Brewer Exchange

Brewer Exchange

January 31st, 2013 by Crafty Pint

Earlier this month, the Aurora Borealis arrived Down Under. At the same time, the Aurora Australis landed in Norway. The two are beers created on either side of the globe as part of a joint venture between Bridge Road and Nøgne Ø. However, it seems that merely exchanging beers with breweries on the opposite side of the world is not enough for Nøgne Ø founder Kjetil Jikiun. Now he’s swapping brewers too.

On Thursday night, Nick Rhodes, one of the brewers from Woodend’s Holgate Brewhouse, will board a plane at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport and head to Norway. Coming the other way is Ingrid Skistad (above with Kjetil), a junior brewer at Nøgne Ø. The pair will spend a month at each other’s respective breweries, sharing and gaining experiences as the result of a project that, in Nick’s case at least, began over lunch at Josie Bones during the last Good Beer Week in Melbourne.

“We had a chat about brewing and travel,” says Nick, “I asked if I could work at his brewery and Kjetil said he had a young brewer who was keen to travel too, so why didn’t we swap.

“That’s how craft brewing works – often it comes down to a conversation and an idea. A week later, when he got back to Norway, my email was sitting waiting for him; then I just had to get Holgate interested in the idea.”

Nick has been brewing at Holgate for nearly two years, while Ingrid has been at Nøgne Ø since graduating from Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh in 2011. As part of their swap, they will be creating a collaboration brew on either side of the world: an Imperial Red Ale that they have devised between the two of them via email over the past eight months.

“This is a chance for me to spread my wings,” says Nick. “It’s a bit of an adventure as well as a chance for some professional development, both for myself and for Holgate. I have a lot of respect for the way in which Nøgne Ø goes about brewing and marketing their beers. They are very much about quality – they are the uncompromising brewery after all – just sticking to what they want. I’d drunk Kjetil’s beers and seen a few things about him on YouTube and it seemed he had the same basic ideas about how craft beer should be made as I do.”

As for Ingrid, the trip Down Under is the result of an even longer period of pestering her boss…

“The brewer’s exchange started when Nøgne Ø’s head brewer, general manager and the production manager all were going to a brewing convention in the USA,” she says. “Before they left I told them that I would not mind it if they found someone somewhere who would take me in for a brewer’s exchange, and the further away, the better – I was in an adventurous mood! When they came back, Kjetil had found three possible breweries who were interested.

“As it turned out, Holgate Brewhouse were the first of the three to give a positive reply. And as I’ve never been to Australia, but always wanted to go, I was thrilled!

“I’m not very familiar with the Australian beer scene. But I know that the Melbourne area has a great number of craft breweries and that it is an increasing number. Australia is the home of some very interresting hops, and I have an impression that Australian brewers love using home-grown ingredients. I am very much looking forward to exploring and experiencing the Australian and Melbournian – is that a proper word, though!? – beer scene.

“I hope to gain some insights to how a small brewery is operated in an other part of the world. Seeing how Holgate resolves issues in the brewhouse and in other aspects of the production and sales will give me valuable experiences to take home, I think.”

While in each other’s countries, both brewers will live the other’s life. Throughout the exchange they will be living at each other’s houses and performing their counterpart’s jobs: working to the breweries' production schedules as well as carrying out necessary peripheral tasks such as warehousing and packaging. For Ingrid, this will be taking place in a hot Aussie summer, for Nick, there are sub-zero temperatures to look forward to.


Nick gets stuck in

“I know very little about Grimstad except that it’s on the coast and near some islands,” says Nick. “I know how big the brewhouse is, I know how cold it’s going to be and what I’m doing work wise. Beyond that, I’m just waiting to see.

“Kjetil is so keen. I’ve had a few chats with Ben Kraus (of Bridge Road Brewers) about what it’s like over there and a few of his techniques. Ben has warned me that they don’t swear much in Norway so if I speak like an Aussie then they'‘ think I’m really angry the whole time!”

Nick has offered to keep a diary of his trip for The Crafty Pint. You will also be able to keep pace with the pair’s adventures on the other side of the world via the Nøgne Ø and Holgate Twitter accounts.

Ingrid Skistad Profile

So who are we gaining Down Under over the coming month? We posed a few beery and not so beery questions of Ingrid before she jumped on board the plane.

What’s your favourite beer that you brew?
I’m a big fan of our Tiger Tripel, Dark Horizon 4th edition and the soon-to-be-launched Sour Brown.

Favourite beer to drink?
That depends a lot on my mood and the occasion! When sitting in the sun after skiing, it’s a tripel; when reading a book in front of the fireplace, it’s a stout; when playing board games with friends, it’s an IPA; when relaxing in front of the TV after a long week at the brewery it’s a lambic.

What do you do when not brewing?
When not brewing, I read books (fantasy, history, crime novels and a handful of classics), play the saxophone, and hang out with friends. I love cooking and baking, and my co-workers at the brewery love it when I bring my speciality; Imperial Chocolate Cake – a superdark chocolate cake made with Imperial stout, and an Irish cream-buttercream on top. (We’ll put our order in for one delivered to Crafty Towers now, if that’s OK.)

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