If you love beer, and think you're a good brewer, this is like Masterchef and Pop Idol rolled into one.
Steve Wellington, Jedi Master Brewer of Worthington White Shield, is looking for a new Padawan.
White Shield has long been a legendary, semi-mythical beer, with a hardcore of devotees sighing wistfully at its very name, a few others going "Dunno, can't see what all the fuss is about,"and a vast majority in the middle saying, "White Shield? Is that still around?" or "White who? Never seen it."
For me, it's one of the best beers in the world. It traces an unbroken lineage back to the 1830s as one of the genuine IPAs brewed in Burton on Trent and sold in Calcutta. When I was researching Hops and Glory I found records of it being imported to the Calcutta docks. It was dwarfed in size by Bass and Allsopps. but did steady business. Allsopp's is no more, and Bass is in trouble. White Shield has certainly had its ups and downs, almost disappeared after brewing was contracted out from Burton, but was rescued and revived by Steve about a decade ago. Since then, it's won Champion Bottled Beer of Britain and Steve has been named Brewer of the Year.
But all this was happening on a tiny, ancient three-barrel museum plant, that looked lovely, had a personality of its own, but was showing her age.
That's why, at a time when most UK macro brewers were disinvesting in ale, Molson Coors took the relatively enlightened step of giving Steve a brand new, state-of-the-art £1m brewery to play with in the newly reopened National Brewery Centre in Burton. The macro has seen that there is a future in ale and decided to take a bit of an interest.
The new plant has been operational since the start of the year. So far, the only thing Molson Coors have done wrong with the new William Worthington Brewery is let marketing have the final say on the names of the new beers that come out of the plant alongside White Shield. Marketing has misunderstood the brand and declared that every beer has to have 'Shield' in its name. So the first seasonal is called 'Spring Shield'. Nice beer, silly name - the master brand is William Worthington, guys.
Anyway, within a few months the new brewery was working at capacity, and today Molson Coors will announce that it brewed more beer in the first quarter of 2011 than the old girl did in the whole of 2010. So successful is it, they will also be announcing the search for a new brewer to work with Steve and his fellow brewer Jo White. It's a dream job: one of Britain's oldest and most revered brands, on one of Britain's most modern and advanced small breweries.
Interested brewers should visit http://molsoncoors.com/en/People.aspx for more details.