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Archive for the ‘beer marketing’ Category

There might be some minor adjustments to the Norwegian ban on ads for alcoholic beverages. This means  that breweries and cider makers may give some very basic information about their products. There will be now advertising as such, in printed or online media. It is really tough for a new brewery to promote their products to establish a brand name on the regional or national level.

But we are, to the dismay of some regulators, not totally North Korea. We are allowed to watch some sports on television. And these sporting events have sponsors.

Some of these sports events are unsignificant outside the Nordic countries. (Come to think of it, I don’t think the Danes care, either). We’re taking variations over cross-country skiing here.

Funny that  the Veltins brewery is a major sponsor of skiing. Their beers are not for sale in Norway.

I’d say the chances are good for finding Veltins in Norwegian shops during 2015.

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One of the legends of the European craft beer scene is Mike Murphy. He is an American with a home brewing background, and with an impeccable resume from Italy and Denmark he arrived in Stavanger five years ago. Lervig was established in 2003, and started brewing in 2005. They were stumbling a bit the first few years, and Mike had some serious quality issues to tackle when he took over in 2010. You can read more about Mike’s career at the Die by the BEER blog.

I had not met Mike before, so when Cafe Sara had a Lervig tasting this week, I was very happy to attend. The place was not as packed as the last time I was there, meaning there was more interaction between the public and the stage.

Mike took along James Goulding, who also works at Lervig, particularly with their beer festival.

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James and Mike

 
Lervig was built with a capacity to brew lagers on a scale to compete with Carlsberg in the regional market, and with the current production of 1.5 million liters they can still grow for a long time. Two thirds of the 1.5 million liters is craft beer, the rest lager beers.

We had a sample of several of their beers, including a pleasant Sorachi Ace Lager, showing that single hop beers does not need to be limited to IPAs.

Given Mike’s background and good network, they collaborate with a number of breweries. My own favourite is one they have made with Magic Rock – Rustique. An IPA with Brett, aged in Chardonnay barrels.

During his days in Denmark, Mike brewed some beers from Mikkeller, and when Nøgne Ø needed all their capacity for their own beers, Lervig has taken over the brewing of the Beer Geek series of beers.

The aim for next year is to get a better national distribution in Norway, but they are also working on markets like the UK, Italy and Spain. Emerging markets like Estonia and Poland are also interesting, and if you’re lucky, you might even find Lervig beers in Thailand.

Lervig beers to look out for next year? A Lindheim/Mikkeller/Lervig Kriek with sour cherries from the Lindheim orchards. And a Lervig/ Evil Twin collaboration brewed with two very Norwegian ingredients. Frozen pizza and money. I kid you not. I think the brewery tap they are planning in Stavanger will be a place for pilgrimages in the years to come.

I have met the head brewers of the other top-tier Norwegian craft breweries before – nice to finally have a chat with Mike Murphy as well.

Next week it’s Anders Kissmeyer and Nøgne Ø at Cafe Sara/Verkstedet. Definitely the place to be in Oslo.

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I have looked into the crystal ball. I see 50 new Norwegian breweries in 2015.

There are around 120 active breweries in Norway today, I guess about 20 of them established during 2014. But things are not slowing down. My guess there will be 50 new breweries with a public licence to sell their beers in 2015.

 

I have gone through public records, newspaper clipping, Facebook pages etc. Here are 38 new breweries who are likely to start brewing in 2015, listed by county. As usual, they are scattered around the country, most of them starting up as very small scale brewpub ventures. I welcome all corrections to the list, and hope there is a fair number of omissions, too..

 

Some of these have a local licence to sell beer in-house only, others have a national permit and may sell their beers through shops, bars and restaurants. Note that there are a few destilleries starting up, too, they are not included, neither are cider makers. Nedre Foss Gård in Oslo will , as far as I know, have both a brewery and a distillery.

 

Daglighallen Mikrobryggeri in Trondheim. Already open!

Akershus

Ale by Alex, Fet

Wettre Bryggeri, Asker

 

Buskerud

Aja Bryggeri, Tranby

Eiker Ølfabrikk, Mjøndalen

Skjenkestua pub Drammen

Svensefjøset, Lier

Nøsterud Gård, Svelvik

Låven Mikrobryggeri, Sylling

 

Hedmark

Ølkjillarn, Folldal

 

Hordaland

Inside Voss Rock Cafe, Voss

Bergen Mikrobryggeri/Fribryggerlogen

Nøsteboden, Bergen

Modalen Ølbryggjarlag anno 2014, Modalen

 

Møre og Romsdal

Korn Bryggeri, Eresfjord, Nesset kommune

Bjørkavåg Brygg, Fiskarstrand,

Smøla Mikrobryggeri, Smøla

 

Nordland

Mormors Hus, Bøstad, Vestvågøy

 

Nord-Trøndelag

Eldhuset, Haugum Gård, Overhalla

Berg Gård, Inderøy kommune

Winkelmann Bryggeri, Hegra

 

Oppland

Villtotningen, Kolbu

Sve Gard, Vågå kommune

Kolonihagen, Hamar

 

Oslo

Nedre Foss gård, . ”Bellonahuset”

St. Hallvard

 

Sogn og Fjordane

Tya Bryggeri, Øvre Årdal

 

Sør-Trøndelag

Moe Nedre, Leinstrand, Trondheim

Kystbryggeriet Frøya, Dyrvik

 

Troms

Senja Handbryggeri

Stangnes bryggeri Tranøy

 

Vest-Agder

Hunsfos Bryggeri, Vennesla kommune

Farsund Brewing Company, Farsund

Bryggerhuset (Bekkereinan), Kvinesdal

 

Østfold

MikroMeyer, Spydeberg

Mølla Brygghus, Fredrikstad

Taraldrud gård, Marker kommune

 

Svalbard

Svalbard Bryggeri, Longyearbyen

Trappers Brewhouse, Longyearbyen

 

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Ingeborg, Dag and Jeanette with Gustav Jørgensen

 

I had the pleasure of attending a beer event earlier this week – another case showing how much the scene has developed and matured. This was held at Cafe Sara, which has established itself as one of the very best beer bars in Oslo. The promotion had been fairly low-key, you are not supposed to do much in the way of beer promotion around here. I was really surprised that there was a long line outside when the door opened, and they managed to squeeze in about eighty of us. And we’re not talking big national or global names in the beer world. On the opposite, we were invited to a tasting with two fairly new breweries, who do not even have bottling plants, Voss Bryggeri and Lindheim Ølkompani.

Picking these two was a very good choice, as they both have stories to tell – and the voices to tell those stories. They both brew on a fairly modest scale – around 1000-1100 liter batches, and they are situated in rural areas with small local markets.

Ingeborg Lindheim  told the story of how she went to San Diego to buy their brewing plant, and how she was told by those who sold it to get in touch with a restaurant owner. This turned out to be one of the owners of the Lost Abbey/Pizza Port group of breweries. They struck up a friendship, and they have been doing collaborations with their brewers ever since. Not bad midwives for a small Norwegian company!

Lindheim is a family farm with fruit-growing as its main income. The turnover is too small to give an income for two people,  so they came up with the idea of starting a brewery as a sideline.

This has been very successful, and their most interesting beers use fruit from the farm. They have a Gose brewed with plums, but the most interesting beer of the evening was their Surt Jubileum. Jubileum is a type of plums, and the beer is a Berliner Weisse. Sort of. There is a fresh, clean sourness laced with the plums. Stronger than the usual Berliner Weisse at about 4.5%, yet a feathery light body. They didn’t just buy lactic bacteria from a brewery supply shop, they used live yogurt as a starter.

Lindheim and Voss back to back at Grünerløkka beer fest this summer

 

Voss was represented by Jeanette Lillås and Dag Jørgensen, two fo the three who run the brewery. They have kept their day jobs, meaning they have hired people to do the brewing. They are still very much hands on, however, developing new beers and marketing what they have to offer. Voss is one of the rural communities where home brewing has been kept alive, and they use the local yeast kveik in several of their beers. The yeast has been tweaked a bit, and it now gives a more flavourful beer than when they first tried it out. Their Vossing beer has even more of the traditional, it is brewed with an infusion of juniper twigs, adding a wooden dryness to the beer. (For more on kveik and traditional brewing in Voss, check out Lars Marius Garshol’s fantastic blog. )

Voss also have an Eldhus series of beers. Eldhus are small buildings used for smoking meat, sausages etc, particularly mutton. Dag has another use for the Eldhus, he smokes hops. To make this even more exotic, they pick wild hops for this. A delicate smoky aroma is then transferred to the beer, much more discreet than when the malt is given the same treatment.

The beers from Lindheim and Voss are hard to find, in Oslo Cafe Sara is the most likely place, but Grünerløkka Brygghus or Crowbar have also had their beers. They do not bottle any of their beers today, Lindheim plan to start bottling next year. But they both have been successful in introducing growlers, meaning you can pop in on thursday or friday afternoon and have your growler filled with beers blow 4.7%, fresh from the tank. The rest of the beer is kegged, and this has turned out to be a good format for distribution.

The second wave of Norwegian craft brewing is starting to come of age. I’m happy to see that some of them develop a clear profile. I think that will be needed in a market when everyone with a garage move from home brewing to selling their IPAs. You need a clear identity to survive. And I hope this identity will be mostly connected to unique beers, not just graphic profiles and good networking abilities.

And watch out for a Voss beer brewed with smalahove next year. That is cured and smoked sheep’s head. Extreme beers just got a new dimension.

The Voss growler

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I’ve lost count. We all have. There are new Norwegian breweries popping up every week or so, in the most unlikely places. The beers? The good, the bad and the bland. Don’t get me wrong, there is room for both the good and the bland.

I rarely write about the truly bad breweries. There are a few, usually there are people who wanted a novelty for their pub without any interest, let alone passion, for the styles, the nuances and the flavors of beer. This is a place where your are likely to find someone behind the bar who do not actually like beer, but they would happily down a Kopparberg alcopop or two.

Then you have breweries who aim for a local market, and who don’t want to alienate their public. But that is no excuse for being lazy. You can still aim for flavourful and balanced beers with more character than the industrials, who taste of summer meadows and amber grain. Beers that leave refreshment at the bottom of your half liter glass, yet leaves enough bitterness on your tongue to make you consider another round.

And I have respect for those who have ambitions. Who dare to take up a second mortgage on their house to expand production, who dare to quit their day job to follow their dream. There are a few in the second tier of the Norwegian craft breweries. Not up to the volume and experience of Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet, Ægir, Kinn or Lervig. But some of them will soon be snapping at their heels.

Austmann, Lindheim, Nøisom, Ego, Balder, Voss, 7 Fjell and Veholt are the names I want to mention. Scattered around the coast, each with their own profile, which I hope they will continue to develop. Right now the supermarkets are eager for local beers, I also hope there will be enough outlets in pubs, bars and restaurants for these quality brews. It would probably make sense for some of them to cooperate on distribution,

Then we have another category where I find it hard to have much enthusiasm. These are beers that claim to have local or national identity, but where, like the industrial giants, the marketing is more important than the beer and the brewing. I have no membership in any nostalgic organisations condemning giant corporations, and I have no ill feelings towards those who drink their Stellas (as long as they don’t beat their wives). But I have some resentment towards those who take me for a fool.

There are several companies who are riding the crest of the beer boom right now who claim to be breweries, but are not. Local journalists write, starry-eyed, about local lads make good without asking where the beers actually come from. One of these companies was launched in the summer of 2012. The uncompromised nature of Norway in a bottle is their slogan. The problem? The beers are brewed in England.

Then there is a newcomer claiming allegiance to a gentrified but traditional industrial area of Oslo, launching industrial lagers in supermarkets and aiming for a slice of Carlsberg’s market. At last, Oslo gets its own beer, they boast. Christmas beer brewed with local ingredients, says one of the local newspapers.

Two problems. One: There are several breweries in Oslo, two of them have bottling lines and already distribute a range of beers. Two: They beers are, for the time being, not brewed in Oslo, but in Arendal, on the southern coast. Sure, they are building a brewery. But if they are half as successful as they hope to, they will not have the capacity to brew on a large-scale on the premises. So the local connection is dubious.

Carlsberg has a half-hearted attempt to cash in on the local card as well. They bought up a number of breweries around the country decades ago and closed them down, while keeping some of the brand names. They have the nerve to market beers like Nordlandspils or Tou as ”local beers”, overlooking the fact that they are all brewed in Oslo.

I don’t mind contract brewing. I don’t mind gypsy brewers. But when I buy food and drink I want honesty about where it is produced. Particularly when geography is a major part of the marketing campaign.

Bu maybe I’m old fashioned.

The real thing (at Austmann)

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There is a very heated discussion in Sweden at the moment, as the government retail monopoly Systembolaget has changed its policy on the distribution of beer from small domestic breweries.

There is a general election coming up, which means that this also is of interest for the politicians.  Lawmakers and bureaucrats are in a bit of a twist – one one side there is pressure for a more liberal approach, allowing direct sales of beer, cider and wine from the producers to the public. On the other hand, this could undermine the monopoly, as foreign producers and their importers won’t have the same possibilities and will probably use legal means to challenge the changes. We are talking about a lucrative market with lots of buying power.

Systembolaget, obviously, want to keep their retail monopoly intact, and they have made some changes from 1 September. Their new rules include: Beer from small scale breweries may be sold in up to ten Systembolaget shops within a 100 kilometer radius from the brewery. The brewery is allowed to do the deliveries themselves. In town and cities, this will mean that the customers will have to visit a number of shops to find beers from different breweries. In rural areas, there will  often be less than ten shops within the 100 km radius.

The breweries will still have the option of listing their beers for specioal order through the Systembolaget shops. But they will then have to deliver the beers to the central depot in Örebro. Systembolaget claims that the depot does not have any warehouse capacity, meaning the breweries have to deliver every order by itself, at the brewery’s expense. This does not make sense economically for most of the smaller ones, who are now withdrawing their beers from the special order list.

A better account than the above is to be found on the BeerSweden site, they have published a press release from small scale brewery Beerbliotek (in English).

But I have a personal story to add. Later this week, I plan to visit a new micro brewery in Teveldalen, a conference/ tourist resort an hour’s drive from Trondheim, a stones’s throw from the border with Sweden. I thought I’d use the opportunity to cross the border to Storlien and buy a few Swedish beers. It is some distance to the nearest Systembolaget shop, but they have a network of ombud, meaning you can order your alcohol from Systembolaget and have them delivered to a local supermarket.

This is a modern, hi-tech Nordic country, scoring well on all the indicators for good living, so there is of course a web order form on the web page of the shop in Storlien. I carefully select four beers from the Åre brewery, 60 kilometers further into Sweden, add a few of the more interesting Oktoberfest beers listed in the Systembolaget app, plus a dozen imports from their special order list. I click send on the form, and hope a week is enough for the delivery.

 Screen dump, Systembolaget

Ten minutes later I get a call. From Sweden. From the man handling the alcohol deliveries at Konsum Storlien. Tyvärr, noen of the beers you have ordered are available through our shop.

-Nor even the ones from the local Åre brewery?

-We don’t get our supplies from Åre. We get them from the regional warehouse in Sundsvall. and they do not carry the Åre beers. And the ones from the special order list – we do not carry them.

One more argument for reforming the system, then. What looks like an impressive network of shops boils down to delivery of Carlsberg and Koskenkorva.

 

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Breaking news this morning: BrewDog bar to open in Norway. Or, on closer scrutiny: One step closer to one or more BrewDog bars opening in Norway. I’m sorry that I forgot to credit Ølportalen (in Norwegian) as the source for this.

Three Norwegians have secured a franchise agreement with BrewDog, establishing BrewDog Bar AS. They will not run the bars themselves, but in McDonald’s style deliver everything. Beer engines, interior design, cash registers .. and beer.

Two of the three investors are involved in newly established 7 Fjell Bryggeri in Bergen, which is rapidly making a reputation for high quality beers. They are distributed nationally by Cask Norway, who also distributes BrewDog along with other acclaimed breweries from around the globe.

I am not in the restaurant industry, and I am no accountant, either, so I cannot give an economic analysis of this venture. Of course BrewDog is a familiar name in Norway, Cask Norway has done a great job, getting their beers on the supermarket and Vinmonopolet shelves in remote outskirts of the land. The market is also ready for trendy beer bars appealing to the younger crowd – there are a number of them already, at least in Oslo.

But on the other hand, there are some extra obstacles around here.

  • They cannot name it BrewDog. The rest of the graphic design also has to be toned down to follow the rather draconian Norwegian legislation when it comes to advertising alcoholic beverages. Pump clips seem to be all right, but apart from that they have to limit themselves to a clinical list of the beers on offer. This means that a lot of the promotional effect of using the well established brand name will be lost.
  • The concept of these bars is expensive beer in small glasses, even in markets where beer is cheap compared to Norway. If you add an extra link in the supply chain – the Norwegian franchise holders – and top up with Norwegian taxes and Norwegian wages, the cost of a beer could be astronomical.

They could go for low rent neighbourhoods, playing on the rough, no frills style of their bars. OR they could go for the other end of the market, finding prime spots where the customers don’t worry too much about the prices.

I have followed, with amazement and amusement, the BrewDog penomenon from its early days. I have enjoyed (most of) their beers, and I have praised them on this blog before they became a world famous brand.

I welcome BrewDog Bar to the Norwegian scene. I doubt that their bars (singular or plural) will be my favourite hangouts. But, as I wrote about Mikkeller Stockholm recently, all beer bars or pubs do not need to appeal to all discerning beer drinkers any more. There will be niches for various segments – and we old-timers will have to adjust. What a luxury!

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