This man ditched top IT job to pursue passion for brewing and he couldn’t be happier
by Ben Waldron, for the Burton Mail
Jon Archer is now the head brewer of The Boot Beer Company in Repton
Jon Archer had a good job in IT but he decided to turn his back on the rat race and pursue his life-long passion of brewing beer.
He is now the head brewer at up-and-coming Repton brewery and will soon be celebrating one year in charge of The Boot Beer Company, connected to The Boot Inn, in Boot Hill, Repton, after taking over the reigns in May last year.
The brewery has gone from strength to strength since Mr Archer took on the job, even winning the coveted Silver Champion award in the Champion Winter Beer of Britain competition in March.
The micro-brewery currently produces eight different beers. These are an English strong ale, Boot Beast, an Amercian pale ale, Reboot, English special bitter, Boot IPA, Tuffer’s old a porter and a best bitter called Boot Bitter.
It also brews Golden Boot, a pale ale, Clod Hopper, a golden ale and Repton Cross, an English bitter, all being served at a number of pubs in the nearby area, including The Dragon, in Willington and the Spread Eagle, in Etwall.
Mr Archer, 52, from Lichfield, says he has added ‘consistency, quality and process’ to the brewery in the last ten months.
He said: “I spent 33 years working in the IT industry. I was head of business operations for a global IT company.
“That involved all sorts of things like managing a very substantial business.
“I got to the stage in my life where my passion was brewing. Brewing is what I do, I’ve got a really elaborate kit at home; it’s a small-scale version of what we use here, and commercially.
“I’ve been doing that for about 20 years. I got to the stage in my life where the opportunity arose where the role was advertised here, and for me it was perfect for what I wanted to do.
“If I carried on working in IT I was going to run out of runway; I’m not going to take off and realise my dreams of getting into brewing.
“Here was particularly interesting as the role of the brewer was everything, end-to-end. So it was full control of the brewery. The owners, they are very much about the pub side.
“For them, it’s the case of putting the brewery in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing and giving them free range. That was a big thing for me.”
He told the Burton Mail how a store-bought brew-your-own beer kit was what initially sparked his passion in brewing and went on to turn into his full time role, and his passion.
Mr Archer continued: “As a lot of people have done, as a student I piled into Boots and picked up a brew your own lager kit. Threw a bit of sugar in to make it extra strong; I brewed it and it turned out okay.
“It wasn’t bad, it was drinkable but it was a long way from where I wanted to be. My expectations were quite high at how it was going to turn out, but in reality it was a slight step away.
“Over the years, I’ve been quite creative, I like to cook and working in kitchens is similar to brewing, so that’s been inside. Working in the IT industry uses a very different skill and mindset.
“The levels of creativity there is less needed, so this is a real switch to do this.”
Another change made by Mr Archer in just under a year is the recruitment of apprentice, in James Bevan.
The 21-year-old, from Ashbourne, explained that a career in brewing is ‘definitely’ how he sees his future, having joined The Boot Beer Company in December.
He said: “I’ve always had an interest in alcohol and brewing. I had a big interest in chemistry and I did maths. It didn’t go so well so I thought I would do something that I’d enjoy.
“At home I’ve always done vodka infusions and trying all different flavours. So I’ve been interested in producing spirits and stuff like that. And then I had a friend at university who was really into his craft ale and got me into that, so I thought I’d give it a go.
And moving forward the pair have revealed there could be new brews on the menu, but they are still in the experimental stage.
James said: “We want to try doing some more ‘out there’ brews. We’ve got a few things in the running. Some will just be experiments, so if they don’t go well then they won’t be released.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, the brewers are planning on launching was they claim will be ‘an alternative to Guinness’, by launching a similar dry stout to the immensely popular Irish drink. This could launch in June.
They are also setting up a number of ‘trial’ beers, made in smaller batches.
Mr Archer explained: “We’ve also launched a range of pilot developments. We call them Boot camp beers. So they’re small batch beers or things that are very new, and interesting.
“For example, we’ve done a larger. We’ve done a New England IPA. We’re putting those on, as well as the cask beers. If any of those generate a lot of interest then we may go on to brew a full batch and bring it into production.
“For us, it’s a new way of trialling beer styles and presenting them to our customers, because there’s an ever increasing demand for new styles, new tastes, particularly in the craft beer market.
“Customers are demanding more of a variety in the beers that they receive. For us, it’s more difficult to change our cask beers, we’ve got a core range that our customers regularly drink so it’s difficult to take them off and introduce new ones.
“The boot camp offering is a way we can do that on a small basis.”
All of The Boot Beer Company’s many different beers are brewed on site, directly behind the popular The Boot pub, in Repton.
The Boot combines a bar, restaurant, a hotel with nine rooms and the micro-brewery to create a homely place to eat, drink and sleep in the Derbyshire village.
The 17th century inn, one of three run by Bespoke Inns was awarded as the AA’s English pub of the year for 2016, 2017.
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