of old Portsmouth into a cultural hub for the creative industries.

At the same time I was working for a micro-brewery and hatching my plans to start my own brewery in Southsea. I visited the Bermondsey Mile breweries in London a few times and was inspired by the creative urban brewers nesting themselves into railway arches which became a beer tourist destination. I remember wondering if there were any railway arches in Portsmouth and suddenly the ARTches project came to mind. I started making phone calls to anyone who had any information about the project and expressed my idea of setting up an artisan craft brewery there. I was passed around various departments in the council and people in Portsmouth’s cultural partnership who all loved the idea and tried their best to help, but I was going round in circles and not making any progress. It was at this point my small, fragile idea was nearly snubbed out completely.

SBC 3d model 1

Determined to get my idea off the ground, I wanted people to see the same vision I had in my head so I made a 3D model of my garage home brew kit set up in one of the arches in old Portsmouth. This helped a lot, once people could see my vision, they understood the whole idea and this got things moving in the right direction. I found my champion in the council who (despite not drinking beer) loved the whole idea and had the influence to make it happen. After a positive meeting, I got an email saying that the hot walls might not be the best place for this but they had another idea in mind which might work. I was very curious as to where this place might be and a few ideas ran through my head, but the next day I was invited to a meeting, the location – Southsea Castle.

I’d only ever seen the castle from the outside but as soon as I stepped inside, I knew this had to be the home of The Southsea Brewing Co.