As I was driving I couldn't really have a major networking session so I opted to go on a brewery tour whilst waiting for the buffet to arrive. Sheps wasn't quite what I was expecting. As they brew a number of lagers under license I thought it would be very modern so coming across a wooden mash tun built in 1914 was a surprise. It was still in use for making ales too, though for both the ales and the lagers they now have a PDX wort heater which "uses direct steam at supersonic speeds to atomize wort components stripping off volatiles and providing the necessary surface for the boiling reactions to take place", which I think counts as very modern.
Though I've never been a huge fan of Sheps I have drunk a lot of their beer in my time. When I was a Wetherspoons regular Spitfire was going for £1.29 a pint so it would have been rude not to. I have noticed more recently tastier short run beers from them like "4-4-2" which I suspect have come from the four barrel pilot plant I got to see on the trip round the brewery. I know for a fact the very drinkable Amber Ale I had that night was from the pilot plant because I was chatting to the bloke that brewed it. I don't think Shep's main brands will ever excite me, as I've a suspicion that "supersonic steam" doesn't make as good a beer as an old fashioned rolling boil does, but I hope they continue to make good use of the pilot plant.