This week we asked ourselves ‘Hey, has anyone seen Morten & Christian?’.
We found them in To Øl City, huddled over a small glass of clear liquid, smelling its contents and mumbling in hushed tones to each other: ”….something something celeriac…something botanical.. something something needs more potatoes something something…”
For those that aren’t acquainted with these mysterious men, Morten Bruun is the co-owner of To Øl – and who’s job involves a whole array of things from initial concept development, recipes for the Mikropolis Cocktails, product development, and embodying a general mad scientist of spirits.
Christian Gadient is co-owner of BRUS and up until recently was the head chef, until he began to work with more projects in To Øl City. When we met Christian he was head chef at the prestigious Michelin restaurant, Marchal in Copenhagen. Fortunately for us, on his off hours he was also drinking at Mikropolis Bar: a local Copenhagen beer and cocktail bar that is owned by Tore, Morten and Mikkel Bjergsø (of Mikkeller). This is where Morten & Tore met Christian and lured him away from his fancy culinary lifestyle into the seductive world of craft beer…
We sat down with both of them to hear what experiments were making their palms sweaty, knees weak and arms heavy. And although there were many different ideas on the table, perhaps for more nostalgic reasons, it makes sense to start with fermented potatoes:
Follow me, dear reader, as we take a journey through time and space, back to the the restaurant at BRUS. Christian Gadient is in in the kitchen, his white chefs shirt beaming under the florescent lights, his brow furrowed over his notebook as he brainstorms new ideas for the menu. Morten and Tore have put the idea to Christian to include fries on the menu – a potentially blasphemous move for a previous Michelin Star chef, who has seen his share of duck fat fries, or triple cooked fries, and would much rather do something different. Yet the problem arises: how to combine these two worlds: one, an old iron factory converted into a comfortable, casual craft beer bar, brewery and overall shrine to fermentation; the other, a home to culinary excellence, creating food based on a vast knowledge of seasonal nordic ingredients and using techniques only found in the most prestigious of kitchens. Christian glances over at the brewery’s Bright tanks behind his open kitchen. Then the cogs in his brain start to turn. To cut a long process short, fries did appear on the BRUS menu. But these fries were now fermented. An unusual take on fries, but combined the two worlds perfectly. They were also so tasty and flavourful that they’re still a steadfast item on the menu three years later.
Turns out, fermented potatoes have a lot of potential. So much potential that years later, when Morten and Christian were looking for ferments to use to distill the spirits, they just couldn’t step away from the magical, majestic, tasty yet humble, potato.
They tell us they’ve also tried distilling with celeriac, sweet potato, and other root vegetables one might not look at and automatically think ‘alcoholic drink’. The choice can be vast and complex, and that’s not even including the range of yeasts available as well. Would a saison strain work best with these flavours? What would a turbo yeast do with a beetroot? Perhaps there’s a way to use the waste skins of potatoes and recycle them for fermentation? Easily done when the distillery lies in very close proximity to Lammefjorden in Denmark: a haven for rich, nutritional produce.
Although its a wonderful aspect of having a lot of freedom and autonomy to create, naturally there is also a whole bunch of challenges coming with that. Morten is all too familiar with the challenges of handling natural products, and the amount of tears it takes wrestling them into some sort of consistent, delicious submission, with his work in the Mikropolis Cocktails recipes. Making the Negroni cocktail in a can for example, has been a research process of no less than 5 years (but that’s a whole other story for another time…)
Since there’s still a while to go before a finished product appears from these guys, it’s hard to say what spirits we’re likely to see manifest. A great Aquavit would be very much in keeping with the Scandinavian approach. An interesting, flavourful Vodka could be a refreshing choice on the market. A Whiskey that’s been aged in one of the many barrels could also be a great way to utilise what we now have at our disposal at To Øl City.
Time will tell. Later on down the line, when they both disappear off again and start whispering about the properties of a lettuce, we’ll catch up with them again and get an update. For now, we wait and see.