University students masquerading as brewers – it’s all in the name of this very young and exciting new brewery. But judging from the knockout beers emerging from this two-man team, they’ll soon be brewers masquerading as a doctor and a graphic designer!
We recently made the short trip to Bristol to meet with Tom Hebden and Sam Hipwell - the duo behind Masquerade. They had rooms in halls next door to each other in the first year at Bristol university. Sam had to put up with Tom’s music through the wall all year! A true test of friendship. They moved into a 9-bed shared house in their 2nd year and started playing with home-brewing, but it was in the 3rd year, just when a degree is particularly full-time, that they took to brewing in commercial premises.
“Initially we just wanted to give our lager-drinking mates the chance to enjoy something good.” These friends, even the non-beer drinkers, seemed to like what they made, so in a slightly beer-hazed moment, they decided to give brewing a go properly. Tom even managed to base his dissertation on how enzymes affect beer – pretty clever to link his two passions together!
Tom had previously worked some shifts at Wiper and True (Bristol again, of course) and he'd been a home-brewer for a long time - way before university days. Once the decision had been made, they found premises to rent - a commercial kitchen unit next to a chocolate maker (a pleasure in itself) - bought some serious kit from California (that must have eaten in to the student loan!) and got going. That was October 2017.
Another local brewer, Ollie from Fierce & Noble, saw their Instagram posts and asked if they’d like to brew something together – that was their first collaboration.
He offered them some space at their brewery and the opportunity to use a larger tank, if they needed it (demand was so great locally, it looked like they might!). And, in September 2018, that's where they shifted their kit to and where you'll find them brewing today.
We’re lucky enough to be good mates with the guys at Fierce & Noble - that’s how we heard about Masquerade and tasted their beers - and we couldn’t wait to share their story.
Teamwork – how the partnership divides
Tom is the scientific one of the duo, doing medicine (he even rushed to the brewery on his lunch break during lectures, simply to meet with us! What a guy), while Sam read English Lit. He’s arty, but also extremely methodical and logical. It’s a good combination. They decide everything equally, and they talk all the time. We wondered if the dynamics had changed much since Sam left uni just over a year ago, but Sam said that they talk just as much now as they ever did. They both sign off on everything – including the artwork and characters for each can.
Sam is the covert graphic designer and loves to create the characters that now adorn the labels of the can and the pump clips when the beers appear on tap at local pubs and tap rooms. Some of the characters are based loosely on celebrities (but they like to keep the identity of exactly who to themselves). When it came to the question of cans or bottles for their beers, it was a no-brainer … cans to give them more room for artwork. And their cans, as you’ll notice as you delve into this month’s box, are certainly striking.
Their passion is for New World hops – largely New Zealand and US – and to brew juicy, hoppy, NEIPA-style beers. They have brewed a stout – a raspberry and white chocolate one – which went down a storm and they plan to brew another. But NEIPA is their favourite and they can only brew one beer at a time – they are that small – so it has to wait its turn. As you’d expect of the trendy Bristol beer scene, all their beers are vegan and they have plans to make one that’s gluten-free soon, too.
They are excited about doing more collabs when they get their chance and would love to work with James Yeo, the artist who designs Left Handed Giant’s artwork. It’s just a matter of squeezing it all in, especially for medical student Tom. For now, word is out about their beers, demand is up. You’ll find them on tap in local Bristol bars and pubs and in a few local shops, but not so much further afield ... yet.
We are delighted that we got in there first! This is what Brew Republic is all about – helping small, independent brewers to reach a wider audience and getting those delicious brews to our comrades who want to be the first to try something brand new – they've not reached much further than Bristol – and we’re all dead keen to do more with them in the future. You’ll find a few cans of Masquerade in the home fridges of every team member at Brew Republic!
These guys are going places … watch this space!