Lost and Grounded Closeup

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Quality is always our primary interest when evaluating breweries to work with. When Lost & Grounded came on to the scene in 2016, we already felt a measure of confidence in their standards; even before sampling any of the beer. Co-founder Alex Troncoso comes with a serious pedigree of brewing excellence, having spent many years overseeing production and quality at Little Creatures in Australia, and more recently Camden Town. We had a chat with Alex to learn more about the story of Lost and Grounded, and their approach to making some of the best beer in the UK.

Alex begins by explaining the literal nature of the brewery name; stemming from him and his partner and co-founder Annie moving around over the years. ‘Over the years we’ve lived in Tasmania, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Brussels, London. When Little Creatures got bought by Lion, we rolled the dice on the Camden job and a move to London, but we never felt quite settled. We were going to Cornwall on holiday and a friend of ours in Brisbane told us to go check out Bristol on the way, so we stopped overnight, and right away it felt like freedom. Everyone had this nice vibrancy to them.’

This random stopover in Bristol effectively brought about the end of Alex and Annie’s ‘Lost’ chapter, allowing them room to start thinking about what they could do there.

‘At the time we hadn’t decided on a brewery yet, we started with the basics, how we want the culture, where would it be. At that point it could have been a zipper factory or anything. We settled on a brewery and worked out the things important to us for a brewery to be. We had very clear things mapped out, and I think to this day we stick to it.’

Thankfully Alex and Annie didn’t set up a zipper factory, being swayed instead by the world of exceptional lager. In doing so, they chose to found their business on the back of four key words: Humble, Inclusive, Raw, and Clever.

Alex emphasises that their approach towards inclusivity extends to the beers they make too. ‘99% of people just want to drink nice beer and have fun. It’s not always an intellectual exercise. But, how do you make something interesting and intriguing, while not making dumbed down “gateway beers”? To us, good beer means everything in its place. We want to make everything perfect, but part of it is that every beer has some personality. If we scrub all the life out of it down to a macro beer that’s pointless as the big guys are much better at that than us, so we try to remind ourselves and our brewers that beer is meant to have a bit of character, it's not meant to be a completely flat line.’

Lost and Grounded have one of the most advanced breweries in the UK, producing their beers on a 25 hectolitre Krones brewhouse. The German brewery equipment manufacturer are considered by most of the industry as the global leader in technology and quality standards. ‘We knew we wanted to make lager. To make it well and have any hope of consistency it starts with the brewhouse. You can achieve it with people, but you will definitely see an improvement with a serious brewhouse.’ From a technical standpoint, the main advantage of their brewhouse is having the ability to utilise a rising infusion mashing schedule. ‘We mash at 52ºC, with steps at 62ºC, 72ºC, and 78ºC. The key for us is the 52ºC step as this liberates nitrogen to nourish the yeast, but critically will help with the palate structure too. I used to use a single infusion brewhouse at Little Creatures, but when we made the jump to a Krones kit similar to our one at Lost & Grounded the leap in quality was incredible. Everything became so consistent.’

‘We’re really lucky to have what we have. When we built the brewery we were very fortunate that the pound was at an all time high vs the Euro. We locked in the currency when we signed the contract, and part way through the project Brexit was announced and the pound tanked. If we hadn’t had that we would’ve been screwed before we started. We were lucky to have experience of previous projects to know we had to lock this in from the start.’

Alex and the team’s dedication to quality applies to every aspect of the brewing process and ingredients. There are no shortcuts to be taken, even when it comes to the most essential and basic ingredient, water. ‘We don’t have the best water here in Bristol, and we had to consider how to deal with it in an authentic way? If you read the German textbooks, they have an acid plant, basically like a sourdough culture living in a tank. Our current culture has been going for nearly 5 years. We feed it every week, and every single brew that goes through our brewhouse has this in it, so it’s like a common DNA in all of our beers.’

While Lost and Grounded may be best known for their lager styles, from the start they’ve had a Belgian inspired section of their range too. Unusual for a UK brewery they launched with a Tripel and a Saison in their core range, something that drew our attention to them immediately. This Belgian accent had been part of the plan from the start though, as Alex had ‘always been fascinated by Belgian brewing, they have a lot of the precision of Germany but without the constraints. We had about 6 months off between London and Bristol, we couldn’t work because of our Visas, so we were just hanging about drinking beers, going to the pub. One of the things we did was pull out our old beer books, and start to remember the things that got us interested in brewing in the first place. The history, and development of the category. ’

From the intense focus on quality, to their interest in the Belgian side of beer, Lost & Grounded have felt like a natural fit for us since the beginning. Alex agrees as ‘we fit so well with your portfolio. Our range sits right alongside the rest in terms of quality, but with a slightly different character. The key is that your team all love beer, with an understanding of speciality beers. Knowing that we can be speaking the same language with everybody in this partnership is important to us.’