APR/MAY 2005 | REGIONAL | WEST
Fuller's And BJ's Trade Brewers
By Jay Sheveck
Call it the first-ever “Brewer Exchange Program.”
In an unprecedented display of good will, BJ’s Restaurant
and Brewery of Southern California, and Fuller’s Brewery
of London, England, recently traded their top brewers. In
January, BJ’s–West Covina brewer Scott Manning
was sent across the Atlantic Ocean to Fuller’s Griffin
Brewery. He was assigned to work alongside Fuller’s
brewing manager, Georgina Young, for seven days. The following
week, in February, Georgina flew to California to work with
Scott to absorb BJ’s methods of brewing and business
practices. It wasn’t all work and no play, however,
for each “exchange brewer” was treated to the
best pub and brewpub experiences the respective hosting company
Georgina and Scott’s working tour of England took them
to the finest beer establishments, both Fuller’s tied
houses and independent public houses. Their subsequent California
tour was comprised of eclectic destinations, including visiting
more than 20 British-style pubs throughout the Los Angeles
area, co-hosting a Fuller’s Beer Dinner at BJ’s
Restaurant and Brewery in Laguna Hills, and brewing at Scotty’s
supervised BJ’s brewhouse in West Covina.
The two wrapped up their tours by ceremoniously collaborating
on a custom batch of beer at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewery
in Woodland Hills, along with BJ’s Head Brewer Derreck
Bourdon and BJ’s Director of Brewing Operations Michael
Each “exchange brewer” was
treated to the best pub and brewpub experiences the respective
hosting company could furnish.
During that ceremonial brew, the Celebrator Beer News
was able to sit down with Georgina and Scott for a few moments
to discuss the “Brewer Exchange Program” and to
hear about their trans-Atlantic brewery adventures. Frankly,
the brewers’ own words show how good, if not great,
this experimental program turned out to be.
Celebrator Beer News: So what is the “Brewer
Georgina Young: It’s like a reward.
The original concept was started by the brewing director at
Fuller’s, John Keeling, and Alex Puchner [senior vice
president of brewing operations] at BJ’s. They met up
in San Diego last year at the World Beer Cup conference and
sowed the seed of this idea, because there is a lot of synergy
between our two companies. Scotty has been over with us for
a week, and he’s worked in all aspects of the brewery.
He has seen how we make our beers, and he learned about Fuller’s.
Now I’m here in California working with BJ’s for
the week. It’s very hands-on. They are sampling me with
all of the great beers that they’ve made.
CBN: Why do you think the two companies
have arranged the program?
GY: The benefit has really been to us, the
individuals: to see how other people brew and the constraints
that one is up against and how you find solutions, and also
to really learn about the other’s beer styles. Obviously,
it’s about the companies themselves too, but I think
the real winners in this are the two of us.
Scott Manning: I’ll agree with that.
For me, it was a competition that I did not really know about.
[BJ’s upper management] had secretly conceived of a
"Brewmaster of the Year" competition for all of
the BJ’s brewers. I worked very hard last year, and
luckily, they deemed me worthy enough to go to London. The
program will probably the continue into 2006. Hopefully, the
"Brewmaster of the Year" will become a permanent
thing for BJ’s. There has been talk about sending brewers
to other breweries or possibly to Fuller’s again. It’s
a new thing for us. It’s a nice reward system for someone
who puts in the extra effort.
CBN: So what have each of you learned from
GY: Oh my, lots. Well, there are some excellent
beers now being produced here in America. I am getting some
ideas and learning about using alternative ingredients and
methods. The scale is much smaller and very hands-on here,
which I’m not frightened of, because I started off in
a microbrewery (Smiles Brewing Company). For me, this is very
much going back to my roots. On this smaller scale you are
able to push the boundaries a lot more than we are able to
on the big scale. At Fuller’s, we need to be very firm
about those ideas before we start. Just to give you some scale,
our brewery makes 250,000 U.S. barrels a year. Our brew size
in one day is one-quarter of a million pints! So we don’t
really do experimental work on that scale. You have to have
a lot of planning before that.
SM: Of course, BJ’s is smaller, and
we can do all kinds of experimental things if we want to,
but it was amazing to work on such a grand scale. You can
just imagine that there is a lot more sophisticated instrumentation.
I spent lots of time in Fuller’s computer room looking
at a panel. I was marveling at the entire process —
all lined up on the screen right there in front of me. You
press a button, walk out into the brewery and see the process
happen. That’s a lot different from BJ’s brewing
process, where we’re opening valves and mixing things
by hand. Still, it’s the same process. It’s great
to see that even though BJ’s is a much different scale,
Fuller’s has the same attention to detail, if not more.
CBN: Was there any aspect that you particularly
SM: I was lucky enough to be involved with
an ESB for export at Fuller’s. It was destined for us
in California. I gave them some very small BJ’s stickers
to put on the casks, so we’ll know which of those kegs
I am partially to blame for. [He laughs.]
CBN: That’s a nice lead to what you
are both brewing today. Please tell me more about this beer.
GY: It’s a traditional English India
pale ale that we're making here on BJ’s seven-barrel
plant in Woodland Hills. Scotty and Derreck brought in the
raw materials, like that which we would use at Fuller’s,
like a two-row spring barley variety called "Optic"
and Crystal malts. We’ve mashed in following our mashing
regime at Fuller’s. Accordingly, we boiled it with English
Goldings hops. I’m going to give Derreck a rigorous
fermentation profile to follow before I leave. Apparently,
the yeast has been advertised as a Fuller’s-style yeast.
We guard our yeast very, very secretly. It’s even DNA
fingerprinted, and I don’t believe this is the same
yeast. It’s a cloned yeast. It will be interesting to
see what flavors it produces in this beer. But yes, it’s
going to be as authentic as possible.
SM: We’ve tried to get the most authentic
ingredients possible to try to make something that Georgina
would be proud to put her name on. We will serve "Georgina’s
IPA" as part of the collaboration of our two brewing
GY: Unfortunately, I’ll be back in
England when the beer is ready for drinking. I’m sure
they’ll send me a bottle or two.
SM: You bet!
As of press time, Georgina’s English IPA is on tap
and is expected to be on tap every year at this time at BJ’s
Restaurant and Brewery in Woodland Hills.
Jay Sheveck, aka "the Beer Guppy, is
the author of the destination guidebook The Beer Guppy’s
Guide to Southern California. Preview it at BeerGuppy.com.