IBD's 138th anniversary

Brian Eaton, Life Fellow of the IBD

Could you please introduce yourself briefly and share how you started working in the drinks industry? 

Coming through University taking Chemical Engineering, I had no great wish to be a brewer or distiller. I wanted to be an oil man. Having worked for Shell Research for 18 months before University, I thought I stood a good chance but in the year that I graduated, Shell took no chemical engineers and ICI took only three, instead of their usual one hundred.  

So, I had to look about and Allied Breweries, who were number one brewer in the UK, offered me a position as a Production Management Trainee, which included a year’s MSc course in Malting and Brewing Science at Birmingham University. As luck would have it, a few weeks after accepting the job with Allied Breweries, I was offered a job as a Drilling Engineer for Anglo American in Caracas, Venezuela, but I had made my choice and one that I have never regretted. 

What I did not know until many years later was that there was brewing in my family history. My great great grandfather, George Eaton, founded the Northgate Brewery in Chester and it was later passed on to his son and grandson, both Peter Eaton. The brewery eventually became part of Greenall Whitley of Warrington and closed in 1956. 

When did you become a member of the IBD, and what attracted you to become a member? 

I was now a practicing brewer and there were two industry bodies at the time back in 1971 – The Institute of Brewing (IOB) and the Incorporated Brewers’ Guild (IBG). The IOB was full of Lab chemists and academics and was quite an aloof body. Having the MSc qualified me for entry but folk without an academic qualification had to take an exam called the Associate Membership Exam (AME), and they had to pass in order to gain entry. The AME was later to become the Diploma in Brewing. The IOB also published the Journal which at the time was full of hop chemistry research and other topics which was of little interest to me, although of course it did lead on to the introduction of all the hop products.  

I relinquished by IOB membership in favour of the IBG which was a lot more relevant to my career: they published a very readable magazine called The Brewer, ran training courses and seminars, represented the brewer as a profession and held friendly Dinners. 

I moved with the Company to Scotland in 1978 and joined the Scottish Section IBG Committee and took the role of Chairman in 1985-86. Being on a Section Committee is something that I would highly recommend for although there is work to be done, you are totally involved with the running of the Section with great opportunities for networking. 

The IOB set the examinations but ran no training courses for these exams and that became an important role for the IBG. I guess it was inevitable that the two bodies would eventually merge in 2000 since it was difficult for the industry to continue to support both. After a couple of false starts, the name of The Institute of Brewing and Distilling was settled. 

Can you share any memorable experiences or moments as a member of the IBD? 

Although I spent three years working in England as Head Brewer and Chief Engineer at Tetley’s Brewery in Leeds, I retained my membership of the Scottish Section and served as Treasurer for 14 years and Dinner Secretary for 18 years. I was Chairman in 2003-04. 

Some of the most memorable times for me and a real benefit of being an IBD member have been: 

  • the visits to industry sites which would normally be closed to the public. 
  • organising and attending Section study tours
  • involvement with the Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference as the “booze organiser” 
  • pushing the number of Scottish Section Dinner attendees up to 540 
  • squeezing in a Section Dinner in October 2020 between Covid lockdowns 
  • face-to-face training for Diploma in Distilling and General Certificate in Distilling exams since 2000. 
  • developing training materials for brewing and distilling 
  • celebrating the success of candidates who have passed their exams 
  • enjoying the company of industry colleagues.