Our To Øl City
Let’s start with a pear tree.
If you’re familiar with our non-alcoholic beer, Under The Radar, or with our farmhouse IPA, Yeastus Christus: To Øl Instant Crush Brett Edition, then you may know that these beers contain a very special yeast strain that was cultivated from a pear tree standing in Tore’s parent’s garden, that creates wonderful pear and cider aromas, as well as a satisfying Riesling-like acidity too. All this potential for wonderful flavours and characteristics on a humble pear, and yet the opportunity to really utilise this potential is hard to come by.
But why start by talking about a pear tree?
Let’s, instead of a pear tree, imagine orchards. Rows and rows of apples, pears, cherries, raspberries, and blackberries and any magnificent Nordic fruits the land was meant to grow. Then imagine, that all this nature was surrounding a facility that was built to use it, and use it well.
To get a real perspective of the project, we need to understand the symbiotic nature of it. What possibilities for brewing are there with orchards enveloping the facility? What possibilities are there for distilling a complex, flavourful whisky when the brewhouse is just next door? What will the cocktails taste like when the fruits have been freshly picked? If there are rows and rows of incredible oak barrels, where does the potential end with choosing what goes in them?
This is not simply a brewery with a few rooms attached. This is a 150,000 square meter eco-system. To understand Svinninge, is to look at the whole land. To understand To Øl, is to look at this land as our city.
The Wild Wild Project Out West
”At this point, we’ve not even scratched the surface” says brewer Nathan Borg, and the wild beer whisperer at Svinninge. ”When we get the orchard up and running and producing fruit, it will essentially be a heaven for wild beer production. Like the coral reef is to the ocean, the orchard will be this thriving land of cultures and bacterias that we can play with”.
The benefit of a space like the Svinninge facility is that it allows for an amazing amount of barrels, Foeders, bright tanks and fermentation tanks. The plan for the wild brewing production is to have it’s own fermentors and bright tanks, then in a separate room will be all the barrel aged beers that aren’t wild, known as the ‘clean beer’ barrels .”Should we want to have the Jule Mælk aged in a bourbon barrel for example, then it would be on the clean side, since we aren’t brewing with any wild yeasts, and it goes in the barrels essentially as a finished product. But if we wanted to develop a beer in the barrel, such as a saison, we would keep it in the wild brewery. Then we could see how it reacts to the yeast and it’s environment, and eventually we could create a blend from selected saison barrels too, so we end up with a wild beer that is complex, delicate and beautifully balanced.
The first stage of this venture is to get some wild beer in the space, and as Nathan says, ”Find our feet. Find out what keeps our yeast happy and healthy and go from there.” Next would be to try and harvest some local cultures from the land at Svinninge, and find out what kind of exciting flavours can be made from there, which can then hopefully develop into house cultures that can be used as the yeasts in our beers.
There’s also plans for at least one coolship as well, which is a large, shallow open container in which fresh wort can be exposed to micro-fauna and wild yeast. ”On a nice summers day we can put it on a trailer and take it out to the fields, or a few years down the track if there’s some decent size fruit trees, park it under one of the trees and take in all those lovely wild yeasts from the trees and fruit”
”There’s a fun project that I want to do with the Flanders Red that we’ve currently got in one of the Foeders at BRUS, which was a collaboration we did with Black Project. So the idea is to make it a collaboration solera foeder. We draw out half of the Flanders, package it, and have that as our first edition of the beer. Then we collaborate with another brewery who make the wort to fill up the other half again, and start the re-fermentation; then we just keep doing the same: draw out half, package as the second edition, and keep working from there. Soon we’ll have all these exciting editions and variations of this beer, and there’s still a lot of potential to have a unique flavour and taste given that you’re only using half of the original”
Even though the beauty of these kind of beers is their need for time, there are actually a range of approaches and styles in this field, which means that although some projects will finally come to fruition much later down the line, there are some beers which could be ready to taste by the beginning of 2020. ”We could brew some beers that would ferment out three years from now, and we probably will, but it’s also nice to be able to provide a more seasonal approach too – much like the original format of a farmhouse/ saison ale, which was brewed for the seasonal workers on the farm.” It would mean that if there was a beer that was aged for perhaps only four to six months, then those younger style beers are perfect for a casual evening, where a fresh wild beer sits on the table at a dinner instead of wine. ”I would love for people to see the potential for this kind of beer and its food pairings, its delicate nature, not to mention just to be able to taste it fresh.”
Though Nathan is bursting with ideas for the wild beers and the ageing, he also stresses that the whole point is not to rush it. ”Time, and the space of course, will tell us the best way to keep moving forward with the wild production, but its an exciting time for sure.”
To Øl And BRUS Are Getting Married In Svinninge
On the 12th May 2016, BRUS opened it’s doors for the first time. When people entered the vast industrial space, they were met with a bar, a brewery, a restaurant and a bottle shop. Huge wooden barrels lined up between the bar and restaurant, and the shiny metallic serving tanks at the bar let the customers know that this beer experience was going to be more holistic, more open and much closer to the creation of the actual beer than they were previously used to. Less of a bar – and more a shrine to fermentation.
The decision was made to not call the bar To Øl and instead to let it stand as its own autonomous eco-system of BRUS beer and gourmet food. Having spent six years already professionally brewing a whole range of different beers, it was well known by To Øl at this point that sometimes, if you want to cultivate something really interesting, you’ve got to let it evolve in its own complex and beautiful way. BRUS was alive, and should be treated as such.
As much as there was planning, late nights, hard work, experimentation, development, tasting, brewing, sweating, serving, discussing – there was also a little magic. Something in the whirlpool of all of these efforts meant that the beer BRUS started producing gave a wave of excitement, as well as a sense of pride, to those involved. Fortunately for BRUS, this excitement was shared by more and more people as the journey progressed. By 2018, the brewery was at full capacity and stretching its ability to keep supply matching with the demand.
Meanwhile, To Øl was facing its own growth spurt; its own desire to try another adventure – this time on a scale never attempted before in its history: to purchase a 150,000 square-meter facility in Svinninge, and bring all international brewing home to Denmark. With such a huge facility comes amazing potential for barrel ageing, cocktail production, cold storage and distilling. Having so many ideas, and so much space to implement them, the question then arose about BRUS: what to do with the beloved beer brand that was growing far too big for its small brewery? The answer of course, is simple. Reader, we marry them.
The same recipes, the same beers, the same trusted, talented brewers overseeing the production. The same late nights, hard work, experimentation, development, tasting, brewing, sweating, serving, discussing – and with a little luck, the same magic. This facility is a way to utilise the best of both breweries: the beers To Øl and BRUS are most proud of, the freedom to experiment with new ideas, the knowledge and experience to do it, as well as the sheer madman-like drive to create something wild. Once again, the whirlpool of efforts begin in Svinninge. Now all that’s needed is to wait for it to come alive.
Our Trip To Svinninge
When people first come to Svinninge, the most confronting aspect is the sheer size of the place. For a complete tour of the place it takes easily 2-3 hours. This is partly from the size of the rooms and partly from the amount of buildings that cover the 150,000 square meter property. We thought it was time introduce people to our To Øl City. We invited a select group of importers and other friends of To Øl: those that have either been on the journey with us for a long time, as well as those that are joining us recently, to kick-start the next chapter. Here’s a few pictures we took and a few explanations of what we encountered that day…
The first spaces that we encounter are the packaging rooms. Naturally these are huge spaces considering how many kegs, bottles and cans we will be producing.
We then visited our shiny Mikropolis Cocktails tanks, where we’ve just began production! We brewed a first test batch of the Whiskey Sour, and have just this moment finished the Rhubarb Crush cocktail. It is a really exciting milestone at Svinninge to be able to start producing things on site.
Next is the Orchard that envelops the facility. This is where in the short term, when we run out of space to ferment, we will invest in large fermentors to be placed outside. In the long term, this will be an orchard thriving with fruits and other plants that we can use to cultivate yeast strains, as well as utilising the fruit that grows from the field. The opportunities range from using the fruit in our cocktails, producing cider from rows of apples, and to really get back to our Scandinavian roots, making a well made mead too!
The barrel ageing room(s) are also spectacular to look at, and easy to see the potential of such rooms with the vast amount of space, as well as knowing the brewery and the distillery are just nearby.
We then moved onto the storage room with our current webshop stock, as well as a small portion of our overall keg stock. Soon we’ll be bringing it all home to Denmark!
We stopped for lunch at the facility, where we diligently ‘quality controlled’ the latest To Øl CPH cans, Humle Mælk and Tricerahops, as well as tasted the first ever batch of Whiskey Sour from Mikropolis Cocktails.
After a full stomach of food and drink, we then hopped back on the coach to enjoy more quality control at BRUS. There were many more rooms that weren’t featured here, and many more ideas that we have yet to share. So stay tuned and be sure to hear the rest!
Thanks again to everyone who joined us for this trip!
More from our To Øl City!
Since then, we have been thriving with production of Mikropolis cocktails, a big delivery of barrels, as well as welcoming some new neighbours at our facility!
Our talented friends at Æblerov Cider have now moved their production over to To Øl City, since with both of us dreaming of the huge potential of apple orchards, it only makes sense for them to move on down to Svinninge and get busy with us on such an exciting project. And why stop at apples? Why not pears, berries, why not even a small vineyard? We’re definitely looking forward working together in creating this orchard of thriving flavours. We’ll see what the new future brings! Welcome Friends!
Thanks to the steady production of Mikropolis Cocktails too, we’ve been able to share delicious drinks with the summer festivals too! Among them being Northside festival, Heartland, Lollapalooza Stockholm, and soon Roskilde Festival too!
And! If that isn’t exciting enough, we recently received our HUUUUGE delivery of Barrels at the To Øl City as well! Making it a significant moment in the journey towards our experience with barrel ageing, wild beer production, and many more experiments soon to come.
This Beer Tastes Like Vinegar!!
Did somebody say side-project?
I had the pleasure of catching up with BRUS co-founder Christian Gadient to tell me all about a sneaky project that both him and Nathan Borg, the wild beer brewer down at Svinninge, have been up to recently. In Svinninge right now, as you may have seen from the last post, we have been up to our eyeballs in barrels, starting the ageing process for some of our heavy, dark stouts and barley wines, experimenting with new editions of To Øl favourites – and generally letting the beer-creativity flow. However, when creating these beautiful beers and putting them into barrels, it occurred to both Christian and Nathan that since they were surrounded by beer and barrels already, experimenting with vinegar didn’t seem too far a stretch either.
For those unfamiliar with the process of vinegar, it’s actually quite similar to the process of making beer, except instead of converting sugar to alcohol, alcohol is converted into acetic acid. This is done by adding a special, slimy substance into the mix called the ‘Vinegar Mother’ : essentially a lump of acetic acid and bacteria that feeds on fermenting alcoholic liquids. This includes wine and cider as well as beer.
Christian and Nathan, after asking very nicely, acquired two barrels from the current beer production at Svinninge:
One barrel is an ex-Bordeaux Barrel filled with an Imperial Belgian Red Ale. The second barrel is an ex-American Oak Rum Barrel with the same Imperial Red Ale.
To make great vinegar requires a balance of air, fermenting alcohol, some time in the barrel, and ‘motherly love’ if you will. The men started the process by taking approximately 30-40 litres of beer outside of the barrels in steel containers. This is because the vinegar mother needs ‘feeding’ before it is put into the barrels to convert the rest of the beer. First, it will convert the beer in the steel container, after which, when it is big and strong, it will then be transferred into the barrel to finish the job.
For now, the beer in the containers will be covered only by a sheet of linen, to ensure enough aeration to encourage all the healthy bacteria to cultivate.
I asked Christian about a timeline, but where vinegar is concerned, this can vary drastically. It may be only four months down the line when that magic moment occurs and all elements have come together perfectly, or it may be seven years from now, and the perfect moment might be a beautiful, thick molasses of balsamic vinegar instead. For now, the task is simply to check on the vinegar regularly, and wait!
The layout in Svinninge also is very important, and this is when the tremendous space of the facility comes in handy, as all these experiments and projects need to develop very much separately from each other. Tim, the head brewer, likes to keep a good distance between Nathan’s wild beer production, and the vinegar project needs to keep a big distance between the other productions, as they all carry different bacterias that could otherwise harm the other areas. Careful planning, strict supervision, and a considerable know-how is essential to pull all these things off simultaneously.
Should it go well, this could be the start of TO Øl’s very own craft vinegar production. For now this vinegar, should everything go smoothly, will be used down at the mad laboratory BRUS – in recipes in the dishes served at the restaurant.
Keep an eye out for updates as to the development of this project!
Bottling Has Begun!
Our To Øl City has taken yet another giant leap for beer-kind, getting our Meheen Bottling machine up and running! What better way to begin the bottling than by starting with a To Øl favourite: Jule Mælk! Not just any Jule Mælk either, this particular beauty is a Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Milk Stout with Vanilla! Packaged ready for the festival season…
This particular beer also presents it’s challenges as well when bottling as its thick, rich consistency while great for tasting, presents a problem when trying to fill all the bottles at the same time – since the first few bottles fill first, then the liquid is slower to reach the last bottles in the line. It took some special calibrations to ensure that all the bottles were filled exactly and precisely the way we wanted them to. After a little tweaking, we’re glad to report that these bottles are now beautifully filled, and ready to go!
A final check of our Brewhouse at Braukon
Our Svinninge head brewer, Tim, as well as our To Øl City Mayor, Michael visited the Braukon factory in Germany to do a final inspection of our brewhouse and yeast propagation plant. As usual, we were met with Bavarian hospitality (sausage and beer) and saw the equipment for the first time, which was incredibly exciting. Everything looked extremely well made and custom changes were incorporated within a few hours. We also took a first introduction to the brewhouse automation software, as well as arranging even more cellar equipment to be made! The sheer size of these impressive pieces of machinery really brought home the scale at which everything will be running in our To Øl city. We couldn’t resist snapping as many pictures as possible to share with you:
We will let you know when all of this arrives. We can’t wait !!
More Final Checks…
This week we’ve been back to Germany doing the final inspections on our labeler, can filler and fill height inspectors. This was done at Krones, who are world leaders in fluid filling operations. We saw all equipment running and, again, the quality is just outstanding.
The labeller itself runs at a whopping 10,000 cans per hour, and the can filler at 16,000 cans per hour! That my friends, is a lot of beer….