Brøckhouse, a microbrewery located in 46-year-old brewer Allan Poulsen’s basement in the suburban town of Hillerød, north of Copenhagen, is one of the newest Danish breweries. Poulsen is a homebrewer turned pro. He still works four days a week in Copenhagen as an information technology consultant.
Starting with a homemade 40-liter homebrew system five years ago, Poulsen upgraded to a 500-liter batch commercial system last year. He specializes in brewing top-fermenting ales, the first Danish brewery to do so since the mid-1800s. He buys his malts and hops from Danish, British, German, Belgian and American suppliers. His yeast comes from Wyeast Labs in Mt. Hood, OR. The Brøckhouse beers, first sold commercially in December 2001, are draft only, except for a few special hand-filled 1-liter and 3-liter bottles. The first two Brøckhouse beers available for tasting in May of this year at the Danish Beer Festival in Copenhagen were IPA (hoppy in the American style with Cascade hops in the finish) and Wit (fresh, bright and lovely, perfectly capturing the classic Belgian-style wheat beer). Poulsen said a barley wine was conditioning in the tanks for a later release.
Brøckhouse beers were selling last spring in several cafés in Copenhagen and one in Odense, the largest city on Funen.
The Ørbæk Brewery, located in the village of Ørbæk on Funen, will be the newest Danish micro when it opens in late 2002. Located in an old brewery and maltery established in 1906, Ørbæk will concentrate in brewing organic beers. The owner, who also owns a natural foods store in Århus, has been producing organic sodas in the Ørbæk site for several years. He hired 38-year-old Jørgen Sonne as head brewer.
Sonne, an accomplished homebrewer for eight years, is a former blacksmith and mechanical engineer. He studied brewing at BrewLab at Sunderland University in the United Kingdom and apprenticed at the Border Brewery, also in the UK. He describes working at Ørbæk his “dream job.” Speaking of Sonne, Torben Steenberg, a member of the Danish beer consumer organization Danske Ølentusiaster (Danish Beer Enthusiasts), said, “We have high hopes for this fellow.”
The first beers expected from Ørbæk will be Classic (a pils), Ale (Trappist style), Half and Half (dark lager/bock blend) and Weissbier (unfiltered with 60 percent wheat malt.)
The next village over from Ørbæk is Refsvindinge (unpronounceable by most Danes, not to mention other nationalities), where in 1885 Hans Poul Rasmussen established a maltery. Today, the fourth generation Rasmussen, John Juul, operates the Refsvindinge Brewery and Maltery, a true farmhouse brewery, with the home up front and the brewing barns out back.
John Rasmussen learned brewing from his father who learned it from his father who learned it from Hans Poul. This is old-fashioned Danish family brewing. The equipment may look old, primitive and beat up, but at Refsvindinge, traditional methods and equipment work fine. Rasmussen brews lagers and ales, his ales being the only Danish-brewed ones until Brøckhouse and Carlsberg produced ales in the last few years.
In the old days, Refsvindinge produced Hvidtøl (white beer; a popular beer produced by many Danish breweries, which was actually a dark, top-fermented sweet ale) and in later years was a distributor for Carlsberg. When a new Carlsberg sales manager in the 1970s suggested that perhaps they should stop making their own beer if they wanted to continue selling Carlsberg, the Rasmussen in charge at the time made an easy decision—drop Carlsberg and brew their own beers.
Today, these beers include Pilsner (typical Danish pilsner character, just a bit bigger all around), Hvid Guld (White Gold; a slightly stronger lager), Ægte Fynske A-Z Ale No. 16 (Genuine Funen; the brewery’s biggest seller and the only ale brewed in Denmark for many years; copper brown, all-malt, sweet, caramel- and treacle-like, roasty and complex), Brygmesterens Egen Pils (Brewmaster’s Own Pils; a sweet, amber pilsner), Påske Bryg (Easter Brew; a pilsner). The brewery produces two children’s beers, a Danish holiday tradition: Lys Bjørneøl (Light Bear Beer; a 2.4% pilsner) and Mørk Hvidtøl (the incongruously named Dark White Beer; a 2.4% incredibly sweet, dark ale).
Two specialties of Refsvindinge deserve special mention. From the old, old days, Refsvindinge brews something called Skibsøl (Ship’s Beer), re-introduced in Denmark by Refsvindinge in 1994.This beer is brewed with malts smoked in Refsvindinge’s own maltery. In times past, Danish sailors thought that raw, smoky, roasted malt preserved beer for long sea journeys. No highly-hopped, strong IPAs for Danish seamen. Skibsøl, bottom fermented, is dark, raw, and tastes a little like rope and tar.
A beer brewed especially for the Danish Beer Festival last May was Enkens Anden Lyst, Ægte Fynsk Hvedøl (Widow’s Second Desire, Genuine Funen Wheat Beer.) Brewed in the Belgian style, with help from homebrewer Niels Thomsen of the Hand Brewers Guild in Århus, Enkens Anden Lyst was the result of a bet placed between the previously mentioned Torben Steenberg and John Rasmussen in early 2001 as to whether Rasmussen could come up with a new beer before the May beer festival. Rasmussen won the bet with a beer brewed with unmalted wheat, oats and pilsner malt, Hallertau Perle and Saaz hops, bitter orange peel, coriander, just a bit of cumin and Belgian ale yeast. The finished beer, brewed on Easter Saturday, March 2002, is cloudy gold, highly phenolic, tart and clove-like and dry in the finish. It’s unfiltered, non-pasteurized and bottle conditioned. And quite distinctive.