Guess what’s brewing in Norway?
Brooklyn Brewery partners with E.C. Dahls to open a brewery and restaurant in Trondheim
Brooklyn Brewery seems to have a love affair with Scandinavia. In September 2014 they held a Nordic Hot Dog Championship and Nordic Street Food Festival. This year they sponsored NORTH 2015, which featured Garrett Oliver on “A Sense of Place.” As described on their website, “Garrett will discuss how the Nordic food movement carries forward traditions of many important causes…. This full day of talks will feature several luminary figures in Nordic cuisine discussing the roots of the movement and the path it seems to be on looking forward.” And in October 2015, Edible Brooklyn held “How to Prepare a Nordic Feast” at the brewery.
Perhaps this romance was initiated by the Scandinavians, because Scandinavians are totally infatuated with Brooklyn Beer. In fact, the largest importer of their products outside of the U.S. is Sweden.
Or perhaps the allure originated from the aura that seeps from the bricks and mortar of their warehouse, which is nestled in the former Hecla Ironworks (co-founded in 1876 by Dane Niels Poulson and Norwegian Charles Eger). Whatever the reason, I am glad of it, for their next foray is into Trondheim, Norway.
Eric Ottaway, CEO of Brooklyn Brewery, spoke to me about the courtship between Scandinavia and the Brooklyn Brewery, as well as their new liaison with the E.C. Dahls brewery in Trondheim.
Victoria Hofmo: Can you speak a little about how and why Brooklyn Brewery decided to create partnerships with breweries overseas?
Eric Ottaway: Here in Brooklyn we’ve always been very inquisitive and love to travel. It’s very much in our DNA, in fact, if you look at our history. The craft beer world is also very collaborative, and we love working with interesting partners to create new beers. Craft beer is in many ways about the exploration of flavor and the expression of ideas, and while we certainly are not short on flavor or ideas in the U.S., the world is a big place that we love to explore. Working with overseas brewery partners allows us this opportunity—it’s one of the most fun things we get to do!
VH: Brooklyn Brewery’s new endeavor is located in Trondheim, Norway. How and why did this partnership come about?
EO: When we began selling Brooklyn in Norway in 2010, we soon began receiving reports of really strong results for it in Trondheim. It took just one visit for us to fall in love with the beauty and spirit of that city. E.C. Dahls is of course the leading brand in the Trondheim area, and when there was talk of redeveloping the old brewery, we quickly got excited about the idea. We have a great partnership with Ringnes in Norway, and working together on this project was a natural fit for us.
VH: How will cuisine be a part of the new E.C. Dahls Brewery?
EO: For centuries wine has been the traditional pairing at the dining table, but through our experience we’ve come to know that this notion is self limiting. After all, the drink that accompanies a great meal should compliment the flavors that the chef is trying to impart to you. While wine sometimes can do this job well, more often than not beer does an even better job. In fact, working with NYC’s top chefs is how we got our start 28 years ago. They were our natural allies in the flavor journey on which we were embarking.
As we were getting to know Trondheim, one of the restauranteurs that we had the good fortune of meeting is Roar Hildonen from To Rom og Kjøkken. Like us he was a strong believer in not limiting oneself to just wine, and his restaurant has a very strong beer program in addition to a superb wine cellar. We also really wanted to open the doors to the E.C. Dahls Brewery again as they have been closed for decades to the public. Breweries traditionally were the centers of their community, and to us part of reviving that spirit was for the brewery to once again become a place where our neighbors could come and eat, drink, and enjoy life with us. We couldn’t think of a better way to do this than partnering with Roar and his team to bring the culinary side of the brewery to life.
VH: In the case of E. C. Dahls, founded in 1858, would they have been in danger of closing if this partnership had not come to fruition?
EO: That’s hard for me to speculate on as E.C. Dahls as a brand has had such a strong commercial position in central Norway for decades. That said, there is no doubt that the partnership with Brooklyn Brewery will strengthen the brand even further and bring new life to the whole beer category in the area and nationally.
VH: How does Brooklyn Brewery balance this merger, i.e. in retaining this stalwart company’s traditions and culture while adding the contemporary and Brooklyn Brewery’s touch?
EO: In some ways that’s the easy part. The beers of today all have their roots of course in traditional beers like the Dahls Pilsner. Our job is to take this tradition and build on it and infuse some of the flavors and ideas that come out of the craft beer world.
VH: There have been several events that have already occurred between Brooklyn Brewery and E.C. Dahls. Can you speak a little about these and how they were received?
EO: To date, we mainly have just announced the partnership to the public, of course over a beer since that is our nature. We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from that announcement and look forward to doing many more events together.
VH: Brooklyn Brewery has worked in partnership in Scandinavia before, when they partnered with a Swedish group to create the Nya Carnegie in Stockholm. So many people lump these two countries together. Do you see any distinct differences between the people and culture of these two countries?
EO: I’m not going to start a fight between Norway and Sweden here! Both countries are full of friendly people who love great food and great beer and enjoy sharing their cultures. Luckily, so do we.
VH: As I understand it, the new brewery in Trondheim will be located in their historic industrial building. What is being done to the old E.C. Dahls site?
EO: The entire area around the E.C. Dahls Brewery is expected to go through a facelift in the years to come. I have seen some fantastic conceptual designs that the City of Trondheim commissioned that would bring new life to an area that is beautifully positioned close to the sea. What will happen to the rest of the buildings on the brewery site has not yet been determined, but if they are anything like the ideas that have been thrown out, this will be a vibrant, cool area to hang out in.
VH: When do you expect the new E.C. Dahls to be completed and open to the public?
EO: We are targeting an opening date of summer 2016. The construction is well underway and the brewery equipment installation will begin any day. So far we are on schedule, so we feel optimistic about hitting our target.
We look forward to sharing a meal and a beer or two with our friends in Trondheim!
This article originally appeared in the March 4, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.