Desert Island Beers – David Smith, Brewing Consultant
Welcome to the latest episode of Desert Island Beers which this week features David Smith of Brewing Services Ltd.
David has been involved with brewing for over 40 years and since starting his consultancy in 1988 has assisted over 200 breweries with technical support & Quality Assurance services. This has included well over 170 start-up projects. David also runs the highly regarded and successful Fundamentals of Mini-Brewing training course twice a year in York.
David says not everyone can say they received good advice from a career’s tutor, but for him it was a pivotal moment in his life. He was at Essex University studying for a degree in Chemistry but without much of idea of what was going to happen once he’d graduated and so went along to see the Careers Office to see what pearls of wisdom they could offer. After chatting about his ambitions and aspirations for a while, and not feeling particularly inspired, they eventually got on to talking about hobbies and interests. David said that, due to spending so much time in lectures and lab sessions, his only ‘hobby’ was drinking Adnams Bitter in the Student Union bar. “So why not go into brewing” was the immediate reply and David suddenly had that seismic, life changing, eureka moment. Brewing was going to be his chosen career but where to start?
Having managed to graduate he was back in York and starting to write on spec. to local breweries. As luck would have it, or perhaps serendipity, one of his letter’s asking for a job landed on the Head Brewer’s desk at Sam Smith’s alongside a letter of resignation from one of the brewing team. Being Yorkshire-men the Head Brewer at Sam Smiths decided to save on advertising and offer him the job. That was in 1976 and the rest is history.
David worked for twelve years for Sam’s, seven as a Production Brewer and five as QC Brewer working in the lab, as well as looking after cider production. But David wanted a senior position and to get back to production. Jobs were not easy to find in a contracting mainstream brewing industry, so he looked around and saw the rapidly expanding micro-brewery scene as an option. He spent a year on a business plan for starting his own brewery but as funding was an issue even back then, he decided to shelve the idea.
He made the break from Sam Smith’s in July 1988 and set up the consultancy. His first client was in Scotland and second in Somerset, so that was the start of his weekly commute around the country, which he still does every week.
Last year saw David celebrate thirty years as an independent brewing consultant and says that for the time being he is content to carry on working as he still loves brewing and working with different breweries, a full time hobby as he describes it.
However David recognises at some point he will have to take things a little easier but he’s not looking to retire just yet so perhaps he might settle down and start his own brewery and brew himself a special beer to celebrate!
Hi David so which 5 beers would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island, and why?
Samuel Smith’s – Old Brewery Bitter – (Tadcaster, North Yorkshire – 4.0% )
“You can’t help but have a fondness for the first beer you ever really get to know. Although I started my brewing career as a trainee brewer at Sam Smith’s back in 1976 my introduction to this beer goes back a little further to when, after attending Venture Scout meetings the ‘older’ members of the group (I was about 17) would wander over the road from our HQ and visit the Trafalgar Bay pub in York. I worked up from halves to pints and then to………”
Adnams PLC – Southwold Bitter – (Southwold, Suffolk – 4.1% )
“I was a student at Essex University surrounded by fizz and p**s until one day the student union bar started having a wooden cask of Adnams on the bar with the beer dispensed straight from the cask. It wasn’t always cool, certainly never overly lively and occasionally you had a hop leaf floating in your pint from the dry hopping. But was it tasty and so different to the run of the mill keg beers that it got me into cask ale in a big way.”
The Coniston Brewing Co. Ltd – Bluebird Bitter (Coniston, Cumbria – 3.6% )
“I know it’s possibly bad form to include ones own beer in this list but I’m stuck on this desert island so I don’t rightly care. I’ve produced hundreds of different beers over the last twenty four years for well over a 100 breweries in the UK, and a few elsewhere, but a beer that I always look forward to drinking, partly for the location in the beautiful English Lake District but mainly because its such an all round easy drinking beer, is Coniston Bluebird. A few pints in the warmth of the bar at the Black Bull and God is in his heaven and all’s well with the world.”
St. James’s Gate (Diageo) – Guinness Draught – (Dublin, Republic of Ireland – 4.2% )
“Back in the mid seventies I spent a few weeks backpacking around the backwaters of Ireland and just drank Guinness the whole time. The anticipation of watching it being poured (with or without a shamrock) and then that first roasted malt mouthful bursting over the tongue is something I still now regularly savour.
Also it was Guinness that turned me to the ‘dark side’ and into the ways of porters, dark old ales and stouts.”
The Chiltern Brewery – Three Hundreds Old Ale Bottle – (Terrick, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire – 5.0% )
“Classic deep amber ale, full bodied and superbly well balanced. I always look forward to visiting the Chiltern Brewery a couple of times a year to stock up on this bottle beer to beat all other bottle beers. It pours with a tight creamy head that clings down the glass and is a superb accompaniment to dinner, no matter what food is on offer. A beer to savour rather than quaff and a perfect way to relax after a hard day’s work.”
And which one of the five beers (of those selected) do you regard most highly, and why?
“Again bad form perhaps to choose a beer I helped develop but for all around drink-ability any time of the day or night, and one to have a good session on without feeling too out of it the next day, then I’ve got to go with Coniston Bluebird as my all time favourite beer.”
You can also take one meal to go with your beers, what would it be and why? Is it a ‘last supper’ or a perfect pairing for one of the beers?
“Fish (cooked in beer batter of course), chips and mushy peas plastered with plenty of salt and vinegar. No finer cuisine in the world for filling a hole in the stomach and soaking up the excesses of alcohol. It also helps that the pub and the chippy are equidistant from my house so what better way to end the week with a few pints followed by ‘one of each and mushy peas on the side’ sat in front of the telly with a bottle of 300’s Ale to wash them down. This is a regular Friday night delight when I’ve finished traveling around the rest of the UK having eaten Indian, Chinese, Thai or Italian all week to come home and have some proper grub.”
You have a CD/MP3/long player but you can only take one album. Choose wisely!
“I’m going to cheat a little here and select The Beatles ‘1’ (The Beatles Greatest hits) or I might have gone for Forty Licks by the Rolling Stones.
I’m on this Island and to keep myself sane (!) I’m going to sing and the Beatles can supply a song for every occasion and mood. Belting out She Loves You or Hard Day’s Night or perhaps ‘Help’ to attract passing ships.
And then if I’m feeling a little more mellow then there’s Eleanor Rigby or Penny Lane to hum along to and Hey Jude to get me lah-lahing (along with a few pints to lubricate the larynx).”
The Beer Book
You might be waiting a long time on your lonesome on the desert island, so we will automatically allow you a few books to keep your mind busy. You can pick between two beer books and two tomes:
• ‘The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food’ by Garrett Oliver, or;
• Beer by Michael Jackson; plus;
• The Bible, or;
• another appropriate religious or philosophical work
“Not overly impressed by the selection as seems little point in pleasures of beer with food when there’s none to be had so I suppose Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter not singer, will have to do. But if I could choose myself then it would be ‘Beer is proof God loves’ us by Professor Charlie Bamforth (This man is a brewing icon against whom all others pale into insignificance – sorry Michael).
‘There is no wealth but life’, so writes John Ruskin a great philosopher at the end of the late 19th Century in his book ‘Unto this Last. He understood more than any other about human nature and behaviour in a newly industrialised world and also the need to work towards perfection and quality – “Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort. There must be the will to produce a superior thing.” — John Ruskin.”
“This book is said to have influenced Mahatma Ghandi during his formative years and probably a good many others.”
The non-beery, non-philosophical book. You can also take a something a little less taxing on the brain, what would that be?
“I can’t say a good novel would really be something I’d read whilst struggling for survival on my desert island. I’d want to be off making life a little more bearable for myself so I’m opting for Ray Mears ‘Outdoor Survival Handbook: A Guide To The Resources and Materials Available In The Wild And How To Use Them For Food, Shelter, Warmth And Navigation’. With this mans help I’ll build a shelter, make a fire, catch fish and dig up sweet potatoes and then use Palm oil to cook my chips. Probably even make a raft and navigate back to blighty.”
What luxury item would help make your stay on the island bearable?
“Probably an air bed so I can get a good nights sleep after all my efforts at survival.”
Thanks David. For more information on David’s consultancy take a look at his website . Have you tried David’s favourite beers? Let us know and very many thanks to him for taking part and being our castaway for the week.
This article was first produced in 2012 and simultaneously posted at Real Ale Reviews as part of a collaboration on ‘Desert Island Beers’.