Drink Insider: Grant Chandler of Lost Forty Brewing

Get to know the personalities who develop and make your favorite drinks in Little Rock. In this month’s Drink Insider, we have Grant Chandler, brewer and cellarman of Lost Forty Brewing.
Where are you from?
I’m from Houston, Texas, originally. I went to college in Conway and did not want to go back to Houston, so I moved to Little Rock.
How/when did you first get into brewing?
When I moved here, I got a job in a microbiology immunology lab at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute to see if I wanted to pursue research, but realized I do not. But the job was not very demanding, regular hours, steady income. So I started exploring my interests and brewing was on the list. I liked beer, was looking for hobbies, knew it involved microbiology, and thought maybe I could save some money. Turns out a wise homebrewer once said, “Trying to save money by homebrewing is like trying to save money on fish by buying a boat.” Anyways, I didn’t start brewing right away, but once I did the amenities and access of professional lab equipment were very handy … I brewed my first extract batch in June of 2013 and I haven’t stopped since.
Do you remember what your first home-brewed beer was?
It was an extract brown ale – a Moose Drool clone, from Big Sky Brewing.
When did you start to get serious with your hobby?
It became an obsession almost immediately.
Did you work with Matt Foster?
In the fall of 2013, after I’d had maybe half a dozen batches under my belt, I read an article in the Arkansas Times about the burgeoning brewing scene. … Matt Foster was featured in it. I specifically noted interest in his Arkansas Native Beer project – that really piqued my interest – I thought that was cool. I found his email online and emailed him thinking Flyway might be small enough that he could use some help and I could learn something volunteering. I didn’t hear anything for a month and assumed he wasn’t interested, but it turns out he was just really busy releasing his tap at South on Main. Eventually he emailed me back asking if I would be interested in helping malt barley and culture yeast for the ANBP. I never got too involved in the malt side of it, but that was when I started culturing wild microbes, banking isolates and mixed cultures from a few gardens and backyards around the city. That turned out to be a lot more fun and successful than I ever thought it would be. I owe Matt and Flyway a great deal for moving me in that direction.
Didn’t you win a brewing contest with a wild ale?
Around the turn of 2015, I made the final rendition of my Dunbar Wild. It won the first Damgoode Pro-Am competition, my first competition. The yeast in that beer is making its way through the homebrewing community and has fermented a few Moody Brews saisons recently, which is exciting.
What was your next step?
I started a home brewing and baking project with my friend Will Kelly, a baker at Mylo Coffee Co. We brew together in a home brewery I built in our basement. We make more beer and bread than we can consume ourselves so we give the rest away, often at Dunbar Garden events. Last spring Lost Forty started looking for a new brewer in the midst of an expansion and the imminent departure of one of their brewers. I managed to get into contact with one of the owners and got an interview set up. I was hired in June, two years to the month after I started brewing in my home kitchen.
What are your responsibilities at Lost Forty?
I am a brewer and cellarman, which means I spend most of my time brewing wort and fermenting beer. We are working towards a QA/QC lab which I’ll manage.
What’s your favorite thing about brewing?
Still very much inspired by making beer with Arkansan microbes, Will and I enjoy experimenting with wild cultures / mixed fermentations. Fermentation has always been, and I think will always be, the highlight of brewing for me. Making wort is similar to cooking, which is great, lots of people love that, but for me the real magic is fermentation. I studied that stuff even before brewing; I think microbes are cool. The ability to manipulate them to make art and flavors is super fascinating.
What do you think about Little Rock’s brew scene?
It’s all very exciting. I think there is a lot of potential here and the community is really taking to the movement energetically. … It’s definitely becoming more and more of a city that I’m proud to call home, there’s more craft and local everything, beer and otherwise.
Do you think we can support more breweries?
I do, as long as the breweries maintain high standards. I think there is a danger of too many breweries making too much inferior beer too fast, which may lead to a bubble burst situation. But, as long as our breweries continue to maintain high levels of quality, I think Little Rock has the opportunity to become a great beer city.
If you could go anywhere in the world for beer, where would it be?
Brussels for sure. In all honestly I don’t travel at all; time spent traveling is time I would rather spend brewing. So maybe my answer is actually Little Rock.
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