Beer is pretty damn ancient and it is even believed to be one of the oldest beverages that humankind has produced. Egyptian Pharaohs downed it daily and even paid their hoards of pyramid workers in beer and bread. The Mesopotaians seem to have invented not only modern irrigation systems but the ‘fishbowl’ too as a 6,000-year-old tablet depicted a group of them crowded around a communal bowl of beer, straws in hand. They also worshipped Ninkasi, the Goddess of brewing. The ancient Greeks even advocated it as necessary to a healthy diet. But despite being older than a cougar out on a student night, beer has been brewed in pretty much the same way since it’s discovery.
Recent developments in the equipment used in the brewing process however are bringing the ancient art into the 21st Century… and beyond. Scottish go-getters BrewDog for example have their very own hop cannons that make their brewery sound more like a fighter jet than a beer haven. You don’t have to be big dogs in the game to experiment with high tech equipment however, especially if you’ve got a name like Droid.
Newly established micro- and nano-breweries may usually be forced to invest in second hand tanks and equipment but Droid Brewery isn’t your bog standard start-up. Andy Chase, Shaun Butcher and Alex Neal are the trio behind the Droid’s switchboards, and they are designing and building everything themselves.
“The name came from the idea that as we design, manufacture and install massive turn key solution production lines with full automation, it seemed fitting to use our knowledge to create a 21st Century brewery,” said Andy, a former design engineer. “The brewery is going to be run through a touch screen PLC and will all be controlled via temperature probes and modulation valves,” he continued, “so it started to sound more like a robot so we decided on ‘Droid.’”
You may think that building the brewery from scratch would cost an absolute bomb, especially as it sounds like it’s straight off the set of Star Wars, but you’d be dead wrong. “The build is on the smallest budget ever,” explained Andy, “you’d laugh but so far it has cost us £25.” Andy has worked as a design engineer for the last 16 years and so has designed everything from the brew shed to the tanks; Shaun, a welder and fabricator with 11 years experience under his belt is now a trained Draughtsman in their drawing office; and Alex has been an industrial electrician for the past 12 years and is using his surplus kit for the touch screen, as well as writing all the programs to run the pumps and valves himself. Between them they have more than enough skill and experience to pull off the space age brewery and the only thing to slow the process down so far has been the birth of Shaun’s daughter (congrats by the way!).
“We’re very close to finishing the footings and then pouring the concrete,” Andy said, “We’ve already got the timber frame so that should go up pretty quickly after that.” Once it’s all up and running, the lads plan to build a 200 litre plant to brew a range of different beers to cater for an array of different tastes; both from themselves and their soon to be customers. “I prefer hoppy smelling golden beers,” said Andy, “Shaun prefers strong tasting alcoholic beers and Alex likes his craft lagers.” Such variation will hopefully lead to a diversified core range of beers that the boys will brew.
Droid has even attracted attention from local brewers enquiring whether they can use the plant as a trial setup for testing their new brews as their own breweries can only brew in large quantities.
With all its technology and robotics, Norfolk based Droid are definitely one to watch in the future.