Brewer’s playground Little Creatures
The most interesting work environment for a brewmaster is probably that someone’s willing to try any of your brewing experiment. For Tom Champion from Australia, Hong Kong is just the stage to try out his dreams.
Tom is currently principal brewmaster of the Australian craft beer brand Little Creatures. Working his way up as junior brewer in its Perth plant, he was with Little Creatures for eight years, with the past year and a half stationing in Hong Kong as the head of the city’s operations. How did it start? “I read chemical engineering at university, and has worked in a quarry since graduation – that is, sitting in front of a computer in an office. One day I came to know Little Creatures was recruiting, and I went on to take the job. As a matter of fact, beer brewing involves chemistry, physics and engineering, and are largely crossover with my background. Now my job is to create chemicals, which is beer!” He laughed.
Little Creatures’ Hong Kong plant, it is imaginable, is much smaller than its Australian base, but still much larger than most of the Hong Kong peers. Spanning more than 5,200 square feet, it is a brewery-restaurant combo which accommodates six 500L fermentation tanks, all of whose products are served in-house as draft beer and will not be bottled. There are two beer programs running, one of which is dedicated to “home brew.” “The purpose is to create something interesting. So there’s always been a weird and wonderful beer on the tap here, like hefe weizen and Belgium triple. “In this year’s Chinese New Year, we had a collaboration brew with Gweilo Beer. We brew with the small citrus fruits during the festival. People peel them and dry them. We use that in a session beer. The result was a beer full of orange peel flavour, a flavour that is not use often in beer. People were so open to new flavours. It was a very popular beer that went extremely quickly.” Another program is “House IPA,” there’s always different IPAs on tap. Previous brews include Session IPA, and coming into market in July will be Marmalade IPA.
At Little Creatures, Tom’s another experimental project is flavouring with randall. The facility holds a variety of materials such as fruits or herbs, which is infused with beers with suitable flavours for a specified time. “I’m still learning the randall, like what beer to mix with special ingredients to make it interesting. There’s a guy with cocktail background so he understands mixing, this hopefully makes better use of the randall, always making something new for people to come back.” In June, from the Randall was mojito cider – lime and mint go to the randall, which is infused in cider. Sales were undoubtedly well in a hot summer.
對釀酒師來說，最有趣的工作環境，莫過於釀出甚麼來 ，也有人願意試。對來自澳洲的釀酒師Tom Champion 來說，香港正是一個讓他盡情試玩的舞台。
Tom 目前是澳洲手工啤品牌Little Creatures 的首席釀酒師。事實上， 他在Little Creatures 珀斯本店從初級釀酒師做起，前後已在這品牌工作八年，而在最近這一年半就擔任香港這邊的負責人。為甚麼會釀起啤酒來？「我在大學唸的是化學工程，畢業後就到礦場工作，其實是在一個小小的辦公室裡坐在電腦面前。後來看見Little Creatures 招聘初級釀酒師，就去應徵了。其實釀啤酒涉及化學、物理和工程，與我的背景有很多重疊。現在我也是製造化學物，即是啤酒！」Tom 笑說。不過他指出， 一邊釀酒還有很多東西要學習，例如要充份了解酵母，就要對微生物學要有更多認識。即使已釀了多年啤酒，仍有很多環節令他充滿興趣。
來到香港的Little Creatures，雖然規模遠比澳洲的小，但已比香港的標準大得多。這裡也是酒啤與餐飲結合，佔地五千二百多呎的餐廳裡劃出一個範圍去釀酒，目前總共有六個五百升的發酵桶，全部出品都以生啤形式在餐廳供應，不會裝瓶發售。在這裡，有兩條固定的產品線， 其一是「House Brew」，基本都是一些較少見古怪但有趣的東西， 例如hefe weizen 和Belgium triple 等，「在今年農曆新年時，我們就與另一個啤酒廠鬼佬合作，以四季桔釀啤酒。我們從街市買得桔皮， 去釀造一款session 啤酒。啤酒帶強烈的橙皮味道，在啤酒裡並不常見，結果客人對新口味非常受落，酒很受歡迎，去貨也極快。」另外， 他們有一個桶專用來釀「House IPA」，酒款不斷更新，之前釀過例如session IPA，即將在7 月上市的會是marmalade IPA。
另一個Tom 在Little Creatures 的實驗性項目，就是採用Randall 去調味的啤酒。Randall 是一個為啤酒調味的器具，在裡面放入不同的材料如水果或香草，再將口味相配的啤酒注入適當的時間去浸泡。「我仍在學習如何使用Randall，試驗以甚麼酒配以甚麼材料，會令啤酒更有趣。目前負責這個項目的同事有調雞尾酒的背景，對調配味道有一定知識， 使用Randall 也更有優勢。」六月份randall 的主打是Mojito cider， 就是在randall 裡放入青檸和薄荷，再注入cider，在香港的悶熱夏天裡， 不用說也知道銷售反應很理想。