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  • Desert Island Beers #50: John Keeling – Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC

    July 15th, 2012FletchtheMonkeyDesert Island Beers

    It’s a special week on the desert island as we celebrate a half century of castaways being swept up onto our shores. Robinson Crusoe # 50 is a real coup for us as it features none other than Sir (it’s only a matter of time) John Keeling; Head Brewer at Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC, (better known simply as Fullers).

    John was born in Droylsden, Manchester, in September 1956. When he left school without telling his mother, she forced him to take a job as a lab technician at Wilsons, the local brewer – hence starting an incredible chain of events. The job at Wilsons opened John’s eyes and he decided that brewing was the career for him, so in 1977 he left Wilson’s and headed to Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh to take a BSc in Brewing.

    On leaving Heriot-Watt, John joined Fuller’s as a junior brewer in 1981 and progressed through the ranks under the watchful eye of Head Brewer, Reg Drury. In 1999, on Reg’s retirement, John became the Brewing Director/Head Brewer.

    John Keeling Fullers

    John Keeling Fullers

    ESB and Fullers beer on cask in London

    ESB on cask

    Fullers Wisteria

    Wisteria @ Fullers

    Boddington's Pub Ale. A flake with that?

    A flake with that?

    He held the post of Chairman of the Heriot-Watt alumni group from 1999 to 2001, and Chairman of the Brewers Guild Southern Section from 2001 to 2003. In 2006, John was asked to join the Heriot-Watt ICBD (International Centre for Brewing and Distilling) Advisory Board.

    John has received world-wide acclaim for his brewing achievements and is often asked to judge beer competitions across the globe. He was heavily involved in the development of Fuller’s Vintage Ale, and was responsible for the development of Discovery Blonde Beer. In 2006, he was awarded the title of Brewer of the Year by the British Guild of Beer Writers.

    John has recently been described by one member of the Fuller’s Fine Ale Club – a group of some 13,000 Fuller’s fans – as the Winston Churchill of brewing. Fuller’s has won five CAMRA Overall Champion Beer of Britain’s during his tenure.. He believes that brewing great beer needs real pride and passion.

    John’s other passions include Manchester United and an eclectic selection of musical heroes such as The Fall and Captain Beefheart

    The Beers

    Hi John, welcome to the island. Which 5 beers would you want to have with you if you were stranded, and why?

    1. Henry Boddington & Co. Ltd – Boddingtons Cask Bitter 1974 – (Strangeways, Manchester – 3.8%)
      “In terms of great beers I think of the times I have drunk them. In 1974 at the start of my brewing career there was no better drinking beer than Boddingtons. Unfortunately this beer was successfully destroyed a number of years later but for a period was one of the worlds greatest beers.”
    2. Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC – ESB – (Chiswick, London – 5.5%)
      “I first drank this beer in 1979 (I think). I was going to the Hammersmith Odeon with a number of friends to see Frank Zappa. We popped in to the Britannia Pub opposite and asked the landlord what was the best southern beer available, he suggested ESB. The rest of the evening is a haze.”
    3. Timothy Taylor & Co. Limited – Landlord – (Keighley, West Yorkshire – 4.3%)
      “During the 80’s this was the beer of the North.”
    4. Victory Brewing Company – HopDevil – (Downingtown, Pennsylvania U.S.A. – 6.7%)
      “The first American beer I got into which opened my eyes to American hops.”
    5. Brooklyn Brewery – Brooklyn Lager – (Brooklyn, New York U.S.A. – 5.2%)
      “This is the lager I give to people who say they hate lager. They then tell me it’s not a lager. I say read the label.”

    And which beer (of those selected) do you regard most highly?

    “Boddingtons – because it would transport me back to my youth and many happy memories.”

    The Meal

    You can also take one meal to go with your beers, what would it be?
    “Fish and chips or bacon and eggs. The two meals I’ve eaten the most often and I never get fed up of them.”

    The Books

    You might be waiting a long time on your lonesome on the desert island, so we will automatically allow you a few books to keep your mind busy. You can pick between two beer books and two tomes: The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food’ by Garrett Oliver, or ‘Beer’ by Michael Jackson; plus The Bible, or another appropriate religious or philosophical work

    “Because I have heard both Michael and Garrett speak, whenever I read their books I imagine them reading it to me. Both please.”

    “I’ve never read the bible. I guess there must be some good stories in it.”

    And a non-beery book?

    “The complete Rebus Books – if that is allowed. That would remind me of the three years I studied at Heriot Watt in Edinburgh.”

    The record

    You have a CD/mp3/long player but you can only take one album. Choose wisely!

    “That’s hard. I would want something by the Fall or Beefheart or Ornette Coleman. Maybe something by Mahler but at a push it would be Trout Mask Replica.”

    The Luxury Item

    And finally, what luxury item would help make your stay on the island bearable?

    “A nice bed”

    Very many thanks to John for been our 50th castaway. For more information on Fuller’s beers see their website here or to see what John is up to follow him on Twitter here.

    This article is a collaboration with All Gates Brewery as part of our Desert Island Beer series.


    Mark is better known as @fletchthemonkey and started writing about beer in 2009. When not content with spending all day on the internet working in digital for an multichannel retailer, Mark waxes lyrical at and types up match reports for Leeds Guide magazine.

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3 responses to “Desert Island Beers #50: John Keeling – Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC” RSS icon

  • What a top chap! Anyone who references Boddingtons, Zappa and Beefheart in one interview must be a star.

    On a serious note, can somebody please revive Boddingtons to its old recipe? Liverpool Organic Brewery have recently revived another great northern bitter, Higsons with great success.



    FletchtheMonkey Reply:

    @Dave Kirby, I think that question deserves an airing to the wider public Dave. Let’s see what twitter think! :)



    Tandleman Reply:

    @Dave Kirby,

    Unfortunately, it tastes nothing like Higsons.



  • Hmm, yes, if only there was a large brewery with a Mancunian head brewer that might be able to buy the Boddington’s brand from its current neglectful owners and do the beer justice…



  • A pint of Boddies used to be one of the pleasures of visiting Manchester.



    FletchtheMonkey Reply:

    I love the sense of place some beers have. If I wasn’t so used to it (mustn’t grumble!) I’d have Timmy Taylors Landlord on arrival in Yorkshire. And I still find it hard to turn down London Pride from a good pub in the capital. The idea that some require you to visit to taste them at their finest is a real bonus of travelling.



    Will Avery Reply:


    There used to be lovely Sheffield-brewed Stone’s too.



    FletchtheMonkey Reply:

    As a kid I remember my dad buying cans. Good chance my first sip was a Stones!


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