So Long Stockholm

It’s time to wrap up the summer and try to make sense of all of my experiences while explaining what I have learned about brewing and the craft beer business.

I’ll start with the actual brewing of beer. Anyone can go on a tour of any brewery and get an overview of the brewing process from start to finish. You mill malt, mash it in with hot water, filter the spent grains, boil the wort and add hops, filter and cool the wort, add yeast for a few days to ferment, possibly add more hops, let the beer mature, filter it again, add Co2 and then keg or bottle it and send it out. However, like most things, it’s easier said than done.

I was able to learn how to actually do this process from start to finish on one of the most advanced brewing systems in the world- Rolec. Although most of the recipe and brewing is computerized and up to the brewmaster, it is crucial to know what is going on every step of the way from testing original gravity to final gravity to pH levels and more. I would have to mill the malt, make sure the right hops are added and that the right pumps and pipes are connected and running. I was able to learn how to brewing works on a large professional scale. I was able to help brew beer on a very sophisticated system that I would soon be comfortable operating on my own if I had a bit more time with it. I was extremely lucky to learn on this system since most craft breweries do not have this kind of equipment. So, having learned how to brew on this system will make me comfortable in a larger and more established craft brewery and give me a leg up in an entry-level position- no matter what kind of position that is. It also gives me a unique skillset if I were to join a smaller craft brewery that doesn’t use this kind of equipment- while still being able to operate any kind of system that they do use.

There is a science behind brewing of course, the temperatures and enzymes and so on, which I am unfamiliar with. However, my co-workers often stressed to me that this did not mean the end of my brewing career before it had even started. After all it is craft beer. It takes some sort of experimentation; it is often a process of trial and error. It is more about knowing the process and beer and what it takes to make good beer than it is the science- leave it to ABInBEV to pay scientists for the “perfect” lager recipe. That’s not what craft brewers are interested in anyway.

Then comes the business side of things. The importance of quality branding, communication and customer service are of the utmost importance. I found it particularly interesting to learn about the detail put into every pamphlet, poster, label, web post and more. The branding has to be strong no matter what. Poor beer may survive so long as its branding and following is strong, but good beer will not last if it doesn’t have a strong brand and therefore not a strong following. As a baby of Brooklyn Brewery- which has an increadible brand- NCB took branding very seriously. Everything from color schemes, to typeface and the kind of beer and crowd that the brewery wanted to be associated with. These things are crucial in cementing the brand and the brewery to enable real growth.

When it comes to a young small craft brewery this is especially important in order to become an established member of the community. I noticed that the Temple Brew House which is younger than NCB had an incredible following. NCB also has a strong following but crowds at the brewery strongly depend on the weather and the events going on at or around the brewery. It is obvious that NCB’s location poses some challenges while the Temple Brew House has incredibly central location. This means that Temple’s location allows its brand to be cemented in the community much more easily than it is for NCB which is on the edge of the city in a young neighborhood. NCB tends to be a destination rather than a spot for regulars. This means lots of exciting challenges that I got to undertake. The best way to battle this we found was to have regular events. Holiday parties, guest cooks, live music, trivia nights and more are all in the works. Regardless, NCB has done a good job of cementing its brand so far in Stockholm and Sweden as a whole for that matter. Of course, the Swedish alcohol laws make it even more challenging for micro and craft breweries to enter into the market. It was quite interesting for me to learn about this industry in an environment that really hinders classic advertisement and marketing strategies for alcohol. Having found ways around this meant being creative and smart while staying true to our brand. I am confident that that is a skillset I will use for the rest of my life- one of creative and responsible marketing.

All of these things may seem like little things that can be improved and changed every day. And they are—but that that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. In addition to all of this, it was a great experience to be a part of the collaboration between large and successful international businesses. I was able to learn first hand how they determine trends, how they influence these trends, how they work to get more customers, how they coordinate distribution and how they drive rate of sales. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on meetings and conference calls with Carlsberg and Brooklyn execs while they discussed actionable strategies to improve and streamline any and all elements of the business.

I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t in this business. I am grateful for everything that I got to see and do while in Stockholm and on the road. I can confidently say that everything I learned will be put to good and important use in the future- no matter what that future entails. I am a better person and professional because of my time at Nya Carnegiebryggeriet.

Last but not Least: London

This weekend in London was the perfect way to close my summer in Europe and wrap up my summer brewery internship made possible by my Salisbury International Internship Award.

Garrett Oliver credits his time in London as a major reason for his love of beer and his pursuit of it as a career. Having spent time in the U.K. before, I tended to be unimpressed by their beer. Britain is known for specializing in ales. Ales are top fermented beers- beers that are made and fermented at higher temperatures. Ale’s are made hotter from the start- mashing in at upwards of 60 degrees C. The wort is then cooled to 15 degrees C and left to ferment at 20 degrees C (at least NCB Amber is). This is quite warmer than lagers, which are cooled to about 12 degrees C and ferment at about 14 degrees C. This higher heat allows for more active fermentation and allows the yeast to break down more of the fermentable sugars during the fermentation process. This results in Ales usually having higher levels of alcohol as well as more complex flavors and mouth feels. Consider this- Budweiser, Heineken, Carlsberg and Coors are all lager style beers that tend to be accessible to the masses because they are easier on the palate. The craft beer movement however seems to revolve around (Indian) Pale Ales, Amber and Red Ales, and Belgian style wheat ales because of their increased complexity.

Anyhow, back to London. The U.K. also tends to have more sulfates in their water. This plays a unique roll in the brewing process. For instance, when we at NCB make our Amber Ale, we add a few hundred grams of salt to the brewing water to try to mimic the saltier British water. This time in London, I was able to enjoy the beer I tried at several different breweries. This is in part because I understand the brewing process but probably more so because I now understand some British brewing techniques too. The reason British beer may tend to be “room temperature” isn’t because Brits like warm beer. The beer at bars that do come out warmer come out warmer for a couple reasons. This type of beer is known as cask conditioned. This means that they are matured in wooden casks or barrels. This means that the beer does not have external CO2 pumped in to carbonate it and give it those refreshingly looking bubbles. The beer however does have some natural carbonation. But this is a lot less so the beer feels a bit flatter and warmer. In addition, this means that the beer has to be pulled out of the cask. That is why the cask conditioned keg handles require a bit more effort. Instead of a pressurized keg and tap system that pushes the beer out, this beer essentially has to be pulled out of the cask by the bartender.

While I didn’t have enough time to visit each and every micro and craft brewery in London- and I assure you there are a lot- I did get to go to a few to taste, tour and take notes on the environment of their brewery. My first stop was the Temple Brew House. This is a classic albeit young brew pub in central London. It is 8 months young but already quite popular. I was lucky enough to have a “tour” of their “brewery”. They brew about 5000 liters at a time. Their brewhouse is one small room in the basement with three small fermentation vessels upstairs. This was the first real microbrewery I have seen. It is a real micro brewpub however t doesn’t really have that feel. They have done quite well to solidify themselves within the community and have quite a good reputation for their beer and their bar. They have a wide array of beers on taps and in bottles and cans from craft breweries from all over however only 4-6 beers of their own on tap.

I also visited Beavertown Brewery. Beavertown Brewery is located on the outskirts of the city and was a participant in the Brooklyn Brewery Mash Tour London stop. This was a nice brewery to visit not just because of its good beer but more so to see another craft brewery that actually feels like a proper brewery. Beavertown has a brewhouse capacity of 50HL or 5000L. Meaning that each batch is about 5000L compared to NCB’s 4000L single batches. However, they have a much bigger brewery than Temple so they can turn out many more batches, where as Temple brews once about every 8 or 9 days.

Finally I spent some time walking through loads of great markets that now inhabit the Old Truman Brewery campus in East London. I’m sure I will be back in London soon to visit Brew by Numbers and the London Camden Brewery and any new ones that pop up!

Stockholm Pride

Stockholm Pride Week took place last week. Here at the brewery, we had a unique way of showing our support!

On Monday, I stopped by our local theater lighting store to pick up some pride colored light filters. Then, after placing the light filters in the light bays on the façade of the brewery, our very own Pride flag was ready to be seen from all around Hammarby Sjöstad.

As the brewers got back from their summer vacations last Monday it was time to get production back up and running at full steam. We brewed all week and had our biggest filling day ever.

On Thursday, filling commenced at 7am and didn’t finish until 7pm. We filled a double batch of our prized Amber Ale (about 8000 liters). We filled 16 palates with about 60 boxes on each. After taking some cases out for quality control tests, reference, and errors (bottles/boxes that were labeled or filled incorrectly) we packaged 955 cases of beer (24 33cl. bottles).

This week, will be my last week in Stockholm. I will be helping with the brewing all week in hopes of becoming even more familiar with the process so that I can continue brewing at home in the fall. Maybe I will be able to get a gig at a local brewery in the Finger Lakes to compliment my last year at HWS!

On Friday, I will travel to London for the weekend to visit some classic pubs and breweries. Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery’s brewmaster, claims that London is the city that changed his life and a major reason for where he is now. Hopefully London’s brewing and beer culture will be equally influential for me and my future.

Coast, Copenhagen and Craft

Last week was filled with all of the above. Early in the week I updated our account map on the website to include all of our customers in Göteborg and Malmö. I then took a train down to Göteborg (Gothenburg) for a weekly event that Brooklyn Brewery sponsors. This “Colors” event takes place at a nightclub in Göteborg and was a massive success. With Jillionarie from Major Lazer spinning a DJ set, the place was packed with people- most with Brooklyn Summer Ale in hand.

While in Göteborg, I also visited two of Brooklyn’s biggest accounts in Sweden to see the kind of place Brooklyn Brewery is partnering with and how they operate. Both Barabicu and Pustervik were very hip places. Barabicu had a full house and was clearly a destination for lovers of good food and good beverage while Pustervik was an equally happening bar. In addition to seeing how Brooklyn Brewery and Nya Carnegiebryggeriet were doing in western Sweden, I checked out Beerbliotek which is a small batch brewery in Göteborg. The name is a play on the Swedish word, Bibliotek, meaning library. It is obvious that Göteborg is the cultural and culinary capital for western Sweden. That being said, it is great to see NCB and Brooklyn Brewery thriving in Göteborg in competition with other great craft breweries like Beerbliotek and Dugges.

Next, I took the high speed train down to Malmö- the largest city in southern Sweden.

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After a tranquil train ride down the coast, I took a few hours to wander about in Malmö. After walking along the coast and checking out the Twisting Torso and some of NCB and Brooklyn Brewery’s accounts, I hopped on another quick train headed for Copenhagen

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Twisting Torso, Malmö

While in Copenhagen, I visited the Mikkeller and Friends pub. Mikkeller is a Danish contract brewery that contracts the majority of its brewing to big breweries in Norway, Denmark and Belgium. Mikkeller is known for its wide variety of beer and bottle design as well as its great quality! afterwards, I visited a much smaller brewpub called Ølsnedkeren which had great beer…but it was truly just a brewpub. They brew some beer in the basement and have other beers on tap. It was a small operation but still very cozy and Danish- definitely worth a visit for a pint.

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Evil Twin Brewing is another successful craft brewery with Danish roots. It is also one of these contract or gypsy breweries. The gypsy brewery movement is quite large in the nordic countries and allows these smaller craft breweries to have better reach. That is one reason why Evil Twin is so popular in the states- particularly in Brooklyn. Unlike Stockholm adopting Brooklyn trends, it seems as though Copenhagen has no interest in being anything but itself which may be a reason for its rich food and beer community…In reality, Brooklyn might even be adopting parts of Copenhagen’s lifestyle.

After these few trips to craft beer hotspots in the Copenhagen, I biked over to the Carlsberg Experience. This was quite the change in atmosphere. In fact, Carlsberg brews very little beer at this location. Most of Carlsber’s production is done in Falkenberg, Sweden. Instead, the Carlsberg Experience is a tourist destination that is mainly used as a marketing ploy. You can tour the old brewhouse and pet the Carlsberg horses (similar to the Budwieser commercial horses). They also have a brand shop where you can buy anything from Carlsberg underwear to Carlsberg glassware. What I did find interesting however, was the history of the brand. Of course, Carlsberg wasn’t always the Carlsberg we know today- not the brand nor the size. It is always interesting to see how large brands develop into the massive multinational moguls that they are today.

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Old Brewhouse
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Carlsberg Horse
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I found it particularly interesting that Carlsberg used to have a swastika as their logo, when it meant goodness and prosperity until the Nazi party tarnished its meaning.

Now it’s back to Stockholm for my last two weeks.

Ölets Dag

Also known as Swedish National Beer Day. This Wednesday Nya Carnegiebryggeriet had between 800 and 1,000 visitors. People flocked from all over Stockholm to enjoy some truly outstanding BBQ. Pete Griffiths from Grillstock in the UK smoked Brisket and Ribs for hours on end throughout the night in preparation for the big crowd.

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A crowd started to gather on the NCB waterfront patio at around 2pm with a swarm of people coming during the afterwork rush to enjoy our nice lightly smoked experimental lager, juicy and tender BBQ and some live country western music from Roy Handcuff- a perfect compliment to the day’s American BBQ theme.

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Despite the brief showers in the middle of the day, the event was a huge success! People stuck it out under tables and umbrellas and inside. They were determined to get their beer and BBQ! We don’t blame them. We ran out of food at around 8 in the evening (20 slabs of 7 kilo Briskets and 250 racks of ribs)! All throughout the night before we thought we would have leftovers…Our bar inside was packed well into the night after we closed outside. NCB staff and brewers gave a total of about 20 tours over the course of the day.

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We credit a lot of the success of this party to the success of our July 4th event- after a party like that one it only makes sense that a lot of people would return for Ölets Dag! All of the promotion for this event really paid off and it shows that Stockholm is recognizing NCB as not only a place that produces great beer but also a place that should be a regular destination- not just for big events. Next year we’ll be sure not to run out of meat!

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Post- July 4th…Pre- National Beer Day

After a huge weekend at NCB, things were a bit slower at the brewery last week. A combination of poor weather and Stockholm residents going on long summer vacations meant a slower week for the bar and restaurant.

Nevertheless, we were still quite busy inside the brewery! Monday was all about break down and feedback from our Fourth of July party. All of the feedback we got – from Brooklyn and Carlsberg, guests and fellow brewers was extremely positive! The Fourth of July party went off without a hitch and ended with a (literal) bang.

On Tuesday we visited all of our customers who sell big quantities of our beer in the summer to make sure they have everything they need from us to have a successful summer. We made sure all of the keg lines had been cleaned so the beer tasted the way it should and that they had good signage and visibility.  While out on these checkups we were promoting our Ölets Dag (Swedish National Beer Day) event. This event will start late on Tuesday night when we begin to smoke the brisket and ribs from the US throughout the night with our Grillstock friends. We will start serving around 2pm until 10pm!

On Wednesday, Steve and I headed to IKEA and bought 25,000 SEK worth of stuff of our office! In the past, the office was a bit of a mess with merchandise all over the place. With new shelves and desks, we were able to organize all of the merchandise and signage that we use to promote the Brewery. The office now has a proper set up for conferences and meetings when we have visitors from Brooklyn, Carlsberg and other Swedish craft breweries that we collaborate with.

The latter part of the week focused on getting ready for next weeks Beer Day event. With the weather forecast unclear, we have to be prepared with an event tent. We went down to Nynashamn to collect 30 sacks of oak wood for the smokers that have been drying and seasoning for 2 years.  The end of the week was concerned with making sure everything is in order for our Beer Day BBQ.

Friday morning was more of the same, with a tour in the afternoon. I led a private tour and tasting Friday evening with newly graduated Hobart student Steve Klementowski ’15.

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Back to Business with a Brooklyn Brewery Tap Takeover on Independence Day

This Saturday, NCB hosted a huge 4th of July Party! We wanted to pay tribute to our American roots in Brooklyn by having a Brooklyn Brewery Tap Takeover while serving the classic burgers and dogs with grilled corn and coleslaw.

The party was a massive success! Our patio (and restaurant) was consistently packed from opening at 1pm to closing at 10! We sold out of Hot dogs and burgers by around 7 and sold more beer than we had imagined! We had classic American jams playing all day long, American square dancing, corn hole and more- including FIREWORKS

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IMG_5799                                        Fellow Hobart student Ian Forsell joined in on the fun too!