Published on March 4, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Norway plus Anarchy – a meaningful vote
A North Sea collaboration is working well, writes Alastair Gilmour
Until not so long ago, a beer that fell short of expectation would have been described as “home brew”. It might still be the same in some quarters from people who fail to understand that the craft beer revolution has been led in the United States by home brewers. Home brewers in this country can also claim excellent credentials, and many of them have gone on to start their own, highly successful commercial operations.
Our neighbours across the North Sea are no exception. Serial Norwegian home-brewing champion Gahr Smith-Gahrsen is in constant demand from the country’s burgeoning craft beer industry to help develop recipes, design breweries and generally advise.
Gahr Smith-Gahrsen is described as Norway’s “grand old man of brewing” and one of his projects was to produce classic, yet innovative beer aimed to place the city of Bergen on the international beer map. A commission to design beers for 7 Fjell Bryggeri (Seven Mountains Brewery) is making big inroads into the Norwegian craft beer sector and nipping at the heels of brewing giants Hansa and Ringnes.
“We are a small craft brewery combining a fundamental passion for great beer with decades of experience from the industry through Gahr,” says Jens Eikeset, owner of 7 Fjell which started its brewing journey in 2013.
Last month, 7 Fjell Bryggeri and Newcastle-based Anarchy Brew Co spent a weekend working on collaboration brew, a Double IPA (DIPA) weighing in at 7.0% abv. Emails between 7 Fjell head brewer Torvaald Storass and his Anarchy counterpart Les Stoker had gone back and forward until rough ideas became firmly constructed recipes.
“We haven’t done a beer like this before but it’s a style that’s very popular in the US at the moment,” says Jens. “It makes great use of oats for mouthfeel, with a pale yeast, lactose, and the hopping regime is pretty ridiculous.”
Anarchy Brew Co’s owners Simon and Dawn Miles first met the Norwegian crew – Jens Eikeset, Torvald Storaas and Helge Algerøy – a couple of years ago at the Barcelona Beer Festival.
“Then we met them again last year at the Bergen Craft Beer Festival where there were 30,000 visitors,” says Dawn. “This is the first time they’ve been in the UK doing a collaboration beer.”
Jens Eikeset hasn’t come from a brewing background but is a self-confessed beer geek and is yet another former home-brewer (as were Simon Miles and Les Stoker).
He says: “I have a degree in finance and the intention when I graduated was to get a job in a bank. Then I thought ‘I can’t do this for the rest of my life’, so I opened a bar and restaurant then got the chance in 2012 to open a brewpub with a friend. However, we decided that was going to be too small-scale, so we went for a full-blown brewery and tap.
“Our brewery is about ten minutes outside Bergen city centre. We’ve expanded from 500 square metres in 2013 to more than 2,000 square metres with the capacity to produce 13,000 hectoliters a year. We were absolutely clear right from the start that we would have a professional approach to brewing, so that’s why we got Norway’s most famous home-brewer to devise some recipes. He’s so well known that every brewery in the country calls on him to trouble-shoot.
“Most of our production is the core range, Blonde, IPA, Pale Ale and Red Ale – those are most in demand, but there’s room for experimentation into the weird and beautiful which the staff love to get involved in, plus we also do a seasonal, annual barley wine. It’s a pretty interesting position to be in.”
The Anarchy team is off to Brazil later this year for a national beer festival, ac conference and another collaboration brew. No Brazilian call at the moment for Jens Eikeset, however. He’s far too busy in Norway – and working with the likes of Anarchy Brew Co.
“I’m not originally from Bergen but I can’t leave now,” he says. “I met a woman there and I’ve got a brewery there. Now we’ve got an exchange programme there.”