Q&A with Phillip KelmThe man who set up our boozy brewery.
Meet the man who started it all off.
The man responsible for the beautiful brewery we have and also the initial architect of our brews. Phillip Kelm has seen it, done it all, and when he came down to India, one among the many countries he had taken his brewing skills to, little did he know that he would end up leaving behind a legacy of finely brewed beer, in our very own Bengaluru.
Q. How did it all start for you, your foray into brewing?
Phil: I was sixteen and in the United States. My parents used to subscribe to an alternative lifestyle magazine that described how to brew basic beer. So my friend and I bought the ingredients and made very simple beer. It wasn’t very good, but I was too young to buy beer anyway. That first foray led to an interest in brewing that stayed with me ever since. I brewed in college, and then in my job as an engineer before turning professional.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your journey with brewing.
Phil: The first international brewing related job I had was in Kazahkstan in 1997. I’ve brewed in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Pacific Ocean. As an engineer, I specialise in new and used equipment installation.
Q. How did India get added to that beer itinerary?
Phil: That happened when Sibi called me.
Q. So what motivated you to take up brewing full time?
That was when I decided that working a job only for money was not as rewarding as chasing a dream and loving my job.
Phil: I was a nuclear engineer in Wisconsin. A fire destroyed a house I was renting. Basically, I had no insurance and I lost everything but my dog and my truck. That was when I decided that working a job only for money was not as rewarding as chasing a dream and loving my job.
I quit and moved to Atlanta, where I found a job at what was the largest craft brewery in the southeast US. That was way back in 1994. I’ve never looked back since then.
Q. What was your first beer/brewing related job?
Phil: It was a job I picked up in Atlanta.
Q. How did Toit happen?
Phil: There are networks of brewers that communicate with each other. I think I may have responded to a query by Sibi and he followed up with a phone call. After a successful phone interview, he flew me out to look around and see whether we could work together.
It just happened to turn out that he was very easy to work with and we were able to pull off a very successful pub. Most of it was the Toit group’s idea. I just made the brewery part of it work.
Q. What are the craziest brewing related mishaps you’ve witnessed?
It was accidentally over-pressurised and blew up. The force from carbonated beer was enough to destroy the tank, another nearby tank, and our bottling line.
Phil: There are several. You can easily get hurt if you are careless and don’t work smart. A colleague was dispensing a very dangerous chemical from a drum into a bucket on the floor. He bent over & his safety glasses in his shirt pocket that should have been on his face fell to the floor. The glasses chipped a small flake of sodium hydroxide from the dried crust on the floor and the chip hit him in the eye. That immediately burned his eye severely and he almost lost it.
Another time we had a kettle firebox that plugged up and let carbon monoxide into the work space. One office worker was hospitalised for carbon monoxide poisoning for 3 days. We had a 70,000 litre tank without over-pressurisation protection. It was accidentally over-pressurised and blew up. The force from carbonated beer was enough to destroy the tank, another nearby tank, and our bottling line. The brewery owner and I were just a few feet away when it happened.
We were lucky not to get hurt. My advice is if you wish to work in a brewery, then come to work prepared and think things through carefully.
Q. What’s your favourite International beer?
Phil: Depends on where I am and what’s available. The beer I want in the steamy jungles of Laos is not the same beer I want inside the frigid Arctic circle.
Q: Which is your favourite Toit brew?
Phil: I haven’t had one in over 6 months. Buy me a ticket and I’ll come tell you!
Q. When not brewing, what is your other favourite way of passing time?
Phil: Fishing, camping, scuba diving, gardening and travel.