On Monday 9th May, our head brewer Jon Edger received a tip-off from an old brewing friend about an American brewer keen to visit the UK. Intrigued, we leant into the opportunity and soon enough, received an email from an enthusiastic gent in Akron, Ohio.
Mike Pfahl, a fellow brewer from not so local brewery, Lock 15, wanted to cross the Atlantic to learn more about brewing operations in the UK in general, and cask beer in particular.
We were honoured that Mike had sought us out as purveyors of great beer and it was humbling to meet someone with such enthusiasm and passion for brewing. And so, on Saturday 1st October we had the genuine pleasure of bringing this far-thrown guest from across the pond onto our colder, wetter (but hopefully no less jovial) island.
During his two and a half weeks here, Mike joined us in our collab brew at Neon Raptor; worked at the Robin Hood Beer and Cider Festival; shadowed people in every area of our business and, of course, got his hands dirty in the brewery. He also attended our charity event at the Embankment with Emperor’s Brewery and Bang the Elephant. Attendees will have enjoyed his unrivalled determination in the charity auction, upping the stakes at every opportunity. His aggressive bidding ultimately paid off and he ended up walking away with the last remaining bottle of Emperor’s first ever (home) brew!
Most of all, while at work, Mike was extremely enthusiastic and hard working. And in general, he was hugely positive, friendly, thoughtful and open, and immensely fun to be around! We’re extremely grateful for the chance to learn from each other and hope we’ll get to work with him again soon.
It was also a nice surprise to hear from Mike shortly after he landed back on US soil, with a charming and heart-warming account of his time here. We want to say a huge thank to Mike for his incredible support, passion, hard-work and above all, good nature, that made our time hosting him such a joy. Come back and see us again soon!
One of the first things I did after I settled into the room I had rented in the Meadows was to walk across Waterway Street, past the new pedestrian road being built along Sheriffs Way, and head into the Vat and Fiddle for a pint of Harvest. Having not drank a proper pint of real ale since my last visit to the UK in 2010, the pale ale that was served before me was unmistakably clear, crisp, and balanced. But, standing there amongst my new neighbors, I was yet to realise that the most important ingredient in a brewery’s beers are its people.
In between cleaning out a tonne of grain from the mash/lauter tun and learning about the numerous quality control methods employed throughout the brewing process to ensure that the pint in your hands tastes and looks the same as you expect, I learned some much more than brewing. I learned that amongst the brewhouse ranks are a DJ who loves to spin house vinyl, a Forest fan who sticks through thick and thin, an avid Panthers fan, and the many other individual personal qualities off Queensbridge Road.
From the Poppy and Pint to Fox and Grapes and Yarn, everyone I met throughout the CRB network quickly felt like family. Every one of them gracious and outgoing to all who came through their doors. Every one of them proud of the pints poured and the relationships with regulars made. From the top down and the bottom up, the Castle Rock family of brewers, salespeople, marketeers, administrators, publicans, and bartenders made my two and half weeks the life changing experience that I was ever so sad to leave.
I came to Nottingham to learn about making good beer. I left learning about what makes a brewery great. So next time when you’re sipping on a crystal-clear pint of Harvest or tasting a new selection from Danny and the Pilot Project, remember there is a whole team of wonderful, dedicated people that made it possible to deliver that pint (or half) into your hands.
Thank you to the entire CRB family for your time and for the opportunity to meet you all. I’ll see you when I return.
Mike from Ohio
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