This was the outcome he didn’t see coming. Even though the clues were all there. A Northeastern music industry degree. A career path through the William Morris Agency and Yahoo! A wife whose job swept them off to Britain. His own fascination with beer.
And then, his decision to crack open a brewery of his own.
“It really is just beer, at the end of the day,” says Todd Matteson, co-founder and director of Mondo Brewing Company in London. “It should be fun and it should be playful. But we also want to convey the message that we take it very seriously, while we have fun doing it.”
Matteson’s company is in its fourth year of selling craft beer in London, little more than a decade after he began learning how to brew in his cramped New York apartment. With his business partner, Thomas Palmer, a fellow American from St. Louis, Matteson has been introducing a new wave of flavors and brands to the traditional birthplace of pubs.
“There’s a huge movement for craft beer here, though it’s still pretty far behind the States, relatively speaking,” Matteson says. “Seven years ago, there were about 12 [craft] breweries in London, and now there are 110. So we’re facing a lot more competition.”
The Mondo formula revolves around sophisticated tastes, creative ingredients, and clever marketing drawn from Matteson’s previous career as an ad man. Its Americanized menu includes Dennis Hopp’r IPA, Road Soda New England Pale Ale, Kemosabe IPA, and Coco Loco Smoked Coconut Porter. A particular favorite of Matteson’s is Green Monstah New England IPA, with a label that features a horned Godzilla bursting through the left field wall at Boston’s Fenway Park, as a baseball player and two biplanes swoop in. (This promises to do well when the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees meet in London for two games in June.)
“Being at Northeastern, it was a pretty easy walk to Fenway Park,” Matteson says. “I love creating music, and creating beer is kind of similar. It’s a really personal thing, which I think is quite cool.”
After graduating in 2003, Matteson worked for more than three years in the music department at William Morris in New York. By the time he had moved onto digital ad sales (the influence of which can be seen in Mondo’s labelings), he had already been introduced to home brewing, which quickly became his passion. He read books on the science of beer-making, volunteered at Chelsea Craft Brewing Company, and experimented nights and weekends in his apartment.
“It was a pretty tight operation,” he says. “After every brew, I would decide that I needed to buy more equipment to help me create better beer. It took up quite a bit of space. My wife was probably not too happy about it, but she did enjoy drinking the beer.”
After moving with his wife to London in 2011, Matteson put together a business plan for a potential brewery in his home state of Connecticut. Then opportunities redirected him. He took a brewing course in northern England, an internship with the Weyermann Malting Company in Germany, and a job with a brewery in East London—where he met Palmer, his future partner. By June 2015, Mondo was selling beer from its Battersea brewery, within a mile of the River Thames.
“It’s been quite a large endeavor to do this in a country that we’re not from, with all the regulations that go into it,” Matteson says. “It all happened quickly, so it’s been a really fun project, and very stressful at the same time.”
As he speaks by phone from London about Mondo’s improving access to stores and pubs—“we were able to poach our sales manager from another brewery,” Matteson says—the influence of eight years in London can be heard. His New England vocabulary and accent have been swallowed up by the Old World.
“Do you think so?” he says in that declarative way by which Brits ask rhetorical questions. “I know becoming comfortable with saying the word ‘mate’ took a long time; I was, like, sticking to my ‘dudes.’ But I don’t think about it anymore.”
There is a pause over the phone, followed by the slightest, satisfied gasp.
“Sorry,” Matteson says. “It’s 5 o’clock over here. I’m drinking a beer.”
Boasting in the form of an apology. So very British indeed.
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