Phil Rolls out the Barrels; BEER RICHARD FLETCHER
Byline: RICHARD FLETCHER
PHIL is inside a mash tun when I call. "Give me two minutes - I'll just climb out." He's in the middle of a brew down at his Black Paw Brewery in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, and if he wasn't doing that, he'd probably be out on a wide radius of deliveries.
While the 12-barrel plant isn't yet operating at full capacity, he's clearly a man who's being kept busy.
He's also a man who's enjoying a change of lifestyle.
Through mashing and lifting and hauling and cleaning and driving, he says he's lost weight but gained a new set of clothes.
"It's immense fun," says Phil Whitfield. "My wife says I've managed to slip into jeans and T-shirt very easily - that it's remarkable how quickly I've got into rigger boots instead of a suit."
After a career in the Navy took him around the globe, another 20 years as an NHS manager saw Phil, 48, move around again, although on a smaller scale.
Originally from Kent, NHS jobs as an information manager and even assistant director of strategic intelligence took him to Scotland, then across the North East since 1991. The Whitfields - Phil is married with two children - now live in Spennymoor. But after feeling his career kept repeating itself over the years, a change was needed. A love of homebrewing was solidified with a Sunderland Brewlab course, and Black Paw (PAW being Philip Andrew Whitfield's initials) began.
It's perhaps a familiar story, but the way he does things, as always in these situations, has been unique to the individual, and the road to his first brew in June 2011 a story in itself.
The brewing equipment at Black Paw has been assembled from the four corners of the country - perhaps fitting given Phil's own travelling background. Two stainless steel ex-dairy vessels from East Sussex are supplemented by fermenters from the South West and tanks from Brewlab. Distinctively, Black Paw has got five, five-barrel conditioning tanks. This arrangement not only gives Phil more flexibility to do smaller brews on his 12-barrel plant but also the ability to carry out longer-term experiments, such as lagering, without losing capacity or through-put - something which not many breweries can achieve, limiting their experimentation. …