hoppist deliver a monthly box of beer for Londoners looking to discover the amazing beer brewed in & around the city. In our ‘Meet the Brewer’ series, we take you behind the scenes to meet the people behind the beer
We caught up with Tom Palmer from Mondo Brewing Co, based in Battersea
Who are you and what do you brew?
I’m Tom Palmer, Head Brewer and Co-Founder of Mondo Brewing Company. We brew ales, lagers, continental European and Traditional English styles, as well as more progressive American and global styles. We’ve brewed over 50 different styles since opening up two years ago.
Where is your brewery?
Battersea, London, a 5 minute walk from the Power Station.
How big is your kit?
We brew on a 10hl (1000 litre) two vessel brewhouse. Its a mash/kettle and lauter tun set up. The whirlpool and hot liquor tank are separate vessels. Last year we brewed over 3300 hectolitres. We’re on track to surpass that this year.
How & when did Mondo get started?
The idea for Mondo itself came about over beers in The Fox in Haggerston in October 2013. Todd and I had separately entertained the idea of opening our own breweries prior to that. But after working together in the industry and talking about what we’d do different, we began to realize we had a similar vision. We took over this space in December 2014 and put our first beer in the tank in March of 2015.
Which one Mondo beer should people try, and why?
Little Victories is the latest addition to our regular line up. That’s a good place to start. But this is a tough question. Its like asking a parent who their favorite child is and why! We make a lot of one off beers and experimental batches. They are available locally and in our tap house.
I like to brew for season and we’ve got a Mexican Lager (Pinche Guey) on deck. If you run into that one, I recommend trying it out. Its our celebration of all things Cinco de Mayo and Mexico and a middle finger to anyone wanting to separate cultures with a wall.
How did you get into brewing?
I started on a packaged homebrewing kit. My friend had received one as a birthday gift in 1999 and asked me to help him make it. It was an American Lager recipe. We brewed infrequently after that until 2007. Living in Tokyo then I couldn’t find many of the beers I’d grown accustomed to in the States, so I started brewing them in my small flat in Asakusa. With the help of some other ex-pat homebrewers I built my own all-grain brewing system, mimicking the process you would find in most breweries.
From there a hobby turned into obsession. I visited breweries around the world, read trade magazines, email professional brewers asking for advice, ordered textbooks from brewing schools, won some homebrewing competitions, and finally volunteered at my local brewery. I moved to London in 2013 and took a job at a brewery in Hackney and wrote the business plan for Mondo with my brewing and business partner Todd.
What are your brewing influences?
Anchor Brewing, Russian River, Jamil Zainasheff, Tasty McDole, Stan Hieronymous, a select group of homebrewers in Tokyo, New Glarus Brewing, Half Acre in Chicago, Harvey’s in Lewes, to name a few.
Where do you like to drink in London?
The Priory Arms in Wandsworth/Stockwell area, and the Bear and the Stormbird in Camberwell. Very easy to stumble home from those last two.
How do you go about developing a new beer?
Experience with ingredients and then just tasting flavours from fruits, desserts, spicy dishes, macaroon cookies, juice drinks, other people’s beers, something I’ve read about an experimental hop new to the market, and trying to recreate those flavours in beer form.
What’s your favourite type of beer to drink and to brew?
Double IPAs are fun for both. Its usually a hefty grain bill to mash, which is challenging getting all the equipment to flow right. Then there’s the obscene amount of hops. That fills the brewery with some amazing aromas. IIPAs are a style I came to relatively late in my brewing experience. Once I discovered them though, I went all in. As a brewery, we’ve been making a range of Double IPAs based on geographic distinctions that have developed throughout the States. And that has been an interesting journey for our palates.
What’s the best beer you’ve ever made?
As a homebrewer I used to make a Foreign Extra Stout regularly. As my ability to brew grew, that became a beer I looked forward to brewing and drinking. It stands out among the thousands of batches I’ve made to date. Our Geronimo IIPA from last year is certainly memorable among the IIPAs I’ve made. And I get a lot of requests here at the brewery to remake Poppa Cap, our original 6% Classic American Pilsner.
What’s the best beer you’ve ever tasted?
Pliny the Elder. Believe the hype. That beer is amazing on tap. Alpine Beer Co’s Nelson. And a myriad beers brewed by friends in Tokyo have made me stand in awe of the talent that I was surrounded by. Locally, Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter is awesome when its fresh.
What advice would you give to people just getting into craft beer?
Social Media ratings sites are subjective. Form your own opinion about what kind of beers you like and what you think is a good beer. Have fun. Beer is a fun product meant to compliment many of life’s celebratory occasions. It can be easy to ruin that with over analysis and expertise. Analysis and judging is for competitions and serious tasting sessions, not every night at the pub. Finally, step out of your comfort zone on occasion. There’s a wide range of ingredients being used today. Some of the combinations can be pleasantly surprising.
What’s the strangest ingredient you’ve brewed with?
Grains of Paradise was interesting. Though its been in cuisine I’ve eaten, I could hardly have told anyone it was there. Using it in a beer for the first time was a learning experience. Having said that, I recommend starting off with small amounts of any new ingredient and adjusting up for taste. You can’t go back from overdoing it the first go!
Have you ever completely screwed up a beer, either homebrewing or commercially?
Yes, I’ve done everything from drop a glass carboy from a height of 2 metres to open valves of pressurised tanks and spray beer across the brewery! The carboy story still makes me laugh.
A friend and I had decided we were going to brew together on his 50 litre system at my house. Having never used the system at my place it took us awhile to get set up, and we decided to have a beer or two while putting everything together. The gas line didn’t fit and the equipment was awkward indoors, so we had to take it apart and reassemble it outdoors. A simple task turned into three hours of tinkering and getting everything just right. A man can go through quite a few of his own beers in three hours. By the time we mashed in we were both a bit cross-eyed. We got through the mash and lauter fine, it was during the boil that I felt solidly drunk.
The boil finished and we ran 20 litres off into each of our respective carboys. I decided to carry my carboy around the house for some reason. I don’t think I really even knew that I was doing so until my co-brewer asked why I had that unwieldy glass container full of fresh wort in my hands. Not having an answer I decided to put it down. It slipped, bounced off the hardwood floor, sprayed wort all over the ceiling, refrigerator, walls, floor, TV, family photos, area rug, and pretty much everything it could have splashed. The glass didn’t break. I regained my composure, covered the carboy mouth with sanitised cling film, cleaned everything up, and then pitched the yeast.
The beer, a Black IPA (I call them American Black Ales), turned out fantastic.
What’s next for the brewery, and are you working on anything exciting right now?
We have new tanks arriving this summer. We have a special birthday IIPA being brewed today. We’re at a lot of fun festivals this summer. And we’ve got some great parties planned for the tap house. We’re celebrating our 2nd Birthday on June 3rd, the doors are open to everyone of legal drinking age.
What do you think the next big beer style will be?
I think fruit-infused, low-alcohol sour beers are making a fairly big impact right now. On the horizon I would suspect more breweries to search out local ingredients and use those in traditional styles for a modern twist. That ethos seems to drive innovation in the brewing world. That and borrowing ideas from other breweries around the world.
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You can find out more about Mondo Brewing Co at www.mondobrewingcompany.com