Adventures in...

Adventures in Beer

5th April 2016

Interview: Adam Park
Illustration: Tim Laing

Marcus Hjalmarsson of Brewski microbrewery in Sweden on tropical flavours, the virtues of taking risks and the Swedish craft beer explosion

I discovered great beer when I visited the Pacific Northwest 17 years ago. My brother, who was living there, brought me to a microbrewery straight from the airport and I was immediately hooked. It was my first experience of floral and tropical notes in beer. By the end of the holiday I had started to dream about brewing and wondering why we didn’t have microbreweries in Sweden.

I finally started brewing in 2013. Before that I had a window cleaning company. Then I went to the Borefts beer festival in Holland and met some established brewers. Hearing their stories about how they’d started from nothing gave me confidence. I decided there and then that I’d start brewing when I got home.

Marcus Picks His Favourite West Sweden Beers

The first year was hard. Brewing is a very expensive business to start. We don’t come from wealthy backgrounds and we didn’t have investors, so we had to be “creative” with the banks and so on. I was working so hard that I barely saw my family. But I haven’t regretted it for a second.

The craft beer scene in West Sweden has exploded. We went from 60 breweries to something like 200 in the last couple of years. And West Sweden produces the best craft beer in the country. Within a 30-minute drive of here there are three or four brewers that are really international. It’s an amazing region.

The craft beer community is very collegiate and collaborative and not very conventional. There’s lots of room for creativity and new ideas. There’s a code though: if you don’t help other brewers, you’re an asshole!

We’re exchanging ideas constantly with other brewers around the world. We invite each other to our breweries to collaborate on a beer – recently a brewer from Siren in the UK was over with us. It’s a tribute to each other and it shows that we’re honest and open. When home-brewers email me asking for our recipes – Mango Fever is a common request – I always share them.

The craft beer community is very collegiate but there’s a code: if you don’t help other brewers, you’re an asshole!

It’s only when commercial brewers start asking that we shut up shop a little bit. Those guys can throw a lot of money around. We’ve had offers, and I’ve been quite flattered, but I didn’t do this because I wanted to be rich. My job is my passion and I want to do it for the rest of my life. I’m not interested in having an easier life.

I never wanted to become a “local” brewer. That means playing it safe: you produce beers with familiar taste profiles that people will always want. We wanted to be a bit more international: to do new things, to keep changing.

Starting out, it was really difficult to get the best hops and raw materials from the best producers. I was searching for those tropical notes in my brews but couldn’t achieve it with the crappy hops I had. That’s when I decided to try using fruit – and it really worked. Now I have the best hops I could dream of – but we still use fruit in 80% of our beer.

The beers I’m most proud of at Brewski are Mango Fever and a stout we’ve made with coconut called Mental Glory Hole. Also a Berliner weisse with passion fruit and beetroot called Passionate Beating. We have no money for marketing, so why not have a bit of fun with the names and labels? We’re like a bunch of kids and this our playground. But ultimately, the beer has to speak for itself.

PassionFeber batch 14! New recipe, new look, watch out! #brewski #passionfeber #brewskimoment #ipa #bingebo #notfiltered #ofiltrerad

A photo posted by Brewing Brewskis at Brewski (@brewskinosehigh) on

The bars with the best selection in this part of Sweden are Taproom [owned by Malmö Brewing Co] and Beer Ditch in Malmö. If you’re up here in Helsingborg, make sure you check out a bar called Mogwai.

Hops are related to cannabis and work great as a treatment for anxiety, restlessness and insomnia. A pillow filled with hops is a popular Swedish folk remedy for sleeplessness, and research has shown it to have a sedative effect. That’s why hoppy beer is such a great beverage. It makes you calm, sleepy and peaceful.

Brewing is all about having ideas. Don’t be afraid of experimenting, just dive in and give it 100% – the full retard. It’s so important to ignore your fears. When I did my first brew I was scared as hell, because I didn’t know what would happen. But really there’s not a lot that can go wrong. And if for whatever reason it doesn’t work out, just start again.

The Brewski microbrewery is at Cindersgatan 8, 252 25 Helsingborg, Sweden

Follow Brewski: website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Posted 5th April 2016

In Adventures in...


Interview: Adam Park
Illustration: Tim Laing

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