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The brewing industry attracts people with a curious array of backgrounds. In the autumn, we welcomed into our team Stuart Swann, an experienced brewer, project manager and business owner – whose career began with disease and death.

Not his own.

His biomedical science degree led him into the NHS, specialising in histopathology and microbiology. He was researching changes in tissues caused by disease, which involved some forensics in the mortuary. At one time, Stuart was working for 13 different doctors on 9 different projects. These included things as significant as the early detection of prostate cancer.

When the funding for the projects ran dry, he moved to a quality assurance role with pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca. A couple of years later, Stuart returned to college to study arboriculture, and set up a contracting and consultancy business, which became a key contractor for North Somerset Council and Bristol City Council. Tens of thousands of trees in South West owe their good health to him.

Stuart Swan | Brewers Question Time

It might seem a bit clichéd, but since university days (and possibly before), I was interested in beer. Drinking it, sure – but also brewing it. My guess is that it would be hard to find a student household of scientists and engineers who didn’t at least sometimes dabble around with a home-brew kit. We certainly did our fair share of dabbling in our house. And that set up a lifelong passion. So, after all the years of scientific research and analysis, then tree surveying, planting and maintenance (and all the management and logistics that involved), the pull of beer eventually won.

The Peak District presented the ideal location and Howard Town Brewery the ideal opportunity. In 2014, Stuart and his wife Emma bought the brewery lock, stock and literally barrel. Using the 7-barrel, glorified home-brew kit, they started by focussing on quality and consistency, and building the reputation of the beers, then over time began to experiment and expand the range.

With significant investment, they expanded the brewery to a fully automated 15-barrel plant with the capacity to produce high volumes and the flexibility to produce low volume, speciality beers.  The European-style brewhouse, with its modern mash conversion vessel and lauter tun, opened the gateway to produce any beer style imaginable – but that didn’t stop the brewing of some extremely fine cask ales.

I loved project-managing the recovery and expansion of the business,” says Stuart, “but I also love the science involved in the brewing process. It begins with the ingredients. I think I might have been a little overzealous in my appreciation of – and interest in – malt, because somehow or other, I ended up doing project work for Crisp on an ad hoc basis. That was alongside the day job at Howard Town.

Fast forward a few years, and here I am, a fully-fledged member of the Crisp team.


Stuart Swann

His technical expertise; engineering knowledge; proficiency in quality control; experience in running and developing a business; and project management skills made his appointment a no-brainer so far as we at Crisp are concerned.

As one of our craft brewing sales managers, Stuart Swann will be with customers in the brewhouse, or at the end of the phone, with insights, technical tips and practical advice. “It’s not hard to produce beer. It is hard to produce it consistently well. The oversupply in the market means brewers need to be at the top of their game – and it also means all of us in the industry joining forces to improve quality; drive sales of all beer and grow the overall market.

It’s fantastic to be part of a team whose members are so committed to helping customers in practical ways. It goes far beyond supplying a few tonnes of malt. We’re there to support brewers in whatever way we can.



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