Anyone with half a brain could tell you that Brains is a Welsh icon. Their beer, brewed since 1882, is arguably the national drink of our fair country. It is more Welsh than a fire breathing red dragon, more Welsh than a cheesy Glamorgan sausage, more Welsh than a stereotypical sheep. For that reason, I am glad to announce that the first person to be featured on the blog in the new ‘Meet the Brewer’ section is none other than Brains head brewer, Mr. Bill Dobson.
When were you born?
26 Jan 1972
Where are you from?
I was born in a small market town called Ormskirk in South West Lancashire and lived near there on my parents farm until I left to go to University at 18.
How did you get into the brewing?
I was always interested in science and engineering and did a degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath. At that point I expected my future to be in the chemical or food industry. I did a year out working as part of my degree for ICI in Barry and lived in Cardiff for a year. I remember sitting in the Philharmonic pub opposite the old Brains Brewery enjoying one too many pints of SA and still had never considered the beer industry as being part of my future. I was offered two jobs when I left uni, one at Cadbury and the other working for Carlsberg Tetley in the Ind Coope brewery in Burton. I chose beer over chocolate and that was one of the best decisions I have ever made as I quickly felt the industry was the place for me.
What is the best part about being Head Brewer?
Trying a new beer for the first time, the satisfaction of knowing it is something I have created. Also when people compliment a beer you have made.
What makes the perfect beer?
Quite simply balance–a good beer is all about a balance of flavours.
What is your favourite beer?
Of Brains core range my favourite has to be SA Gold. Of our newer Craft beers it changes all the time; I’m particularly pleased with our Atlantic White our white IPA and also Rye Catcher which is a hoppy Rye IPA.
What does being Head Brewer involve?
Lots of everything, most of it totally unexciting but essential; managing people, buying and checking materials, checking quality, planning, etc etc
What were you doing prior? Did you work your way up through Brains or were you brewing elsewhere?
I started work in the brewing industry when I left uni in Burton for Carlsberg Tetley. The brewery was bought by Bass and then Interbrew and finally Coors in the 12 years I worked there. I had a range of jobs from shift brewer to production manager and also took my brewing qualifications to become a Master Brewer. I moved to Brains in 2007 as Head Brewer, a position I had always aspired to and one which didn’t really exist in the big breweries I had worked in.
What is the process of thinking up and creating new types of beers?
Inspiration comes from many angles, it could be a new material such as a type of malt or new hop variety, it could be using a different yeast or just creating a beer style that we haven’t produced before. I might also taste some beers of a similar type and do a bit of research on the internet but always just for guidance, the final recipe will always be new, never a copy. We have produced over 50 new beers in our craft brewery in the last 18 months and I’ve still got loads more ideas of beers I want to try so there are plenty more to come!