Halftime: A Visit to Belgium and Holland

We are halfway through with what has been an amazing summer so far here at NCB. Last week I travelled around Belgium and Holland visiting some renowned breweries and tasting some great (craft) beer.

Belgian style beer is probably one of the most famous kinds of ale in the world- known for its blonde color and complex wheat-y and yeast-y characteristics. Many people who initially try this kind of beer may not like it at first as these craft beers may be unfiltered which means that there are yeast particles still present in the finished product- unlike classic lagers such as Heineken or Stella Artois. The top-fermenting and higher fermenting temperature make for a more complex beer than the lager style beer which are bottom fermented at cooler temperatures. Learn more about the beer styles here. If you aren’t used to this unfiltered style with strong hop and floral aromas, it may take a little while for your palate to adapt- as it did for me. However having studied abroad in Maastricht, a small city in the region, I was exposed to this kind of beer and I have grown to love it. Belgian style blondes really have this unique body, mouthfeel and taste that is hard to accurately reproduce.

While in Belgium, I visited Bruges which is know for being a Belgian beer hotbed. I visited the oldest pub in Bruges and had their 500th (!!) anniversery brew. Here I went on a tour of The Half Moon Brewery. This brewery was particularly interesting to visit because of how old it is. Its been owned by the Maes family since 1856. They still brew some beer in the old (renovated) brewery but because of an expanding operation, much of the brewing and packaging is done at a new plant. Regardless, it was very cool to see all of the (very) old equipment that they used to use during the brewing process such as old copper tanks, pulley systems, cooling pools and a gravity system to move the beer throughout the brewery during the brewing process. Additionally, it is always good to visit new breweries and brew pubs to soak up good ideas for our brewery!

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Next, I visited the Stella Artois brewery in Leuven. This was particularly intriguing for me to see simply because of its sheer size. Although NCB is owned partly by Carlsberg Sweden, the brewery still has that small craft beer feel and taste- its hard to say the same about Stella- a brand which is part of the massive (alcoholic) beverage conglomerate ABInBev. To see the scale that Stella brews at and distributes was truly shocking.

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On my way up to Amsterdam, I visited the Jopenkerk brewery in Haarlem. This brewery was in an old converted church. It was very cool to see how they had transformed the church and had the brewing tanks out in the open directly behind the bar. The bar was packed inside and out- although the food was not very good and signage was poor, they had the aesthetic that they were going for down. This allowed for a real brew pub atmosphere which seemed to draw a big and consistent crowd.

Next, in Amsterdam, I visited the well known and highly respected Brouwerij ’t ij. Although I did not get to go on a tour here, the bartenders were happy to let me look around the brewery a bit once I explained why I was there and what I’ve been doing here in Stockholm! This was a great place to visit because, in a lot of ways ,it is quite similar to NCB. Although it looks different and the beers are different, it is a small craft brewery that has a bar and food and a great outdoor space – which was packed! This was cool to see and great to compare to NCB while taking some notes about what we might be able to do here in Sweden…

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Next up…a post about our 4th of July Brooklyn Brewery Tap Takeover party!

A Little Bit of Everything

I spent last week all over the place. We finalized a new section of our website that allows you to locate all of our customers in the greater Stockholm area so that you will always be able to find an NCB beer. I spent a lot of time compiling this list of around 100 customers and then pin pointing them on a map. We thought that this was very important for our brewery as most breweries have a feature like this on their websites. It will really help people see our reach and influence as a member of the Stockholm community.

On Tuesday I spent the day with Steve, our brewery ambassador, as we went around collecting things for our upcoming events from banners to a ping pong table and more. We have an amazing porch at our brewery and to have that porch be as lively as possible is very important to us. A ferry from the city center docks right outside NCB so it is a natural way to attract customers!

On Wednesday I kegged an entire batch (104 – 30 liter kegs) on my own. This was not the most fun day I’ve had so far, but important experience nonetheless. They say in sports a coach can’t make his team run sprints and drills that he himself has never done, so this kegging is a rite of passage in a way. The head brewers will always step in on the keg line to show the younger guys that they can and will still do it.

Thursday, I was charged with writing some tasting notes. This was an exciting task for me since it is such an important aspect in this kind of business. It is important for the brewery to have accurate and credible tasting notes in order for our customers to understand what they are drinking and to ensure that they can enjoy it as much as possible and in the right way. These tasting notes go into quite a lot of detail and include the specifics of the beers such as alcohol content, original gravity (the density or amount of sugar in the wort / beer) and the types of hops and malt and yeast used. Further, tasting notes include food pairings which we believe is of particular importance.

Of course I have done beer tastings before but this time I had to pay strict attention to every part of my palate and every taste bud in my mouth. It was my turn to finally decipher each note and character that I could taste, and not have someone tell me what I was tasting. In order to do this to the best of my ability I read a famous book by Brooklyn Brewery’s own Garret Oliver: The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food which goes into incredible about virtually every type of beer and the proper ways to enjoy them.

This week I will be going to Belgium and the Netherlands to visit some of the worlds top breweries such as Stella Artois, La Chouffee and Heineken and other smaller local craft breweries on the way. Now with real brewery experience it will be very interesting to compare and contrast these operations to NCB. It’s also the perfect region to drink quality beer!

An Eventful Week at NCB

Last week was another full one at Nya Carnegiebryggeriet. Most of last week was spent doing event planning in anticipation of our events that are around the corner after this weekend’s Midsommer holiday.

NCB has a lot of new customers this summer season so it is crucial to visit them and make sure that they have everything they need from coasters to tap handles and frog eyes. These simple and little things that increase visibility are vital to the rate of sales (ROS). Our new coasters have our social media handles as well and our address and a little blurb about the brewery to increase interest in the brewery.

One of our biggest tools we use to promote our beer and brand and increase ROS is the brewery itself! At each costumer visit we strongly encourage each member of the bar staff to visit the brewery to do a tour and tasting. Not only does this show we’re interested in our customers but it proves to them how passionate we truly are. We believe that if these bartenders come to the brewery for a tour and tasting they will become more knowledgable and passionate about our beer and where it comes from. This allows them to better recommend it to people with certain tastes and with the right dishes! In addition to visiting some of our new customers, we also deliver a few kegs directly from the brewery to certain customers who take beer very seriously. This ensures quality, accuracy and freshness.

To pay tribute to our (American) Brooklyn Brewery influence, we’re throwing a July 4th party which takes a lot of planning. From flyers, to Facebook invites, to an all-American playlist and decor like balloons and flags and even a proper hot dog distributor!

For Sweden’s Ölets Dag or National Beer Day we have gotten a local band to come and play and most excitingly we have arranged to have visiting pit-masters from Brooklyn’s partner Grillstock from the UK to join our restaurant crew. We even ordered a large custom smoker for the event that we will keep forever!

What has become most clear this week is the importance of detail and the little things that go into everything we do at NCB – from making sure that customers have everything they need to making sure that the events have everything they need to go as planned. Finally, it is truly a team effort here at NCB. Given the small operation but large tasks everyone is always busy with something and these things aren’t necessarily always a part of their job descriptions.

Brewing isn’t all Smelling Hops and Tasting Beer

Besides a few customer visits and some website updates earlier in the week, last week was filled with hard work in the brewery. Although this was not the romantic side of brewing it is the most important side filled with tough work of brewing, cleaning and kegging and bottling.

On Tuesday, we were up at 7am and kegging at 8am for four or five hours straight. During this time, we cleaned, labeled and filled about 130 30-liter kegs, which was a single batch of about 4000 liters. A machine cleans the inside of each keg with hot water and steam and then cools it and fills it with beer and CO2 to pressurize it. Although we don’t manually clean and fill each keg, we do have to do all of the heavy lifting and loading of kegs onto wood pallets.

Jack kegging J.A.C.K. It's funny because it's true. @_jack_slattery_ #nyacarnegiebryggeriet #jack #brooklynbrewery #beer #kegging #craftbeer

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On Wednesday, after the kegging was completed, we were charged with cleaning all of the brewing equipment in advance of brewing again on Thursday. At Nya Carnegiebryggeriet, we use a cleaning in place (CIP) system that uses Hot Water Caustic and Acid to clean all of the tanks. The tanks and pipes are flushed with hot water, and then caustic, rinsed and flushed with acid and then rinsed again with hot water. This is extremely time consuming considering it is necessary to clean all of the four tanks in the brew house (the Mash Tun, the Lauter Tun, the Wort Kettle and the Whirlpool) as well as the fermentation tanks, the filter, the cooling tanks and the kegging and bottling lines. Each cleaning cycle takes about 30 minutes to an hour and each time the pipes have to be connected to the new tank from the CIP system.

On Thursday we brewed. We were up by 5am and milling malt by 6am. Once the malt is ready, it is sent to the mash ton where it is mashed in hot water to break up the stuff we need to make wort and beer! After the mash cycle, the mash is moved to the lauder ton where the spent grain (used up malt) is separated from the wort. The wort is moved on to the wort kettle while the spent grain is recycled. Here at Nya Carnegiebryggeriet, we send out spent grain to be composted and to be turned into biofuel that we buy back. Spent grain can also be used as animal feed. When the wort is in the kettle, it boils for a certain amount of time depending on the recipe. Throughout this boil, hops may be added at certain intervals to give the beer that nice hoppy aroma. On this day, we were brewing J.A.C.K, a session IPA (under 5% ABV) which takes in 3 hop doses (one that’s been boiled for 60 minutes, one that’s been boiled for 30 minutes and one dose that was not boiled). Then this wort is moved to the whirlpool where the excess hops and other unwanted solids are collected at the bottom and filtered out.

Throughout the process, beer is often tasted and tested in the lab. Here we test temperature, gravity (units of sugar per liter), and oxygen and alcohol levels. It is important to check these things at all stages to ensure quality, accuracy and consistency. In Sweden, Systembolaget can test the beers to ensure that the information on the labels is accurate. They give a little leeway in terms of alcohol content because not all craft breweries have such sophisticated lab technology to test these things.

After the whirlpool cycle, the wort is sent to the fermentation tank where yeast is added and in this case some more hops (dry hopping). It ferments for a few days while the yeast eats the sugars from the malt and makes alcohol and some natural carbonation. In the case of J.A.C.K. the beer is filtered (not all of NCB beers are!) and sent to a cooling tank where it is infused with CO2 to further carbonate the beer. After a day or two in the cooling tank the beer is ready to be packaged and enjoyed!

Today, we bottled a few thousand bottles of J.A.C.K. and cleaned some more tanks in the morning and had a sales action meeting and beer innovation plan meeting in the afternoon. Tomorrow we brew again!

First Week of June at NCB

It has been a busy first week of June at Nya Carnegiebryggeriet. On Tuesday morning, I arrived at my new office on the water in Hammerby Sjöstad. First thing on the docket was a meeting with Brewmaster Anders Wendler and Brewery Ambassador Steve Dippel. We hatched out a plan and schedule for my summer here at NCB and were off to the races.

Brooklyn Brewery and NCB had just finished hosting the Stockholm Mash, which went out with a bang on Sunday at NCB’s outdoor patio. After meeting the awesome NCB team in the kitchen, bar and brewery (and a fantastic lunch at the restaurant) I was ready for my first assignments. First things first – getting to know the details of the alcoholic beverage industry in Sweden. Learning about the inner workings of Systembolaget – the Swedish alcohol distributing monopoly – was crucial in understand the challenges that a young and growing craft brewery like NCB faces. These challenges range from winning awards in order to get more beer on more shelves in more stores to the strict alcohol advertising laws here in Sweden. All of these obstacles and more make growth of the brand and beer an exciting challenge for everyone in the brewery.

After understanding the big picture it’s just as important—if not more—to understand the NCB picture. I was handed the NCB brand plan and the graphic manual. The information enclosed was key to understanding how the brewery plans to grow while maintaining its craft beer quality and personality. Here at NCB – and Brooklyn Brewery for that matter – we’re not beer snobs. (Generous) Beer Geek might be a better fitting label. We are passionate and knowledgeable about (our) beer but we are also here to help people learn about our beer and beer in general so that they can appreciate and enjoy it even more. This is all part of the NCB plan. The brewery is just as passionate about its beer as it is its restaurant, community and customers. These are all things I knew and all things I can associate with but it was great to read all of this and more in these two documents.

On my second day, I travelled up to Carlsberg Sweden’s headquarters in Solna. Here, I joined Steve Dippel at an NCB Operational Meeting where we discussed, with our Carlsberg partners, the recent and expected trends for NCB as well as several ways to promote all of the aspects of NCB I just talked about above. Yesterday, this was followed up with a conference call with our colleagues back in Brooklyn. On this call the Co-Founder of Brooklyn Brewery, Steve Hindy, shared his thoughts and advice with some other members of the NCB and Brooklyn teams. The discussion focused on NCB’s cooperation with the locals with the goal of finding even more ways to engage the community and foster a true relationship. After all, NCB is a part of the Hammerby Sjöstad community. Brooklyn Brewery has long been an active member in the local Williamsburg community as well as the greater Brooklyn and New York City areas. Who better to brainstorm community engagement ideas with than the Brooklyn team and Steve Hindy?

It was a busy first few days at Nya Carnegiebryggeriet. After the call, Steve and I, along with Haben Berhe, the Brooklyn Sweden Brand Ambassador, headed to Smaka På Stockholm (A Taste of Stockholm) in Kungsträdgården. Here, NCB and Brooklyn share a booth serving both NCB and Brooklyn beers on tap and in bottles and cans. These beers were enjoyed by many on the first day – from at 11am to 23:30 (Friday and Saturday too and till 22:00 on Sunday)! At our booth, lots of people enjoyed playing foosball and cornhole along with great music and food! Stop on by and join in on the fun sometime this weekend! Learn more about our beer and some future happenings at Nya Carnegiebryggeriet!

Welcome to the New Carnegie Brewery Internship!

On June 1st, I’ll be moving to Stockholm, Sweden to start an all encompassing internship with Brooklyn Brewery’s year old sister brewery New Carnegie Brewery or Nya Carnegiebryggeriet in Swedish!

I will be working with Steve Dippel who is the Brewery Ambassador. I will be charged with aiding him in his marketing and sales endeavors and with the planning and execution of several events that the Brewery will host and participate in throughout the summer. In addition, I will be working with the brewers in the brewery helping with bottling, kegging and even the brewing itself! I will also work with the Carlsberg Sweden distribution team. Working in these three different manners will provide me with the chance to learn about and contribute to the New Carnegie team and the craft beer industry. I am so lucky to have such a promising summer ahead- all in hopes of using this experience to catapult me into the industry in the future!

Stay tuned for a post leading up to my first week and the first event: A Taste of Stockholm on June 4th!