I have spent the past two and a half years working alongside my brother, establishing Dig Brew Co. & Dough. Prior to this, I studied Physics for 4 years at the University of Bristol; a city in which I fell in love with, especially with its vibrant independent scene. Whilst I enjoyed my time at uni and the challenge of studying Physics, my passion lay within the catering industry. From a young age, I have always enjoyed working and growing up I was a swimming teacher and lifeguard. Alongside my studies over the years, I have been in bar work, involved in events and pop-up cocktail bars. In 2017, during my final year at uni, my older brother, Oli, founded Dig Brew Co. - a craft brewery in Digbeth, Birmingham. Naturally, I was involved in as much as my studies would allow and then once graduating, I moved to Birmingham and took on full-time employment helping establish Dig Brew Co. as a now nationally renowned brewery and curating Dough, the in-house pizzeria that collectively makes one of Birmingham's most exciting and talked about venues.
I am sociable and light hearted and will find any excuse to enjoy good food in good company. I like to support local independents and having committed to a life of indulgence I try to keep active and enjoy spending time outdoors. I’m independent but thrive amongst others; enjoy exploring different cultures, learning new things and sharing my passions. Over lockdown I have spent my free time reading bread and pastry, as well as learning to roll fresh pasta using my homemade mattarello and tagliere. I have also been making ice-cream and supplying my family throughout the pandemic; with the dolcelatte & honey ripple ice-cream receiving the most attention.
Having not attended catering school I like to do my research and read food theory as much as I can. I’m fuelled by new knowledge and learning which brings inspiration into all aspects of my work. I find a lot of value working with my hands and really appreciate the hard work and craftsmanship that comes with the industry. The past few years have really solidified my ambitions and given me direction in my career. I’m looking forward to bringing the creativity and discipline I have developed over these past years to the next step in my career and learning.
Dig Brew Co. is a young craft brewery & taproom in Digbeth, Birmingham. Founded by my brother, Oli, it has since grown into a nationally renowned craft brewery, producing ambitious, modern beer with a taproom & pizzeria, Dough, that collectively make one of Birmingham's most exciting and talked about venues.
Naturally, I was involved from the get go and alongside my final year of studying helped refurbish the warehouse and build the taproom. After graduating in Summer 2018, I moved to Birmingham and took on full-time employment. I am very proud of everything we achieved over the past few years; most of all, the launch of Dough, the in-house pizzeria and as one of the winners of 2018’s Raise The Bar competition which showcases the UKs best new breweries.
I have been integral in building and leading a team of over 20 staff members across a range of roles and disciplines. Having responsibility across all facets of the business I learned a lot about how I work in managing my own time, the value and respect for the team around me and my responsibility to guide and empower them. It’s a role that fall naturally into, thoroughly respect and find very fulfilling.
Being a young business with limited resources, it highlighted the importance of being open minded, in having to adapt and draw upon individuals skill sets to overcome all of the challenges we have faced. Our roles required us to not only take lead of our own departments, but take responsibility across the whole business. I worked closely with my brother in management and financial direction and was responsible for organising staff, payroll, recruitment & HR. Alongside these responsibilities, I curated and ran the in-house pizzeria Dough. All of this gave me the opportunity to explore and develop a wide skill set and despite at times being very stressful, made it all the more rewarding.
Brewery & Manufacturing
With the taproom open to the public from Thursday to Saturday, it meant that we had to be rigorous and disciplined in our organisation to ensure we maintained efficient production within the limited days of the week. Production was led by Andy, the head brewer, but as the core of the business required all of our input and collaboration.
Despite the somewhat rudimentary brewing kit, our approach to brewing was to match that of those leading the industry. Driven to produce beer worthy of top tier status and to one day be considered amongst the likes of Cloudwater, Omnipollo and The Veil (just to mention a few), meant we were hypercritical in our methodology. We consistently analysed all of our brews, throughout each stage of production through to retail. Producing a wide range of modern beers; from pastry stouts to fruited sours and hop focused pale ales, it gave us a breadth of learning that matched our ambitions. With this commitment and keen eye for quality, it meant securing contracts with the leading hop distributors, ensuring access to the freshest and best quality ingredients.
Given my background in Physics I was able to understand and meaningfully contribute to discussions on brewing science. Alongside this, I was able to draw on many parallels with my work in the kitchen as it required meticulous organisation and preparation to ensure smooth brew days and adhere to the strict brewing schedule. It was a very physically demanding process with brew days often being over 12 hours long. Due the sensitivity and value of the product with an average turnaround of a month, meant that we were diligent in our processes and cleaning. These efforts were awarded with 5 stars in the brewery for Food Hygiene & Safety.
Brand Development & Marketing
At Dig Brew we were all very focused and aware of our online presence and image and put huge amounts of resources into our branding and marketing. There was always a great focus on storytelling and we were always very aware of the narrative we were selling. Beer and pizza are two things that are very well branded and marketable and we enjoyed exploring these as a medium for storytelling. Being so important in the craft beer and food industry, we always aimed to match the quality of the product itself with strong branding and imagery. This added depth and character allowed for richer storytelling and given that the majority of our products went through our taproom, it was even more important that we pay close attention to our social media as the only consistent platform for national exposure. Throughout all this, I have spent a lot of time creating and managing content for the business socials. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter were the main platforms but I had also been involved in a number of podcasts, as well as a featured article on The Guardian. Outside of this, we also frequently worked local events, with our unique pop-up bars; one replicating the entrance to Jurassic Park and another a witches tree (a set piece of an Opera hosted in the brewery).
Over the past couple of years we have also expanded our network through collaborations with other breweries and local businesses. Given that the Midlands craft beer and independent scene is still young, we found a lot of support and great value in working closely with other local independents. My favourite collaboration was with ‘Infinite Opera Company’ where we built a stage and tiered seating into the brewery and hosted ‘Besse’ - a modern opera staged over three nights that told the story of a young female brewer in the middle ages during the black death. Other notable collabs include work with Michelin Starred chef Brad Carter from Carters of Moseley as well as a collaboration with Shepherd’s, a barber’s in Birmingham, challenging toxic masculinity within the industries.
In 2018 we won Raise The Bar and we were fortunate to attend ‘We are Beers’ craft beer festivals in Edinburgh, Bristol, London and Birmingham in the following Summer. This was a great milestone for us and on the back of this national exposure, we were determined and ready to solidify our status as one of the UKs most exciting young breweries. As we headed into Autumn-Winter 2019, our attention turned back to the taproom and as my confidence and ambitions grew within the kitchen, I focused on curating Dough.
Throughout my time at Dig Brew, I had the responsibility of managing the kitchen. In its infancy, named ‘Practice Pizza’ - it was exactly that. Having no prior experience working in a kitchen and only my home cooking eagerness to go off, I spent the first couple of months watching just about every pizza documentary there was whilst learning how to handle dough. As my confidence and ability grew, it ignited my ambitions within the industry and as a chef.
In having to balance my responsibilities elsewhere in the business, I Initially kept things small and simple. The pizza was more traditional; fresh ingredients from the local market, small pies and classic flavours meant that prep was minimal and I could focus more of my attention on my dough development. In the early days, I didn’t have access to large amounts of refrigeration and it meant I baked ambiently. With conditions in the warehouse drastically fluctuating I learned a lot about dough management in having to make alterations in my processes to account for the changes in the environment.
During the first year, I managed prep myself and had a couple of students lending hands during service on the weekend. We started getting some great feedback and a little name for ourselves locally. It worked well, as I could focus on my other duties outside of the kitchen during the week and then hop into the kitchen for service on the weekends. During this year, we focused our efforts into creating noise within the craft beer world. We increased capacity and took the brewing to the next level. From this success came amplified popularity in the taproom. Logistically this meant me having to be really organised with my workload and I was responsible for an increasing number of staff. Alongside this, the kitchen had become a great hit locally. Through this I built confidence in my ability to manage as well as taking lead in the kitchen. Naturally, the time came to take things to the next level and create something in its own right that matched the ambitions and creativity of the brewing and satisfied my ambitions as a chef. I took full direction over the project and on October 4th 2019, Dough was launched.
Development & Creative Direction
When we were developing the narrative and look of Dough, we explored the more traditional styles of pizzerias from the classic Neapolitan through to the Italian-American slice shops, grandma pies, deep dish and so on. And whilst great in their own sense, they all had strong historical foundations and cultural heritage that I didn’t really have a connection to. Personally, I enjoyed eating and making NY ‘slice shop’ styles of pizza the most as it gave me freedom to be a bit more adventurous with the toppings and matched my personality in the kitchen. Not wanting to just mimic this style and fake the heritage, I instead drew upon my own ‘traditions’, creative interests and influences. I have always enjoyed fantasy, my brother was an art student and we’ve always been creatively minded. It was also important that we matched the attention to detail and identity of the brewery.
The most important thing to me was that it was kept fun and exciting. At the time, Birmingham didn’t have much in the way of great pizza and I saw the gap in the market for a ‘slice shop’ style pizzeria. The pies increased to 20 inches and we offered them by the slice or as whole pies half & half. This resonated with me as a chef and also matched the vibe and spectacle we aimed to create in the taproom. Channelled all this and drawing upon the creative history of the brewery, Dough’s image was of a medieval, fairytale pizza parlour that carried the flag of putting tasty stuff on bread, an ancient practise that I’m sure was around far before the birth of pizza as we now know it. The menu, designed as chapters in an old illuminated manuscript, respected the classics but also offered people pizza that they had never had before. This was great for me as a chef as it not only allowed me to develop new cooking techniques but also added depth and complexity to preparation, management and service.
With the expansion of Dough, we were able to offer full-time and part-time positions in the kitchen. Given my lack of prior kitchen experience, I wanted to hire someone driven by food and with time in industry. Fortunately, I was gifted with Nat, who had cheffing experience that was invaluable to me. She taught me discipline and levels of organisation I didn’t know existed. I saw the value of working in the kitchen with someone who was driven by the food, understood what it took and always matched my efforts.
I liked to maintain a professional and light-hearted environment, especially as we worked long service hours in an open kitchen. I enjoyed teaching people the craft and having gone through it myself also liked to give them the freedom to explore and learn things for themselves. I kept prepared, organised and professional as service could often get manic but despite this, it often felt casual as we all got on very well together, respected each other and remained focussed.
I encouraged the team to lead service at times and we often swapped stations. This way we understood and respected each of the roles within the kitchen. I made sure we were thorough and diligent in our food safety, management and close down. I matched this commitment outside of service when managing everything from procurement to the finances. I maintained spreadsheets organising finances, menu costings, allergens, stock control, staff training and cleaning schedules. I was very proud when these efforts were awarded with 5 stars for Food Hygiene & Safety.
The menu was kept small but exciting with chapters changing seasonally. Over the years, I have experimented with a number of different dough recipes. I always worked with high quality Italian flours and in the early days, when the pizza was more traditional we were working with dough up to 70% hydrations. I experimented with sourdough at times and wish to devote more of my time to this practise moving forwards. Once we built the walk-in fridge, it meant that I had more control over the temperature throughout fermentation. With the launch of Dough and the 20 inch pizzas, I found a sweet spot of 60-62.5% hydration, which held up better to more toppings and longer pizza making times. We used low amounts of yeast and long fermentation times - in total the dough was proved cold for 36-48 hours which aided the flavour, nutrition and digestibility of the dough.
Alongside the pizza, we served a number of sides with the dough balls trumping all. During the summer, we also served beer floats and soft serve flavoured with our fruited sours or pastry stouts. My other pastry work covered fresh yeasted doughnuts and baked New York style cheesecakes. You can find images of all the food in the ‘portfolio’.
Outside of brewing hours, the taproom and kitchen was open Thursday 5-10pm, Fridays 4pm-Midnight & Saturdays 12pm-Midnight. We served food till late, often till sold out and were easily hitting 200 covers on a busy Saturday. Due to our limited opening hours and budget we didn’t have the luxury of many kitchen staff. This highlighted the necessity of a strong and reliable team as the shifts weren’t easy and it was often complicated to organise staff a well deserved weekend off. Despite this, the launch of Dough was greatly received and brought with it new customers who were now coming for the food and not just for the beer. It was warming to see the support from the community and we constantly received excellent feedback which made the exhausting service all worthwhile.
The past two years have really been a rollercoaster and required my full commitment. I have gained invaluable insight into running a business and has inspired me to pursue a career in the industry. It has instilled in me a dedicated and professional work ethic, built strong foundations and given me the confidence leading into the next chapter of my life.
Over the past few months, the business has undergone a giant reform to adapt to and survive the covid-19 pandemic. With the closure of the taproom and pizzeria, all resources went into bottling beer and the launch of the online webshop. The success of the webshop and its support nationally, has established an exciting and new avenue of income for the business. Plans to maintain this national demand after lockdown means expansion of the brewery and reevaluating the space in the taproom. In short, this means that for the foreseeable future the taproom & pizzeria is not opening in the capacity to what it once was. Alongside this, the increase in brewing capacity, distribution and manufacturing meant the business taking on additional investment and requiring further commitment from myself.
Lockdown granted me the time to take a step back and reevaluate. With the expansion of the business, and the increasing responsibility outside of the kitchen, I felt like I could no longer commit wholly to the role as my true passion and intentions lay outside of the Midlands and brewing industry. Given my close friendship and strong working relationship with Nat in the kitchen, I felt it was the right time to pass on the reins, explore avenues elsewhere and make new friends in the industry. Birmingham has never really inspired me as a place to live and having spent the majority of my free time over the past few years visiting friends in London, I am seizing the opportunity to move in with a couple of my close friends at the start of August. Now that we are coming out of lockdown and the industry is reopening I am eager to start the next part of my career with the hopes of joining an excited team ready to make up for the time in isolation.
Over the past couple years of working in a brewery and pizzeria, I have gained an affinity for working with dough and all things yeasted. Having recently moved to London, I am excited to explore London's creative culture and it social food and drink scene to create new relationships in the community. I love connecting with people and would love to expand my creative portfolio. I 'm looking for a role that connects me to ambitious and creative individuals, where I can build upon the skills I have learned helping establish Dig Brew Co & Dough as I enjoy creating unique and exciting products and experiences that warrant the attention of their consumers. Having said that, my experience also makes me suited to a role in HR and management. I am versatile, organised and happy to lend my hand to most things as there is so much I wish to learn. I work hard and I want to have the confidence and ability to command the attention and respect of those at the top. I always try to match the enthusiasm of my colleagues around me and I am looking to join a strong, committed and ambitious team. I hope my previous colleagues would agree that I am a reliable and refreshing addition to the team, with my aim to create a lighthearted and professional working environment so to remain focused, level headed and performing under pressure.
It’s been a wonderful journey supporting my brother and a privilege to be given that amount of responsibility and freedom. I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past few years, about how I work and what motivates me and I am ready to take the next step in my career. This portfolio documents the start on my journey into the industry and I hope it expresses the creativity, passion and dedication that I bring to my work.
If you think I would be a good fit for your team or have any questions, please get in touch via my email or you can call me on 07807514749. I would love to hear of any opportunities opening up.