A nomadic Swedish brewery founded on an unlikely "brewmance"
Swedish brewing nomads Henok Fentie and Karl Grandin founded Omnipollo in 2010. Fentie, a homebrewing enthusiast and Grandin, an illustrator, graphic designer and one of the founders of Cheap Monday, take a unique approach to brewing that has seen them ferment the label's success in a short span of time while developing an enthusiastic following among the craft beer community and discerning drinkers alike.
"We always intended to be a kind of club beer. There was never really a specific strategy to be stocked in SystemBolaget*," says Fentie, referencing the state-run liquor chain and the only place possible to buy any spirit over 3.5% ABV. "In that way we've managed not to offend the existing beer community here in Sweden, which is our second-biggest market. We're not competing for shelf space."
Fentie has been brewing at home for many years, focusing on beers he himself would like to drink. "I was getting tired of going to 'beer bars' to drink a specific kind of beer," he says.
Grandin came on board in 2011 when they launched Leon, a pale ale named after Fentie's first son. A beer than truly straddles new world and old world brewing, it's a keystone in the range—well balanced yet very plush, and created, as with the company's other beers, using extremely high-quality ingredients with whole-cone hops from the US and champagne yeast from Belgium. Bought straight away by Riche, one of Stockholm's most consistently hyped bars, Leon lived up to the brewers' original intentions.
"Our second release is an American-style pale ale brewed as a tribute to fatherhood and paternity leave—loads of flavor but a lower ABV," explains Fentie. "We call this one Mazarin after Grandin's son." Following Mazarin Fentie and Grandin will release an India pale ale, strong and robust at 8.5%. Nebuchanezzar (try saying that after a couple) marks an experiment to scale up a homebrew recipe without changing to compensate for economies of scale, which, says Fentie, is "not widely practiced as a rule as it's just too expensive on a large-scale brew system and would be a technical nightmare."
It's clear that one of the keys to the success of Omnipollo's range is the refusal to brew with one specific brewery. "Lots of people ask what we are because we're not sticking to one brewery," explains Fentie. "Well, first and foremost I'm a brewer but other than that we're a nomadic brewery, collaborating with other small craft brewers across the world. It's nice as we get to work with different brewers, experience new techniques and ways of working and taste new flavors."
Without the conventional constraints of a brewing facility, Fentie and Grandin have recently returned from Spain where they have collaborated with Nómada Brewing on a beer called En el Bosque (literally, "In the Forest"), which is an Imperial Red Ale weighing in at 7% and cut through with tones of Spanish cranberry.
In the spirit of experimentation which has become their signature, Omnipollo has recently been working with a premium honey harvested from the roof of Stockholm's Kulturhuset by a company called Bee Urban. "It's probably going to be one of the most expensive beers out there given that the honey costs 1,300 SEK for a kilo!" says Fentie. The 11.2% brew, Imperial Stout Brewmance, finishes its life for three months in bourbon barrels to intensify the flavor, and is being made in conjunction with Danish brewers To øl;.
This "brewmance," if you will, has lead to other collaborations with luminaries in the brewing world including Jeppe from Evil Twin Brewing, with whom Fentie created Russian Roulette—two beers which Grandin has packaged in the same labels and yet represent two different sides of the beer coin. "Grandin's not, strictly speaking, a brewer—he actually brewed for the first time with the Catalonians in Barcelona," says Fentie. "But he was into it. He brings a real creative edge to Omnipollo in that he has complete freedom with the packaging, printing and graphical elements of our beers. We don't even have a logo on the bottles!"
Visit Omnipollo online to learn more, and contact them directly for ordering information.