My friend Greg is very concerned about using London water to make beer. It seems to him that you wouldn’t want to make a beverage from something that had been used to clean thousands of grimy Londoners. Certainly it would be ideal to have our own Artesian spring, gushing forth pure and pristine water sufficient to satisfy the sensitivities of the Gods themselves. Alas, there is no such spring near my arches and so I will be using common or garden London tap. Sorry Greg.

 

It’s now been two weeks since I signed the lease and set the clock running (fast) and the money flowing (out/fast). My ‘stuff to do to make a brewery’ list is now very much being done. Water is a good example. I have begun the process of applying to be allowed to discharge effluent (the brewery, not me), registering as a key customer (breweries use a lot of water) and studying the full analysis of the H2O that we’ll be using.  No surprise to find that it’s proper hard (264.5 ppm of CaCO3), but also full of all sorts of trace elements. Apart from the usual suspects (Magnesium, Sodium, Aluminium) there also exist tiny amounts of Arsenic and Cyanide – nice. Worry not though, as we shall be treating the water (like royalty) before we turn it into beer.

 

We’re nearly ready to order the kit. This is the biggest ticket decision, at least in terms of cost. We’ve settled on Johnson Brewing Design, who will be providing all of the vessels we need for around £70,000. Then there are the extras like 16 days of labour to install it, miles of pipework, a Glycol chilling unit and an ‘Arch’imedes screw. Eureka! Then of course we have to pay for the two tradesmen to stay over for eight nights each (“single rooms please”) and meet the costs of two large lorries to bring all of the kit down to London from somewhere north of Manchester. But that’s not all…

 

Way before the brewery kit arrives to be set up like an industrial art installation, we have to prepare for its arrival. Many breweries miss out this step and just brew on a concrete floor, but they live to regret it. We are going to install a proper brewery floor that has excellent drainage, sloping floors and an epoxy resin coating that can resist the various chemicals and temperatures that we’ll be throwing at it. This is a major project (my resin d’être), as we need to cut the floor, lay the drains, shape the floor into (winged and envelope) slopes, and then add the resin topping (from a choice of six lovely colours) like icing on a cake. But that’s not all…

 

Last Sunday Stuart and I paced around inside the chilly arches, armed with a measuring tape, chalk and our imagination. Our purpose was to figure out the optimal configuration for the brewery.  How would we fit in nine vessels, a cold store, office, front desk and yet more storage? The fit was on the tight side of snug. (I thought I’d found a solution to the double door on the toilet though, by adding one just inside the loo. This will require a degree of coordination and grace that one doesn’t always associate with blokes rushing for a pee, but it does save space.)

 

We had to find a Plan B or there would be no room to move, serve customers or expand in any way at all. Then I remembered that we had 34 square metres of yard out front and we could surely put our cold store out there. This precipitated a journey into the world of refrigerated shipping containers (called ‘reefers’ apparently), which seemed ideal for our purpose. They’re not cheap, but maybe we could decorate them as a splendid backdrop for what might one day become our little open-air bar area. But that’s not all…

 

Before any of the above can happen, there is a long list of other stuff to do like getting permission to brew from Her Majesty, getting me and the premises licensed, passing the examination that will allow me to sell spent grain to farmers and so on. Top of this list however is the requirement to gain Planning Permission from Southwark Council. I won’t bore you with all my trials and tribulations, but it looks like no one has ever made a planning application for these arches before, as they’ve been used as car garages since forever and a day. I want to brew, so I need to apply for a ‘change of use’ and that, of course, costs money and takes time. And I’m sure that won’t be all.

 

I love it though. I’m going to have my own brewery, run my own business and explore a whole new world. The huge bunch of keys I need for the arches weightily confirms my proprietorship and I can cycle to work whenever it isn’t raining. Being able to cycle to work, in scruffy clothes, to do something everyone understands and appreciates was a core part of my dream. Can you describe your job in three words? (I make beer.) Now it’s really happening and, while it’s stressful at times, it’s good stress. I must never let this get to a point where the unpleasant side of working starts to creep in again. That would be time to move on. I did enjoy the irony, on the day I signed the lease, of receiving an invite to a pensions current topics seminar. Beyond dull – unless one can be happily distracted by the slow loss of moisture from recently decorated walls.

 

We end with a nice example of how much working life has changed for me. There’s boring stuff in any business and many of us would associate accounting (and accountants) with that side of things. I had to deal with plenty such stuff in my past. My accountant seems a little different though. He asked me to meet his Social Media manager, Jen. She wanted to do a blog about me (Brian, Tea Leaf Paradox, Orbit etc.) as their ‘client of the month’. Cool. I therefore spent 15 minutes with my accountant and an hour and a half with her. Turns out she’s Glaswegian, runs an online fashion website called The Pokey Hat and had more stories to tell than I could ever hope to muster. The best of these was about the three months spent living with the Masai, including having to eat rice cooked in cow blood. The whole experience was topped off when four of the Masai came over to run the London Marathon. To this day they still impersonate her accent by saying “Ah’m freezin’!”.

 

That’s all for now – there’s work to be done…

 

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