When something’s brewing and you know exactly what it is
For once, drinking on the job is perfectly fine
I didn’t know what being a brewer for a day entailed, but I was thankful to be given such an opportunity.
I was guided by both veteran brewmaster, Robert Beck as well as assistant brewer, Clive Tan, who recently joined the Archipelago Brewery team.
Coincidentally, Archipelago Brewery just found out that they were tasked to prepare beer for Morrissey’s upcoming concert, in collaboration with LAMC Productions. So, we embarked on brewing a single batch of ale, Manchester-style. (Morrissey will be proud.)
As I put on my protective gear, I asked Clive why he wanted to be a brewer.
The pleasant 25-year-old said: “I started off liking beer a lot. After that, I realised that there are different types of beer, it’s not just Tiger, Heineken, and the usual. I started to be interested in how certain beers taste so different from other ones.”
Clive, who just graduated from Singapore Management University with a degree in economics, said: “It’s challenging in the beginning. To work in a brewery, I had to start from scratch and learn the basics. It gets easier over time because I’m passionate about my job.”
To make a single batch of 400 litres of beer, over 15 steps are required, and the entire process takes 16 days. Although I was only involved in 60 per cent of a brewer’s actual work day, the experience was enough to make me have a newfound respect for the underrated job.
First, I helped to add the malt into the mash tun. Robert handed me the smallest sack of malt that they had and turned down the temperature of the boil, in case it was too much for me to handle.
Next, I had to stir the mash, filled with malt and water. Stirring a lumpy porridge-like mix wasn’t easy, especially since the mash paddle barely went past my head.
After two hours, it was time to clear the spent grain, the soggy and grainy residue that remains in the mash tun after the thick mix is filtered to a finer solution.
Once I was done with the shoveling, which left my arms aching, I had to operate a pallet jet to transport the spent grain bin to the discharge area. I silently hoped that I wouldn’t cause an explosion.
After clearing the mash tun, I helped Clive clean it with a hose and a brush.
After letting the brew boil, it was time to add some character to it.
The Pacific Gem hop gives the ale its bitter flavour, while the East Kent Golding hop is added for aroma. We also added two litres of honey to give it a slightly sweeter taste, and kettle finings to produce clearer wort (unfermented beer).
The brew is then passed through the heat exchanger and into the fermenter, where the yeast is added.
Finally, the brew is left to ferment for about five days. It is conditioned and carbonated before it is kegged and sent to the venue, where it will be tapped and served at the concert.
Over a couple hours, I slowly realised that brewing is an art. There are different components that you have to add in different quantities for the final brew to be branded in a specific style.
“If you make a carbonara, it has got bacon, spaghetti. You can change the quantity of the spaghetti or the kind of bacon you put in. [Brewing is] a bit similar to that,” said Robert, who patiently explained the entire brewing process, from grain to glass, in detail.
The articulate brewmaster, who has a degree in brewing and distilling, shared why he chose brewing as a career: “I was lucky that I love the science of brewing and the process of making beer. Often, you can be fascinated by the topic, but not actually like the industry. Fortunately, it worked out for me.”
Although I was pretty bummed we didn’t get to try the actual beer that will be served at the Morrissey show, not everyone can say that they got to brew 400 litres of beer in a day’s work and I’d drink to that!
This is part five of ‘For A Day’, a new series that features underrated jobs in Singapore.