Features Brewlab

Published on December 14, 2016 | by Alastair Gilmour


That’s the spirits

The Sunderland-based provider of training and analysis services for the international brewing industry is heading into 2017 with a programme in distilling. Brewlab has also introduced a two-day course in professional craft brewing, a condensed version of its popular three-day course and aimed to make it more appealing to people seeking an introduction to the industry.

“We have to move with the times,” says Brewlab course leader Arthur Bryant. “It’s always difficult to condense courses when you have to explain what the kit does, costs, production, how the system works, sales and marketing. Putting all that into two days is difficult, so we make it more visual by doing a brew while we’re talking.

“Distilling-wise, gin is where beer was at a few years ago and it’s something a lot of people want to get into. Many of them just want to rectify – basically buying in the alcohol and infusing the botanicals.

“We teach them the chemistry and the process of fermentation from different cereals, apples, potatoes and molasses for producing rum. And there are so many tonics for gin to take into consideration”

Richard Hunt, course administrator, says: “The two-day introduction to craft brewing is a bit cheaper as well. We don’t have the time to go out on brewery visits like we do on the longer courses, but we show videos which give an overview of the business.

“We also have a couple of bolt-on days where we go through brewing quality, craft brew packaging, keg, cask, filtering and carbonation. Some people are interested in doing that as a stand-alone.”

The growth area in learning to brew is the micropub route – pubs with breweries – with a large percentage of students interested in that particular area. And Brewlab continues to attract students from all over the world on its nine-week Diploma in British Brewing Technology course with the current crop coming from Taiwan, Australia, Panama, Poland, Greece and Alabama in the US.

“We’ve had quite a few from Greece,” says Arthur Bryant. “There’s now a small enclave of them at Keith Brewery in Scotland.

“Some of the students start working together, like the 2011 graduates from America and China. They set up a brewery in Xian and they seem to be doing well. The pair of them are very enterprising and are also looking at selling kit to the brewpub market.”

Brewlab students are taught to feel comfortable and confident with the equipment they’ve trained on when they go out into the big brewing world and the aim is for the craft distilling students to replicate that. The three-day distilling course (January 30-February 1) begins with the basics so there’s no need for any background knowledge to make the most of the expertise on offer.

The course provides a sound overview of the industry for developing a solid understanding of the disciplines needed to operate a commercial distilling venture.

Professionals, working distillers and experts within the industry take students through the different stages of the distillery process and give practical advice on start-up issues.

The worldwide centre of learning to brew is something Sunderland should be particularly proud of – now it could be distilling’s turn. Now that would be a real tonic.


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Alastair Gilmour

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