Friday, August 27, 2010

Brewer of the Week

I like to keep an eye on my Google Analytics account for Fuggled as it tells me all manner of interesting information - interesting if, like me, you are something of a stato with a taste for useless trivia. Seriously guys, if I may have a moment of hubris, you want me on your pub quiz team! One stat that has been consistent over the lifetime of this blog is the third most common country from which I get visitors. Norway. I have never visited Norway, though I would love to. I have only once met someone from Norway, as in actually meet rather than chat online, and that was in PK. When there were a few beers from a Norwegian brewery at a Christmas beer event in Prague a couple of years back, I got Evan Rail to pick me up a few bottles of stuff as I was in France at the time. Those beers were simply superb, and today, it is my privilege to have as Brewer of the Week, the maker of those beers.....

Name: Kjetil Jikiun
Brewery: Nøgne Ø, Det Kompromissløse Bryggeri AS

How did you get into brewing as a career?

I do not really know if I can call it a career. I am still an unpaid owner of Nøgne Ø, and there has been no dividend paid to the shareholders to this point. It all started with my homebrewing. At one point I realized that I just had to get out there and make my brews available to the public. I guess I felt like an artist, unable to get out with my message.

As such, Nøgne Ø was started. As we had no money, it was done on a shoestring budget, and the brew system was made with scrap metal and old milk tanks.

What is the most important characteristic of a brewer?

A brewer needs to be dedicated to make his/her products better every time he/she brews. He/she needs to be meticulous in paying attention to detail, and to document what took place in each individual brew.

Before being a professional brewer, did you homebrew? If so, how many of your homebrew recipes have you converted to full scale production?

Yes, I was a homebrewer. Only three of my homebrew recipes were brought into commercial brewing. It is interesting to observe though that two of these are today Nøgne Ø’s best selling beers.

If you did homebrew, do you still?

No, I do not have time. Absolutely all time off (time off from my other (and paid) job) is spent at the brewery. I do not have time to meet friends, maintain cars and house or having hobbies (like homebrewing).

What is your favourite beer that you brew?

That has got to be our lemongrass ale. It is very straight forward and simple to brew. Single mash, low original gravity, not too many hops in the whirlpool, though lots of nice aroma in the brewery, because of all the lemongrass!

If you have worked in other breweries, which other beer did you enjoy brewing, and why?

I have never worked for other breweries. Only my own. I have been involved with some collaboration brews though. I think brewing Special Holiday Ale (with Stone and Jolly Pumpkin) in Jolly Pumpkin’s brewery in Dexter, Michigan, was a thrill! Ron Jeffries’ set up and techniques are extremely interesting, and the beer is of course wonderful too!

Of the beers you brew, which is your favourite to drink?

The beer I always get back to, and which I never get bored of, is IPA. I like it fresh, with lots of things going on, like undisciplined flavours and aromas. Actually I prefer it straight out of the fermenter, before it is ready for bottling.

How important is authenticity when making a new beer, in terms of flavour, ingredients and method?

I think authenticity is only important when brewing to style. We allow ourselves to fairly creative though with regards to ingredients and methods. Of course, we would never allow ourselves to omit using unmalted wheat in a witbier, as this is so significant for that style, but we use peated malt in our tripel, and rye malt in our imperial stout. The final result though must clearly convey to the customer which beer style he/she is drinking.
Some of our beers are not to style, as Peculiar Yule, Winter Ale, Sunturnbrew and #100. It is quite liberating to think out of the box when creating things like those. Focusing on flavours and aromas only and not paying attention to authenticity.

If you were to do a collaborative beer, which brewery would you most like to work with and why?

This probably sounds insane, but I would like to do a collaborative brew with Heineken, Budweiser, Carlsberg or one of the big industrial brewers. It would be fantastic to make something interesting and at the same time something which the big masses would have access to. That would be a great way to reach out to a larger audience.

Which beer, other than your own, do you wish you had invented?

The world is full of wonderful beers. I love a lot of them. I guess what makes them so interesting to me is the fact that they were invented by others, and the fact that I do not know the whole story behind. Small secrets can be good for love affairs.

Some beers I totally admire, would be Fullers ESB, Anchor Liberty, Westmalle Tripel, Oscar Blues Ten Fidy, Avery Maharaja, Three Floyds Dreadnaught, ……………………………

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