The craft of returning to craft
TEXT:SIGNE HANSEN | PHOTO © BRYGGERIET VESTFYEN
For more than 130 years, Bryggeriet Vestfyen has been brewing beer on Funen, Denmark. It still does, but today, the brewery is best-known for its selection of craft beer including the two popular brands Willemoes and Frejdahl. Scan Magazine talks to the brewery about its transition from mainstream to craft and what comes next.
Founded in 1885, Bryggeriet Vestfyen has a long history of producing mainstream beer and soft drinks in the small town of Assens. However, at the beginning of the new millennium, the old brewery changed its focus to craft beer, investing heavily in a new and more flexible set-up. Sales manager Rasmus Damsted Hansen explains: “Looking back, 15 years ago, the market for craft beer was very small. But together with one of the biggest retailers in Denmark, we created the brand Willemoes, and since then, our craft beer production has developed year by year. One of the reasons we have been able to do this is that we have invested heavily in equipment. We have created flexibility that makes us able to produce small volumes at a reasonable cost, while continuously developing and innovating new products.”
While Bryggeriet Vestfyen is still brewing in its original facilities in Assens, the brewery has also just expanded with a smaller and more specialised brewing facility through the acquisition of Indslev brewery in Nørre Åby.
Special beer, special ingredients
The man behind the successful taste experiences of Bryggeriet Vestfyen’s five craft beer brands is German brew master Christoph Behnke. “With his knowledge from Germany and his innovation and development competencies, Behnke has been a key figure in the development of Bryggeriet Vestfyen,” says Hansen, adding: “The biggest difference in the production of craft beer, compared to regular beer, is the ingredients; they are much more specific and decisive for the direction of the beer. This means that a lot of the innovation and development of new beer is about finding the right raw materials, and we purchase ours from several places around the world.”
Among the new products developed by Behnke are a number of ‘free from’ products, including alcohol- and gluten-free beer as well as organic beers.
Beer under the Christmas tree
Since Bryggeriet Vestfyen first introduced Willemoes to the Danish market, the quality-conscious Danes’ thirst for craft beer has increased steadily. Today, many Danes look at beer in the same way they look at wine, valuing quality and taste over price and quantity. “Over the last decades, consumers have been introduced to a new world of beer. For many years, there were pretty much just two types of mainstream beer produced and supplied in Denmark,whereas today, you’ll find stores with more than 100 different beers in their assortment,” Hansen explains. Just like good wine, many of the new craft beers are developed to complement food experiences. “We work a lot with food pairing, which is becoming quite the buzz word in beer making; you don’t just make a dish and then add beer – no, you look into the taste of the beer and then make a dish to complement it,” says Hansen.whereas today, you’ll find stores with more than 100 different beers in their assortment,” Hansen explains.
Just like good wine, many of the new craft beers are developed to complement food experiences. “We work a lot with food pairing, which is becoming quite the buzz word in beer making; you don’t just make a dish and then add beer – no, you look into the taste of the beer and then make a dish to complement it,” says Hansen.
Presented in stylish artisan bottles, Bryggeriet Vestfyen’s craft beers have also become popular gift items. Especially the larger 750-millilitre bottles frequently make an occurrence under the Christmas tree. “Beer is becoming much more like good wine,” says Hansen. In line with this, Bryggeriet Vestfyen – which has, up until now, mainly sold its products via retailers – is now starting to focus more on the café and restaurant sector as well as the export market.