There was a time when I held interviews in a nice, warm office, seated across a desk, with someone fetching tea and biscuits. In this new world however, I’m stood in a cold, empty railway arch without any source of refreshment or even a chair, as trains rumble noisily overhead. Still, it’s the perfect place to meet each of my four candidates for the first time. I decided against seeing anyone based abroad, despite the temptation for frivolous travel, as I had plenty good candidates based here in London, and didn’t need the additional relocation risks for my first crucial hire. So, one day a German, an American, an Italian and a Brit, walked under an arch…

 

While you think about what the punch line to that classic joke introduction might be, I shall continue with the story. All four are experienced, competent people who could definitely do the job. I’m not going to talk about them as individuals here at all, but there were some common threads. They loved: the location, the planned floor (“luxury”, one said), the automated vessel temperature control, the logo and the chance to work with new kit at the very start of a brewery’s life. This is a huge decision for me to get right, not just for the quality of the beer, but also the quality of our working relationship. Could we organise a piss-up in a brewery and have fun along the way?

 

Talking about the logo, here it is:

 

OrbitLogo

It’s retro, redolent of vinyl records, accentuates London as well as Orbit Beers, includes our tag line ‘hi-fidelity brewing’, uses great colours, introduces the ‘OBL’ image that will appear in a few places on our marketing and, as well as looking like a single coming out of a sleeve, that single has an adapter, which will always be my favourite example of iconic vinyl paraphernalia. So, hope you like it, because next up we’ll be developing the website, Twitter account and bottle label designs.

 

I’ve been working with my beer consultant, Stuart, on figuring out which styles of beer to make and starting to design them in a bit more detail. There are well over fifty beer styles to choose from, including the familiar (Stout, Pilsener, Amber Ale, Pale Ale) and the less familiar (Weizen Bock, Saison, Polotmavy, Black IPA and Cream Ale). Of course there are variations within and between each of these styles or else brewers would just get bored sometime after their 500th brew. I’ll spare you the variety of brewing methods, but choices must be made about which grains to use, how these are malted and crushed, your hop selection and the type of yeast to use. Then, do you filter, fine or condition; dry hop or add other ingredients (herbs, spices and citrus zest are all popular)? Glad I’m hiring a professional brewer…

 

I may not have the knowledge to design my own beer in detail, but I am going to set some principles as the ‘Director of Beer’. I want us to make simple, natural, fresh, unfiltered, un-fined, unhurried, consistent, easy to drink, flavoursome beers. The rest is down to the Braumeister. Oh, except for the names of these, as that’s my privilege since I’m paying for it all! Preferences at the moment (depending what gets made) are: EP APA, LP APA (stronger version), Old 78 Stout, 45 Rebel Ale and Festival Pils (definitely just the one ‘l’ in Pils). So, dear reader, if you could brew just one Orbit beer, what would it be and what would you call it? Some kind of link to vinyl records or music is of course mandatory.

 

If you do decide to design your own beer then you have a few more decisions to make. First of all, how bitter would you like it to be? To help you with this task, you can express just how bitter you’re feeling in IBUs or International Bitterness Units. Yep, really, I’m not making this up. A pint of English bitter might be about 30, while a highly hopped American IPA could be up around 70. To make beer bitter you need hops and, guess what, there’s over 100 varieties of these, such as Cascade, Fuggles and Warrior. Not all are used for bitterness though, as you also need some for aroma – citrus, pine, fruit, floral, pepper, spice and grass for example. This is why we have beer sommeliers. Oh, then you have to choose the alcohol level, (ABV) and the colour. Yep, there are colour charts for beer too! I can’t drink a beer now without holding it up to the light, sniffing it and commenting on the aftertaste or malt/hop balance. It’s a curse.

 

Very soon I’ll be heading off to Cape Verde for a well-deserved break with Jo. Before then, there is a, not untypical, array of actions to complete. Most important, given all these interviews taking place, is to draft up a contract of employment – not fun. Then I have to submit my first VAT return – also, not fun, but Her Majesty does owe me quite a lot of money. I’m pushing hard to get the electrics beefed up in the arch before I go away and my mate Steve’s popping down to plan out how he could capture a time-lapse video of the brewery being built. I’ll be feeding back on the first draft of our website, checking out vans (low, long and strong ideally) and trying to decide which chiller to buy. Best of all though, I’m spending a day at a course, so that I can gain my personal alcohol licence. Maybe everyone should have to do that before being allowed to drink alcohol, never mind serve it! I’ve also just realised that there may not be room to manoeuvre a pallet truck into our planned shipping container (aka cold store), so back to the drawing board for that conundrum…

 

And finally, some good news. Even though we don’t even have a brewery yet, we do have an order for two crates of beer from a mate and a booking for a brewery tour from the Women’s Institute. I imagine they might be quite profligate with the free samples, but at least it won’t take much to get them tiddly!

 

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