EP-154 John Keeling of Fuller Smith & Turner

EP-154 John Keeling of Fuller Smith & Turner

Fuller Smith & Turner—or Fuller’s as it’s more commonly known—is the oldest surviving brewery in London, as well as being one of its largest. Fuller’s has been brewing at The Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, West London, for more than 160 years. The face of the British brewing industry has undergone tremendous change many times over during the course of its existence.

Now, in 2018, the brewery faces fresh challenges. For instance, finding relevance in a market that constantly craves the rare and the new, while still championing traditional styles in an age of Hazy IPAs and Pastry Stouts. Surprisingly, this hasn’t phased Fuller’s one bit. Along with some of the UK’s other historical breweries, such as Adnams in Suffolk and Harvey’s in Sussex, Fuller’s is ensuring that styles such as Porter and ESB remain as relevant to the beer market as ever.

Behind it all is the ebullient Brewing Director, John Keeling, who has been employed by Fuller’s for 37 years. Keeling has worked in the brewing industry since the 1970s, initially for the now-defunct Watney’s, then studying brewing science at Heriot Watt University before finally settling at Fuller’s.

He became Head Brewer in 1999, a role he passed on to Fuller’s current Head Brewer Georgina Young in January 2017. Over this time he’s witnessed Fuller’s shift from being a completely manually operated brewery, to one that is almost entirely automated and state of the art.

Keeling has been instrumental in ensuring that Fuller’s legacy be preserved. Be it by reviving historical recipes from the archives, by collaborating with the UK’s latest crop of brewers such as Fourpure and Cloudwater, or by constantly championing the simple pleasures found within a pint of Fuller’s flagship beer, London Pride.

In October 2018 Keeling will retire, leaving an illustrious brewing career behind him. The industry won’t be getting rid of him that easily, however, as he’s just been voted chairman of The London Brewers Alliance, a guild that supports the collective interests of London’s independent breweries.  

Over the next hour we discuss—or perhaps I should say John discusses—subjects ranging from the history of Fuller’s, to the importance of cask ale, to the price of beer, all the way up to his favorite subject: the philosophy of brewing.