The Swedish craft pioneers, still having a blast
Photos: Premsak Wadeesirisak
Saturday 12 February 2022
This article is from
Great European Road Trip
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Twenty years ago, Mikael Dugge Engström got into a casual pub chat with an Englishman, who was in the business of selling filters used for brewing beer, but who was also involved in selling full second hand brewery setups. “How cool would it be to have your own brewery and brew your own beer?” thought Mikael. Where most of us would have parked the dream and nursed our hangover the next day, Mikael set out with the energy of a man possessed and started studying Swedish alcohol legislation (which is pretty extensive), reading up on everything and anything he could find on brewing beer and going on visits to anyone who would have him, gathering advice and making friends.
Three years later, in 2005, Mikael finally opened the doors to Dugges, in the town of Mölndal, right outside of Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden.
“It was tiny and a completely impractical space, where we ran our small brewery while also managing day jobs,” recalls Mikael. “Even so, the dream had come true and it was love from day one. We brewed beers right and left and preached our brews to anyone who would, or would not, listen.”
Slowly but surely, demand for Dugges’ beers grew, as did their volume and variety. By 2009 the tiny brewhouse had hit maximum capacity and the decision was made to find a bigger home with better equipment. After a year of searching, planning and building, Dugges moved across the forest from Mölndal, to Landvetter in the Härryda municipality, where it had a new shiny brewery and more space than Mikael thought it would ever need (obviously, it’s now hit capacity again).
As a brewery, Dugges has always been seen as fun, playful and experimental; a reputation that it’s managed to keep reinforcing for almost two decades, which is pretty impressive in its own right.
Emma Krysell, Dugges community manager, says: “We like to try different flavours and mix things up. Dugges is a place where you can discover different tastes and different flavours and should expect the unexpected; that’s as true for the people working here as for customers. And maybe we don’t follow the trends all the time; maybe we’re just going to do what we feel like doing. Sometimes it works out, and maybe sometimes it doesn’t. But this is how it started, with that curiosity and that love of brewing, and we’ve brought a lot of people with us who really get what we do, and that means so much to us.”
This ethos of constantly challenging its own brewing is still going strong in 2022, as Dugges finds new love for its classic brews, as well as exploring new seams of artistry.
“In a way, we’ve felt this pull to go back to basics with some of our IPAs and double IPAs; looking at those styles and asking how we can do them differently,” continues Emma. “So for example using new hops in different formats, to see what they can bring to styles that everyone assumes they know. And then we’re also doing a lot of barrel ageing. That programme’s been going for a few years, but we just keep learning more; working with wood opens a world of possibilities, so it’s something that we really want to continue to develop and discover new flavours.”
This is very much in line with how the brewery has seen Swedish tastes and drinking habits develop over lockdown, says Emma.
“During the pandemic, obviously, people haven’t been able to go out as much as before, so they’re enjoying beers at home more, maybe with their friends, often with food. So I think that’s changed what they’re looking for in a beer. We’ve seen a big move back to basics, with people drinking more lager and IPAs – beers that are hoppy enough to make you want more, but well balanced and easy to pair with food. Then there’s also demand for beers that are really interesting, that you can sit with to taste and savour; that’s where things like our barrel experiments come in.
“I think that’s set to continue, even as restrictions ease here. The younger generation just don’t go out as much. I’m 30, and I see people in their 20s going out a lot less than I did, and drinking less when they do socialise. They’ll maybe have a glass of wine, or perhaps one or two beers with a meal, so they’re a lot more selective and really want a good experience. That’s going to shape how craft brewing here develops for many years to come, and I think a fun, innovative brewery like Dugges will do well in that kind of market.”
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