IBD's 138th anniversary

Theo Leadbeater, Brewer at AB InBev's Camden Town Brewery

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

I studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Manchester and my thought process on picking a career path can be simplified to: Chemical engineers produce things on a large scale. What’s the best thing you can produce on a large scale? Answer: Beer. Nuff said.

My first job was at Gipsy Hill Brewing Co. as a Brew Tech in a primarily packaging role, then to AB InBev’s Camden Town Brewery in Enfield as a Shift Brewer and, in May this year, I will be starting my new role as Brewing Shift Manager at Heineken’s Manchester brewery.  

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

I got involved with the IBD’s brewing learning material early, starting with the Foundation in Brewing course; then the General Certificate in Brewing; and now I am partway through my Diploma in Brewing. I signed up for the IBD’s Student Membership at the start of 2023. In truth, the main attraction was that the Student Membership was reasonably priced at £48 (this is not an ad) and I had already been interested in some of the IBD’s previous events.

Since becoming a member, I have visited a maltings, a hop farm, breweries in the UK and overseas, attended a brewing conference, and joined committee meetings for the IBD Southern Section as a committee member.

Getting involved with the IBD has been a great way to widen my network, develop my career, and to professionally show that I am passionate about beer to a prospective employer (without just saying I like to drink beer at the pub).

Can you share a highlight or memorable experience from your time as a member of the IBD so far?

Undoubtedly, my favourite experience of the IBD so far has been 2023’s European Study Tour to Czechia. The trip was only 3 days, but it packed a lot in: ticking off craft breweries as well as the awesome sites of Pilsner Urquell and Budvar!

But plot twist, the best part of the trip was… the people! We work in an industry full of passionate and interesting professionals that love their craft, and this trip was the perfect microcosm of that. The beer was also very good

How do you see the industry evolving in the coming years, and what opportunities or challenges do you anticipate?

With breweries facing a perfect storm of rising costs, customers reducing their spending and generally healthier lifestyles, sadly it seems inevitable that we will continue to see more breweries shutting down and others struggling.

However, I think the breweries with sustainability at the forefront of their agenda are best positioned to ride the storm and, from a chemical engineering perspective, it will be exciting to see what future technological advancements become more available to help breweries reduce their carbon emissions, water usage and waste.

With a fair bit of uncertainty in the industry, it seems apt to recall my mum’s reaction upon hearing that I wanted to be a brewer: “People will always need beer.” No arguing with that.

How do you stay updated with industry trends and advancements?

As previously mentioned, the sustainability side of brewing is now fully in the minds of companies and customers, and I have found the monthly BDI magazine has some good content around this: from industry announcements from companies to published journal articles.

Nowadays, it also seems that my phone will push every news article ever written about any brewery into my news feed. So, there is no escaping it at this point!

Are there any mentors or role models who have had a significant influence on your career journey?

Obviously, big thanks to the person who got me here today: my Uber driver.

And secondly, I would not have been nearly as involved in the IBD had it not been for the encouragement and opportunities I have received from, the legend, Steve Wilkinson (Secretary of the Southern section). Steve has been there, done that, and got the t-shirt, and he has been a great person to chat to about the brewing industry, career stuff and everything else.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to share about your experience in the industry? We welcome any additional thoughts, anecdotes, or reflections you'd like to contribute.

Drink responsibly.