Archive for the ‘beer marketing’ Category

The reluctant brewer

I’ve been seeking out small scale breweries across Northern Europe for a dozen years. Most of them are happy to open their doors, give me samples from their tanks and send me home with a bag of goodies. Sometimes we don’t find the time to meet, but we have a Messenger chat, exchange e-mails or have phone conversations.

I use the opportunities I have when I travel for business or leisure, and with close to 200 Norwegian breweries, there is a long list of microbreweries I want to visit in all parts of the country.

This summer I was able to seek out a few of them, and found eager brewers happy to tell me about their beers and how they fit in with food and other ways of making money.

But there is always a first. In Sømna, the gateway to Northern Norway, father and son Trond and Bård have started Nordgården Gårdsbryggeri. I get in touch with Bård, and he tells me his father is at the brewery the day we are driving by.

It’s a beautiful summer day, the brewery is located on an idyllic farm a few kilometers away from the main road, there is a nice beer garden in front of the house.


I get a rather lukewarm greeting. I explain what I am doing, show a copy of my book, and tell him I try to keep a total overview of all Norwegian breweries, and I’d like to have photos and descriptions of his beers in my book.

  • I’d don’t want to be a part of your book, Trond tells me.
  • -But you have a license to brew, you sell your beers here and elsewhere, and even have a pub in your garden?
  • Sure. But the beers are not where I want them to be yet. If you print descriptions, they will be out of date too soon.
  • But this is an opportunity for publicity and I’m not charging you for this?

Trond makes it perfectly clear that he is in no way ready to present his beers in any book project in the foreseeable future. There is no point in stretching out my visit, he makes no gesture of putting the kettle on. He is in no way comfortable about my visit. But he allows me to take a few photos for web use. And I persuade him to trade a few bottles for a copy of last year’s book.

I’ve later tasted the beers, and I have to admit he has a point. The beers taste like home brew. Perfectly drinkable home brew, but nothing outstanding compared to other beers you find in Norwegian supermarkets. Maybe it’s right to wait a few years before I get back to him. Or at least until next summer…


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Thirty years ago, Teo had a dream. A dream that slowly would give birth the the Italian beer revolution. A dream that has grown into a giant brewery, but is much more than that.

Thirty years ago, Teo Musso started a beer bar in his home village Piozzo. He was tired of the bland industrial pilsners on offer, and he knew there were some interesting beers out there that he could sell. His bar soon featured 200 beers, mostly imported, many of them Belgian. Hoegaarden was an early favourite.

For ten years, the bar grew in reputation and scope – and then Teo created his Baladin brewery.  The rest is history.

Piozzo is one of thousands of sleepy Italian villages, among the hills in the Northwestern corner of the country. It’s lush and green here, the Alps make sure there is enough water both as rain and as rivers. The crops here are barley and maize – but mostly grapes.  Alba 20, Barolo 7, the signposts say as we approach.

I was one of a selected few beer writers invited to mark the anniversary of Baladin and the opening of the brand new brewery. Which is much more than a brewery.

The new brewery is situated on a sizeable area of land, with possibilities of growing ingredients, brewing beer with state of the art technology and the aging of beer in 14 century cellars. There is no real threshold for production here. The new brewery does not start out with a capacity far beyond the old one, but the possibilities for expanding are endless.

The bar turned into a brewpub in 1996, and the first bottled beers were sold one year later. Since then there has been a slow expansion, until this year’s move to fantastic facilities outside the village.


The investment is sizeable, 12,5 million Euro plus VAT, but then everything should be in place. Some of this is crowdfunding. This is not only for the financial aspect, it is also a way of getting the local community seriously involved.

The most impressive is the automated bottle maturing process. This is bacically a closed box. The beer is matured for various lengths of time at three different temperatures, and a robot makes sure it is moved to the correct place at the correct time. Groundbreaking beer technology, with a potential in other fields like winemaking or cheese production if you ask me. This was intended as a Horizon 2020 project, but a Spanish partner had to resign, and Baladin lost 1.5 million Euros because of that.

There is more. There is land set aside for growing barley, other grains and hops. There is a drying area for hops, and they plan to build maltings. They are establishing a magnificent garden open for the public, with stone mills, and old communal oven and cheese makers and butchers invited in. The craft of barrel making had almost died out, Baladin uses Japanese craftsmanship to build new ones and to take care of old ones. There is education, too, with a small brewery set up for students at the nearby Gastronomical University to acquire brewing skills.

Baladin is no longer one of a handful of Italian craft breweries. There are now one thousand Italian breweries – yet the growth potential is big. Craft beer still account for just 3% of the Italian market. Baladin sells half of its production abroad, and ten percent in their own bars and restaurants. There are Baladin bars in a number of Italian cities, as well as in New York.


Teo is proud of what he has managed to achieve. I have moved mammoths, he says, and points out that the Italian beer revoulution is also a cultural revolution. What is important is the next stage is to watch out for the big industrial players making beer they pretend to be craft.

I admire people who set u a goal and then work towards it for decades. Some have to throw in the towel, but Teo did not. His contribution to the European ber scene should not be underestimated.

I had expected a range of inventive beers for this launch, but I assume we will have to wait until the products from the new brewing plant have been allowed to mature, be it in the old cellars or in the new warehouse with temperature zones. One beer to look out for is a light, hoppy blonde simply called POP. Available in brightly colored cans, ask at your local beer shop wherever you live. Of course you should enquire about the Xyauyu range of beers too, aimed for a more discerning public. And there are lots of beers in between to explore, too.

And if you are in the area, there are tours of the brewery. A gallery going through the building gives good Access. There is even a shop selling souvernirs and beer.


Check out Martyn’s report on the event as well.

Disclaimer: I was invited to the opening of the new Baladin brewery as a guest, and they paid my travel expenses.

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I often sing the praises of the tiniest breweries, and of course they make good stories. But the ones capable of taking a significant bite of the Norwegian market are the medium sized breweries, often with a strong regional standing. In Oslo there are now several breweries to be taken seriously – one of them is St. Hallvards Bryggeri.

A trio of beer enthusiasts with Anders Rohde as the key figure started brewing in 2015, just in time to get featured in my book. They have listed 17 beers available for a beer event next week – when you add special beers for restaurants and supermarkets and three new Christmas beers, the total adds up to about 25.

Several restaurants in Oslo are shareholders in St. Hallvards. The brewery was crowd funded, and they have 450 shareholders.

St Hallvards. does not aim for the extreme ends of the market, the focus is on high drinkability and lots of flavor. They have the usual range of British, Belgian and American styles. What has impressed me most are the beers brewed at 4,7%, allowing them under Norwegian legislation to be sold in supermarkets. There are lots of dull beers on the market because of this limit, St. Hallvards is one of the exceptions. Look out for their saisons and brown ales of various strength.

St. Hallvards Bryggeri is named after the patron saint of Oslo, and their beers are named after various colorful characters from the city’s history.

Look for their beers in the Meny supermarkets and in Vinmonopolet as well as well stocked bars and pubs and beer festivals. The last project they are involved in is a series of beer and aquavit glasses in cooperation with  Magnor Glassverk, Arcus and Sentralen restaurant.


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Bråk 1

Restaurant Håndverkerstuene in Oslo has specialized in Nordic Food and Nordic beer (as well as aquavit). This is reflected in their seasonal menu, and you will also find a dozen craft beers on tap, most of them Norwegian, but the other Nordic countries are also represented.

This year is the third time they are running Bryggeribråk or Brewery Brawl. The concept is simple – every Monday the restaurant sets up a three course menu. Two breweries try to match the dishes with beer. Up to 60 diners then vote for the best match for each dish. The winning brewery goes on to the next round. Most of the breweries are Norwegian, but they have also invited participants from Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden.

It’s a great way to get people interested in beer and food combinations, it’s a nice opportunity for the breweries to promote themselves, and it fills the restaurant on a Monday evening.

Disclaimer: I have been invited twice as a guest to the event. But I would not recommend it if I didn’t enjoy it. And, compared to many beer tastings, it is excellent value for money.

Bråk 2

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Borg Brygghus brweres

Oli Runar and Valgeir from Borg Brugghus presenting their beers


The Icelandic brewery Borg Brugghus is looking for export markets, and they had an event at Haandverkerstuene here in Oslo just before Easter. Hans,  the manager of the restaurant, is also Icelandic, so he had them bring along some traditional Icelandic food to go with the beer.

Borg Brygghus har been around since 2010, and have brewed around 50 beer since then, of which six or seven are regulars. They have very decent IPAs of various strenght, but I’d like to pick out some of their more excotic stuff.

Leifur is what they call a Nordic Saison at 6.8% ABV. This is brewet With local heather and thyme, which blend well in without getting in the way. Fruity, Rich aroma, a little funk that should be present in all saisons. Fine beer.

Smugan is a 10% Wheat Wine, brewed with kaffir lime leaves, Norwegian salted and dried cod and juniper berries. Despite all this, it’s a very drinkable beer, the amount of fish involved must be very moderate.

The highlight was the Surtur, a 9% smoked imperial stout. It’s not just smoked. Iceland is a country withou any forests, so wood was hard to find. You could smoke your food over peat – or you could use sheep droppings as fuel. The beer has a smoky character, all right, but the shit does not give any pronounced flavor.

To go with these beverages, we were also served Icelandic food. Lovely tender smoked lamb. Ram testicles pickled in sour milk. And their famous raw shark, buried in the sand for months to be slightly more edible. I thought someone at my table had problems with their personal hygiene. I was wrong. It was the shark. Luckily we got a shot of Icelandic aquavit, affectionally called Black Death, to go with that.


The lamb and the shark.



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I had planned to visit 50 Norwegian micro breweries in 2016. I havent’t told you before now, and I’ve decided to modify the aim slightly.

Because there are people brewing without having the bricks, mortar and brewing vessels. And talking to these breweries is also important. I’ll come back to Cerivisam later, today I look at Kolonihagen.

Kolonihagen is a brand that includes home delivery of organic food, a bakery, cafes/restaurants and beer. And we are talking serious food here, the three-Michelin-star Maaemo has the partly the same ownership.

They use to have a very small brewery in their restaurant at Grünerløkka in Oslo, which has later closed down. The beers, however, live on.

Brewer Arnt Ove Dalebø has moved the production to Færder Mikrobryggeri in Tønsberg, but he is still in charge of the beers. What’s new is that he has secured national distribution of the beers through the Meny supermarket chain.


There are so far two beers available, an IPA and a Hefeweissen, both at 4.7% ABV.

The IPA is a Cascade single hop. The aroma has apricots, blood oranges and grapefruit. The body is light. A little malt, tones of mango. The finish is dry and refreshing without going to extremes. A great session beer.

The Weissbier is also a single hop beer with Bavarian Tetnanger. It is soft and sweet, with a lot of banana. Proper soft mouth fee, a little citrus. This is not my favorite beer style, but it is true to type, and many wil welcome a good Norwegian Hefeweisse.

I only have one objection: The place of brewing should be printed clearly at the labels. There is full disclosure on the Kolonihagen web page, but the consumers are unlikely to look it up.

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Vespa & Humla front

A quiet alternative

I’m not usually pushing news about the big global players in the alcohol industry. But when they reach out to small individual producers to do a collaboration with no strings attached, I don’t mind.

Jameson Whisky, which belongs to the Pernod Richard group, has been doing a series of collaborations with craft breweries with the same concept – beer aged in used whiskey casks. This time around, Grünerløkka Brygghus in Oslo was invited to join in, and head brewer Kjetil Johnsen has made a limited edition Irish Rock Porter.

This is a Baltic Porter (brewed with lager yeast, if that is of importance to you), which has spent some weeks in casks which were just emptied of whisky. It’s a one off, so don’t expect this to find this outside Norway or for promotional purposes for the destillery.

There was a launch last night in Oslo, and I am happy to report about a very drinkable beer. The whiskey character comes through in a subtle way – it has a lighter touch than scotch whisky barrels with all their smoke or bourbon barrels with a lot of vanilla. Sure, you feel the booze, and the oak plays its part. But it an easy drinking and elegant beer. Grab it if you can.

The tasting was held at Vespa & Humla, the new brewery tap of Grünerløkka Brygghus. They still have their main pub, but the new one is tucked away next door to the brewery.Expect to find a full list of their own brews and a relaxed atmosphere – and good home cooking.

Kjetil with beer glass. Kjetil has every reason to be pleased with his whiskey barrel beer.



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