Who is Tommaso Stettler?
Tommaso is the brewmaster of WhiteFrontier in Martigny, Valais, in the Swiss Alps.
He joined our team several months ago. And we gave him some time to adjust before putting him in front of our microphone to really get to know him better. A brewer is to a brewery what a chef is to a restaurant. He is the soul, but also the keeper of the quality and the reputation. We would like to introduce you to Tommaso Stettler, a passionate and creative man who enjoys listening to Bob Dylan in the brewery.
To get to know him, let's start at the beginning...
Who was the child Tommaso?
I was born in Florence, Tuscany. I grew up in the sublime countryside, overlooking the city, with my parents and two brothers.
Ah ok, I understand better your sense of aesthetic and your obsession with taste...
Oh, really, why? Well, because you grew up in Florence, the city of art, surrounded by the beautiful Chianti hills...
Come on, sorry, I let you continue.
Aahaha, yes, it's true... My mom was also born in Florence, and my dad was born in Switzerland, in Sainte-Croix. He traveled a lot while my brothers and I enjoyed an epicurean childhood where good products were at the center of our family table. Thanks to this open-mindedness and the numerous family trips, I fell in love with cooking at a very young age.
Every year, the whole family would go on vacation to the Bernese countryside to visit my Nonno (Grandfather). The smell is one of my strongest memories of my trips to Switzerland – the smell of fresh air, cows and wide-open spaces. I also remember family walks, bike rides, and big breakfasts all around a table.
What did little Tommaso Stettler do in his free time?
I played soccer. I loved it and spent almost all my free time on it. This activity combined everything I love: the sporting challenge, teamwork, friends and discipline.
Ok so right away, we don't picture the epicurean guy, excuse me. We imagine the guy who drinks cheap beer, eats chips and an old overcooked sausage at the bbq.
Strange as it may seem, you can be a footballer and an epicurean; the two are compatible. Yes they are, I assure you. I was able to combine my passion for soccer with my epicureanism.
How was your passion for beer born, the craft I mean?
It's first of all a heritage from my Dad. He went to live in England for almost two years when he was a teenager in the 70s and he became very fond of those typical English ales. His passion for atypical beers has remained with him and has also been passed on to me.
At the end of my adolescence, in the 2000s, beer consumption in Italy was mainly composed of Lagers. But, of all my friends, I was the one who drank the "weird" beers, like Brown Ales, and Stouts. That was always my thing.
You went from being a lover of good products, and especially of beers, to a professional brewer, how did you go about it? Maybe some people reading this are wondering how you become a brewer?
To be perfectly honest, I didn't want to be a brewer. In fact, I didn't even know it was possible because in the 2010s, in Italy, there was no brewer training. Instead, I wanted to be a chef – as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to cook. But... influenced by my parents, I decided to take a Science and Food Technology degree at the University of Florence and put off cooking for another time. During my studies, I quickly became interested in beer, and my teachers and other students called me the "Doctor of beer."
Florence is the capital of Tuscany, and Tuscany is a wine country. How do you treat a student with a passion for beer in Chianti country?
They treat him well, even though I've been told several times that my profile doesn't fit with beer. "Beer is an industrial sector, with little creativity, you'll never thrive in it," my professor told me. Today, 15 years later, the department of microbiology at the University of Florence still has a section entirely dedicated to beer-related projects.
They should call it the Stettler department! Ahaha
So you swam against the tide to get to the end of your project. How did you prove that there was a future in craft beer?
The best way to try to convince everyone was to dedicate my thesis topic to it. But to validate my degree, I needed an internship in a brewery, and that was no easy task. It took me over a year to find my first internship... I was beginning to think they were all right...
So who was the first crazy person who decided to give you a chance?
It was first Birrificio Granducato that opened its doors to me for 3 months, followed by a whole series of internships until the end of my master's degree and even after. At that time, I was thirsty to learn, and I wanted to have a lot of experiences to store as much knowledge as possible. Then I had the chance to work for one of the most prominent Italian Craft breweries at the time, Birrificio del Ducato.
I continued my experiences at Fyne Ales brewery in Scotland.
In my time at this brewery, with colleagues, we launched the ORIGINS project, which had the crazy objective of creating spontaneous sour beers in the Scottish Highlands.
At that time, in 2016, creating this kind of beer was reserved for the Brussels area. Again, we were told it would never work. But today, Fynes Ales Brewery is still successfully marketing the ORIGINS project beers.
I then moved to Alaska, where I worked for 49th State Brewing. I have incredible memories of this remote area and this huge Taproom that was doing astronomical volumes. During this experience, I learned how to manage a large beer production while respecting the quality of the product.
Après cela, j’ai eu la chance de bosser pour une cidrerie incroyable aux Etats-Unis avec qui j’ai développé le premier cidre dry-hoppé et un cidre acide avec des fruits.
After all these internships, were you finally able to find a job?
Yes, I was ready. I took a job as a brewer at Birrificio San Gimignano, not far from my home in Florence. And after mastering the core range beers, I wanted to put my effort and creativity into something outside the norm. That's why we started the Cantina Errante project, a 100% spontaneous fermentation brewery, today rated 4/5 on Untappd with 45 beers and about 6000 ratings.
And even after all that, I was lucky enough to collaborate with an incredible craft cider company in the US, with whom I developed their first dry-hopped cider and sour cider with fruit.
How did you end up here in Martigny, Switzerland?
I had just gotten married and was looking for a global project that really spoke to me in a place where I wanted to settle down. WhiteFrontier met all the criteria. A brewery with 3 lines of beers: a clean and modern core range, an innovative line of specials (more than 20 different ones per year), and a range of barrel-aged beers. Martigny is in the heart of the Alps, nature is everywhere, around the brewery, but it remains a small town where many people of my generation live. It is very important for me to integrate and to be surrounded by friends and sports activities.
What do you want to bring to WhiteFrontier?
I arrived just 3 months ago and a lot has happened. I had to get used to the equipment and adapt to my new environment. I am also taking French classes and I hope to be able to speak the language quickly. I want to make innovative, creative beers that surprise and challenge those who drink them while also maintaining balanced and drinkable beers that customers can rely on. But above all, I want to connect with the land and nature. And this is done through many elements, through specific ingredients that we use to brew, but also through the suppliers, the collabs, the food at the Taproom, and other drinks, we might serve there. I also want to respect the environment by putting nature at the center of my concerns.
Do you have any passions besides beer?
Hiking with my wife Heather and dog Malto, cooking, and exploring new flavors, I like to pick up things on my walks and cook them afterward. I’d also like to find a team sport to get involved in here and find more time to read and meditate; those two passions have always played a huge part in my life over the years.
If readers want to find you, how do they do it?