When Michael and Claus Braunstein started brewing craft beer in an ex-warehouse in Køge Harbour, they were some of the first modern craft-brewers to hit the scene in Denmark. The location was auspicious: Køge’s merchant farms were once brewing hotspots – but those productions had been quiet for over a century.

“We opened in 2005, and Braunstein was one of the first ten micro-breweries in the country. Now there are over 200,” says Michael. But Braunstein wasn’t just a pioneer on the beer scene: “We started micro-distilling craft whisky in 2006. Nobody in Denmark was doing that back then. When we released it in 2010, it was on the news as the first Danish micro-distilled whisky,” he says. Since then, Braunstein Brewery and Distillery has scooped a windfall of awards in blind-tastings at international spirit festivals. All told, today Braunstein produces some 25 different types of craft beer, and a rich range of micro-distilled whisky, gin, snaps, rum and vodka – putting Køge back on the global brewing map.

The brews might be internationally renowned, but Braunstein’s production is hyper-local. “We source our raw materials in line with the terroir concept you find in winemaking – everything as close to the production site as possible. Our beer and spirits are 100 per cent organic, and all our grain is from the local area.”

Braunstein Brewery and Distillery: A first-wave craft brewery, still pioneering 17 years later

Bestsellers and niche favourites

Most of the beers are made from barley (though their wheat beer is not to be shirked, having won gold at Stockholm Beer and Whiskey trade fair), and everything is brewed onsite. “It’s mainly barley because, in Denmark, we’re a country of lager drinkers thanks to Carlsberg. That’s the heritage of our beer tradition. So we have a core range of high-drinkability lagers,” says Michael.

The range includes the BB Pilsner – “a real, well-hopped lager for the discerning palate”, brewed Czech-style, and the BB Classic, which pours dark amber with a fine flavour balance between caramel sweetness and structured bitterness. “Right now, it’s festival season – the high season for us. We’re filling thousands of kegs of Pilsner and Classic for the festivals in Denmark right now. But the punchier IPAs, sessions and doubles, hazy beers with strong hop character – these are very popular, too,” says Michael. In fact, the ‘high-season’ for Braunstein seems to be unassailably evergreen, with special brews for Easter (a ‘bock’, or beer originally brewed by Bavarian monks) and Christmas (“Belgian-style, darker, sweeter,” says Michael), as well as beer-enthusiast favourites like porters, brown ales and red lagers.

Braunstein Brewery and Distillery: A first-wave craft brewery, still pioneering 17 years later

A micro-distilled whisky with worldwide appeal

While all the beer that Braunstein produces is sold in Denmark, some 95 per cent of their spirits are bought outside the country. Their whisky, especially, has made waves – winning multiple gold or silver medals at the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition, every year since 2013.

“We are privileged to be able to handpick a number of completely unique casks to mature our spirits in. Thanks to our modest production, we can also follow and record their development closely. This gives us the opportunity to bottle a completely unique series of whiskies, which we have chosen to call the Library Collection. These releases deliberately have a different individual expression, and are naturally published in a very limited number,” explains Michael.

Braunstein Brewery and Distillery: A first-wave craft brewery, still pioneering 17 years later

A taste tour of Braunstein

In a satisfying full-circle narrative, some of Brunstein’s new beers are stamped with the ghost-flavour of their whisky. The barley-wine style beers are conditioned in Braunstein’s own ex-whisky casks. “Of course they are,” says Michael, laughing. “That’s the storytelling! We have around 15 to 20,000 people visiting our brewery every year, and you can get right up close to the whisky barrels.” Guests can even taste the brew straight out of the cask. “It’s a wonderful experience – people say it’s very memorable,” he adds. All in a day’s work for him though, presumably.

Beside Braunstein Brewery and Distillery is a new visitor centre called Pakhuset (‘The Warehouse’) – a spacious drinking and dining hall, filled with long wooden tables and warmly lit by a constellation of industrial-chic ceiling lamps. The building itself is worth a visit, having won the Construction of the Year Award in 2021 in recognition of its societal and architectural significance. “It’s right on the water’s edge, our neighbours are the fishermen,” says Michael. Here, there is a dizzying selection of draft beers, a glittering back bar so tall that you’ll have to lean back to look at it, and thin-crust stone-baked pizzas. So, what’s your poison? Visit Braunstein and find out.

Braunstein Brewery and Distillery: A first-wave craft brewery, still pioneering 17 years later

Web: www.braunstein.dk
Instagram: @pakhuset_braunstein

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