Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Pilot takes off

It's not every day that you start a new career. When you start up as a microbrewer it is difficult to know exactly when you have started. Is it the day you told someone you wanted really to be a brewer? Or when you came home from the Brewlab course? Or the day you found your premises. Or lashed out more money than you dare tell you wife about in starting the business? Or the day you mashed-in to make your first commercial beer beer? Or the day you bottled it off?

No, I reckon the day you really start your new career is when you stand in front of the public and offer your own beer for sale, that you have planned, brewed and bottled yourself and designed the label and marketed it and talked about on the radio and you got it into the papers, with pictures of you leering at the camera. Then you are brought up short. People say, 'How much?' and you say "£5.99 a bottle" and they say "Oh..." And you think, "Bugger, I've overpriced it". And he says, "Ah...well. Mmm...OK then. I'll have 6 please." And you smile to yourself and think, "Yes! I am a real brewer now."

So the day came. Saturday 30th June 2012 dawned bright and clear and I donned my new pink-striped shirt and a pair of pale Fat Face flairs and I waddled down to the Cromer Farm and Health Shop wearing my name badge: "Martin Warren, Poppyland Brewery". This was my first outing. I was a debutante. Poppyland Pilot was a virgin and un-tested beer. So was it good enough? Would it gush all over the customer's living room carpets? Was it too bitter? So many anxieties. Edoardo was there (on a return work placement from the White Dog Brewery near Modena, where I had been for experience of the Italian market last year) and he approved of it.

It actually turned out to be a wonderful day. The customers in Andrew and Lisa's shop were intrigued, engaged, inspired and delighted by Norfolk's newest brewery and not only bought the beer but one or two of them came back and bought some more the same day, which was a shrewd move, as it proved to be very popular. I only released four cases to each of the retailers (Cromer Farm Shop and The Real Ale Shop) but I relented and brought another two in for the launch day in Cromer. We sold five and a half cases in the Cromer Farm and Health Shop that day and the other 6 bottles went the next day. It was small beer really, as the brewing industry goes. Small beer, but my beer. That was a result. Now, I am a brewer.

All the feedback so far about the beer has been positive. "A classy ale, well done", said Teddy Maufe, the farmer who grew the barley that it was made from. "Superb", said Steve Downes, of the Eastern Daily Press.


The Barley to Beer Project is funded by: