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Mind Games

Mind Games

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We’ve teamed up with our friends from SALT Beer Factory and Exale Brewing to create a beer that we hope will help raise awareness surrounding mental health within our industry. Oliver Fozard, our Head Brewer, explains more…


One morning in April 2019 I learned via Twitter about a man called Jo O’Keefe who worked at The Maltings in York, who had ‘suddenly’ taken his own life. Despite never having met Jo, the news resonated with me, as I’d been suffering with anxiety for 6-7 years and the news stayed on my mind all day. Very few people knew about my struggles with anxiety, as I felt that I didn’t want to burden people with my thoughts and feelings, however, that evening I decided to ‘open up’ on Twitter, in order to let anyone else suffering with mental health problems know that there are others out there dealing with similar circumstances.

In response, Colin (Head Brewer at SALT Beer Factory) and Dan (Head Brewer at Exale in London), two brewers I’ve known for the last eight years, also decided to share their own experiences with mental health.

Since then, and because of putting my problems out in the public domain, I’ve had many conversations surrounding the subject of mental health with customers, suppliers, colleagues and other friends within the industry. Talking to other people connected to the industry has really helped me (more so than the short course therapy I had a couple of years ago) and knowing that there are others out there going through similar situations has allowed me to be more open with people and help others in return.

In September, the pressures I was facing at work, and subsequently at home, were having a very negative impact on my state of mind. I took some time away from the brewery and, thinking about what had happened earlier in the year, decided that I wanted to work with Col and Dan to help promote mental health awareness within the brewing industry. I have a lot of respect for them as brewers and as human beings and was delighted that they wanted to be involved. We chose to brew a beer whereby a donation of 10p from every pint sold would be made by Rooster’s to the charity Mind.

Working in the industry isn’t easy during times where my anxiety is getting the best of me and sharing a beer with friends can help me level out. Admittedly, at times it has also become my ‘go to’ comfort and I’m aware that mental health problems can result from drinking too much alcohol, and can also cause people to drink too much. With this in mind, we decided to brew a cask-only, low abv beer that’ll only be available in a pub – a social centre, very often the focus of community life.

I’d like to encourage people, ostensibly men, to shake off the stigma, open up and know that it’s ok to share feelings and state of mind with each other, whilst raising money for a worthy cause at the same time.

Once we’d agreed what we were going to brew, I Tweeted about the concept and received a message from Katie Brown – a colleague and good friend of Jo O’Keefe. I’d never met Katie before, but she messaged me to ask if she could in any way get involved in the brew day and to help promote the overall message.  This is what it’s all about for me; reaching out and engaging with people, so it was great to have Katie join us.

During the course of the brew day, the four of us took some time to have a chat and recorded the conversation in order to share our experiences with each other and the wider world, to show that no-one is alone and how talking is very useful and important. This was incredibly helpful for me, as I got a better understanding of what others have gone through and are still going through. I also got to know two guys that I’ve known for the best part of a decade in a way that I hope they benefitted from as much as I have. To say that Katie had never met the three of us before, she felt comfortable enough to discuss her struggles with mental health and to also gave an insight of how badly Jo is missed by all who knew him. Here’s a somewhat crudely-edited video of the conversation if you’d like to learn more about where each of us is coming from.

January can often be a difficult time of the year for many people, so we felt it was the right time to launch this project, in hope it could help encourage people to get together, share a pint and check up on each other’s well-being. There are also several incredible charities out there that offer support, Mind, Samaritans and Andy’s Man Club spring to mind, should you need someone to speak to in confidence.

The key message I, along with Colin, Dan and Katie (who now manages BrewDog, York) would like to put across with the brewing of Mind Games is to raise the profile of mental health awareness within the brewing and hospitality industries, along with raising money for Mind.

My intention is for this not to be a ‘one-off’ message, with the aim of being more vocal about my own ongoing struggle with mental health in 2020.






Published January 2020

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