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An interview with Närke Kulturbryggeri
NOTES FROM A CONVERSATION WITH SWEDEN’S MASTER BREWERS.
August 9, 2007
I have made my way to former miltary housing area in the mid-sized town of Örebro in central Sweden. Guided by the smell of boiling wort I am able to locate the tiny brewery who’s beers all of a sudden became rekown in the world of beer a year ago. The brewery is Närke Kulturbryggeri.
I caught one of the founders, Hå-Ge, brewing.
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Hå-Ge and boiling wort</td><td> </td></tr></table>
Can you tell us a little about the people behind the brewery and how it all started?
- We (Hå-Ge Wiktorsson, Berith Karlsson and Rolf Larsson) started as “beer nerds” around 1980. Together we tasted and kept track of all Swedish beers. When the Swedish beer scene widened in 1994 this proved too awkward. Brewing came as a natural step as it was difficult to find really interesting beer. In 1995 we started a hombrewing club that still exists.
After some time of unemployment the idea of a microbrewery were hatched in 2002, and when we stumbled upon suitable premises we felt that it was now or never. At that time we were four persons – now one has quit, so we are six…
To start a brewery in Sweden is no easy task. How did you do it?
- “We’ve built more or less everything from scrap ourself.
To make beer was no problem. The paper work was more complicated. The Swedish bureaucracy in this area is not exactly easy to get through, but the people who works with these has been really helpful”
When did you start?
- “Our first beer was launched in the autumn of 2004.”
Your beers appear to sell out immediately upon delivery, and pubs are fighting for it. Do you have any plans to expand.
- “We brewed 20000 liters in 2006, expect to brew 30000 liters in 2007 and plan to brew 40000 liters in 2008, which we hope will be sufficient for two full time exployees.”
- “150l of Kaggen Stormaktsporter was brewed in 2005 and 300l in 2006.”
You are considered by many to be one of the best microbreweries out there. What makes many people consider your beer as better than most others do you think?
HåGe jumps up at first – almost shouting that he doesn’t agree. -“With such a small production and without the help from any technology it is difficult to keep an even quality. We have a hard time understanding the 1st place on Ratebeer for Kaggen Stormaktsporter,“
Berith later fills in and softens the message – “We make beer that taste a lot. Beer that we like ourselves. Beer that leaves tracks.”
- “Brewing to style is for copy cats!” HåGe laughingly continues. “Beer styles should be a guidance, not stop anyone from brewing what they like. “
- “Some of our beers, such as Stormaktsporter, has been developed during 10 years of homebrewing.”
Some pubs mark up the price signficantly for your products. What do you think of that? Is it an OK way to make sure that rare beers does not sell out immediately or is it a manifestation of greediness?
- “It can be OK for rare exclusive beers, so that the “beer nerds” get a chance to share and taste rare beers. A general mark up, especially of our regular ‘drinking beers’ is not something we are happy about.”
- “If you are referring to the price that Akkurat is charging for Kaggen Stormaktsporter we feel that it’s OK, even if we only charged them a fraction of the price they are charging customers. Kaggen Stormaktsporter is a beer for sipping and Akkurat go so few bottles.”
Berith laughs and says. ”personally I’d rather drink one tasty expensive beer than three cheap bad ones.”
Many of the users on Ratebeers are based in North America. Do you have any plans to export to North America?
- “Shelton Brothers has bought 20x16 bottles of Kaggen Stormaktsporter that most likely will turn up at GBBF, in the US and in the Netherlands. We are very interested to find out where it is finally distributed and the prices charged to the customer. “
Which are your personal favourites amongst your own beers?
Berith: “Örebro Bitter”
HåGe: “Närke Slättöl”
Do you have any new exiting projects/beers in the pipeline?
- “Well, now we are entering the secret department” Berith laughs.
“No seriously, there is nothing very exciting coming up.
We’d like to make single hops beers, and it would be fun to make stronger beers for aging or bottle conditioned beers. It’s fun to try out new ideas.”
“It’s actually a bit of a problem for us that such a really tiny brewery gets so much attention around the world. “
Before I leave they have made sure I have got to taste their two latest beers: Rainbow Warrior and Sim-Ko.
Both are single hop ales, the former with Green Bullet from New Zealand, and the latter with Simcoe hops from the US.
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Hå-Ge and Berith posing in front of the Ratebeer diplomas in the brewery.
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