Raised in a small glass jar

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A Day in the Life of our Head Brewer

A Day in the Life of our Head Brewer

My day begins at 6am, or whenever our little dog Alice* decides she has had enough of her own bed and starts throwing herself at the door to get into ours. Then it's up, feed the dog, have a quick coffee and leave for MOMO - the production team all start at 8am. 

Alice and I head in on the train. We pass Nostos Coffee enroute - who make the best coffee in London, as far as I'm concerned - and if I'm struggling to wake up then I'll stop there for an espresso. I will often blame the dog if I'm late - she doesn't really like walking, just food and cuddles, so motivating her for the 20 minute Battersea Park-to-MOMO route can be a challenge. 

Once in, my day is pretty variable depending on what is happening in the brewery. As head of production, I need to be across how the brewers are doing, any pinch points they are up against, and planning production in the short and long term. This usually boils down to a few walks round the brewery asking Abi and Jim "How are we doing today?", but believe me when I say that I can glean more information from their facial expressions alone than a 30 min production meeting. 

Quality control is another area I am responsible for. This, in many ways, is great - I get to drink loads of MOMO - but there are challenges. Brewing everything in small glass jars means that testing becomes a major job, as jars at the back bottom shelf of the fermentation room can ferment differently to those at the front and top. A big part of this is also ingredient sourcing. Since a certain event in 2016, getting organic produce from Europe - where they are miles ahead in terms of organic products - has proved harder and harder. I have the World's Most Boring Anecdote about all of the government agencies and forwarding companies I had to correspond with to get a single shipment of tea from Germany, but it bores me to even tell it, so I will spare you the pain of having to read it. 

A big part of my role is making everyone else's easier. If we are bottling, I will usually get the bottles moved over to the brewery in the forklift, and the pallets of full cases from the brewery to the Ops team. Little jobs but ones that save everyone a bit of time and also allow me to touch base with every department in the business. By dropping the pallets off to Ops, I can find out how their day is going in real terms, how desperate we are for stock of X flavour, whether they need a hand from production at the end of the day, or conversely if they're having a quiet one and can help production with a few little bits. All of this stuff is covered in our Slack channels, but I'm a bit old school in this regard, and seeing a problem in the flesh is the only way to contextualise and possibly help fix it for me. Plus I'm nosy. 

Then it's lunch - leftovers or something houmous based usually (vegetarian kombucha brewer, go figure) - and taking Alice for a little stroll around Nine Elms. I sometimes wonder if she feels unsettled by the skyscrapers that keep popping up near here - she is approximately 30cm tall, and the recently constructed No. 8 Thames City is approximately 17600cm tall - but then I remember that at that height, everything is bigger than you anyway, so she probably doesn't even notice it. 

After lunch I pivot towards paperwork. This is normally:

  • Stock check and rota editing if necessary
  • Orders and chasing previous orders 
  • Checking over brew logs and investigating anomalies 
  • Forecasting and brew schedule 
  • etc 

And then, if time and necessity allows, I reward myself for some solid Paperwork with a bit of Recipe Development. This is easily my favourite part of the job - planning a new kombucha, doing a bunch of test ferments, working out why they are good/bad/nearly there - then adding juice, balancing the sweetness of the juice with the tartness of the kombucha with the flavour from the tea - it feels like a cross between a ritual and a laboratory experiment. It usually takes at least a month to work out a kombucha (if we are using a seasonal flavour, we will need to test it in one season and produce it in the next, so in those cases it won't be released for over a year), and it's always incredibly rewarding when it comes together and you see it in the finished bottle on a shelf in a cafe somewhere. 

Then it's a quick check on the brew team to make sure they're finished on time, tying up any loose ends, and heading off back to the train home. In the evening I'm often doing up our flat with my fiancee Louise, making music with Abi or falling asleep during an episode of something I really wanted to watch. 



*You may be aware that we also have a colleague called Alice - will differentiate between the two here but in general, please assume it is the dog that I am referencing. Human Alice, as she is lovingly referred to, spends far less time snoring in important meetings and trying to kill her little hedgehog toy. 

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