Last Updated: 26 August 2013
Microbreweries, part 2: Visiting reality
In the second part of this article on microbreweries, we will be taking a closer look at the industry to better understand the thinking behind craft breweries.
"When you’re sitting in a restaurant and you hear someone at another table say 'Wow! This beer is good!' about a beer you brewed yourself, well, you feel a few feet taller."
This is what Thomas Hansen had to say when asked what was the best thing about being a craft brewer. Thomas is one of the founders of Nynäshamns ångbryggeri, which started in 1988 as a private beer club for a group of friends.
After increasing interest from outsiders, they continued as a members' pub, brewing their own beer, before taking the step to a becoming a dedicated brewery in 1997. Their breakthrough came a few years later with Bedarö Bitter.
"It is one of the few beers, maybe the only one, that has been able to get into the state-controlled Systembolaget's basic range as a result of public demand", says Marcus Wärme.
Marcus, a photographer and designer, acts as the brewery's own advertising agency. The brewery does not have to invest a lot of money in marketing. "The beer has always sold itself", he says.
Today, the brewery has thirteen employees and produces around 600,000 liters of beer a year. Since 2006, it has been located in Nynäshamn's old switchgear building.
Lasse Ericsson is the first person we find in the production hall. He is one of the four brewery owners and is head brewer. Although perhaps not in this order: while we were there we noticed he was working constantly on the brewing and tapping. A short pause to enjoy a packed lunch and then back to work again.
"You'd think you'd get fed up, but this has been an exciting journey and it's a very good business to be in", Lasse says. "And I'm proud to be in it too. We do everything here, from the subtleties of finding the right recipe, to establishing our own production system, brewing beer and advertising.
Beer is more exciting than wine", Lasse thinks. "You can't put your mark on wine as much in the production process. When you're making beer on the other hand, you can experiment with the temperature and viscosity of the mash, try different kinds of hops and yeast and add exciting flavors. Amongst other things."
"We're mostly looking to the USA for inspiration. They are always a few years ahead of us. The funny thing is, the Americans themselves get their inspiration from all over the world and take up old beer traditions."
Everybody has their own beer dreams
In the corridor outside the production hall, there is a whole wall of framed certificates from all kinds of beer festivals. The brewery's biggest achievement so far was Bötet Barley Wine being named as the "World's Best Dark Ale Barley Wine" at the World Beer Awards 2011.
One part of the name, Bötet, is certainly not a traditional name for beer. This is because Nynäshamns ångbryggeri uses the nearby archipelago as inspiration for its product names. Marcus and Thomas are clear about which beer name they like the least.
"There's one called 'Sjukommatvåan' (Seven point two), I don't know how you can do that, just highlight the alcoholic strength. Why are they allowed to even sell it?"
Marcus also highlights "Cheap Thrills" as another bad example. Of course, for the quality-conscious and meticulous craft brewer, it is anything but price and alcoholic strength that is important.
And it does look like craft beer has a future. Right from the start, orders have been rolling in faster than bottles can roll out of the brewery, and demand is continuing to grow.
This high rate of production has meant less time for experimenting – but just like the beer itself, there are a lot of ideas fermenting.
"As soon as we have a pause in production, we are testing one of our new recipes", Marcus says. Everyone working here has their own beer dream.
And perhaps that is the most significant driving force for all craft brewers. The belief that there is always a better beer waiting out there. And perhaps you need to make it yourself if you want to enjoy it.