Behind every good brewery there has to be great brewers. Being a great brewer takes dedication, technical ability, knowledge, a great deal of time, hard work and graft. Heading up our team of quality, young and enthusiastic brewers is Tristan Hembrow. From humble beginnings to making some of the best cask beer the UK has to offer, we chatted to him about how his career started.
Tristan has been with Bristol Beer Factory for just over three years and now an indispensable part of the team. He started back in 2016 working alongside head brewer Steve Feely (now over at New Bristol Brewery), becoming senior technical brewer and rising to the ranks of head brewer earlier this year. He’s currently flying through his Diploma in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, the internationally recognised industry benchmark for advanced technical brewing.
Before Bristol Beer Factory, Tristan worked at local brewery powerhouse, Butcombe. It all started while working at his local village pub where one of the Butcombe brewers used to drink. During a Sunday shift he asked Tristan if he could lend a hand the next day because they were short staffed. “My day was filled with inspecting over 600 casks, knocking in keystones and racking 250,000 litres of beer. Two weeks later I was offered a full-time racking job, I accepted without hesitation.”
For two years he was a cask de-shiver, washer and cask racker extraordinaire before moving to the cellar, learning all things yeast and fermentation before finally becoming a brewer three years later. “I was there six years and learnt a great deal but to progress in my brewing career I needed a new challenge. The BBF job came up for a senior technical brewer, a perfect step for me. A great established brewery putting out great cask ale. To be involved in a growing brewery, investing in brilliant brewing equipment with belief in the brand and the beer is where I wanted to be.“
Now Tristan is in full swing as head brewer and smashing out some great brews, attacking the challenges thrown his way with excitement and dedication. Whether it’s developing new, innovative beers or just perfecting the classics, Tristan has made some huge triumphs. The Origin Series saw him inventing six great and distinct beers, challenging the status quo of what a BBF beer is, exploring different styles and treading new ground using brand new hops. And let’s not forget the changes to our core beers - creating our amber ale, Fortitude, and bringing Notorious to the forefront to replace Nova.
But it’s not all been smooth sailing, we asked Tristan what the biggest balls up he’s seen in his time as a brewer. ‘Gustav’ - one word and everyone knows the infamous story of Gustav. He was on a two-month work experience from Sweden as part of his brewing qualification, here to learn all about cask ale. “It was his final day and everyone was almost done, itching to get the pub to thank Gustav for all his hard work and give him a good send off. The brew was done, just a quick clean down to do. I asked Gustav to take off the hose from the FV and attach it to the transfer line to create the loop, so he heads down to the vessel to unclip the hose but instead unclips the clamp connected to the outlet valve. I hear this squeak and a cry for help. I turned around to see Gustav using his two hands to stop 5000 litres of freshly yeast pitched brewed wort from firing out at him. With the help of two other brewers we managed to get the clamp back on and sealed in place, drenched head to toe in wort. We’d lost 450 litres in total but gained a cracking story and a barrel of laughs. A quick shower then back to the Tap room for a few pints and an evening reliving the afternoon much to Gustav’s misery.”
The current brewing quest for Tristan is the RE/Adventure series - four unique beers looking back at the styles, techniques and ingredients used in classic, traditional cask beers and looking forward to the hypermodern cask beer of the future. Look out for these launching in a pub near you very soon!
Tristan quick fire questions:
If you weren’t a brewer you’d be: Probably travelling
If you weren’t drinking beer you’d be drinking: A cuppa tea
If you weren’t at work you’d rather be: Outdoors somewhere new
Favourite music to brew beer to? Chilli Peppers
Favourite hop? Mosaic
Best place to drink a beer? In a proper British pub with minimum 3 handpulls, Guinness and a weisse beer on draft
Who would play head brewer Tristan in the epic film about BBF? Mads Mikkelsen
Most memorable beer brewed: White Milk Stout - making a pale beer with the character of a dark one with roasted flavours led to a slightly stressful couple of weeks trying to create stout-esque aromas. The beer turned out great and has become somewhat legendary…!