Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Interview with Anders Kissmeyer - Norrebro Bryghus

The following interview appeared in the summer issue of TAPS: Canada's Beer Magazine. **Please note - it's a little lengthy.

beerbistro is the premier destination in Ontario, and dare I say Canada, to flock to when chef/owner Brian Morin decides to host a creative beer dinner. Such was the night back on April 15th when the Roland and Russell Import Agency, who represent Denmark’s famed Norrebro Bryghus, brought Brewery Director Anders Kissmeyer to Toronto for a nine course Danish themed beer dinner at Morin’s establishment.

In the late 1990’s, Kissmeyer, a Master Brewer, was putting in his time working for the multi-national Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen when he started to reconsider his future. For years Kissmeyer had toyed with the idea of starting his own brewery, brewing beers his way, and beers more suited to his liking. In 2003, Kissmeyer, with the financial backing of a close friend, opened Norrebro Bryghus. Since then the brewery has produced more than 25 different types of beer, including a large number of collaborative products with both international and neighbouring breweries, some of which have received worldwide attention.

The sold out dinner kicked off after the evening’s MC, Stephen Beaumont (who was also representing Danish brewery, Mikkeller, whose beer was also being featured in the dinner), welcomed the crowd and introduced Kissmeyer. Throughout the night Beaumont and Kissmeyer took turns sharing the microphone explaining the pairings and explaining the beers being served. Customers had the opportunity to sample four Norrebro beers during the evening, each paired magnificently with creations coming from the beerbistro kitchen: Skargaards Porter, Paske Bock, Old Odense Ale, and La Granja Stout.

At the conclusion of the dinner, Kissmeyer took the time to speak with TAPS about his vision, his brewery, his beers, and his background.

How long have you worked in the beer industry?
Well, I’ve been in the industry since 1984. That’s about 25 years. Yeah, I actually just had my 25th anniversary as a Master Brewer just last month.

Where did you receive your brewing education?
It basically started with the fact that chemistry was a subject I was pretty interested in during high school because I had an excellent teacher. So I kind of made a decision at an early stage that I wanted to make a career out of something that had to do with chemistry. I just couldn’t find out what I wanted to do with it. I didn’t want to become a professor, so I looked at all the options and then I discovered that if I became a chemical engineer there would be potential to go on to become a Master Brewer. At that stage of my life I was already a big beer fan, so the prospect of choosing an education where you might end up being a Master Brewer just made me say, “I just wanna go for that.” After I got my education, I went off to the private brewing school run by the Scandinavian Brewers Association (Den Skadinaviske Bryggerihøjskole). Then it was off to Carlsberg.

You could have been a Chemical Engineer in another field, why choose to work in the brewing industry?
What do you think? Love for the product. Love for the industry. I didn’t do it for the possibility of getting rich; I chose this path because I was passionate about beer. And I think you only become a brewer because you love everything about beer.

You worked and brewed with Carlsberg for many years before starting Norrebro Bryghus; what was the transition like going from a large national brewery to running a small craft brewery?
To put this very shortly, I had an enormous head start in some of the basic knowledge of what goes up and down in brewing, but on the other hand I had to learn some of the business all over again because everything I knew about craft brewing was based on specific knowledge of producing lager beer. I simply had to be intuitive to figure out how to go from brewing lagers to producing all sorts of ales.

What roles did you perform with Carlsberg?
I was hired as a brewer, but I got to work in a lot of different roles. I really only got to spend one year in the actual production at the brewery before I went into roles that had to do with quality management and technical management. I also did a lot of international work, as a huge percentage of Carlsberg’s operations are in other countries. I got to look after the international scene from a quality control point of view, and as a traveling brewer. I ended up being the head of the department that worked with all the traveling brewers as they used to have that. The organization is different now as the company has changed, but at that time is was centralized, so I guided a lot of Master Brewers that went around to various breweries worldwide.

Benefit of running a craft brewery?
At the end of the day it suits my personality. When you work as a brewer for a big brewery you don’t get to play with the product. It’s mostly logistics and how can you produce the same product for a cheaper cost. As a craft brewery, we can play with recipes. You are involved in every aspect of the business – shipping, bottling, sampling, marketing and more. The rewards of having your product succeed are unparalled when working in the craft brewing industry. My hat belongs on this shelf. A change from the larger brewery was definitely what I needed.

There have been many breweries playing with the idea of having a restaurant on site with the brewery. Why was establishing this business model so important to Norrebro Bryghus?
We wanted to try to prove that beer matching modern European food was not just interesting to foodies, but was/is also a very viable business model. It was a totally different approach. For us it was a very, very carefully made decision. We wanted to get as much exposure as we could for our brands, and get people into the restaurant to try our beers to provide us with good feedback. We use the brewery restaurant as a full scale ‘market analysis’ when we brew a new beer, gauging the reaction of our customers. It helps to determine which beers we may choose to bottle in the future, so it was a very important path to follow.

Norrebro Bryghus produces some interesting beers, where does your inspiration come from?
Once the idea formed to start a craft brewery I was given the opportunity to develop the recipes. It was obviously a tough decision to determine which of the beers – and here I must say that the North American craft-brewing scene was by far and away the biggest source of inspiration – that I already knew that I would like to make my own interpretations of. There was also some thought for the fact that we would have to have a broad range of beers, as you can’t only rest on extreme beers. I really brewed the beer styles that I liked the most and the only consideration was that we were making a brewery with a restaurant and we wanted to have a beer to suit all of the meals; beers for all kinds of drinkers.

I’ve heard you say that your goal is to brew and serve the best and most varied beer in Denmark.
To claim that we have the broadest and widest portfolio of beers – that is something that I can truly say, with pride, that we have accomplished. We are doing it everyday, brewing all different styles along with creating new ones.

Describe your willingness to work with other breweries on collaboration beers.
Well, this is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. I could talk about this forever. There are three main reasons. #1. When you do collaborative brewing it’s a situation where the equation of 1 + 1 does not equal 2, but something far more. It’s very hard to explain why, but putting together the ideas of two different brewing philosophies, for some magical reason, always seems to end up being bigger than the sum of the two. It’s an amazing experience. #2. Everybody learns from engaging in collaborative brewing. There is practical knowledge exchanged, which is important for both parties. #3. It’s a lot of fun.

Can you explain the Danish beer culture for those not familiar with it?
In the last five years it has blossomed to the point where new breweries are opening all the time. We are a northern European nation and beer is a part of our culture and has been for centuries. It’s our national drink. Beer is such an important part of our society and this craft brewing market is offering drinkers more choices. Over the last number of years the big Danish breweries have been stale, a little dented, and we as craft breweries have given rise to a resurgence of pride for the national beverage.

So, the Danish craft brewing industry has been doing quite well?
Try to imagine a market where more than 100 new breweries have come along in the last five years. Last year there were around 680 new beers on the market. Our consumers in Denmark are very interested in trying anything new and they’re experimenting with all the different breweries, which is great. For the last number of years the craft trade in Denmark has seen sales up over 100%, but as we’ve matured as a market, sales remain high, but aren’t at the 100% growth numbers.

Have you sampled any local or Canadian produced beers?
I’ve actually had the opportunity to try a handful on this trip and there was some interesting stuff. My personal favourite is the Pilsner from King Brewery (in Nobleton, ON), and it’s not just because I have a personal history in brewing lagers; it is a fantastic beer. The Denison’s Weissbier was also terrific. Very, very nice. I had a 10W30 from the Neustadt brewery today and it was quite nice. I didn’t know much about Ontario craft beer before I came here, but from what I’ve tasted it, I’ve enjoyed it. A positive experience.

Other than the beers mentioned above, have you experienced any new tastes during your trip to Toronto?
I got in a trip to the big LCBO (at Summerhill/Yonge) in the old train station, and I was amazed that there were six different brands of Polish lager beer on the shelves. Six Polish beers! I was saying to myself “these can’t all be better than Ontario or Canadian produced lager,” but I guess Toronto being a multi-cultural city, there must be a demand?

How important is it to have great importers representing your brewery outside of Denmark?
Having hearts in the right place is huge for us. Knowing and caring about the brewery and the beer, and talking the same language, is something we look at closely. For Norrebro Bryghus, being represented by Roland and Russell has been nothing but positive.

What are goals for the Canadian market?
Anything above zero would be great!

And finally, what did you think of the beer dinner?
Ahhh. I’m trying to find the words to describe it. It was quite a night. It’s quite amazing to come half way across the globe to find yourself in an environment where your beers are being understood, and the way Brian Morin put the menu together to make it magical - it was a fantastic night. I think that my favourite pairing was probably the Paske (Easter) Bock and the rabbit. Just delicious.

No comments:

Web Analytics

Winter Ale