An unquenchable love for craft beer
TEXT: LINNEA DUNNE | PHOTOS © NILS OSCAR
One of the pioneers of the now booming Swedish craft beer scene, Nils Oscar brewery and distillery is not only behind the Imperial Stout that has been named the best beer in the world – it has a brand new, state-of-the-art brewery and its very own malt house, and the future is looking bright.
When Karl-David Sundberg acquired a brewery and distillery, there was no doubt in his mind who it would be named after. His grandad, Nils Oscar Sundberg, was not only a charismatic, memorable entrepreneur whose wits and humour Karl-David highly admired; he was also widely known for many of the qualities his grandson wanted the brewery and distillery to represent.
There is a great deal about Nils Oscar, the person, to aspire to. His face adorns the brewery’s labels, a classical-looking image that lends the brand a quality of solid craftsmanship – but there is also that unquenchable curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit. The company takes pride in the high-quality beverages this symbol represents.
It is no exaggeration to say that Nils Oscar keeps the Swedish beer and spirit tradition alive, helping it to reach new heights. The company’s mission has always been to produce the best beer and spirits in the world – not very modest, but an attitude perfectly in line with the personality of Nils Oscar.
Momentum and growth
A recent redesign of the distinctive labels is just a small part of a significant development phase, which has seen a brand new brewery erected along with a big marketing push. This year is likely to involve plenty of new recruits as well as an increase in distribution, including exports. The brewery simply maxed out in terms of capacity – a luxury problem, of course. “With our new set-up, which is a brand new brewery of top capacity and quality, we can make multiple brews every day. We can now produce three to five times more beer than before,” says managing director Jonas Kandefelt.
Another aspect of the current expansion is an increasing investment in organic products. “This is something that lies really close to our hearts,” Kandefelt continues. “It suits the current trend, of course, but we are really passionate about working with the combination of food and drink, and our production of organic beer is a fundamental part of the bigger picture of conscious consumption, which is important.”
Alongside organic products, Nils Oscar brewery and distillery also recently launched the first Swedish craft-brewed non-alcoholic beer, which has been greeted with great enthusiasm.
Nils Oscar can be described as one of the early-day microbreweries pioneering the craft beer trend in Sweden, and the brand is now well-established in its home country. And just like Nils Oscar is expanding, the scene itself is virtually overflowing with craft beer enthusiasts and new breweries from all the way up north to way down south, arguably raising the question whether the scene should be referred to using the micro term at all. “It’s exploded,” Kandefelt agrees. “From just 35 breweries in Sweden a few years ago, there are now more than 200. There’s a momentum on the market benefitting everyone right now, but of course that also means that many of the really small breweries are choosing to expand and increase their capacity.” He pauses. “I don’t see it as a problem – microbreweries become small-ish breweries, but really all it means is that we get the chance to present our beer to a wider audience.”
When quality matters
After all, the defining values of the craft beer scene have always revolved around the very same qualities that Nils Oscar Sundberg himself stood for all those years ago: honesty, fearlessness, curiosity and an entrepreneurial spirit. A proud member of The Association of Swedish Independent Microbreweries, with its feet firmly planted in the craft beer heritage, the Nils Oscar brewery and distillery can allow itself to grow while boasting the specialist equipment and expertise that comes with having done everything from scratch on-site for years. “We’ve got our own malt house, we can produce special malt, and we’ve got really passionate people who know everything there is to know about malt,” says Kandefelt. “You just can’t buy that expertise.”
But the benefits are plentiful and, no matter its size or the number of prestigious titles it is awarded, Nils Oscar will continue to focus on the raw ingredients and use exactly what is needed for the perfect taste – completely without concern for price. “We don’t compromise on quality. We know what we want the products to be like, and then it’s irrelevant how much it costs,” Kandefelt insists. With top-notch ingredients and a love for the craft combined with the greatest of staff, it is no wonder that Nils Oscar continues to make headlines.
Between a statement of the value of organic produce and a view to grow and create more jobs, it is with positivity in spirit that Nils Oscar embraces a new year. Its spirits, liquors and beers are doing amazingly well – well enough, one should think, to impress a man as stubborn and hardworking as the brand’s inspiration himself.