From hops to rose petals: Genevieve has a taste for life as a master brewer

Monday 28 November 2016

From her days as a self-proclaimed science geek at Leeds Girls’ High School to life as a master brewer and her part in the ground-breaking craft beer revolution, Genevieve Upton (OG04) brought her love of ale to life in an entertaining talk to the London branch of the Old Girls’ Club.

Speaking at the club’s October meeting Genevieve described her career in brewing and recounted memories from her time at Leeds Girls’ High School.

As well as being a master brewer for Marston’s Brewery, she is a beer sommelier, creates mixed packs of classic ales, develops menus and has begun curating an online beer shop. She also regularly gives talks on the profession, from how the drink is made to its history as a female-dominated industry until 1915.

Genevieve’s love affair with beer started when she was a 14-year-old schoolgirl in a careers session at LGHS.

“For a long time I believed I would become an optician”, she told the London branch meeting of the Old Girls’ Club. “But when this psychometric test came back to me the number one suggestion it made for my future was as a brewer.

“I turned to the teacher and said ‘That’s ridiculous, that’s not a real job – plus, I’m a girl and you don’t get girl brewers’. But obviously it lodged itself somewhere in the back of my mind.”

So, after being inspired by her science teacher Mrs Christine Jagger, Genevieve went on to study microbiology at university before becoming a graduate brewer. Since then, her training has taken her everywhere: from mashing barley and tank cleaning to the coalmines of Leicester.

Her role has recently shifted from quality management – checking to see if each load of beer tastes right as it’s moved between tanks – to flavour development.

She loves her new role where she is free to experiment with different blends and admitted that there is nothing she likes more than breaking the industry’s rules.

“The Germans laid down a law 500 years ago that beer could only be brewed with barley, hops and water and that became the norm”, she explained. “I like to play with herbs and spices, so the current craft beer revolution has been great for me because the rules have been thrown out.”

She named a garam masala pale ale as the best she’s ever made, adding that a week earlier, she had created a Turkish delight beer infused with rose petal.

Her least favourite creation is a hot cross bun beer with cinnamon and lemon peel that she made for a supermarket last Easter. She may have disliked the taste herself but concedes it flew off the shelves, noting: “Social media has a lot to answer for!”

But no matter how wacky she is with her flavours, she admitted there’s nothing quite like the beer she grew up drinking.

She told the audience: “To this day Black Sheep is the only beer that I can’t describe. For me, it tastes like the top of Ilkley Moor, like heather and blue skies. It tastes like Yorkshire.”

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