Get to know our Head Brewer

Since 2008, Fergus Fitzgerald has been the Head Brewer here at Adnams, overseeing the creation of both old favourites and exciting new tipples. Want to know the secret to getting big tastes with low alcohol? Or find out how our independent spirit shapes the way we work? There’s no doubt Fergus is the man to ask. And, luckily for us, he just loves to talk beer!

How did you become Head Brewer at Adnams?

I studied Biotechnology, which led to a lab job at Fuller’s in London, where I found I loved the mix of science and creativity. In 2004, a job came up at Adnams. I really liked Southwold, the beer and the company. So, it was too good to miss. The Head Brewer at the time was Mike Powell-Evans. When he retired, I took over.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

It’s like being a Head Chef. You come up with ideas, then try to make them a reality. But using natural, raw materials that aren’t always the same. This can make brewing feel like organised chaos! Maintaining a level of consistency, year-in year-out, while also adding new dishes to the menu, is an interesting – but fun – challenge.

Do you think being an independent brewery influences how you work?

It means we’re free to take some risks and try different things. Not just new flavours, but whole new areas. We were the first brewery in the U.K. to have a distillery on-site. That was pioneering. As was building our warehouse on a sustainable model. And the new brew house was packed with features no one had at the time. Maybe, because we’re a little out on a limb, we’re more independently minded? Or maybe it’s still being a family company; which means everyone’s thinking longer term.

You’ve collaborated with other, similarly independent, brewers over the years. How does that process work?

It’s generally as simple as meeting someone with a mutual admiration for beer and deciding to brew together. But the people we’re working with this year, we’ve known for some time. To celebrate the 10th birthday of our best-selling Ghost Ship 4.5%, we’re collaborating with four British breweries, creating some unique brews based on our hauntingly good pale ale. The first one is a mash-up between Ghost Ship and Camden Hells, combining both recipes to create something new.

Some of the biggest developments in recent years have involved low-alcohol drinks. How is brewing low-alcohol different?

It all started with Sole Star, which was 2.7% abv. But we always wanted to go further. So, three years ago we dropped it to 0.9% abv. At the time, we used a traditional method of restricted fermentation. But that meant the body of the beer wasn’t quite where we wanted it to be. The reverse osmosis procedure is much less common, as it’s more expensive. But, when we started looking at a low-alcohol Ghost Ship, we knew it was the only way to preserve the flavours. After a few trials in Germany, we became the first brewer in the U.K. to use this new technology.

Soon you’ll be launching Wild Wave 0.5% How did that come about?

After the success of Ghost Ship 0.5%, people were asking for more low-alcohol options. We had already done low-alcohol wine, so cider seemed like the next challenge. Aston Manor, who make Wild Wave for us, had already trialled low-alcohol cider, with impressive results. We did some blind taste tests, and no one picked it out as low-alcohol.

Finally, what’s your favourite brew you’ve made?

I’m not sure I could pick one. As with most things to do with beer, it’s often a case of who you’re drinking with! At the moment I am enjoying our hazy New England IPA.

How do we brew?

Fergus explains how we make Adnams beers below!