My interest in beer goes back to my childhood when my dad always drank half pints of bitter from a classic dimple half pint mug. He called it “cooking beer” as it was the cheapest. He liked the bitter taste which I didn’t understand but came to love much later in life. Our local beer in Bristol where I grew up was Courage bitter. There was also Courage Best and the strongest member of the family was Courage Directors, all brewed next to the river in the Courage brewery on Victoria Street in the centre of Bristol. I can still smell the amazing steamy aroma that always reminded me of cornflakes and hot milk erupting over the river in the 1970s and 80s when I lived and worked in the city. I’d stop and watch in awe as the teams of huge dray horses pulled the wagons loaded with barrels out of the brewery gates for delivery to the local pubs. My uncle was a tenant of a pub in Lawrence Weston in Bristol in the 1960s and 70s where I’d work in school holidays bottling up behind the bar in the mornings before opening time at 10.30 am. Courage Light Ale and Brown Ale were the popular bottled ales at the time delivered in wooden crates. A “Light Split” was a local favourite consisting of a bottle of Courage Light Ale topped up with a half pint of Courage Bitter in a “sleever” glass. Some preferred a “Brown Split” with a bottle of Courage Brown Ale instead. I can still smell the sour aroma of beer dregs in the pub cellar and hear the rattle of the empties in the crates as they were stacked for collection by the beer truck.

Fatbelly brewery in Lynbridge is how I imagine John Courage’s first brewery to have been. Next to a river in a small town supplying local pubs with quality hand crafted ale. When Gary offered me the job of his brewery “Apprentice” I jumped at it. I’ll always remember my first day and walking into the cellar under the Cottage Inn and being greeted by that same sour smell of beer dregs and the aroma of cornflakes and hot milk as the steam billowed from the kettle in the far corner of the brewery. Hops and foam were oozing from the top of the massive vessel and I could vaguely make out the shape of Gary in the steam stirring the syrupy liquid like the Sorcerer at his cauldron. Gary introduced me to the various malts and hops he uses and explained the brewing process and then said “let’s start with a bit of a clean up”. My brewing education had begun. I spent the next few days cleaning a pile of 50 or so casks with a jet wash, caustic soda and peracetic acid. I really was the Apprentice, learning the job from the bottom up but doing essential work which was all part of the brewing process. I hadn’t worked so hard for years and I was loving it.

Adventures of the FatBelly Apprentice

Visit to Carton Brewing Company in New Jersey – August 2017.

Visitors pay $5 for the tour including 5 “taster tokens” to use in the bar afterwards. Tasters are one third pint measures and customers can also pay to fill their growlers for takeaway.

Hops Brewery Phnom Penh November 2017

Superb set up with the bar built under the brew kit. Customers can buy a Beer Tower" to share with friends delivered to their table in the courtyard.

Check out the web site

Very cool beer garden to chillout a drink great craft beer

Himawari Microbrewery

Who'd've thought there would be two craft breweries in Phom Penh? The second one I found was The Himawari Microbrewery inside the Himawari Hotel.

Check out the beers on the menu. Unfortunately I didn't have time to try them all.

Very Nice beer garden to drink Craft Beers in.

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