Finding Lost + Found
The beloved Brighton brewery now joining forces with Beer52
Founder of Beer52
Tuesday 28 May 2019
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I remember the first time I came across Lost + Found’s beers, at our weekly beer tasting at Beer52 HQ. They’d caught my eye because the design of the can was incredible, and I was curious to see if the quality of the beer lived up to it. It did not disappoint and ever since I've kept an eye out for them in bars and bottle shops. The thing that impressed me most about the brewery was its consistently high quality, not just of its core range, but of the many experimental and seasonal brews it produced. It seemed to be one of those charmed breweries that simply couldn’t put a foot wrong; for such a small team with limited resources, I believe they were releasing beers that are up with the best in the country.
Like many beer lovers, I was gutted to hear the guys had hit a run of bad luck last year. It was the kind of external stuff that happens to small breweries every day, but taken together had pushed them right to the edge. I could hardly believe it, so I gave Chris Angelkov a call, asked what had happened and if there was anything we could do to help. I wasn’t sure what form this help might take, but thought that with experiences we've had in brewing projects over the past few years, combined with the power of our community, there must be something we could do to get the guys up and running again.
Joining forces with Lost + Found long-term has felt like an extension of the many special projects and collaborations we’ve participated in over the past 18 months or so. We’ve invested in the creative brilliance behind these great beers, given the team the capacity to take their vision to next level and given our members access to one of the UK’s favourite young craft breweries.
On a personal level, myself and the entire team at Beer52 are really glad we’ve been able to make this new 50/50 partnership work, and are so excited to be collaborating with Chris, Simon and Jon, all of whom we’ve got on with brilliantly since day one. Combining the brewing talent of Chris with the kit we have available to us at De Proef is an amazing thought. Right now, we're focused on getting the four core beers out there again and we will begin releasing more experimental and seasonal brews as the year progresses.
For our members, who will get the first release of beers we've brewed, it's a great opportunity to play a part in the Lost + Found story. It’s a new chapter for them, and for us; we hope you’ll enjoy taking this journey with us, and that you’ll love the beers as much as we do.
James Brown, founder, Beer52
Meet Lost + Found A.BL:
With can designs as striking and polished as its beers, Lost + Found A.BL: has always been a special brewery, respected by pros, admired by homebrewers and beloved of ordinary punters since it opened its door in 2016. Now embarking on the next phase of its story in partnership with Beer52, the team behind the brewery is looking back on a wild ride, and excited about the possibilities the future holds.
Lost + Found’s story started – as so many breweries’ do – with a less-than-inspiring dose of ennui. Simon Checkley was bored of pushing numbers in his corporate job, while Chris Angelkov was frustrated being constantly at the whim of his design clients. It was actually Chris’s wife Rachel who discovered that both men harboured a secret ambition to open their own craft brewery; Simon having done some homebrew tinkering, and Chris after designing artwork for East London Brewery in 2008 and falling in love with the nascent London scene.
“I’d done a bit of homebrewing, but it was mostly pretty terrible beer-in-a-bag stuff, certainly nothing like the level that Chris and I took it to in my garage,” recalls Simon. “It got really quite technical pretty fast, and we tried to get as close as possible to a scaled down version of a commercial brewery, so there were fridges for fermentation vessels, patio heaters and cooling elements so we could control fermentation very precisely.”
“I think we set ourselves in good stead with how we started,” chips in Chris. “There wasn’t a day that went by without us changing a hose clip or doing some minor adjustment to get that machine ticking perfectly. It wasn’t a brewery, it was a science lab; we could hit mash temperatures to within half a degree. Plus I think the big kits are much more forgiving. If you make a mistake in homebrew the effect is amplified, so you learn not to make mistakes.”
Simon: “If I wasn’t brewing, I'd often get home from work and find Chris in my garage brewing, tweaking the hop bill and trying to get his recipes absolutely perfect. That was the point when he really began to take the lead on the creative side of the project, including recipe creation. Pretty quickly, we realised we’d got our beer up to a standard where it no longer tasted like homebrew, and the question became what our next move should be.
Chris and Simon’s preparation hadn’t all been garage-based; they also wanted to see how other breweries were doing it, taking tours and picking up the odd day of work experience at breweries around Brighton where they both lived. This was how they became friendly with the team at Arundel Brewery, who – after being impressed by Chris’s beers – offered Lost + Found their spare capacity to brew on a Saturday.
“We made two beers to start with, on Arundel’s 20-barrel Kit. Our APA and a straight pale ale. That first batch of the pale was so bitter because we just scaled it up from our homebrew recipes without taking into account the much more efficient hop extraction! It tasted like a glass of dry ice!
With their first commercially-brewed beers finally in their hands, Chris and Simon started calling on all the bars and bottle shops around Brighton and things really began to take off. It was also around this time that Jon Rutter made the duo a trio. With a successful stocking business serving a large network of pubs, Jon’s contacts and enthusiasm for Lost + Found made him an invaluable third partner, taking the brewery’s sales operation to a new level.
“From that point, we grew quite quickly, and Arundel began to feel a bit cramped,” says Chris. “They obviously had to prioritise their own brewing and in the end we outgrew what they had capacity to support… It’s what everybody says with brewing, it’s chicken and egg. Do you get more sales and then try and brew more beer, or do you do both in tandem? There are not many avenues that allow that flexibility of growth. Arundel was the answer for a while – they helped us get to the point where we could confidently start looking for somewhere of our own.”
As luck would have it, the guys had become friendly with Justin Deighton at Two Tribes brewing, who was also in the process of upgrading his brewery, so they reached a deal to share a brand new, state-of-the-art facility in Horsham.
Chris says: “The whole brewery became much more technologically advanced, because you had two breweries investing in it, pooling their resources and finances. We bought a really nice new mash tun, and the entire brewhouse was built to our specification. That gave us so many more options. It had a full pallet hop system, a whirlpool, all really high-end pressure-rated stuff. That’s where we began to get really adventurous. We brought out 35 different beers over a two-year period and most of those would have been at Horsham.”
“This was a really fun period for us,” says Simon. “We had my sister working for us, distributing in London, Neil Mankey distributing on the south coast. My wife was doing logistics, plus all the shipping. Her friend Tess was also helping out on the logistics side. Me, Chris and Jon were all there, so was Jon’s wife Lulu. Everyone we knew was involved in some shape or form - it was a real little cottage industry!”
The evolution that happened at Horsham will continue though Lost + Found’s partnership with Beer52, under which beers will be brewed at the world-renowned De Proefbrouwerij. Although 50% of its output could already be described as ‘experimental’, Chris is keen to push this even further in the future.
He says: “I think going forward anything goes really! I’m willing to push it right out there; I’ve got some really crazy recipes, but it’s not been easy to find a slot. If you look at all the high-volume beers we’ve had in the past, like our session IPA, we’ve never been able to get enough through the brewery to supply everybody who wants it. And if you’re talking about 9% hoppy sour that takes three times as long to make, it’s hard to justify! That’s not a hurdle any more.”
Under the new setup, Chris will have oversight of the brewing at De Proef, but have more time to focus on recipe creation and the other more creative aspects of the job. The team at Beer52 will take over all the back-office work, including logistics. Jon will concentrate on UK sales, while Simon will grow the business internationally.
“The international stuff really took off in the last few months at Horsham,” says Simon. “We were exporting to Russia, Italy, Spain, Germany, Denmark... to be honest it put a lot of strain on the capabilities of the old brewery. It’s also quite painful administratively – there’s a lot of paperwork involved in exporting – so it’ll be great to spread that load.”
“This is a logical next step for us. It means we can produce large volumes at totally repeatable quality. We can now confidently talk to big outlets, pub chains, and take the beer beyond where it’s been before.”
“We’re at a stage now where we can dissect a beer and talk about it technically,” agrees Chris. “If someone hands me a beer and it’s not right, I know how to break it down and what changes to make. Once you’ve got that experience under your belt, the manufacturing aspect of brewing isn’t so important. The best people to deal with that side of things are the brewers, and at De Proef we have some of the best brewers in the world.”
The future looks exciting for Lost + Found, and the guys are keen to take the opportunity to push their brand in new directions. Chris is back on the original homebrew kit, piloting wild new recipes, like a 6.66% blood red pale ale, with beetroot, cherry and Barbe Rouge hops. There’s also talk of realising a long-held dream to open a couple of pubs or bars to get closer to the brewery’s customers.
“We looked at opening a Lost + Found pub in Brighton three times, but none of them came off for one reason or another,” says Simon. “We’d like to do the same in London, now we’re a bit more serious with a bit more backing. That would be the next step once we’ve got production settled in.
Chris adds: “It’d be pretty nuts and bolts raw, nothing pretentious. I see it being a bit like the garage - maybe we’ll get the washing machine in! It’d be somewhere to run our pilot brews, and people could get a taste of something unusual, what might be coming next.”
There’s also a more nebulous idea; a sense that Lost + Found could become a wider project that stretches into other creative arenas related to beer. “There’s very much an opportunity for it to be more of a lifestyle brand than it is just now," says Chris. "When I think of doing collaborations, I don’t think it would necessarily be with another brewery. What’s the point? And also, if you think about a bar, you should ask what other purposes it might serve; look at Café Plenty, which served food during the day and at six o’clock turned into a pop-up craft beer bar. Lost + Found is primarily about beer, but there are so many other interesting things around that culture, and I think we can move into those.”
While we’re being slightly cryptic, I feel I might as well address the elephant in the room, even though I’ve been told it would be pointless. After all, we’re all part of the Beer52/Lost + Found family, right? No secrets here.
“Chris, what the hell is the A.BL: thing all about?”
“Can’t tell you.”
“Yup. Simon doesn’t know. My wife doesn’t know… My kids know, but they’re not talking. All will be revealed one day, but not yet.”
If I manage to wear him down one day, I promise you’ll be the first to know.
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