Olof and Olle, pals for life
Saturday 09 April 2022
This article is from
Share this article
Some might say it was destiny that brought Olle Andersson and Olof Andersson together on the football pitch, aged five, setting them on a path that would lead to… well, some really lovely beer.
“We became really good friends, and stayed friends even when I moved away from Gothenburg at 18,” recalls Olof. “We’d always been very interested in food and beverages, and were homebrewing together from quite a young age. Whenever I came back, we’d go to this legendary craft beer bar in the city, which sadly doesn’t exist anymore, and all of us used to hang out there. Sweden’s own craft beer revolution hadn’t started yet, but we’d always talk about doing something together, starting a company, throwing ideas back and forth.
“When we started brewing together at the end of 2010, it was in the kitchen of a 35 square metre apartment I shared with my girlfriend in Copenhagen, and Olle had the same in Gothenburg. And eventually the beer started to become really good. Olle had actually found a very good place to brew; he worked at this really cool ad agency that had a commercial kitchen there that they were happy for us to use. And then we started like, looking for ways to actually start selling our beers commercially. We didn’t have any money to start up a brewery, and for us, it was important to do it our way, to make all our own decisions, so we didn’t want to bring in any investors.”
So O/O started its commercial life contract brewing with Anders in Belgium. Although the results were great, and the pair couldn’t fault the technical skill of the brewers, it wasn’t exactly what they’d dreamed of. “We had this grand vision of going down there, staying in a hostel in Leuven, and working in the brewery every day. In reality, you send them the recipe and the process, and a couple of weeks later they send you some pallets.”
At this time, the big domestic breweries dominated Sweden, particularly in the on trade. Olof explains that the requirement that bars serve food made starting anything new prohibitively expensive. With the banks reluctant to fund hospitality, the large brewers were happy to step in and offer pubs capital in exchange for long and restrictive supply deals, throwing up a daunting wall for any new, small breweries.
Fortunately, Olof and Olle were able to find one of the very rare opportunities to gain a foothold in this wall. A high-end steak and burger restaurant in Gothenburg had just invested in its own small brewkit, but lacked the knowledge to brew good beer; a deal was struck, where Olof and Olle would share their know-how, in exchange for use of the kit in the evenings and weekends.
That first year it was only us, so we pretty much worked 24/7, doing everything from brewing and bottling to running around selling it.
Olof says: “We added a couple of our own fermenters into the room, and it worked well for everyone. Eventually though, the guys at the restaurant decided that brewing wasn’t really their strength, and offered us the opportunity to just take it over completely. That was great, because it meant we could just brew during the day, which was much more sociable!”
Supplying beer to the restaurant and through its own sales, O/O spent the next few years gradually building its brand and customer base. By 2017, it had reached the point where the pair were able to finally fulfil their dream to open a commercial brewery of their own.
“It’s doing very well,” says Olof. “We’ve grown every year, deliberately slow and steady. That first year it was only us, so we pretty much worked 24/7, doing everything from brewing and bottling to running around selling it. Now we can actually hire people.”
Despite having reached the heady heights of being an actual employer, O/O feels like it’s still run along the same values of attention to detail, fine control of the process and personal relationships.
“We have the capacity to brew a lot more, but we’re not prepared to run the risk of having beers that get old or just sit around. We want to brew it and move as fast as possible to make sure that it’s good and fresh. Olle and I own the majority stake, so we can decide everything, brewing the beers we enjoy and doing all of our own distribution here in Sweden. That’s always been very important; we have relationships with the different bars, they trust us, and it means we can get styles out there that maybe aren’t the most obviously popular. Golden ales, porters and other British styles,” says Olof.
This is quite an evolution for a brewery that made its name by bringing New England IPAs to Sweden. Olof says it still has a few in the line-up, but “we’re not one of these breweries that will do 20 variations on that,” preferring the kind of broad portfolio that better represents their own interests. I’m keen to hear what further evolution the future might hold for these childhood pals.
“We want to continue to grow,” says Olof. “We don’t believe that size should be like a limit of like making excellent beers, but we don’t want to grow faster than our ability to maintain and improve the product. Quite the opposite actually, I want us to grow in a way that actually lets us brew even better beer, with better quality equipment and more qualified, creative brewers. That’s the kind of growth that’s sustainable and satisfying, the kind that lets you stay true to yourself.”
Share this article