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By beerrevhay, Jul 19 2017 08:24PM


This piece first appeared in Ferment Magazine.


There was a moment - or the several moments it took to drain a one-third pint tasting glass - at last year’s IndyMan Beer Con when it seemed like a sunbeam had pierced the nightclub-like gloom of Manchester’s Victoria Baths.


I was drinking Keller Pils from Bristol’s Lost and Grounded, and after a couple of intense hours ravaging my tastebuds with murky hop bombs and barrel-aged stouts, it stood out as a beer of understated beauty. Undoubtedly, I was in safe hands.


Six months later, I’m stood in the cavernous old engineering works Lost and Grounded have made their home, marvelling at the apparent spontaneity of their arrival on the UK’s craft beer landscape. It feels almost as though they’ve blinked into existence in the same way as their northern counterparts, Cloudwater, two years ago, statements of intent written large in sculpted stainless steel.


Of course, none of this happened by accident: A long-standing fascination with European brewing history, and years of brewing experience honed over countless homebrews, tenures at Australia’s Little Creatures and London’s Camden, plus a graduate certificate in brewing and a Master’s degree in Business, have culminated in Alex Troncoso and partner Annie’s considered pairing of traditional European styles to cutting-edge, 21st century technology.


Yet it all began, inauspiciously, in the shadow of Coor’s behemothic brewing complex in Denver, Colorado, where a young Alex was studying chemical engineering, destined for a career working in oil refining.


“The university was right across the road from the brewery and every Friday afternoon we used to take what we called ‘the short tour’,” Alex laughs, “Up the back stairs at the end of the brewery tour, and straight into the bar for a free beer. They didn’t really care.”


Mass market market lager is far removed from the unfiltered German and Belgian-influenced beers that make up Lost and Grounded’s core range, but Alex’s journey to the craft side began with homebrew experiments devising American and English pale ales, taking influence from the first US craft boom and the new breweries springing up around Colorado.


For his 21st birthday, he celebrated with a keg of the now legendary Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, special-ordered through his local bottle shop. His interest in beer blossoming, Alex began to ponder how he might turn his passion into a career.


He says: “I realised a lot of the guys who worked in some of the bigger breweries had backgrounds in things like engineering, or chemistry, or microbiology, and I thought maybe this was a job I could actually do.”


Returning to his childhood home of Australia, (Alex was born in Guatemala to a Chilean father and American mother) he was stonewalled by the big beer duopoly of Fosters and Lion Nathan, and it took several fruitless years knocking on doors to land a job brewing.


“Part of that job involved making cream liqueur, putting all sorts of different emulsifiers, flavours and creams through homogenisers. After so long trying to break in, it was pretty soul destroying,” he chuckles.


But just six months later, he and Annie were on the move again, relocating to Fremantle in Western Australia where Little Creatures had noisily established themselves as the nation’s craft beer upstarts. Thrown in at the metaphorical deep end of their harbourside brewhouse, Alex quickly learned to swim, and over the next eight years helped steer the company through a series of expansions that saw their output increase ten-fold to 10 million litres per annum.


By 2013, when the couple pitched up in London for Alex to take the Brewing Director job at Camden, he was well acquainted with the demands of larger scale brewing, and also the German-built Krones Steinecker kit he would later use to equip Lost and Grounded. It meant that when he and Annie decided to make the leap to brewery founders, they were well positioned to leap big, to do it once - and do it right - from the outset.

Remembers Alex: “Annie said, ‘It’s now or never, and if we’re doing it, we’re doing it properly’.”


Ploughing in their life savings, and bringing in old Little Creatures comrades as silent partners, they put together the fully-automated Krones plant, a precision set-up defined from the outset by the very specific styles of beer Lost and Grounded have chosen to create.


In a scene largely dominated by hop-laden pale ales and IPAs, the decision to make their signature brew a Kellerbier - unfiltered, hazy pilsner - might seem like commercial suicide. But in fact, it is the heartfelt, liquid embodiment of the company’s founding principles.



Alex explains: “We started with a clear vision of the kind of beer we wanted to make. We knew we wanted certain technology to help us deliver quality, and to be surrounded by a diverse and energetic team.


“At seven months in we feel that we have a solid team as a great foundation to build upon. We’re a living wage employer, and eventually we want everyone who works here to be a shareholder, and for them to help us establish a nice regional brewery.


“I remembered going to a hop harvest in Tettnang a few years ago. I hadn’t really thought much about unfiltered beer until then, but I was drinking this Kellerbier - it was rich and slightly resinous and I was struck by how good it was.


“So we thought, why not do everything unfiltered - raw - and do a Keller Pils? Maybe we’ve made life harder for ourselves by picking leftfield brewing styles, but I like the challenge of making lager, because it’s really quite difficult! It needs time, and love.”


Achieving the same depth of flavour of kellerbier meant borrowing from the style’s originators, who use sour malt and lactic acid to reduce the pH of their wort, creating a more refined, embedded hop bitterness.


At Lost and Grounded, an in-house lactic acid plant inoculated with lab-isolated bacteria from Weihenstephan delivers a constant supply, and a little is added to every brew to tame Bristol’s hard water.


Says Alex, 42: “Good beer is a combination of a lot of things. To be honest, we're all using similar ingredients, so it's all about the little nuances of individual breweries, and the techniques they use. That’s what makes every brewery unique.”


Their interest in European brewing traditions piqued, Alex and Annie looked to Belgian styles to complete the brewery’s opening line up. Hop Hand Fallacy borrows techniques from wit, or ‘white’ beer, and is gently spiced with coriander and bitter orange for a citrus and floral nose. No Rest for Dancers is secretly a Belgian dubbel masquerading as a red ale. It is ripe with fruity yeast esters but the style’s often cloying malt profile has been deftly side-stepped with the judicious use of dextrose. And Apophenia, their new Belgian-style tripel, is oily and fragrant, again dosed with that perfect pairing of coriander and bitter orange.



Says Alex: “The concept of balance and drinkability has been drummed into me since those early days at Little Creatures - and that doesn’t necessarily mean simple, it just means everything is in its right place.


“With our beers, you can either think about them, or not think about them - which is perfect. If everything is in its right place, you can just drink a beer and enjoy it, but if you want to go a little deeper you can give it some thought and start deconstructing it.”


The same applies to Lost and Grounded’s ‘friendly and curious’ - as Alex puts it - approach to branding.


Eschewing the highly-stylised, graphic design of many new wave breweries, Annie - the brewery’s creative lead - plumped for an illustrative slant. The brewery’s hippo and globe logo is emblematic of their outlook and personality.


“It’s a humble creature,” says Alex. “It’s not like the rockstar of the animal kingdom, the hippo just gets on with his day. But he’s also a bit of a dreamer - if you work hard enough you can carry the world.”


He sums up their ethos in a couple of words, recalling a recent visit by Colorado’s Odell Brewing and being overwhelmed by the kindness and openness of founders Doug, Wynne and Corkie.


“Be nice,” he says before joking: “But maybe I do need to get a bit more bastard in me!”

By beerrevhay, Mar 1 2017 11:34AM

There’s no better way to toast Wales’ patron saint than with a glass, or a few, of Welsh beer. Traditional breweries abound, of course, but Wales is noisily playing its own part in the craft beer renaissance, staking its claim on the demand for flavour-packed, inventive exciting. Here’s our guide to the little guys making a splash in Wales’ beer world. Iechyd da!


Crafty Devil (Cardiff)



What started out as a two-man band operating from a B&Q garden shed is now a 2000 litre-a-week brewery employing nine people, but the next step in Crafty Devil’s journey will take more than the incendiary ambition of founders Rhys Watkins and Adam Edinborough. Currently they’re sending all their beer to contract canners for packaging, but they have a long term goal to get their music-inspired brews to their adoring fans quicker and fresher by installing their own canning line. In the meantime, they’ve expanded production and moved premises to a shiny new brewing facility.


Seren (Pembrokeshire)

Small scale brewing is a license to experiment and as Wales’ smallest outfit, Seren has that freedom in spades. Operating from a converted scullery deep in the Preseli hills of Pembrokeshire, brewer Ali Kocho-Williams has reaped accolades for his legendary Bluestone IPA, but the slow-beating heart of Seren is its sour beer and barrel aging programme. Ali cultures his own house strains of beer-souring critters, resulting in wild ales with unusual depth and earthy complexity. In June, Seren will be representing Wales at Italy’s Arrogant Sour Festival and Ali plans to build on his success in barrel aging by releasing a sour brown ale aged in the UK’s only maple barrel.


Tiny Rebel (Newport)




Tiny Rebel’s roughed-up bear comes of age this month, cementing five whirlwind years of success with a £2.6m expansion to a brand new brewery and event space with the capacity to produce 5 million litres of beer a year. They’ve already christened the new facility with the release of their first canned beers, but despite the innovation and investment in new packaging technologies they plan to keep a foot in the old school: while other craft breweries have called time on the production of cask beer, Tiny Rebel have pledged their allegiance to traditional dispense by expanding their cask range.


Geipel (Conwy)


In a scene largely dominated by US-inspired, hop-forward pale ales and IPAs, Geipel stands out as a beacon of European brewing tradition, drawing on German lagers and Hefeweizen for influence. Ohio-born founder Erik Geupel is on a mission to rescue lager’s reputation from the bland offerings of the big-beer, macro breweries, and his hazy, unfiltered and unpasteurised brews are a lesson in just how flavoursome this style can be given the right care, ingredients and attention.


Lines Brewing (Caerphilly)




Fully recovered from the bruising demise of Celt Experience, former head honcho Tom Newman is back with a new project focusing on high-end, experimental brews with a strong Belgian influence and aimed at the most discerning beer connoisseur. Caerphilly-based Lines has had an impressive start, bagging best new Welsh brewery and best Welsh beer for their imperial stout at the annual Ratebeer awards in the States.


Buy Welsh beer online




By beerrevhay, Dec 14 2016 08:09AM


September saw us with our journalist hats on, this time on commission for Ferment magazine and reporting from the judging session for the annual National Homebrew Competition.


This is the UK’s premier comp for amateur brewers, organised by Ali Kocho-Williams of Welsh nano-brewery Seren.


We learnt loads about homebrewing, but - more importantly for anyone who likes a bit of shiny - we came away with a steaming mashtun full of insights on how to do well at the National.


You can download the full piece in PDF format here, but in the meantime here’s three tips for would-be homebrew heroes.



Style guru


The national is run along Beer Judges Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines, which means judges are essentially ticking boxes as they assess beers against established style criteria. It’s not ‘do I like this beer?’, it’s ‘does this beer meet the style guidelines’. So - read up on the styles and their characteristics at the BJCP website, sample a few classic examples and try to emulate the best of the best.

Don’t be clever - be smart


Clever, tricksy beers can sometimes struggle as they often involve merging or straddling styles. A mango IPA is both an IPA and a fruit beer in BJCP competition terms - but it can only be entered in one category and might not push enough buttons in either to do well. The overall winner in September was a straight-up Munich Helles. No bells, no whistles - just very well done and to style.


Odds-on


One way of improving your chances of taking home a medal is to look at the odds. In BJCP comps, first, second and third gongs are dished out to category winners. In this year’s contest, your American-style pale ale would have been up against 34 other entries, giving you a roughly one in ten chance of placing. In a less popular category such as Strong British Ale, you’d have been duking it out with just six other beers - giving you an almost one in two chance of winning a medal!










By beerrevhay, Sep 17 2016 12:54PM



Omnipollo // Beavertown // Dugges // Magic Rock & more…


Multiple new beers have hit the shelves at Beer Rev HQ - here’s the lowdown:


From our fave Bristolians, Wiper and True, we have Bread Pudding - a rich amber ale brewed in collaboration with Toast Ales using surplus bread. Brandy-soaked currants, cinnamon and vanilla are in the mix as well - emulating the classic British dessert, in liquid form!


We’ve also got Wiper’s new Citra pale ale, with bold citrus, mango & papaya flavours.


New cans from Huddersfield’s Magic Rock have landed. Inhaler is a juicy pale, perfect for quenching your Indian summer thirst. Meanwhile Rapture is a hoppy red - full bodied with aromas of grapefruit and pine, and a pithy orange flavour.


Omnipollo are back with Fantamorgana, an 8% double IPA, naturally cloudy and double dry-hopped for bags of flavour.


Their fellow Swedes Dugges are making a debut on our shelves with Tropic Sunrise - a sour fruit ale with mango, pineapple and raspberry - and Orange Haze, a US-style IPA loaded with citra, cascade and columbus hops for a sweet, citrus aroma and orangey taste.


From US stalwarts Stone we’ve got Mocha. We’ve heard great things about this beer - a double IPA with coffee and cacao - and it scores a whopping 98/100 on Ratebeer!


Morello Theory from Bristol crew Good Chemistry is back in stock - this is a rich and decadent dark ale aged on Morello cherries. Very moreish!


Fresh goods from Beavertown in the form of Lupuloid - this brand new addition to their core range is a straight-up, no messin’ IPA. Also back for a second time around is their collab with Boneyard Beer - Bloody Notorious, a blood orange Double IPA. If you missed it earlier this year, jump on the DIPA train and get some liquid sunshine in your face.


Brand new cans are in from London’s Brodies Beers. These guys were one of the original innovators and they’re not afraid to move with the times. It’s the Old Street pale ale and Jamaican Stout from them.


Finally Pressure Drop are back with a re-brew of their ENZ Southern Hemisphere IPA. 330ml of New Zealand-hopped awesomeness at 7.1%











By beerrevhay, Feb 27 2016 09:37AM

No St. David’s Day celebration is complete without a Welsh beer - or several - to toast the nation’s patron saint, and we're bringing the cheer with some of the finest around. From hop-bomb pale ales to award-winning Welsh red’s, we've got it covered. Here’s our guide to quenching your thirst on March 1st.


Tiny Rebel



Welsh craft beer was cast into the spotlight in 2015 when Tiny Rebel took the Supreme Champion crown at the Great British Beer Festival with their Welsh red ale, ‘Cwtch’. Hoppy, malty and easy-drinking, Cwtch - Welsh for ‘hug’ - cemented the Newport upstarts’ rise from beer-geek garage homebrewers to big time.


Mad Dog



In just eighteen months, Mad Dog has grown from a tiny, kitchen stove operation to an all-singing, all dancing brewery on the outskirts of Pontypool. It’s all down to one man - Al Jones - and his phenomenal work ethic. When you’re waking bleary-eyed, Al is already deep into his first brew of the day, and planning the next. From designing labels and pump clips, to creating recipes, to delivering casks up and down the country, somehow Al manages to do the lot. Mad Dog’s All Day Granola Stout is the stuff of legend in South Wales. Also check out his rich, peach-infused Belgian-US triple, K9 Triplephenia


Waen Brewery



Waen’s restless head brewer Sue Hayward is constantly conjuring up new creations, but hop-forward pale ales (often Ska-themed) and Welsh red ales feature heavily. Her zesty Pamplemousse is a citrus-packed banger of a pale ale, with its lip-smacking tropical fruit flavour aroma derived from copious amounts of Cascade, Citra and Mosaic hops. Also watch out for Snowball - a hefty, 7% chocolate, vanilla and coconut stout. Sounds wrong. Isn’t.


Hopcraft



The clue is in the name - it’s all about the hops with head brewer Gazza. Twiggy brown beer doesn’t get look in as these brews are loaded with New World and southern hemisphere hops. Pales and hopped-up golden ales are the mainstay of Hopcraft’s output, with regular diversions into the realms of maple coffee porters (buy ‘Crema Extrema’ on sight) and delectable stouts.


Crafty Devil Brewery



Big beers combine with a love of big tunes in music-inspired brews, fiendishly crafted from the Devil’s Cardiff HQ. Stand out beers include their ‘Safe as Milk’ coffee milk stout and ‘Devil Man’ IPA. Making a new appearance in cans is their hoppy lager, Born Slippy.


The Celt Experience



Celt’s eclectic output - ranging from dry-hopped bitters to blackcurrant sours to saisons aged on raspberries - is inspired by the warrior tribes who gave the invading Romans a run for their money here in South Wales. Taking a lead from the natural world, Celt Experience put harvested wild yeasts and foraged ingredients to work in their Caerphilly-based brewery, to great effect.

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