Francesco Sottomano – Brouwerij De Prael, Amsterdam

Once I finished my five years studies in Economics, I decided to focus on something that was really tormenting me: the craft beer production.
I started as homebrewer during summer 2009. The brewing process was so fascinating to me that I didn’t stop anymore since that very first home batch.
Of course I couldn’t leave my studies because of that, but while I was preparing every University exam, my mind was thinking at a new recipe,or at improvements to my brew plant, or try a new beer from a new brewery…in other words, I completely felt in love with this product.

I started to think about enrolling in the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs as soon as I learned about it. In the very first moments it hasn’t been easy to find an Host Entrepreneur involved in the brewing sector, but suddenly a brewery in the heart of Amsterdam came out from the list.

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De Prael_AmsterdamThat’s the moment I knew Fer Kok, one of the two co-founder of Brouwerij De Prael. We had a Skype call and we learned more about ourselves. As soon as I discovered the deep social mission in which De Prael was involved with and the important production they carried on, I understood that was the moment to give myself a challenge. So it happened.
The 15th January 2015 I started my Erasmus at De Prael. I arrived there with the knowledge of the brewing  process, but without working experience.
From that moment I started learning how to use a 12 hecto Brew-House, how to manage the heat exchanger, how to clean a Tank (incredibly crucial step), how to think together with Fer about a new recipe, how to balance the amount of basic and special malts…to make it simple: how to become a real Brewer.


This situation has to be considered every time with the social mission De Prael has, that is to say: becoming a Brewer means to be quick and focused in some steps and to be patient but ready to react in other steps. Than again, In De Prael this is wonderfully mixed with the social nature of the company.

I would bet that everyone would be kind of scared at the beginning of such an experience, but despite that I can say that I really grew up in De Prael.
The people who work in there are really nice and we liked each other from the beginning. To make the point clearer, when I left, everyone came to me asking me to stay more, not to leave because they enjoyed the period we lived together.
Those people just need to smile, so it was really sufficient a pinch of patience, a joke to say and a pat on the back during the day.

I learned how to use the Brew-House after two weeks, thanks to Fer, Bart and Gerben (the two Brewers) and even if I wasn’t a proper part of the company, they made me feel like that.

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From a two men team, we became together a three men Brewing Team. What is important to underline is that they also had a lot of patience with me, because I asked a thousand questions and they always answered me.
On the other hand, Fer Kok that is the Brew Master there, showed a great will to help me, was opened to my opinion, launched me freely in the Brewery and teached me several things about the Craft Brewing. He also gave me the opportunity to brew the batch number 1100 with a recipe of mine that now is on sale in the De Prael’s pub.

Francesco SottomanoIn conclusion, during this experience I became a Brewer.
I learned how not to have strange prejudices to people who have problems but to understand them, I made new friends and Fer Kok is one of them together with Arno Kooy (the second co-founder), Bart, Gerben, Tjark, Ravi and so on.

I lived in Amsterdam and worked in the old city centre, I came back home with thousands of ideas for my own brewery.

To become a Brewer is a though path, you have to work hard but never be stressed because the craft beer never needs stress, you have to study and try, try, try and then again, try!

Thanks to De Prael and Fer Kok for this experience.

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