Published on October 2, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour


Wise head on young shoulders

There are currently 578 Master Brewers in the world and now a young man from Rowland’s Gill, Tyne & Wear, has joined them. Best of all though, 28-year-old Ross O’Hara is the youngest of the lot.

Ross qualified from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) after studying for four years alongside his day-job at Greene King in Bury St Edmunds, Surrey, developing new products and overseeing the company’s apprentice brewers at its London microbrewery, Craft Academy.

Since joining Greene King in 2016, Ross has been responsible for the development of new brands that include the award-winning Heritage range, Yardbird Pale Ale and Gluten-Free Old Speckled Hen, plus the Craft Academy range and the brewery’s seasonal beers. Master Brewer is the highest level of brewing qualification offered by the IBD and is a measure of the level of a candidate’s competence in the technical management of the brewing processes. The qualification is made up of five modules – Raw Materials and Wort Production, Fermentation and Beer Processing, Packaging of Beer, Management and Regulatory Compliance and a Practical Project.

Ross says: “I had no idea I was the youngest doing the course. It’s been a lot of work to reach this level but well worth it. I’ve enjoyed the challenge and love to continue to develop my knowledge.

“Greene King has been hugely supportive of me studying for the qualification, encouraging me to run with ideas and to draw on the heritage of the brewery to develop interesting new beers.”

Greene King head of operations David Carr says: “This is a fantastic achievement and we are all proud of Ross’ dedication and commitment to reaching this level. He is passionate about brewing and has exceptional technical ability as well as flair and innovation.

“His enthusiasm shines through, particularly when he is training our apprentice brewers, developing a new recipe, or driving industry initiatives such as the new brewing apprenticeship scheme.”

Ross graduated from Heriot-Watt’s renowned brewing and distilling course in Edinburgh and has worked with Caledonian Brewery in the city as well with Heineken UK. He says creating new beers is “magical” and that it’s half science and half educated guesswork.

“There’s no better job; I love it,” he says. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. The moment of truth when you’ve created a new beer is when you pour that first pint after a trial brew – we can normally have three or four trials.”

As well as its Westgate Brewery in Bury St Edmunds, Greene King – founded in 1799 – brews out of the historic Belhaven Brewery in Dunbar, near Edinburgh. Its portfolio includes Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen, Abbot Ale and Belhaven Best.

The company operates some 2,900 pubs, restaurants and hotels across the country under the Hungry Horse, Farmhouse Inns, Chef & Brewer and Greene King Local Pubs banner.

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Alastair Gilmour

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