With regard for Jon and other Icelandic readers this post will be written in English. So bare with me, I hope that you'll enjoy this look into Ölvisholt Brewery and the beer makers dinner with them at O'Connors in Uppsala. This first part focus on the brewery itself while the second looks more at the BMD.
Iceland. Ölvisholt Brewery. Uppsala. Those parts all merged a couple of days ago when Jon E Gunnlaugsson, one of the founders of the brewery, visited O'Connors for a beer makers dinner set up by their Swedish distributor Wicked Wine. After appreciated dinners in Malmö and Gothenburg this was Jon's last stop before he would fly back home. At the dinner at Russel on Aaland today, Bjarni (their sales executive if I understood it correct?) will attend the event. Jon really wanted to express how he felt respected and appreciated by the attendants and how they really seemed interested in what he and Ölvisholt is doing. At the visit to Malmö Brewery he was really inspired and admired how well he and Anders from Malmö Brewery found each other and who knows, we might see one or two collaboratory brews in the future.
During the trip up to Uppsala Jon and I spoke about their brewery, their plans, beers and life, universe and everything. So this post is not entirely about the dinner, that part will (hopefully) come tomorrow - but also an interesting look into Ölvisholt. Jon, in his late 30's started off as a fisherman, became a captain before doing something completely different when starting a herbal shop. Young Jon was taught about herbs and their effect by his grandmother. So some years later he made use of this interest and knowledge and made use of this when adding different herbs to some of the beers. But one day he decided to just stop his business and after working as a security guard he decided to turn the family farm into a brewery.
The brewery was opened in 2007 with a custom built brewing equipment which might produce up to 260 tons of beer each year, but because they want a safety buffer and brew according to schedule they brew less than that today. The five employees might have different tasks and titles but in the end most of them have to do all the hard work themselves which affect their possibility yo grow. The brewery is one of only 5 breweries on Iceland and stands out as the only one which brew "proper beer" and not just Eurolagers. Jon was inspired by the development of the Scandinavian beer scene and how it inspired people to drink "real" beer, and together with an interest in beer the brewery came into existence. Today, Iceland is the most important market but they ship to Sweden, Canada and Denmark. It might seem cocky to start a "real" brewery up in 'tiny little Iceland', especially after the economic recession and the volcanic eruption last year but it seems as if they are on the right track and are steadily increasing their sales.
Except for their all year round beers they brew three seasonals; winter warmer, winter celebration and easter, and the Swedish beer drinkers (and others too) will find last year's Jolabjor this year as well. Some other special beers have been a weissen-bock, a dunkel, a special beer brewed with glacier water and two years ago they made a Belgian winter beer with blueberries and crow berries which was intended to be enjoyed with traditional Icelandic Christmas food. They have also brewed a contract brew together with Restaurant Sorbon outside Stockholm, Sorbon X, a mild session Icelandic Pale Ale (IPA if you want..) and when the capacity and time is right they might invite for more contract brews. But limited by their capacity and time they currently can't experiment with new recipes but Jon mentioned that he would like a small 30-liter brew work which would make it less costly to come up with new beers, as an IPA has been on the schedule for a while but without a ready made recipe and with no free space in the calender there is no time frame to when the beer might see the sun.
Jon is appreciative of their brewmaster, Valgeir Valgeirsson, who he argue posits real talent and passion which is why their beers have been so successful both at home and abroad. Valgeir is not only a biochemist but has a brewmaster's degree and Jon believe that it is important to have a talented brewmaster and to be able to work hard and plan smart for a successful brewery to work. This continues the focus and hard work ethics that seems to run through the brewery. Some very large amount of miles from Iceland we find Ken Grossman at Sierra Nevada and just like him Jon started a small home brewing shop which has slowly started the craft beer interest on Iceland and there might not be many, but there are some home brewers on Iceland. So not only do they brew beers themselves but they have also spread the interest and made it possible for others to start brewing themselves.
Most of, or maybe even all of Ölvisholt's beer has been very well made and while some tend to imagine them as boring or maybe even to "easy" beers this might be more because of their Icelandic heritage than their actual taste. But especially after the beer makers dinner I believe everyone who attended the event perceive the beers differently.
Well, that was all for today and tomorrow we will have a better look into the beer makers dinner, the food, the beers and all the rest.