Sometimes things just fall into place.
When the Skews family started Le Brewery, they enlisted the help of a brewing consultant named David Smith. David brewed for the famous Samuel Smith's in Yorkshire for many years before striking out on his own and starting a brewing consultancy business back in 1988. Since then he's opened over 100 breweries and provided support for a whole lot more. He is one of the world's brewing elite. Back at Le Brewery in August when Steve told us about him and informed us that David and his wife Melanie were coming to stay for couple of days we were more than a little bit in awe. "He's someone you'll want to know if you really go ahead with this brewery," Steve said.
Steve was right. We got to brew with David when he came over to Normandy back in August, and it was great. He's like a brewing Obi-wan Kenobi. He's seen it all, he's done it all, he's crafted Best Beer in Britain recipes, you name it, if it has to do with Real Ale brewing in Britain it probably has to do with David Smith. A natural teacher, David is a wealth of wisdom and experience. It's easy to see why so many of the breweries he has a hand in have become so wildly successful.
We had a lot of fun during the time we were all at Le Brewery. This winter, when we decided that we needed more commercial brewing experience in order to get Griffin Hill Brewery going, I decided to get in touch with David and see if he had any suggestions. He's been wonderful. He started looking for a place for me to work and suggested that I take a brewing course that he teaches twice a year in York.
That's how I found myself sitting with nine other brewers (all from the UK) in one of the conference rooms above York Brewery last week. The course is called the Fundamentals of Mini-Brewing. The story behind the name is that back in the 80's when the small craft brewery movement was taking off in the UK they referred to themselves as mini-brewers. David started giving the course back in '88 and that was the accepted term. Then the '90s came along and with them the American microbrewing explosion, and British brewers went with the new term. David's just never seen a need to change the name of the course. He's conservative like that.
The course has been an incredible experience. Most of the other participants are already brewing on a commercial level, so it's been great getting that perspective. Then there's all the detail on traditional British brewing. I've done quite a bit of it at Le Brewery, but I had a lot to learn. We brewed, visited breweries and maltings, had guest lecturers from people who work throughout the various parts of the beer industry, and of course tried quite a few beers at the end of each day. Over the next couple weeks I'll try to share some of the experience here.