Beer welds; it creates a setting. An industry friend recently reminded me that all we're really doing is creating experiences for people. Even the original working job title for Erin's position was 'Experience Manager.' The importance of this has never been taken lightly with SOB, and for each of us here that memory is different. The following happens to be one of my favorites.
“Experience is one thing you can't get for nothing.” ― Oscar Wilde
Last year I found myself in Stockholm, a city that was established in the thirteenth century but whose history extends to 8000 BC as a trade settlement. There is beauty to the idea of millions traveling through these roadways over time with their heads up, keenly aware of objects rushing forward from the horizon, seeing them ever larger and in more detail. And there is travesty in the reality that too many of us in modern society, myself included, rush through the days with our faces buried in iPhones, holding onto what's familiar when there are new experiences to be had.
These experiences, these passions that pull us together are what this is about. It's why we built a brewery.I was being shown around by Fredrik, a friend of a friend who was in the process of building his own brewery. It was an all-day affair as he strove to provide a true snapshot of what the beer scene was like in a several-thousand-year-old city filled with evolving palates and the people attached to them. Much like the early craft brewing scene in the US a quarter century ago, a small group of passionate, outspoken individuals are busy exposing more and more people to better beer. Some work at considerable scale on 30bbl systems; one poured samples of his stove-top creations at a family-owned, neighborhood shop. It was refreshing to see a level of built-in balance with a focus on sensibility, quality, and community to counter the grow-grow-grow midst of the American business ideal. After meeting brewers from across this spectrum, it was time for beer.
We arrived at Babajan in Södermalm, a psychedelic-inspired Caribbean oasis filled with quality beer from around the world. We shared bottles and bombers between myself, Felicia (of DMK-Lombard), and our host Fredrik. It was an early start for a night out in Stockholm, so we poured equal shares for a few of the near-idle staff members at Babajan. Their offerings featured the creations of Mikkeller, Bierbrouwerij Grand-Café Emelisse, and of course Brooklyn Brewery. We went beer by beer, talking about some, laughing over others, but mostly just hanging out with new friends.
A local wine importer, Niklas, was making his rounds and joined in on the conversation and the tastings. We ordered anything one of us hadn't had. Niklas asked how long we'd be there; he lived around the corner and wanted to go snag a few bottles he had stashed away. Brouwerij 't IJ was the brewery, opened in 1985 by a musician in Amsterdam who decided it was time for a career change. I'm pretty sure all of Europe thanks him for that one. The next move was dinner, and when Niklas found out where we were headed he suggested we swing by his home for one more share. It was on the way, and we accepted. It will forever be one of the best decisions I've made.
The next move was dinner, and when Niklas found out where we were headed he suggested we swing by his home for one more share. It was on the way, and we accepted. It will forever be one of the best decisions I've made.
Stockholm is old. And like most major cities of such age, there isn't very much available land. Niklas and his wonderful wife Tina live with their family in the carriage house of an expansive estate with what I would estimate around six acres. They welcomed us to their home and invited our group to join them in the greenhouse. Niklas dove into his cellar and emerged with a collection he had surely been saving for the right time. A decade prior, he had spent some time backpacking across California, and he returned to Sweden with a beer you most likely take for granted because of its ready availability during the holidays. He had stashed away a 2002 Anchor Steam Christmas Ale. It was covered in dust and finally ready to serve its purpose. The hops had long since faded, but the spices were still spot on, so much so that it is my favorite beer to date. Through the ninety minutes we spent in that greenhouse we shared stories, argued the finer points of the industry, heard tales from Niklas' adventure in the States, and imagined what was on our common horizon.
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
These experiences, these passions that pull us together are what this is about. It's why we built a brewery. Recently our brewer Paul Schneider said it perfectly regarding those that came before us when he said, "They did what drove them, what's in their hearts. And we're doing what's in ours." Maybe an experience that drives your passion is in your best friend's back yard. Or with your favorite barkeep at the corner bar. It doesn't have to be drinking 2002 Anchor Steam Christmas Ale in a candlelit greenhouse in the middle of an 1100 year old city. But experiences like this bind us. They draw us together around something new and unexpected.
We eventually parted ways when it was time for dinner. I may never see Niklas and Tina again. But, I can assure you they will never be forgotten. And I wouldn't want it any other way.
“How many things have to happen to you before something occurs to you?” ― Robert Frost
From time to time the people of Solemn Oath Brewery take the time to chronicle their travels and experiences to share here with you, like Joe's excursion through the mitten we call Michigan. How can we make ourselves better if we never experience anything new?