Some people measure their career in monetary terms, others put it into context by calculating their years of service. Peter Corcoran measures his in pints.
‘I must have brewed millions of beers,’ says Mr Corcoran (52), who is the quality control manager at Liberation Brewery and has worked for the company for 27 years.
Most recently he added to those liquid millions when he oversaw the brewing of 4,000 pints of a special ale to celebrate the upcoming royal wedding.
The Meghan Sparkle Celebration Ale – With a Hint of Ginger – is to be launched by Liberation on 30 April in anticipation of Prince Harry and Megan Markle tying the knot on 19 May at Windsor Castle.
‘We’ve applied a hint of ginger to the product so it evokes the fiery curls of Prince Harry,’ he says.
How well it sells will depend in part on the spring weather, whether the wave of patriotic fervour that normally accompanies such royal occasions breaks over the British Isles – and if the beverage tickles the taste buds.
Part of Mr Corcoran’s remit includes tasting duties. It is, he says, ‘the best part of the job’.
‘Tasting is important – it’s probably one of the most important set of tests we do. You can do all the quality analysis on a product, but the final test is the one that will tell you if it tastes good or whether you need to change something.’
Consuming alcoholic beverages all day long would not be conducive to high productivity and Mr Corcoran says he and his colleagues never actually swallow the beer.
‘We taste each batch three or four times during the brewing process, but we don’t swallow it. You pick up the aromas and the bitterness of the beer just on “mouth feel”.’
Aside from tasting, Mr Corcoran – who works in a team of six which includes the head brewer, Pat Dean – also oversees health and safety at the brewery along with various tests throughout the production process.
‘The role involves taking samples of beer for analysis at various stages of fermentation, conditioning and packaging,’ explains Mr Corcoran, who lives in First Tower. ‘My main role is to ensure the beer is of the best quality and in the best condition for the consumer.
‘We have a set of tests we carry out for each batch of beer we produce, including checking the CO2 level to make sure there’s a nice level of bubbles in the product, and we carry out various microbiology tests so there is no cross-contamination of bacteria.’ Liberation Brewery produce approximately 20 different varieties of beer, including seasonal specials such as their Christmas ale. Mr Corcoran says that among their most popular year-round offerings are Liberation Ale, Liberation IPA, Herm Gold, the craft beer Liberation Pale Ale, and Mary Ann Best.
All of these products are made at the brewery on Longueville Road in St Saviour, where they have two brewing ‘plants’. The larger plant has four stainless steel vats which, Mr Corcoran says, can produce approximately 10,000 pints at a time, and a smaller plant next to it which produces 1,600 litres – 2,000 pints.
This plant is also used to create Liberation’s seasonal varieties of beer – and it is currently being put to use to brew their new Wave Rider range of surf-inspired alcoholic beverages for the summer, including one called Point Break.
Ask him about the flavours of specific beers and he speaks with the same verve and passion that marked Jilly Goolden out as a creative wine-tasting connoisseur on British television in the Nineties.
‘With the Point Break, which we’ve brewed for launch next month, it’s got a mosaic hop in there which gives it a really nice pineapple, mango, tropical fruit flavour to it,’ he tells me. ‘For Liberation IPA we give it a nice spicy aroma, whereas we use citrus hops for the Liberation Ale, which is more of an orange, zesty flavour.’
Brewing beer may not be rocket science, but it can be a complex process and Mr Corcoran certainly knows his stuff.
‘Liberation Group makes its own yeast which has got its own genetic coding. Its coding is low-sulphur-forming so you don’t get any sulphur notes in the beer,’ adds Mr Corcoran, who before moving to Jersey in 1989 undertook a higher education chemistry course in his native Ireland for three years.
Dublin-born, he grew up in Ireland’s Lake District. He says his appreciation for beer was cultivated as a 14-year-old.
‘I was probably one of the youngest people to pour pints in Ireland. I worked in a hotel pub on evenings and weekends so I got beer in my blood from an early age,’ he laughs.
Later he undertook a three-month placement with a pharmaceutical company making aspirin tablets, but found the job ‘rather boring’.
He adds: ‘A friend of mine was managing a pub in Jersey and he invited me over to work the bar. After that I did bar work at a hotel in town for a season and I’d dress up as Jambo the Durrell gorilla on party nights. I’d serve beers behind the bar as Jambo and I also did cabaret dressed as the gorilla – it was great fun.’
He had intended to return to the Emerald Isle to continue his chemistry studies – ‘but a job came up in the JEP as a lab technician in Ann Street Brewery so I applied and I got it’, he explains.
The brewery, established in 1871, adopted the name of the street in 1905. In 2002 CI Traders took over the operation and in 2004 it moved premises to its current location on Longueville Road in St Saviour. Four years later the newly formed Liberation Group bought the brewery and its affiliated businesses, including wine and spirits retailer Victor Hugo.
Today, Liberation Group is one of the leading drinks companies in the Channel Islands and it has made significant strides into the UK market, having bought south west pub chain Butcombe Brewery – which brews a range of beers sold across Somerset, as well as Bristol and the Cotswolds – in 2015.
That acquisition means Liberation has a total of 116 freehold pubs – 44 in the south west of England, 43 pubs in Jersey and 29 in Guernsey – and the brewery also supplies UK chain JD Wetherspoon.
‘Last year we produced and sent over about 750 casks of ale for Wetherspoon.’
As you might imagine, Mr Corcoran is fulsome in his praise of Liberation beers and he himself helped create Liberation Ale, which he says is his top tipple.
‘It’s my favourite. We used refreshing, lights malts and we ensured it contained a zesty, orange flavour.’
While traditional ales will always take pride of place in the affections of beer aficionados, Mr Corcoran predicts the craft beer market in the Channel Islands will grow.
‘We’ve already responded by brewing and kegging beers like Liberation Pale Ale and Liberation Blond Craft Beer,’ says Mr Corcoran, who makes sure to broaden his beer horizons when he goes on holiday.
‘When you’re away I think it’s important to try the local beer. I try these beers abroad and think, “would it be to Jersey’s liking?”’
He found the Island very much to his tastes the first time he set foot in the water with his snorkelling gear.
‘I went snorkelling down at Ouaisné and the combination of seeing the reflection of the sun on the white sand and a shoal of white bait coming in made me think I could have been in the Caribbean.’
Having found the island of his dreams, he met his future wife, fellow Dubliner Fiona, in Jersey on an evening out. The couple have a six-year-old daughter called Violet.
Mr Corcoran is also a keen runner and competes in the Jersey Marathon. Although he does not expect to win the gold medal, his team at Liberation have won several prizes in the past in what is dubbed the Olympics of the trade, the Brewing Industry International Awards.
‘The awards we’ve won serve as a true testament of the quality of the product that comes out of our brewery,’ he adds.