Alumni brewery hops into life
[Music] I did an MSc course in Brewing and Malting and Brewing Science and it was part of the University of Birmingham’s Biochemistry department. It was a really enjoyable year it was a lot of really hard work but quite a lot of enjoying the end product and visiting lots of local breweries. It was very much focused on getting a job as a brewer, as a Production Brewer in one of the large breweries in the UK and from that point of view, it worked for me. After the MSc, I was always destined to join my family brewery; which was King and Barnes Ltd, which was quite a large local brewery in Horsham. So I left Birmingham, joined King and Barnes and worked there for 15 years. [Music] We were together on the course, but we’d only seen each other a few times after the course was over. It’d probably been at least 25 years since we’d last met. We met up again through LinkedIn. We both signed up and I realised that he lived quite close to me and we met and had a couple of beers and discussed all the family stuff and then the conversation moved to brewing and what we wanted to do in the future. We both decided we basically had had enough of corporate life and wanted to do our own thing. [Music] We obviously had to find a new premises and we found this building which was pretty derelict. So it was an interesting 3 or 4 months, basically building it from new. The shell of the building was here. We didn’t have any money obviously, having to set up a new business. So everything we did ourselves, more or less. Including all the plumbing, the cooling work, a bit of the electrical work, pipe work, all that sort of thing. And we bought all sorts of a mixture of second-hand and brand-new equipment, from all over the world, actually and fashioned it in to a practical, operating brewery. I must say, something that we possibly wouldn’t have been able to do if we hadn’t done an MSc in the first place. [Music] We wanted to mirror ourselves, to a certain extent, to the fantastic craft beer movement in the USA that’s really gone from strength to strength. A bit of a phoenix rising from the ashes, but there was a Phoenix brewery. So Firebird, with its American connotations seemed to work in both ways, really. So what started as a lifestyle business was planned to turn in to a serious business pretty quickly. It’s still a lifestyle business, I’m afraid. But we’re getting there and we can see quite a bright future now for the company. It’s actually got through a very difficult phase. It’s very, very competitive out there because there are so many craft brewers. But we are pulling ahead and we’re very pleased with that. Our aims were always to build a business that was sustainable. We weren’t in it to build the business up and then sell it. What we really wanted to do was build a business that would have legs to go on for a long time. Hopefully, in the future, my son who will be a sixth generation brewer will come in to the business and it will keep going forever.