Black Sheep Brewery launches own apprenticeship scheme

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ALAN DUNN, the head brewer at Black Sheep Brewery in Masham, says he never gets tired of trying the labours of his toils.

“There’s a myth that if you’re making chocolate or brewing beer that you get sick of it, but I never get tired of trying the beer I brew,” he said.

He’s worked as a brewer since 1977 first at Ruddles, before joining Black Sheep in the late 1990s. Now the company’s looking to the next generation of brewers to its flock taking on the first ever apprentices, described as lambs by the PR company in a run of inevitable sheep puns.

In association with Askham Bryan College, they’ve taken on Nicholas Norris, 22, from Thirn, and Joshua Lacey, 19, from Easingwold. Both are studying for a Food and Drink Qualification Level 2 Diploma For Proficiency in Brewing and Industry Skills that takes 18 months to complete. They get 37 hours’ a week work experience at Black Sheep, seven of those hours are taken up by training.

Mr Dunn said: “It’s an ideal opportunity for young people to progress up the career ladder by becoming apprentices. We’ve never had to do it before as we’ve recruited through word of mouth.

“We’re mindful if the future of the business in the long term and I won’t be here forever, so it’s good to look towards potential successors. Hopefully they will carry on and develop new ideas for the brewery.”

Thankfully, he adds, there are more women in the industry whereas 20 years ago, it was a very different picture. “I have three brewers working beneath me and one if them is a woman, Astrid,” he said.

He said at their level - the company has 98 employees - it’s still possible to “be creative, try different things and push boundaries sometimes. We’re given a free reign.”

In a departure from their usual ales, they’ve developed a brew to celebrate the Tour de France, called Belo. “It’s the French word for bicycle,” Mr Dunn explained. “It’s quite a light, pale beer with orange peel and coriander in it.”

Rob Theakston, managing director at Black Sheep Brewery, said: “It is a significant landmark for Black Sheep Brewery, and is something that we are really excited about and committed to.

“Our apprenticeship scheme will provide Nicholas and Joshua with real opportunities to grow within the business as we nurture them throughout their courses, and I would like to welcome them both to their roles.”

The Black Sheep Brewery in Masham made its first beer in 1992 after being built up by Paul Theakston, whose family had brewed in the area for six generations.