Saturday, April 2, 2011

Trial By Fire

After an easy but restless flight, I arrived safe and sound in Copenhagen, and amazingly my luggage did the same. My boss had a flat tire on the way to the airport, which caused a minor delay, but soon enough I finally met the man who hired me from across the ocean.

Claus Søgaard talks fast, works hard and shoots straight. He's very friendly but doesn't abide by any bullshit, and is constantly taking care of business - whether it be by phone or in person. After picking me up, he had deliveries to take care of within Copenhagen, so within 30 minutes of my arrival in Denmark I was already hoisting kegs and cases around! We began at Amager Bryghus, making our way through bottle shops like Barley Wine (which has excellent selection of Danish, German, Belgian and even US beers) and restaurants like Plan B: A cafe with unusual sandwiches, a good selection of both draft and bottle beer, and hilariously odd paintings on the wall. Definitely going to make a stop there the next time I'm in Copenhagen. We then drove four hours back to Ålborg in Claus's beat-up but reliable old Volkswagon truck, and he pointed out various landmarks while we chatted about Denmark and the US, beer and everything else in life.

We arrived at Søgaards Bryghus around nine in the evening, and Claus introduced me to the staff and gave me a brief tour of the brewery. Then he ordered me some food - the "beer pot" - and poured me a glass of my first beer in Denmark, the brewery's own Jomfruhumle Pilsner.

It's a solid pilsner, with a grainy malt flavor and some floral hop bitterness, and it evened out the gigantic richness of the "beer pot" - a stew full of beef, mushrooms and sausage - nicely.

I began training at the brewery bright and early the next morning, with a bit of a surprise thrown in as well: Claus needed to deliver a prize car to a contest winner within the city, and asked me to follow him in his truck. Which is manual gear. I mentioned to him that I'd never driven stick before, and he laughed heartily and said, "It's easy! One, two, three, four!" mimicking the gearshift motion. So, for a harrowing kilometer, I taught myself to drive stick, and his truck tolerated my amateurish shifting well enough. I mean, I managed to stall the thing, but only once, and thankfully not in the middle of an intersection.

We then went to the brewery, where I met the two current brewers: Kasper, the head brewer, and Niels, his part-time assistant. I got put right into the thick of things, and over the last week I've helped brew beer, clean and fill tanks, and clean kegs. I've also been assigned a number of other minor tasks, including transcribing the current Excel-based brewsheet into neater, easier-to-manage files in Beersmith. I'm currently staying with Claus at his family's farm outside of town, which allows him to draft me into helping out in the small warehouse he has on premises. Basically, I haven't slowed down since I started moving out of my apartment a week ago, and between the long, hard work and jet lag, I don't think I've ever been more tired in my life. But it's been well worth it, and an amazing experience so far. I'll have to get used to it, though, because the ride is just beginning.

More to come later, including finding my new watering hole and learning Danish.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Brian,

    Just stumbled on your blog and wanted to welcome you to Denmark again.

    We had a brief talk at Ølkonsortiet last Friday together with Thure and Ilan.

    I am sure Thure already took you, if not The Wharf is a favourite in Aalborg, especially if you like cask ales from UK.

    I am looking forward to drinking some of your creations, we'll probably meet again in the not so distant future.