A TEENAGE passion for homebrew led to a life-changing move for Caolan Vaughan.
Last summer he travelled halfway round the world, from Australia to Sheffield, to become production manager at Thornbridge Brewery.
It was a drastic move but Caolan has no doubt that it was the right one: “We’re making some of the best craft beer in the UK at the moment. We’ve got the right amount of investment and the right amount of knowledge and skills – it’s a good place to be.”
In fact Thornbridge, based in the Peak District town of Bakewell, is earning plaudits from across the globe.
The brewery has won eight awards in 2011 alone, including the top award for its Jaipur keg ale at the Brewing Industry International Awards in April.
Small wonder, then, that an ambitious young brewer with a will to travel should seize the opportunity to become part of it.
Caolan’s thirst for brewing began at secondary school when he started experimenting with homebrew kits.
“Then I moved into full-grown mashing… I definitely liked trying new things,” he recalls.
A degree was followed by a spell building his experience at breweries in Australia.
Then a chance meeting with former Thornbridge manager Kelly Ryan led to an offer of a post in the UK.
“I just got on a plane and arrived in Sheffield,” says Caolan. “I knew absolutely nothing about the place but as a city it’s absolutely gorgeous – especially having the Peak so close.
“I think in Sheffield there’s an exciting buzz around beer. Punters and brewers alike are learning more of the diversity, complexity and sophistication that beer can offer.
“It’s great for the industry and it’s a great time to be involved in Sheffield.”
Thornbridge Brewery was formed in 2004. Director Simon Webster recalls: “We had a food and drink company and we wanted a friend who had a brewery to brew us a beer. He suggested building one ourselves – so we did!”
Now employing 23 people, Thornbridge has developed a presence throughout the city, including its own pubs, the Sheffield Tap and the Greystones, and more on the way.
The brewery will be playing its part in the forthcoming Sheffield Food Festival with a range of activities including brewery tours on the Wednesday and a Beer Beauty evening at the Greystones.
The event, on July 5, aims to introduce women to the delights of beer: “It’s designed to convince you that there’s a beer you will love,” said Caolan.
“I’m quite excited about the festival,” he added. “I missed last year’s so this is my first chance to take part.
“It’s about promoting good food and local produce so I’m absolutely for it. It can only do good things for our food industry.”
For information, including details of brewery tours, see the festival website: www.sheffieldfoodfestival.com