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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Learning a new Craft - Brewing beer

By Lars Olsen
Recently, beer has become fashionable again in Denmark. We went through a long period were wine was the appropriate drink to serve at dinner parties. This has now changed and this change has brought many new, wonderful beers into the shops. Beer is now a beverage as respected as wine, bringing with it, a whole new world of beer tasting events. The experts even talk of certain beers going well with certain foods. In the same way as with wine, there is also a huge difference in price between a standard lager and a more expensive micro-brewery beer. But there must be a market for these beers since most of the big established Danish breweries now have their own micro-breweries alongside their usual business.

It is of course great to have all these new beers on the market so that those that don't drink wine, also have a variety of beverages to choose from. There are of course also those of us who enjoy both wine and beer!

It is actually possible to cultivate grapes and produce wine in Denmark. Nevertheless, Denmark is not and will probably never become a great wine district. However, Denmark has a long tradition of brewing beer, giving us easy access to the raw ingredients required. This is probably helped to inspire more and more people to experiment with brewing their own beer and is how my brother-in-law and I began producing this noble drink together as a hobby. He has a good size shed, where he has installed our little brewery 'Malt Bryghus'. It is very practically furnished with a kettle on one side and a sink to wash bottles and equipment on the other. The heated room can accommodate several portions at once while keeping the temperature necessary for the fermentation process.
There are several companies in Denmark that sell the ingredients for brewing and we have chosen one that sells premixed batches with recipes for up to 20 different beer types; such as Christmas Beer, Easter Beer, Urquel and IPA. Maybe as we get more experienced we can gather the courage to try and mix our own brew. But don't think that this means that you can't experiment with the premixed brews. You can still add different things such as liquorice, depending on your taste and courage.

A brew takes about four weeks to complete, from the moment we open the bag of premix through to tasting the final product. After, 4-5 hours of mixing and boiling, the cooled liquid is poured into a pot and yeast is added. After one week, the brew is paddled and after another week you add sugar and bottle the brew. After fourteen days in a bottle the beer is drinkable but our experience tells us that it gets even better after a couple of months.

[caption id="attachment_1329" align="aligncenter" width="331" caption="IPA label"][/caption]

How does the beer taste you might ask...is it worth drinking? Well my brother-in-law and myself are crazy about it, and luckily our friends and family are too. The other day my brother-in-law carried out a blind test with a group of friends where he had chosen three different beers of ours and matched them with the equivalent shop bought version. He was very surprised when our beer won in all three categories. Which makes it fun and worthwhile!

[caption id="attachment_1327" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Urquel label"][/caption]

Price wise our own beer compares well with shop bought ones, as long as we don't count our own labour. If you look beyond the investment in equipment, which will hopefully last us many years, we can produce 0.5 litres of beer for 6kr (€0.80). In comparison with a micro brewery beer, which in Denmark costs between 20-45kr (€3-6), it is quite attractive to brew your own - especially when it tastes better too!

We haven't been brewing for long - my brother-in-law began last Summer and I joined him last Autumn. However, I have come to feel that it is a good winter activity which of course means that we now have to brew enough to last all Summer.

We buy our supplies from 'Hjemmebryggeren'. So if you were curious about brewing your own beer, have a look there. I will finish with a skål (that's cheers in Danish)!

This post was originally written in Danish by our guest blogger Lars Olsen and was translated by Eddie

If you are interested in brewing you can get English language information from the UK Craft Brewing Association or the American Homebrewers Association.

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