New Danish brewers aiming to be probably best in town
May 4, 2006 - Agence France Presse
COPENHAGEN—It used to be that Danish breweries were so ubiquitous that pipes ran directly from them into nearby restaurants. But gradually, the practice fell away leaving the Danes with few choices.
Now, a group of brewers is opening new brew houses and leading a charge that combines a return to diversity, a push for quality and a quest to redefine Nordic beer.
“We’re trying to relate to our country in a new way,” said brewer Jens Eiken, who will head up a September symposium of Nordic brewers, pushing them to improve the quality of their beer while refining a Nordic style of brewing.
With a Carlsberg sign proclaiming “Probably the best beer in town” opposite Copenhagen’s city hall, you’d almost think that a push for microbrews and brew pubs wouldn’t be necessary. But for the city’s beer enthusiasts, it’s a welcome change.
Although beer seems to flow in most Danes’ blood, Copenhagen had become a two-brew town, with the only choices being Carlsberg and Tuborg.
With a personality that matches his big frame, brew master Anders Kissmeyer is perhaps Copenhagen’s best-known microbrewer. Although it’s easy to imagine him throwing one down at the end of the day with his buddies at his brew pub, the Norrebro Bryghus, he’s also quite a connoisseur.
As he does a tasting with his chef and “beer ambassador” for an upcoming beer and food pairing meal, he plunges his nose into a glass, heavily favoring his right nostril, and quickly identifies each beer’s key characteristics.
Despite Carlsberg’s “best beer” claim, he’s far from worried.
At the Norrebro Bryghus, Kissmeyer scoots around with a big smile, clearly confident in his product and happy in his surroundings.
“People’s tastes are broadening,” said Kissmeyer, “they want more variety with everything they put into their mouths.”
Along with his training, Kissmeyer takes many of his brewing cues from the United States, Britain, Belgium and other beer-making countries, but, like Eiken, he’s also working on upping the traditional ante with some more local offerings.
“We don’t have a traditional Danish style of beer. (Historically) when you look at what people were drinking, they needed nutrition and a safe source of liquid. Bland, sweet and thin and they drank it morning, noon and night.
“People wouldn’t want that today so we’re using the traditions and building from them.”
Formerly the international production manager for Carlsberg, his job was to make sure that their beer tasted the same in every country.
At his brewery, it’s the opposite. At any given time, he has about four regular and six rotating house brews on tap.
He likes the variety. “You’re not supposed to like every one of the beers,” he said, while remaining impressed with peoples’ willingness to try new things.
“When people come, they have a very open mind. We could almost force anything on them.”
“If everybody likes everything, then it’s not exciting,” echoed Kasper Larsen, Kissmeyer’s ‘beer ambassador.’
“Ten years ago, we were down to pilsners and that was about it,” he lamented. “But a beer enthusiast’s organization got started about ten years ago, and now they have 12,000 members.”
“There has been a latent wish for this for a long time.”
Kissmeyer agreed. Asked if he agrees that Carlsberg is “Probably the best beer in town,” his reply is short and sweet.
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