Meet the Brewer: Heist Brew Co.
What do you get if you mix a chemical engineer, a barista and a brewer? No, it’s not a leftover Christmas cracker joke; the actual answer, if you ask the guys over at Heist Brew Co, is the brew team of dreams… Photography: Ben Hargreaves
Following a few minor delays (don’t mention the roof), in late summer Heist Brew Co. successfully hopped over to their brand spanking new brewery tap on Neepsend Lane, adding to Kelham Island’s already thriving beer scene.
Up until that point, the owners of the award-winning brewery, Adam France and Dan Hunt, had taken on the brewing responsibilities themselves, and with relatively little experience had achieved huge success from their small base in Clowne. However, once the decision had been made to make the move to the big city, the pair felt the time was right to hand over the reins to a new team of brewers, allowing them to focus on other aspects of the business.
As building work got underway at their new home, Adam and Dan set about putting together a crack team of brewers from a diverse range of backgrounds, with the simple instruction to ‘Make this, but better.’
The search brought them to Scott Murray, Rachel Green and Chris Derbyshire, who we assembled, Avengers-style, for a chat amongst the plush industrial interiors and shimmering stills of Heist HQ.
“We’ve come here with different angles, different brewery backgrounds and different ways that we want to approach things,” says head brewer Scott Murray, who boasts eight years brewing experience. “We’re bringing that together to make a lot of different recipes.”
Scott, who is the most experienced amongst the three, began his brewing career at BrewDog, where he spent a year and a half learning his craft, before moving to Buxton Brewery, and eventually ending up at one of Sheffield’s favourite breweries, Abbeydale, where he worked for five and a half years.
Scott is joined by Rachel Green, whose love of beer was sparked while studying a degree in chemical engineering at the University of Sheffield.
“We had a lecturer who was pretty passionate about beer and yeast, so I got interested in beer through them,” said Rachel. “I started to work in bars after I’d finished my degree, getting more experience with beer, and learning a lot about cask ale.”
“I began looking for entry level brewing jobs and went out to Thornbridge for a couple of years, starting off just filling casks and kegs, before training up on canning line for around eight months. I was always looking for the next step, for something a bit more creative, and when the Heist job came up, I just went for it.”
Completing the team is Chris Derbyshire, an avid home brewer and trained barista. “This is my first brew job,” says Chris “I’ve been in Sheffield for six years, and five of those were in the cafe scene. I’ve been homebrewing for maybe three years and got massively invested into that. I knew Adam and Dan from working in Gaard, where they used to come in as customers.”
“I spoke to Adam a lot about beer and coffee. He was looking for a barista for Ritual [the on-site coffee shop] and he brought me on because he knew about my beer passion.”
“A lot of the stuff I’m learning on the job. I did do a beer qualification with the IBD (Institute of Brewing and Distilling) when I was still home brewing, so it was good coming in here after having done that. I wasn’t coming in with no knowledge and completely learning on the job. I kind of knew what was going on so that’s really helped, because just trying to slot in without it, you’d be like a fish out of water.”
Both Rachel and Chris were originally on split roles, with Chris working half of his time on the coffee side of things and Rachel working half of her time behind the bar. However, this quickly changed the more their brewing activities took off.
Scott explained: “Brewing was taking up enough time that having both of these two working part-time between two areas just didn’t make sense. I think Chris was coming in in the morning and having to keep one eye on people coming in for coffees, and one eye on cleaning, and it’s not worth the risk of anything happening on either side.”
With the team now in full force, their current output stands at around 3,000 pints a week, with 38 unique brews already under their belt since they started in the summer.
“We couldn’t wait to actually start,” says Rachel. “We were brewing a bit before we actually opened but we couldn’t wait to actually see some of the beers that we were doing behind the bar.
“The first brew we did was one of Adam and Dan’s, called National Shortage, which is a nod to the fact that during COVID there was a massive shortage of everything.”
Using their six fermenters, two 3,000 litre and four 1000 litres capacity, and following their mantra of ‘making Heist beers, only better’, they have created a core range including a New England IPA, a Kolsch and a chocolate stout (using local favourite Bullion chocolate). Using the freedom Adam and Dan offer they have also been able to explore their own idiosyncratic brews, including Chris’s hybrid style between a Belgian IPA and a New England and Rachel’s ‘Related Theory’, which used related hops to see how they married together.
Future plans to keep your eyes peeled for include a couple of exciting imperial stout collaborations. The first with Three Hills Brewery, which will be aged in whisky barrels, and the second, a rum barrel stout with the popular Emperor’s Brewery, both of which will be out some time next year.
As well as the collabs, the team already have plenty of ideas pouring out of them for elaborate new brews.
“We all bring something different, and it’s been equally useful,” Scott explains. “Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and we’re trying to make beer that we enjoy drinking. That gives everybody the chance to make something they want to make, and hopefully that will mean everyone else enjoys drinking it too.”
Chris added: “The quality of beers in the last five months has gone up massively. Every brew is getting better and better as we get to know the kit better. We’re going from strength to strength.”