"I was the last head brewer at Fuller's to brew on that. I used to have to dig it out by hand."
John Keeling gestures towards the giant copper kettle he brewed on many years ago. Keeling's worked at Fuller's Brewery for 37 years, serving as its Brewing Director since 1999. It's fair to say that things have changed at the West London brewery over the past four decades—the replacement of its historic brewing equipment with an ultra-modern system is merely one of those changes. Its current crop of brewers will never have to endure the same physical hardship that Keeling once did.
As Keeling—who plans to retire in October 2018—leads us through the network of stairs, steel, and cast iron that makes up the old brewery, it feels a little like a ghost town. Only a handful of staff members are monitoring the brew on the current system, which they do so via computer. The modern system whirs away nonchalantly as our tour continues.
Keeling will be superseded as Brewing Director by Head Brewer Georgina Young once he retires. Young and her team might not have to dig out the old copper like Keeling used to, but they will face their own set of challenges. Chief amongst these will be ensuring that the 172-year-old brewery continues to find relevance in a market that's continuously evolving to meet consumer demand. As for Keeling himself, well, the industry is not getting rid of him that easily. He's just been voted chair of The London Brewers Alliance.