It’s a beery heavyweight clash the likes of which this country has never seen. In the blue corner, fighting out of Vårby it’s the current champ Brutal Brewing from Spendrups. In the red corner making its first appearance in the ring the challenger from Falkenberg, Backyard Brewery from Carlsberg, with both brewing dynasties going toe-to-toe for the title of ‘Sweden’s Biggest Micro’.
The announcement earlier this week that Carlsberg was launching a new ‘test brewery’ at its enormous Falkenberg site caused quite a few ripples in the Swedish beer scene.
Not so much because Carlsberg is boarding the same craft beer train Spendrups did with Brutal Brewing back in March last year. After all, big breweries trying to get a cut of the craft action is old new these days.
No it’s more the way they’ve gone about it, launching a spin-off brewing ‘concept’ that shares pretty much everything in common with Spendrup’s Brutal Brewing, including the same acronym.
Carlsberg is describing Backyard Brewery (BB) as a place for creativity, experimental passion and handcrafted beers. The new brewery (at least from the press release I get the sense it is an actual new brewery rather than just capacity in the existing plant) will open its doors for the first time to the public on July 18th as part of the Ölets Dag celebrations being organised by Sveriges Bryggerier.
BB’s new brew master Daniel Eriksson explains: “It’s exciting and fun to have the new test brewery in Falkenberg. It offers more opportunities for myself and my colleagues to develop and experiment. A celebration of beer, basically”.
BB is getting those celebrations started with the launch of its first beer called The Lawn Mower (sounds familiar…..), an amber lager in a can which is due to launch in the Systembolaget in October this year.
I’m not sure of the price point yet but I’ll bet my back teeth it’s going to be a cheap thrill.
The cynic in me would say this is another blatant attempt at profiteering by a big brewery that wants a slice of the dynamically growing craft beer market in Sweden and particularly the increasingly number of fat and juicy Systembolaget tenders for Swedish craft beers.
With the same sense of cynicism I’ll predict the new BB will excel at branding their beers, making them look alternative and calling them cool names.
But will the beers themselves really reflect Daniel’s promise of experimentation and celebration? Only time will tell.
The optimist in me welcomes Backyard Brewery to the Swedish beer scene and hopes some healthy competition between the BBs will ultimately result in widely available beers that will switch more people than ever before onto brews with character and encourage them to ‘cross over’ to craft.
What’s certain is that the move this week by Carlsberg is yet another clear sign that craft beer is here to stay and that the values it stands for are being coveted by the big players.
2012 has already been called the year ‘wheat became the new hop’. It might now also be remembered as the year when micro became the new macro.