Drinking With Beer Here
I’d been drinking steadily since lunchtime. It was now well into the evening and I was filled with shit beer. Maybe not the best preparation for meeting an illustrious and award winning brewer, but these things happen. We’d been lucky enough be invited for a drink or nine with Christian Skovdal Andersen, the man behind the Danish brewery Beer Here. He was in London with his Finish friend Juha for a couple of days and was keen to get a glimpse of our beer scene. Seeing as we’d tried some of his beers before and found them pretty damn outstanding, we were quick to accept the invitation. Unsure how helpful I could be, especially in my state, I made my way up to Craft Beer Co in Angel to meet him.
“I hate business” Christian says with a smile. He’s sitting in front of me. He’s in his forties, bearded, but not hipster bearded. He looks like he could handle himself on a mountain. He’s a gypsy brewer, so he doesn’t have his own brewery, he just hires one when he needs to brew. He tells us he’s no businessman and he hates the idea of employees. He’s tried that before and he didn’t like it. Too much hassle. Although he doesn’t own a brewery it’s the brewing that gets him excited. He tries to be as specific about the recipe as he possibly can – measurements, PH levels, water treatment, etc. He then leaves the main brunt of the brewing to the brewer, who knows the system the best. If you like to brew, but hate business, it makes perfect sense not to own a brewery. His only desire is to brew enough to get by, and keep doing what he’s doing. “My mum is my accountant” he says. And he draws his own labels, which usually features some sort of rather mental looking character. He’s basically a one man beer production company.
Next to our table is a congregation of some Serious Beer Fans. Their table covered in extremely expensive bottles. One of the guys spots Christian and recognise him from a recent trip he took to Australia. Small world and all that. The guys kindly donate a couple of their bottles for us (and especially Christian) to try. One’s an imperial stout by the famed Bruery. Christian takes a sip. He smiles. He does that a lot. And then he says “that’s horrible”. He tells us he’s not too keen on super strong beers. He says it takes a lot more skill to make a low alcohol beer. It’s an interesting statement, especially since his own highest rated beers (according to RateBeer) are pretty damn high in alcohol.
After the imperial stout failure we’re eager to impress the Dane with some local beverages. We get a Kernel IPA, thinking if he doesn’t like this he can fuck right off. It’s like introducing your girlfriend to your parents – hope and affirmation. Luckily he likes it. He says it tastes fresh. The Partizan X Ale is deemed ok, not great, and a bottle of brown ale from new boyz Anspach & Hobday is dismissed as below par. Brewers are always hard to please, as they should be. What gets Christian really excited is the idea of a proper English ale, made with English hops, which it turns out is difficult to find, especially ones that doesn’t taste of bland nothingness. The whole idea of cask ales is interesting to him. He likes the tradition of it, the mouthfeel of the beer, the low alcohol, everything. He’s a big fan of going to places to drink the local products. This brings us over to a chat about beer and terroir, which is something that is lacking, since everyone buy the same ingredients from the same places.
At this point the fog of drukness is settling heavily over my brain. Christian had downed a fair few pints of cask ales, but he seems a hell of a lot more stable than me. The Nordic duo was on their phones trying to locate an elusive brewer friend. The latest intel is that he’s at the Well and Bucket. So we stumble into a cab head to Shoreditch.
The Well and Bucket is its normal chaotic Friday evening self – filled with crazed revellers brandishing colourful cocktails and low moral. “These people are here to get fucked” my compatriot Josh yells over the thundering music. I call him an old man, although I know he’s perfectly right. We order a couple of Beavertown Gamma Rays and Christian goes for yet another cask ale. How he manages I’ve got no idea. Cask ales have a tendency to depress me, but Christian is on holiday and determined to soak up as much cask based beer he can. We chat the evening away, with laughs and passion and determination. All needed for a good night out.
Christian tells us about the breweries he likes to brew at. One of his favourite is De Proef Brouwerij (The Pilot Brewery) in Belgium. They’re a gypsy brewer’s dream, set up to be used as a third party brewery, and therefore used a lot by the likes of Mikkeller, To Øl and Omnipollo, all distinguished gypsy brewers. “It’s a great brewery” Christian says. They’re clean and efficient. A big part of their brewing process is automated. We’re talking high accuracy and robots and all that jazz. They’re also extremely flexible when it comes to ingredients, so brewers can be as experimental as they like, making the kind of beers that excites me to the core.
It turns out the elusive friend has moved on to The King’s Arms. As much as I wanted to carry on the hunt, and the conversation, I was an over-cooked waste of a man. Things were getting blurry. I remember a comment about dry hopping beer with salamander. It was time for me to go home. I bid my farewells and swam through the crowd and into a cab, leaving the guys to carry on their night, feeling happy I had the opportunity to meet them. Did we help introduce them to a bit of what The Old Smoke has to offer in the beer department? Maybe. I’m sure there are more competent people out there to do that. But we did have a lot of fun, which is equally important.
Christian is a rock solid bloke, unflinching in his endeavour to make good beer, his own way. Brewers like Mikkeller and Evil Twin, who has the same approach to brewing as him, are amazing at what they do. They’ve mastered the art of business as much as the art of brewing. Christian is different. He’s got a much more laid back approach. He just wants to brew, and keep on brewing, without the tumult of complicated commerce. He would like more people in the UK to try his beers though, and I for one would welcome such an undertaking. So if you’re reading this and you’ve got a bar/pub/beer import, get in touch with Beer Here, in the name of deliciousness.
Photo credit of the top and bottom image is © 2010 Thomas Dan Jessen.