‘To be or not to be’, that is not the question. On this occasion it was more ‘ B2 or not B2’. B2 is the ‘use class’ that one requires from the planning authority to open a brewery. Before applying (expensively) to the Council for this, I thought I’d check whether my premises were already B2. Sensible, huh? Network Rail advised B1, before latterly wobbling closer to B2. The Council had less idea, but eventually I tracked down an employee with passable aptitude and conversational English who searched the records, but unearthed a blank. So, I hired planning consultants who thought I did have B2 already, but advised me to apply for it anyway, just in case. If only everything in business life were this easy!
Another conundrum that I have been recently wrestling with, is the relative merits of cylindroconical versus torrispherical. These describe different shapes of brewing vessels and translate roughly as pointy and roundish. Other choices that faced me included: the height of the mash tun’s legs (90cm); auger or Archimedes screw (auger) and the power rating of my kettle elements (2x18kw + 1x12kw). I might qualify for an honorary degree in engineering pretty soon. Anyway, decisions have been made and the brew kit has been ordered – scheduled to be ready for user testing (tasting?) by early June. Oh, by the way, two pointies and three roundies.
In other brewery news, our application to discharge effluent has been submitted and we have found a supplier who can adapt a shipping container for our external cold storage purposes. They’re called Adaptainer, appropriately. I’m excited to discover what colour we might paint it and hopefully we’ll be able to add our logo – big, bold, front and centre. Talking about the logo, it looks like that may be getting signed off tomorrow and perhaps you might find it featured in this blog sometime soon. Things to note: yep, it’s retro; we liked Orbit Beers better than Orbit Brewing; we’re accentuating ‘London’, hence OBL; ‘hi-fidelity brewing’ is our strap line of choice and the colour scheme looks ace!
Let’s stick with the colour theme (scheme?). If a brewery wishes to be taken really seriously then it simply must sport a kosher brewery floor. This means cutting drainage channels, putting down stainless steel drains, crafting a surreptitiously sloping floor and slathering an epoxy resin on top. Not all breweries do this however, and now I know why. The quote was TREBLE my budget, coming in at a pony’s worth of grands, a grand of ponies, or £25k to any non-Cockney readers. I was floored, indeed drained. I did not have a resin to be cheerful. The situation seemed slopeless. But, my principles dictate that we must proceed and, if only Network Rail would ever return my messages (that I leaves on their line), I might even get permission to proceed! Colour? We like Saffron (although it looks more like Ochre).
I never tire of reminding people how much my new job involves meeting in pubs and drinking beer. There, I’ve done it again. Regular Thursday evening sessions with my brewing consultant Stuart elicit a level of creativity and efficiency that must in some part be fuelled by the excellent beers we consume. Part of my homework this week is to drink lots of beers to help me narrow down the styles that I wish to brew. Tomorrow I’m meeting a fellow beer aficionado to discuss the latest trends and sample a range of brews. Next week I’m ‘assisting’ with a brew day at Twickenham Fine Ales and will no doubt be invited to do a little flavour assessment. I even managed to neck several gratis bottles at a Guardian Master Class last week. It was, after all, a master class in how to run a microbrewery – my equivalent of a pensions current topics seminar I guess.
My learning curves for brewing, engineering and running your own business have been joined recently by another vertiginous parabola for me to scale – project management. I’ve gone from househusband, layabout and work-shy drifter (according to my ‘friends’) to a blur of activity that threatens to sweep me up six days, and at least one evening, per week. Office work, telephone calls, meetings, site visits, research…it’s almost like being employed but without the salary bit. There are so many strings to this brewing bow that I’m having to become efficient, organised and a half decent filer. Don’t laugh Emma!
One of the more recent projects to kick off is the search for a brewer. I must say that I’d expected more applications to arrive, but they have certainly come from far and wide – Germany, Italy, USA and even Ukraine; a Mr Yanukovych apparently… There have been a few from closer to home as well, but so far my best picks are an over-qualified German and an under-qualified Italian (both based abroad). I’ll have to ask Mr Hobson what he thinks about those.
With some of the big-ticket projects well on their way, I can now turn to beer recipes and marketing plans. The beers I want to make are most likely to be European style (e.g. Bohemian Pilsener) and North American style (e.g. American Pale Ale). These will dispense from keg and bottle and will not therefore be classed as ‘real ale’. (If my beers get described as ‘unreal’, I’m going to take it as a compliment.) CAMRA are known for being quite strident and unyielding when it comes to their insistence that only real ales can be considered as craft beer. The rest are flavourless, fizzy, chemical-infused rubbish according to them. This is utter codswallop and is so beyond blinkered that I can only imagine that their beer blinkers have slipped round to entirely blind their sight like a pair of opaque beer goggles.
Anyway, one time I met Stuart and he’d just been at a meeting with CAMRA. He had mentioned that I was pregnant with an embryonic brewery and the (quite senior ranking) lady handed him her card, with instructions to pass it on to me. “Tell him not to call me until his beers are consistent”, she added, with an air of vacuous authority. I won’t be calling them at all and, if they decide to visit chez Orbit with their cask thumping rhetoric, I shall counter their gospel with some preaching of my own. I don’t care what beer is served in, how it’s carbonated or where it has been fermented; I just want it to taste delicious. Consistently!