As the front man of Swedish punk outfit Millencolin, Nikola Šarčević has had plenty of reasons to travel the globe over the past two decades. But, unlike his first tour to Australia back in the 1990s, his most recent return to the country offered the chance to lay down some collaborative brews between performing sold out shows.
While in the country earlier this month, Nikola (pictured above centre) hooked up with Old Wives Ales, Ballistic and Fixation and, while the band’s ardent fans would surely seek out any tinnie with Millencolin’s name plastered on the side, that's not the name you'll find adorning these beers. Instead, it's Wizard Brewing, one of two breweries Nikola runs in his home city of Gothenburg, Sweden's second largest city.
So, how did one of the people behind one of Sweden’s biggest musical exports (with a name longer than four letters anyway), become a brewer?
Nikola says that as soon as he'd discovered craft beer he quickly became enraptured by the growing and exciting industry.
“We have a very good scene in Gothenburg and I’m a creative person, so brewing just seemed really interesting to me,” he says. “It kind of reminded me of when we started playing music – it was this new world that was around me and I wanted to enter it.
“Once you enter that world you can get lost, there’s so much to explore and learn – I’ve only scratched the surface.”
In 2016, that led to creation of Mikrofonbryggeriet (Microphone Brewery), where Nikola started releasing the hazy IPAs and sour beers he’d long been homebrewing. After becoming mates with Jonas Gustavsson from Morgondagens brewery, the pair also launched the more English language-friendly Wizard Brewing.
For Fixation’s Tom Delmont (pictured top left with brewer Sam Bethune on the right), the connection between good beer and punk rock is so close as to be practically inseparable; anyone who’s met him will know his love for IPAs is only surpassed by his love for live music (or both at the same time in his home from home, the Old Bar).
Growing up in Adelaide in the 1990s, Tom says bands like Millencolin were a welcome escape from his home city; indeed, he first saw the band live before he’d turned 18.
“In 1996, I snuck my way into a dodgy Hindley Street nightclub called Cartoons without a fake ID," he says, “but I was going to see Millencolin and Ten Foot Pole, so I had to get in regardless.
“I met Nikola and the band and enjoyed the gig with about 50 other people.”
Australia’s always held a special place for the band; it was the first country Millencolin ever toured outside Europe and they later became regular guests on the Big Day Out and Soundwave festival circuits.
Tom discovered Nikola was into brewing a few years ago and, when he sure Millencolin would be in Melbourne to tour their latest album, he reached out through Instagram.
“Half a dozen emails later Nikola has made some great recipe suggestions and tweaks,” he says, “One was using a yeast strain we were yet to test out.”
The resulting beer, an all Australian hopped New England IPA, has been given the name State of Mind, in reference to a quote from Mike Watt, guitarist with the Minutemen and The Stooges, who said punk rock is less of a style of music and more of a state of mind.
As someone who gave up a well paid (if not exciting) job as an entomologist to work as the first Mountain Goat sales rep, it’s a mindset Tom sees as connecting punk rock and craft beer.
“Non-conforming career paths, forging your own trail, doing things differently, not working for the man and changing things for the better regardless of what you’re doing,” he says.
Fixation’s focus might be trained on IPAs but Nikolas has been drawing attention to his breweries due to a penchant for fruited Berliner Weisse. Lots and lots of fruit, according to Old Wives Ales’ Mattias Isaksson, who also hails from Sweden.
“He’s got a big emphasis on not holding back on fruit additions, so it was great to try some of his stuff,” Mattias says. “I was really impressed; it was some really good quality beer.”
Old Wives Ales’ collaboration with Wizard, a kettle sour made with yoghurt called Sommar Sour, features considerably more fruit than the brewing foursome has ever used before – between the strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, there’s some 400 kilograms in the beer, one that’s inspired by Sweden’s long (but few in number) summer days.
“The very brief time of sunshine where everyone’s happy and enjoying the outdoors and endless days and short nights,” Mattias says.
Mattias, who moved to Australia in 2011, grew up surrounded by Millencolin and says he’s been following Nikola's journey into brewing for a few years. In an age where musicians and breweries seem to collaborate with ever greater regularity, Mattias says he was impressed by Nikolas’ knowledge and unusual approach to brewing.
It’s no accident either, Nikola keeps his music career and his passion for brewing separate and finds himself more closely connected to other local brewers than he can to local musicians.
“I don’t hang out with that many other colleagues in the music industry,” he says. “With beer, it’s completely different because you can’t be brewing beer and not be a part of it.”
And, while fans could easily see it as an unusual step for the singer, he sees himself driven by creativity, whether on the stage or the brew deck.
“In my world, I’d find it odd to stick to one thing," he says. "I’m here for just a short time so I want to do as many things as possible.”
Sommar Sour is out in cans now – you can read about it here. The Fixation collab is released on April 3 (not April 5 as per the video below). And, if you're reading this on the day of publication, you can join Tom at the Fixation Incubator with fellow Adelaidean Jade Flavell from The Wheaty for a beer launch and Masterclass – details here.
The Ballistic collab is called Spellcaster, a sour NEIPA set for release in cans and on tap from April 11.