GBG Belgium Advert

How I Created …

Baby-Faced Assassin, 6.1%
by Tom Fozard

This article might be more appropriately titled How We Created … , as Baby-Faced Assassin (B-FA), in its current form, is a joint effort with my twin brother, Oliver.

Oliver and Tom Fozard, RoostersStarting at the beginning, as a home-brewer in 2011 I’d had a 50/50 success rate of producing beer that I considered to be better than average and had become frustrated that I wasn’t getting the desired levels of flavour and aroma.

I’d brewed a couple of good porters and the odd pale ale that were acceptable and worth sharing with friends, but what I really wanted was to create a beer that resembled the American IPAs I’d come to know and love (Odell IPA in particular).

Around the same time, Zak Avery (my then boss at Beer Ritz and fellow home-brewer) had wangled a deal with Summer Wine Brewery to buy a kilo of Citra hops that we ended up sharing.

At that time, even the pros were struggling to get their hands on Citra, so, for a home-brewer, it seemed an impossible dream to be able to brew with it.

Whilst Zak rationed his hops between a number of recipes, I decided to go for bust and concocted a beer that used 95% of my score. With no early addition, every ounce of hop was utilised in order to create a juicy IPA that had a relatively restrained bitterness.

With close to 500g of a hop that was like hens’ teeth for a home-brewer to get their hands on committed to what felt a bit like a ‘final’ attempt to create a beer that delivered the end product I’d been searching for, I was practically giddy when I first drew off a sample towards the end of fermentation. I even took some to work with me to share with my colleagues and a few customers.

Glowing Reviews

So pleased was I with what I’d created, I decided the beer needed to reach a wider audience, especially as I was aspiring to join the brewing industry. I turned to Twitter and offered people the chance to ‘win’ a bottle. Those that did came back to me with glowing reviews, which was all the more pleasing.

I always gave a proper name to every beer I brewed and, with a background in publishing, I also created my own label artwork, with the name and designs usually preceding recipe formation. With B-FA it was a different story.

Some people believe that Baby-Faced Assassin is so called because I’m a Manchester United fan – one of their former players, Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, had been given this as a nickname – or that it reflects my boyish good looks(!).

As a Yorkshireman and proud supporter of Leeds United, this couldn’t be further from the truth and, whilst I acknowledge that I appear to be younger than I am, the fact is that the name simply fell into my head as I was walking to catch a bus one day.

I’d been thinking about how the beer was deceptively drinkable and that the ABV could sneak up on consumers if they weren’t careful, so the name also acted like a tasting note.

A few months later, the opportunity for my family to buy Rooster’s from Sean Franklin presented itself and, following a successful takeover, I found myself living my dream job.

I soon started having friends and other people who’d tried the original B-FA asking me when it was going to be upscaled to become a commercial product. The answer was quite simple: ‘Probably never’.

Commercial Viability

The reason was that it wouldn’t have been commercially viable to simply take the recipe and multiply everything by 160, as even by home-brew standards the beer had been an expensive one to brew.

Roosters Baby-Faced AssassinOver time, however, I recognised that, via social media, the beer had built up a reputation – albeit amongst a relatively small group of beer lovers – and I knew that the name was too good not to use. This is where Ol comes in.

With a background of working in the brewing industry since leaving school, Ol has always been mindful that, at the end of the day, the reason a beer’s being brewed is so that it offers enjoyment to the consumer, whilst also being profitable.

It’s Ol’s belief – and therefore that of Rooster’s – that beers should be brewed, first and foremost, without fault and should be clean-tasting, with each ingredient used to complement the other flavours in order to create balance.

Everything is considered, especially as it’s in both Rooster’s and our customer’s interest to make the consumer want more*, with the aim being for every pint to be flavoursome and balanced in equal measure. (*Please drink responsibly.)

When I suggested brewing B-FA on a commercial scale, Ol wasn’t convinced. He’d tried the homebrew and loved it – the balance and drinkability fitting in with our shared ideals – but he also recognised that it wasn’t practical. By this point, however, I was adamant that we had to at least give it a go, even if only as a one-off.

Ol’s task, therefore, was to rein in the hop bill without losing any of the bold, punchy notes that Citra brought to the party. This was no mean feat, especially as the beer had already developed its own reputation without ever being available to the masses.

Experimentation with dry hopping, as well as the addition of Munich malt to help broaden the beer’s ‘backbone’, became the key to B-FA going from a 25-litre brew to one that’s now produced in 4,000-litre batches – the first of which was brewed as a one-off under Rooster’s Outlaw brand at the end of 2013.

The demand for that initial brew was great, whilst feedback from drinkers and landlords alike was humbling, and so Baby-Faced Assassin became part of our core range at the start of 2015.

We were delighted to scoop a bronze medal for the cask version at the 2015 International Brewing Awards and it was also on the bar at this year’s Great British Beer Festival. It continues to prove popular with drinkers up and down the UK, available in cask, keg and can.

Not bad for a beer first brewed in my bathroom.

Bookmark and Share