Saturday, 16 June 2012

I am sure I should be telling you about something else but I have to get this off my chest. This goes back to November 2010 when I was working-off a rather extended period of redundancy notice from the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service. It was Price Waterhouse Coopers, the management consultants,  who fingured my post - Collections and Information Manager - as the one member of middle management who could be laid off without any apparent break in front-line service. My boss, the Head of Museums could see that this would be very wounding to the service, as I was reaching the end of a 20 year project. I was only 18 years into it and still had some final goals to deliver. We do take the long view in museums. Modes had been a life's work (don't ask, it's a museum thing). It would have been heart-breaking to leave it un-finished. She very kindly agreed to allow me to get as close to the finishing tape as possible and complete some vital work before I departed. She found some funds from her back pocket (real managers always have something in their back pocket) and I had a lengthy extension beyond my due redundancy date.

Well, I was 6 months into my notice and by that time I had been thinking of what I was going to do, post-redundancy. My early-retirement pension would be reasonable but a big step-down from a full salary. So that's why I was thinking about all of the things I could do to supplement my income. Geology, consultancy, maybe writing or publishing but the strongest dream was to become a microbrewer. That's why I went onto Amazon and ordered '"The Microbrewer's Handbook" by Ted Bruning (Beers of the World, Second Edition 2009, £9.95 or less). So I found myself going Hell for Leather to finish my 'Modes' work and worked all the hours God sent (was I crazy?) but occasionally while commuting I would put the laptop down and pick up "The Microbrewer's Handbook".

On one occasion I clambered onto the homeward train, hot and lumbered with laptop. I dis-robed, took out my handbook and laid it on the table while I put my coat and baggage into the rack. Being rather a private person I didn't want to show all-and-sundry in the carriage that I was reading a book for wannabe brewers, so I placed it face down on the table while I did this. But, just as I had feared, the man opposite began to take an inordinate interest in the book that I was being so coy about. Bloody cheek, I thought.

I sat down but didn't turn it over. "That's the Microbrewer's Handbook, isn't it?" said the stranger opposite. 'Ehm, yes, it is, as it happens." 

"I thought so", he said, "I am its publisher."

That wasn't strictly true. He was the actually the originator of the idea for the book and had done all the groundwork to make it happen and then sold the idea and the rights to the actual publishers who brought it to market.

Isn't it curious? It's another one of the amazing co-incidences that has occurred in my recent life. Who would have thought that the prime mover of the very book that has influenced and encouraged my headlong flight into brewing should be a resident of North Norfolk and get onto the very train that I did and sat opposite me on the very occasion that I had decided to take this book to work to read on the train. And I had got it out and stuck it right down in front of him. Scary.

When he was considering a new edition of the Microbrewer's Handbook, Rupert Wheeler contacted me to find out how I was getting on. Unfortunately, at that time I had nothing to report, as it was early days and I really hadn't made any progress, nor demonstrated any real commitment to starting a brewery of my own. He must have thought I had whimped-out. So I told him about the newly (re-)started Panther Brewery at the old Reepham Brewery (run by Martin James, with whom I have brewed - a tiny bit).

Well Rupert, if you are reading this, I have a real case study for you now. The Poppyland Brewery is about to burst upon the scene and take the world of microbrewing by storm!

Let's hope so.

If you are a wannabe brewer (Dale), don't do anything else until you have read "The Microbrewer's Handbook".

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