Drinking Beer in Sweden
By EMILY BRENNAN
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In the mid-1980s, before microbrew was even a term, let alone a trend, in the United States, Garrett Oliver, a brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, began creating beer in his home in New York City just so he could drink something other than the “thin, fizzy yellow liquid” that bars served at the time.
His hobby was quickly turning into a profession, as he sought to recapture his experience of London, where he’d lived and, between stage-managing rock concerts, fallen in love with bitter, as the English called their pale ale. “It just had waves and waves of complex flavor,” he said.
Today Mr. Oliver travels abroad at a breakneck pace to share his brewing techniques. And in February, Brooklyn Brewery will open its first brewery abroad, the New Carnegie Brewery, a partnership with Carlsberg, in Stockholm. “Like us, the Swedes have been importing their beer culture from the rest of Europe,” Mr. Oliver said. “Now you’re starting to see more Swedish interpretations, if you like.”
Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Oliver on drinking beer in Sweden.
Q. Where do you go to find distinctly Swedish beer?
A. Stockholm has two seminal and, to this day, amazing beer bars: Akkurat and Oliver Twist.
Akkurat is in the Sodermalm section, a pretty hip area. Even though there’s a nice international list, what I want to taste is new Swedish beers. Last time I was there I had a pale ale and a pint of Bedaro Bitter from a brewery called Nynashamns Angbryggeri and a very nice smoked beer by Nils Oscar Brewery.
Oliver Twist is a smaller place, with a restaurant in the back. I had a pint of Oppigards’s Well-Hopped Lager, which is just what it sounds likes: a lager with a pretty high bitterness, pretty aromatic. It was one of the earlier entrants into Swedish craft beer that took a step out there.
Any breweries that are worth a tour?
A favorite brewery is Dugges, which is a short drive outside of Gothenburg. They have a range of beers — everything from pale ales to porters. The building is not so much to look at — an industrial-looking shed, if you like — but it’s a beautiful setting in the Swedish countryside, surrounded by trees.
Any festivals worth checking out?
In September and October, we went to the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival, which is a large, elaborate festival outside central Stockholm. My favorite thing I tasted was a series of very funky wild fermented beers by a brewery called Brekeriet. Wild yeast strains give you a range of flavors, anything from fruit to barnyardy. You can think of them as the stinky cheese of the beer world.
Have you explored the food scene of Stockholm?
Oh yes. Rolfs Kok, it’s probably my favorite restaurant. Actually Marcus Samuelsson from Red Rooster in New York, he was the first one who took me there. And that is gutsy, Swedish home cooking — things like potato pancakes with bleak roe and crème fraîche and minced onion. It’s simple, but spectacularly well done.
On the high end, if you like, at the Grand Hôtel, the chef Mathias Dahlgren has two restaurants: Matsalen, which is one of the best restaurants in Sweden, and Matbaren, which is the bar side and has a simpler menu.
I learned an awful lot with the chef. He was teaching me how to cure herring, how you take this almost industrial type of vinegar and age it in French oak barrels and use it to cure the herring. And in the back of my mind I’m thinking about what we’ll be brewing for New Carnegie.
What are these local flavors? We might make beers with Swedish fruit like the lingonberry, but aged in bourbon barrels, and taking on those flavors, which is very much American oak. I really want this brewery to be a crossroads internationally.
A version of this article appears in print on November 17, 2013, on page TR3 of the New York edition with the headline: The Brooklyn brewmaster GARRETT OLIVER on beer drinking in Sweden. .