My Life: Alex Barlow

Alex Barlow
Alex Barlow
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Yorkshire has just been named one of the top places to visit for beer lovers.

And one man who knows a thing or two about beer is Alex Barlow. It has been said that the Sheffield Master Brewer has the best boys’ job in the world – tasting beer.

Alex now lives in Sheffield, but was brought up in Chester and Zambia.

With over 30 years international brewing and retail trade experience, he’s a qualified Master Brewer working as a brewing consultant and presenter, sommelier and beer judge.

He is author of the All Beer Guide, winner of four international awards including World’s Best Beer Book.

But it all started from working as a bar and cellarman in his local pub, before studying for his two medical sciences degrees.

He learned his brewing skills at Bass’s breweries in Runcorn, Sheffield and Burton-on-Trent, becoming the youngest qualified Master Brewer, before moving roles to police beer quality in the pubs and clubs of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and North East England.

He became the first Englishman to manage a Czech brewery, with Staropramen in Prague, and developed two new beer brands while gaining a taste for European beers. He has brewed, sold and marketed some of the UK’s leading brands and champions quality craft brewing.

He now runs All Beer which works to promote the drinking of beer and produces the acclaimed guide for drinkers.

“The Guide poses 10 interactive challenges for you to test your taste buds. Five sachets of natural brewers’ barley and malts are included, so you can literally taste what makes the flavour in different beers,” explains Alex, whose mission is to change people’s perceptions about beer.

He wants to get more people, especially women, drinking a wider range of beers on more occasions.

He believes beer’s superior spectrum of flavours make it the ideal partner for food, yet beer is rarely matched with food in its natural home – the pub, let alone for fine dining.

He wants to change that.

Alex’s background as a brewer and events presenter with a focus on delivering experiences was the inspiration for including natural brewing ingredients in the pack. The malt sachets were relatively straightforward but hops posed a real headache.

“Brewers have to keep the hops vacuum-packed and refrigerated so they are fresh before use, otherwise they oxidise and start to smell cheesy. I wanted people to experience fresh hop aromas and eventually we developed a technique whereby the fresh essential oils were encapsulated on the scratch ‘n’ sniff card.

“It’s the first time the technique has been used in this way and our customers say it is very effective in getting the difference in aroma between hop varieties across.”

When he’s evaluating a beer for a brewer, Alex can spend up to 10 minutes just smelling it before he finally tastes.

“Much of the beer’s character is from the aroma, which can be hugely complex, or very light, either way you need the best equipment for the job.”

This is why he ,developed the Flavourmax tasting glass. “Thanks to its unique design features, beer will never taste the same again as it’s specially designed to enhance the flavour of every beer you taste.”

Thousands of years of beers

Ale is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced, dating back to at least the fifth millennium BC and recorded in the written history of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Chemical tests of ancient pottery jars reveal that beer was produced about 7,000 years ago in what is today Iran, and is one of the first-known biological engineering tasks to utilize the process of fermentation. More than 133bn litres are sold per year.