Lost and Grounded

A crash course in lager, from the masters themselves


From the moment of our arrival at the brewery, it’s obvious that something special is happening at Lost and Grounded; the building’s exterior is branded with an enormous and brightly coloured mural, inside we find an open plan taproom well stocked with Brave Noise T-shirts. Overlooking this is a towering brewery that’s clearly been constructed so extra units can be easily bolted on when the need for them arises. There’s evidence of a strong team and varied skill sets everywhere; it would seem it has taken a village as big as Bristol to make Lost and Grounded what it is today. 

Taking a turn around the brewery with co-founder Alex Troncoso, this suspicion is confirmed. We are fortunate enough to arrive just as Lost and Grounded’s weekly tasting is about to start, and as plastic cups are brought out, team members from all areas of the business descend, weaving their way between the steel legs of tall tanks, heading for the tall fermenters under which we stand. Technical brewer, Laurence Brown appears with a clipboard to guide us from tank to tank, and outline how many weeks the lager inside has been maturing. He fixes a nozzle to the tank, releasing a jet of fresh beer we all stay clear of but fill our cups from. 

Alex and the team all trade notes, explaining to us as they go what malt and process has given rise to the character we taste. It is a rare and beautiful blessing to be able to taste and compare various stages of the same beer’s long journey, because it accentuates the skill and the artistry of lager brewing in particular. Lost and Grounded is a highly technical brewery and has very deliberately made its name on the back of lager and other German and Belgian styles. 

An element of the brewery that I am particularly charmed by is the lactic acid plant, kept right by the brewhouse. The culture of acid-producing bacteria living inside has been on the go since December 2016, and by keeping it warm and fed with fresh wort, the brewery has been able to use a traditional German method to deal with the horrifically alkaline water supply that Bristolian breweries are plagued with. About 30L of this culture is pitched into every brew made at Lost and Grounded, neutralising the water to the point where only minor tweaking of minerality is needed. It brings an authentic character to the beer, all the while saving the brewery's pipework from vicious calcification. 

Before Alex was head brewer at Little Creatures in Australia, he had studied and trained to be a chemical engineer. I comment that the engineering background makes sense given the high spec kit and layout of the brewery, but he responds to any suggestion that the experience might now be proving useful by saying “I hated every minute of it”. This also makes sense to me, as I can’t imagine chemical engineering making much space for the creative and inclusive character Alex brings to the work he does. 

“I went back and studied brewing and eventually got a job for a little brewery in Melbourne,” says Alex. “I was there for about eight years, and spent some time in Belgium as well. When Little Creatures got bought over, I realised I didn’t want to work for a big company. From there I did a spell in Camden Town brewery, and actually only ended up in Bristol by chance. My partner and I stopped here for one night on the way to where we were going on holiday and it felt like freedom. From there we said ‘well, what if we got some new visas, found a place to live, found a building and built a brewery in it?’ I guess we pulled it off.”

I ask him if he still has that feeling of freedom and he laughs, saying, “no, we feel trapped now”. He’s kidding, but I appreciate his well-humoured resistance to talking too much about the world outside of Lost and Grounded. It’s a brewery that’s marching to the beat of its own drum after all, and doing everything within its power to make its walls a safe haven for all proponents of brilliant beer. 

Alex, the co-founder

“When Annie [Clements, Alex’s partner and Lost and Grounded’s co-founder] and I were setting up the brewery, thinking about the kind of beer we wanted to make was actually pretty low on the list of considerations. Our main concern was what kind of culture we wanted to cultivate. We settled on four words that we wanted to describe the business we built, and those were humble, inclusive, clever and raw. We don’t have a mission statement or anything, that’s all bullshit and a constraint to doing business. 

“What’s important to us is that the whole team gets involved in tastings so it’s not the case that brewers and salespeople are separate; we actually put the brewhouses' control panel in the office, where everyone outside the production floor works, so the team is completely integrated… As far as the beers we decide to brew are concerned; sometimes you’ve got to pretend you're the only one doing something, and act on what comes from the heart, as opposed to just chasing trends.”

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