Campfire x Niklas Ekstedt
This collaboration's on fire between Campfire and Swedish chef Niklas Ekstedt
Saturday 09 April 2022
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I first came across Two Tribes through its hugely successful original collaboration with Island Records, way back in 2016. At the time, I felt it was a bit of a daft combination, but I’m happy to say the brewery has proved me wrong time and again, through its superb work with collaborators across just about every creative industry you can think of. Now a highly respected brand, Two Tribes and its buzzing London restaurant/bar Campfire have teamed up with renowned Swedish chef Niklas Esktedt, the ‘godfather of fire cooking,’ to bring us a Swedish pale ale, GRILLA.
Two Tribes founder Justin Deighton says: “We love working with chefs, because they bring such a deep understanding of flavour, and often come at it in a way that a brewer might not. We’ve worked with quite a few, but this project with Niklas is so exciting; he’s held in such high regard, particularly in Sweden where he’s a real hero. We’ve talked about doing something for a long time, but when this opportunity came up with Beer52’s Scandinavian box, everything just sort of fell into place.”
For Justin, working with people outside of the brewing world also represents something larger – a creative direction that isn’t simply about chasing new stylistic territory.
“For me, there's so many different genres of beer, with guys doing so many different things, that the beer world has just sort of fragmented. Where we found our niche is collaborating with chefs and working with food. Now, you’ve got some of the best breweries in Scandinavia in the box, which is great. But we’re able to bring one of the best chefs in Scandinavia to give his interpretation of what he thinks is a great beer.”
We found our niche is collaborating with chefs and working with food.
And the project has been a true collaboration, with a great deal of discussion, experimentation and exchange of ideas to arrive at the beer in your hand. Justin and Niklas settled on a theme of ‘spring’ as their inspiration and were initially keen to brew something infused with juniper.
“Juniper didn't really complement what we were trying to achieve though; it wasn't fresh enough, though I feel it could work well in a much heavier beer,” says Justin. “So,we moved on to elderflower, which Niklas uses an awful lot in his cooking and which beautifully compliments a nice fresh pale ale. There’re various beers of ours that Niklas is drawn to, in terms of the style or the hops we’ve used, so we had those as a reference. The key really was to create something sessionable that was fresh enough to cleanse the palate; a lot of the food he cooks is quite rich.”
Niklas is already a familiar name in London foodie circles, thanks to his critically acclaimed restaurant, Ekstedt at The Yard. Anyone expecting the fragile, egomaniacal genius chef stereotype would definitely be confused by Niklas though, who is charming and relaxed, and whose passion for excellent food expresses itself in much more healthy ways. Justin tells a story of taking Two Tribes’ marketing manager to a meeting, who was taken aback when Niklas “rocked up on a skateboard, having just come from the skate park”.
In a sense, this collaboration is a snapshot of how Two Tribes is evolving as a brewery. Rather than majoring in beer and dabbling in other fields, it’s always felt like Justin’s true interest lies in the overlap itself. Campfire is a great example – Two Tribes’ London venue isn’t exactly a taproom that serves food, nor is it a restaurant with a good beer list, but a true synthesis of Justin’s passion for both areas. As the name suggests, its food vibe is distinctly fire-based, from grill to Texan-style barbeque and everything in between, and has grown up organically, out of another collaboration with Hackney’s From the Ashes BBQ.
In a sense, this collaboration is a snapshot of how Two Tribes is evolving as a brewery.
Justin says: “We were very lucky to start with some friends of ours, From the Ashes, who kicked off with a residency that helped put is on the map. The next step is Sam has joined to build out the Campfire kitchen; being a trained butcher and having cut his teeth at renowned Pitt Cue back in the day in Soho, he then went on to Native and a few other restaurants with a focus on sustainability, foraging and flame. So that's brilliant; it feels rather organic, plus he’s my son, so he hopefully won’t be like your typical chef and dump me as soon as he gets a bit of success!”
We’re also excited to hear the beer in this month’s box is just the start of a wider collaboration between Campfire and Niklas, which will include him cooking a spring menu at the restaurant on a Wednesday.
“There's so many different directions that we can go from here,” says Justin. “From a brewing perspective, we can obviously take inspiration from the sort of ingredients that he cooks with, his indigenous recipes with elk and stuff like that. As a creative brewery, we tend to be pretty reactive, so it’s hard to say exactly where this process will take us, but that’s very exciting in itself.
“We have a lot of diverse creativity within the team, and that’s why our ethos of collaboration works so well. We’ve worked with Claire Smyth, Nomad, Dan Barber of Blue Hill NYC. Everything we glean from those collaborations is teaching us and helping us innovate. We're just learning. And the same applies to Niklas; the guys an absolute genius – to have a Michelin star restaurant with no electricity or gas – but he’s as open to new ways of thinking as anyone I’ve met. That’s really what you look for in a collaborator, someone who’s both generous with and hungry for ideas.”
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