It has taken years to sculpt our dreams and schemes into being. Too busy studying or slogging through shift work, the idea of owning a brewery always took a back seat. We never stopped planning, though. And we never stopped brewing. Our homemade equipment and plastic buckets never grew (too) fousty.
"This man taught me everything I know about IPA" - Geof Trail (Amsterdam Brewing Co, Toronto, Canada) on Owen Sheerins
Owen is a technical brewer. He has brewed more and for longer than the rest, and was instrumental in inspiring James and Richard in turn. Within a few all-grain brews, James (with Owen's guidance) was brewing his first commercial beer with Dark Star following his entry into the National Homebrewing Awards. He then won the Institute of Brewing and Distilling's homebrew competition, with what became Stewart Brewing's Skeleton Blues. Meanwhile, Rich learned. With minimal aid, he brewed all of the beer served at his own wedding and to great acclaim. He even threw one of them into the IBD competition, where it picked up a prize.
All it took to kickstart the first steps towards an enterprise was one week away of prescribed annual leave. James scoured the area for the cheapest premises available, and he found our home in Cumbernauld. We applied to HMRC and, before we were ready, we were officially a brewery. We had bills to pay and duty returns to complete, and so beer had to flow.
We are unlike any brewery you'll ever have heard of. We have crafted it from pieces of equipment we've scrounged, swapped for and borrowed. Our vessels were created from old jam storage tanks. We wrapped them in coils of copper pipe and insulated with camping mats. They're cooled using a couple of old pub beer chillers. Our boiler and hot liquor tank are made from Italian olive oil pots, in which we drilled some big holes for some heavy duty electric elements.
We use homebrew pumps and flimsy tube designed for dairies. Our stainless steel fittings come from the chemical industry. Our beer is chilled by a heat exchanger from a consumer boiler unit. We ripped our extractor from an Italian restaurant, and our steam is channelled through tumble dryer tubing. We could go on and on and on.
You may question our sanity, but building everything ourselves has a few advantages. We could not afford to do it any other way - we had no capital investment. You could not have designed a better mashing system than ours, which is cobbled together from another jam tank, a homebrew pot and some perforated stainless steel discs. Our unique (and enormous) stainless steel mesh basket acts as a proportionally huge hop filter, giving unprecedented hop contact, flavour and aroma.
It may be rough, and it may take a little longer than most, but it can produce 500 litres of damn fine beer.