WORDS : Fraser Doherty PHOTOGRAPHS : Kiva Brynaa ILLUSTRATION : The Man Trout
Thursday 25 May 2017
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If you’ve been a member of Beer52 during the past couple of years, you’ll know we are huge fans of the beers that To-ol produces. In this month’s MBCC-themed beer box, we’ve included an awesome bottle of its latest creation, A Peeling Pale.
A key part of Copenhagen’s craft beer fraternity, these guys’ creations have long been a regular feature in craft beer bars across the city. But since 2016, the brewery has been translating its immaculate sense of style into opening its own bars, including most recently in Oslo.
The story of how Tobias and Tore got started on their journey to create what has been rated the world’s ninth best brewery has become a thing of craft beer legend. The pair were students at a ‘direct democracy-based high school’ in Copenhagen called Det Fri Gymnasium; a place where students can learn about what interests them and the walls are covered in art and graffiti.
At assembly each week, students and teachers are given one vote each to decide issues relating to the school. And if this level of respect for children’s individual freedom sounds extreme, that’s only the start of it. After class, these high school students also got to hold parties, drinking beer and talking casually with their peers and teachers.
After remarkably managing to convince the management that high school students should learn to brew beer, they began brewing in earnest. After Det Fri invested in some homebrew equipment, the canteen soon resembled a small brewery. Brewing beer was added to the curriculum and, unsurprisingly, there was a huge interest in learning about it. The boys and their teacher were pulling all-nighters, experimenting with recipes and enjoying the beers they brewed. Soon, they were brewing at home and ultimately began selling their beers. The rest, as they say, is history.
They went on to successfully market some incredible beers, including the likes of Fuck Art, This is Architecture, featuring a photograph of the unfinished 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel in North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang. And in 2016, after a number of years successfully exporting uniquely packaged and expertly brewed beers around the world, To-ol decided to seize the opportunity to make another bold addition to its hometown’s craft beer scene, with the opening of a new brewery and taproom: BRUS.
For us, it was a huge pleasure to be invited along to the unofficial pre-opening of the dazzling new venue during Copenhagen Beer Week last year. Based in a former iron foundry and locomotive factory, the engines of this stunning old building were definitely set to start running again, with the local hype surrounding the opening being apparent even to us as outsiders to the city. Based in the hipster-friendly area of Norrebro (or Norrebronx as the locals like to say), amid shawarma places and coffee shops, the venue is a massive 750 sq m home to not only a taproom, but also a bottleshop, a brewery and barrel room. This is the sort of beer bar we salivate over. What’s most exciting though is the way it welcomes people of all types; it’s easy to picture mums with their strollers enjoying a daytime coffee, with the space being just as appealing for first dates in the evening.
On top of this, BRUS is also brewing, blending and macerating its own drinks and cocktails that are kegged and served straight from the taps alongside beers. Until now, most craft beer bars around the world have typically been pretty masculine; featuring graffiti, steel fixtures, dark lighting and, where music is played at all it’s typically rock and metal. As a result, most of the beer bars we visit cater only to a certain stereotype of craft beer drinker.
What we really need, if craft beer is to continue its advance from beer geeks further into the mainstream, are beer bars that don’t feel like beer bars; places where people of all sorts feel welcome and comfortable. The battleground for winning hearts and minds will be in spaces like this; beautifully furnished, minimalist, airy and bright. And when we catch up with Henry from the To ol team, he shares our viewpoint on the future of craft bars. ”What we wanted to create here was a place where people could come and try some seriously fresh beers and enjoy great snacks and bar food,” he says. “We’re doing everything - brewing and bottling beer, serving it to drink here or to take away, there isn’t really anything like it in Copenhagen.”
People can even pick up a keg and strap it to their cargo bike to take home for a party. Doing so many things in one space might sound frantic, but somehow the place feels very easygoing. We really do hope it succeeds and serves as a blueprint for more bars to copy.
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