Lead Us Not Into Temptation — Omnipollo Brewing in Stockholm, Sweden — Good Beer Hunting

2022-06-15 13:13:38 By : Ms. Emma Wong

It still felt wrong. Even as I told myself that thousands of people had supped stale communion wine here. Even as I took in the brewhouse and steel fermenters that have replaced the altar and pews. Even as an atheist, it felt heretical to be drinking in church.

Omnipollo’s co-founder Henok Fentie and I are standing in the brewery’s newly opened brick-and-mortar headquarters, right where the church’s aisle would have been—the route for weddings, funerals, baptisms. Above us, a projected image of Omnipollo’s iconic smiley-face roundel, tongue at a jaunty angle, shimmers, pretty much exactly where a cross might hang. Behind us, a spotless BrauKon kit gleams under spotlights, but we’re further towards the chancel, in the shadows of 10 two-story fermenters that reach right up to the mezzanine taproom. 

Fentie seems a little nervous, or maybe just excited to finally play host at his own brewery. He and his brewing team are still “dialing in” the beers at the Kyrka, he explains. The brewery moved into the 100-year-old church in Sundbyberg, Stockholm at the height of the pandemic, and has only just settled on a method for brewing the giant, heavily adjuncted Pastry Stouts that made its name. Until that point, Omnipollo had never actually produced its own beer, instead brewing collaborations and contracting recipes to others, including Dugges Bryggeri in Gothenburg, Sweden; De Proefbrouwerij in Belgium; and Buxton Brewery in England.

Fentie pours me an Imperial Stout directly from the tank—the kind that has divided beer geeks into Omnipollo believers and hardened deniers, the kind that some consider heretical whether drunk in a church or not. The beer is syrupy, leaving not so much legs as a thick film around the glass as I roll it. Baked in on top of the burnt toast and toffee notes are decadent, sticky waves of marzipan and milk chocolate.

A few days ago the beer was pushed through the brewery’s hop rocket, or “spice cannon” as Fentie calls it. This contraption squats in the corner of the brewery, near the door to the old vestry. At first glance it’s just another conditioning tank, but what looks like a boat motor is welded into one side of it. It’s this device that spins the beers at high speed around the hops or muslin sacks of adjuncts—in this case, pounds upon pounds of double-roasted almonds. 

“This has had one round of adjuncts,” Fentie says. “Eventually there’ll be coffee in there, but tomorrow it has a second round of almonds.”

He clocks my double-take and adds “maybe it doesn’t need it.” But we both know that, to be an Omnipollo beer, it probably does.

It was 2011 when Fentie turned an obsession with homebrewing into a career. That makes Omnipollo a venerable 11 years old, though Fentie was brewing beer on his stovetop years before that.

“I had the bug,” he says. “There were times I’d crawl into bed 10 minutes before my wife got up, wondering, ‘Why, why did I brew all night?’”

Even back then, there were seeds of Omnipollo in the beers he was making. Fentie has always had a sweet tooth, and grew up wanting to be a pastry chef. But after an economics degree in London, he headed back to Sweden and started working at a British-themed pub chain. It was there that he began to appreciate good beer, and was delighted to learn that it was possible to make it at home. Perhaps it appeased the pastry chef in him: Baking and brewing are both reliant on art and creativity as well as science and process. He had limited equipment, but tried his hand at just about every style he could think of, and eventually found that big Stouts both sated his sugar cravings and yielded the best results. 

“They were the only ones where I was coming close to commercial standards,” he says. “That certainly wasn’t true for my Lagers.”

When the obsession finally spilled over in 2011, though, he chose a Belgian Blonde Ale for his first commercial batch—or at least a version of one. It used a Saison yeast, but that’s about where the Belgian influence ended. Later, it was dry-hopped with Simcoe and Amarillo, then refermented with a Champagne strain. The beer was also contract-brewed, following the model pioneered by Mikkeller in Denmark . The low set-up costs involved in outsourcing production made launching a beer brand a less risky proposition, and the expertise and technology of the breweries taking on such contracts meant that more complicated and experimental recipes were achievable right from the start.

As a homebrewer with a penchant for more unusual styles and processes, Fentie found appeal in that model. The first batch was small, but it didn’t feel that way compared to his kitchen stockpot.

“1,500 liters felt like a lot of beer at the time, and we thought super-drinkable Belgian-style beers were what people were going to buy in bulk,” he says. 

Today that beer, now called Levon, is an outlier in Omnipollo’s portfolio of Hazy IPAs, fruited Sours, and Pastry Stouts, but it’s still the brewery’s best-selling beer by quite a margin. It’s more restrained than it sounds, with a zippy, carbonic dryness offset by bready malt and an oily, citric finish. It didn’t indicate the direction the brewery was headed in stylistically, but it did show that the reluctance to conform was there from the very first brew. It also demonstrated that Fentie saw untraditional flavors as the best way to bring new people in.

“We brewed this beer as a gateway into craft beer,” he says. “This is still a big part of our mindset. Even when brewing experimental beers we try to appeal to intuition.” 

Back when Fentie was still pulling all-nighters and dreaming of going pro, a mutual friend introduced him to graphic designer Karl Grandin. At the time, Grandin was working for Cheap Monday, a now-defunct Swedish clothing brand that had found mainstream success by combining a rock ’n’ roll ideology with vivid, comic-book-inspired visuals. Grandin says Fentie was introduced to him as a “brewing genius” who wanted to “make his dream beer, but was worried it would look like a nightmare.”

The connection was instant. Grandin was no beer geek, but as with Cheap Monday, he was excited by the prospect of entering a traditional industry with entirely different ideas about how a product should be presented. Fentie felt the same way about the beer he was brewing. Absent the pressures of a longstanding, tradition-bound brewing scene like the one he saw in the U.K., he felt free to combine all kinds of unusual, even discordant elements—American hops and wine yeasts were just the start of it.

“When we started out we just found everything so bland,” says Grandin. “I mean there was cool stuff out there, but it all looked the same—either weird Do It Yourself kind of stuff, or stuff that looked like beer has always looked. So we decided to apply ourselves onto what we were making.”

That very first beer was named after Grandin’s son, Leon (later changed to Levon), but the keyhole artwork on its label was more enigmatic. Its bold colors, contrasted with the negative space of the bottle, became a model for most of the 450 or so designs that have followed it. Sometimes the labels are self-explanatory, like the Ice Cream series made with Buxton, represented by a soft-serve swirl with legs. Other times, the iconography is more oblique. Ancient Egyptian symbols, emojis, and Chinese Taijitu crop up in unexpected places, but when Grandin makes collages for events and art shows, they all seem to fit like a jigsaw. There’s rarely any text on the front of bottles or cans—not even the beer name. It’s often hard to tell whether it’s a beer at all, but you know instantly that it’s a Grandin design. 

Up in the apex of the church’s steeple is Grandin’s studio. The place is a creative mess, with things still boxed from moving in and desks strewn with inspiration and unfinished ideas. On the wall, Grandin is building a collage of Omnipollo art and memorabilia. He takes me through the collection of bottles, prints, and merchandise, pointing out order where before I only saw chaos. Grandin sees every can and bottle as a canvas, and each canvas as an extension of an Omnipollo whole. 

“Rather than try to describe what’s inside the bottle or can, I try to express something about the vibe of the beer,” he says. “It should be layered—easy to grasp but if you do a little digging there’s treasure.”

With Grandin’s aesthetic in place, Fentie started dreaming up more recipes in his kitchen, getting them brewed at contract breweries when time and finances allowed. Mazarin, a Hazy American Pale Ale with a candle illustration, followed, along with Nebuchadnezzar IPA, with its ghostly, black-and-white American flag. The slow drip of new beers continued while the pair kept up their day jobs and worked on the project in the evenings. They still didn’t see themselves as a brewery, and even released a book about homebrewing, written by Fentie and designed by Grandin. 

Omnipollo as we know it today didn’t really start to cohere until 2013. Until that point, the pair had been taking classic American and Belgian styles and adding twists that they hoped would widen their appeal. The first time they took that approach to the extreme was when they were invited to the Netherlands for a collaboration with Brouwerij De Molen.

“When you’re a homebrewer going to make a beer with the best brewer on earth, what’s your added value?” Fentie asks rhetorically.

“It was a suitcase of marshmallows,” answers Grandin.

De Molen had already gained a global reputation for its Imperial Stouts, and had done so largely without the use of adjuncts. Fentie says head brewer Menno Olivier took some persuading, but after a few test batches to prove the concept could work, the pair flew down to the Netherlands with hold luggage full of their favorite marshmallows—and into the hopback they went. To Fentie’s relief (and likely De Molen’s surprise) the beer went down well. So well, in fact, that Hypnopompa is still made annually at De Molen. 

As Grandin says, “That was definitely the start of something.” Hypnopompa did well on rating websites, where the growing culture of tracking down ever more adventurous and rare beer helped the sweet oddity gain status. Calls from exporters started to flood in. Expanding to meet demand wasn’t an issue with Omnipollo’s brewing partners, and Fentie seized the opportunity, even if it came with limitations.

“We were obsessively focused on RateBeer and it defined what we made,” he says. “Export back then was completely driven by whether you were a top-10 brewer. You couldn’t brew a Lager or a Mild because it would damage your rating.”

Before Hazy IPAs exploded, the best way to generate hype was to make huge Imperial Stouts. Cigar City Brewing’s Hunahpu’s Day and 3 Floyds Brewing’s Dark Lord Day were the bucket-list events for beer geeks. Even if, as a brewery, you didn’t have a physical space to bring those visitors to, you could effectively create scarcity online, and Omnipollo was uniquely placed to play the ratings game. Not only did it have a recipe creator who specialized in big Stouts and had a flair for desserts—it had a designer with a knack for distilling complex ideas into instantly recognizable iconography.

“We were exporting an idea as much as the hops, malt, yeast or whatever,” Fentie says.

It didn’t hurt that, whenever Fentie wasn’t homebrewing or sleeping, he was on his phone—a habit that has only gotten more ingrained as he built himself a 160,000-followers-strong Instagram account. Translating Grandin’s brand identity for a social media following meant images of candy-colored soft-serve Sours with towering heads; IPAs the color and opacity of custard poured up to the rim of glasses and vases; Stouts garnished with blueberries, pastries, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. 

As the beers and the photos became more baroque, they took on a feeling of postmodern absurdity , one that was entirely self-aware and always a little mischievous. You don’t make a beer like Brownie Marshmallow Peanut Ice Cream Macaroon Maple-Glazed Bacon IPA—served as a smoked bacon banana ice cream bourbon peanut butter freakshake —by mistake, or without a robust sense of humor .

On a trip to Omnipollo’s packaging warehouse about 30 minutes away, I watched workers on a busy canning shift patiently make way for Fentie as he took hundreds of photos, built and deconstructed whole still lifes on the machinery, and captured shot after shot of the beers mid-pour. The curation of Instagram is not as organic as it looks—Fentie puts significant time and effort into both the images and the text—but has a knack for making it look effortless. Part of that is being a sponge for digital culture, and if he’s not posting something himself, he’s checking on what everyone else is doing.

“I am such a geek,” he says. “Honestly, I stalk everybody.”

But the internet is also a double-edged sword, as Fentie discovered in the next watershed moment for the brewery. Omnipollo was invited to partner with Buxton as part of a now-defunct collaboration series called the Rainbow Project, formerly helmed by U.K. brewery Siren Craft Brew. As part of that series, 14 international breweries were paired off to make beers inspired by one of the seven colors of the rainbow. 

In 2014, Omnipollo and Buxton were given yellow and, inspired by the success of Hypnopompa, decided to make another bold and sweet adjunct Stout. This time, the two breweries used extracts to add intense flavors, advertising their beer as a peanut butter and cookie Stout made without any actual peanut butter or cookies. Yellow Belly received wild reviews, earning a remarkable 4.34 average on Untappd , making it one of the best-reviewed U.K. beers on the site. But its unusual packaging was another matter. 

Yellow Belly was first brewed shortly after a general election in Sweden where the number of votes for the far-right Sweden Democrats party—which has neo-Nazi roots—far outweighed the proportion of people who admitted to voting for them in the exit polls. As the child of Ethiopian immigrants, Fentie was disturbed not just by how well the Sweden Democrats had done in the election, but by how few Swedish people would confess to agreeing with their racist policies. He saw it as part of a Europe-wide swing to the right, and decided to use the Rainbow Project’s audience to make a statement.

Yellow Belly was designed to be part conversation piece and part protest. It came in a white paper wrap, twisted at the top by hand to create the impression of a Ku Klux Klan hood. The idea was to echo the “yellow bellied” or cowardly nature of many racists—how they hide under hoods, and in public claim to be something they’re not. 

The beer became an annual release, but as its reputation spread, so did the questions about its message and intent. While a blurb wrapped around the bottle explained how the hiding of extreme views is a “signifying trait of systematic racism,” it didn’t provide the specific context that inspired the brewers, and which might have helped consumers parse the label design.

But even when drinkers understood the protest, there was still the question of whether dressing up a commercial product in a potent image of racist hatred is ever appropriate, or if two European breweries were justified in taking this specifically American symbol out of context. In 2020, Omnipollo received a cease-and-desist letter from Batemans Brewery, who owned the rights to “Yella Belly.” The resulting disagreement received plenty of press, bringing in even more attention and backlash. 

In response, Fentie wrote in an Instagram post  that, “I am a black man, father of three black boys, and in my youth I was both harassed and beaten for being black. As such I personally wanted to write a response to the recent media coverage of our beer Yellow Belly.” While he accepted that the artwork could be “unintentionally offensive” when seen out of context, “light needs to be shed on the quiet and creeping racism that is sweeping through Europe.” 

Looking back at the beer and that post, it feels in a way prophetic. The Black Lives Matter movement began the year before, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin’s murder. The alt right was just beginning to explode across the internet. The ugliness of Brexit (which led to the murder of a politician ) was as yet unthinkable, and Make America Great Again was still a Reagan slogan. 

Producing controversial art that speaks for itself rather than giving the viewer all the details is a dangerous line to tread, even before you use it to wrap a bottle of beer. But whether the designs and their meanings are well-received or not, Fentie sees breweries as inevitably having a political position. “As long as we have thoughts about how the world could be a better place, we are going to communicate through the platform that we have,” says Fentie. “In the end a company is the people that work for that company and the thoughts that they have.”

Omnipollo hasn’t made a political or cultural statement as direct since, but there are still what Grandin would refer to as “layers” in the brewery’s labels and names, some political and some more broadly satirical. Over a can of a coffee, vanilla and Costa Rican coffee Stout called Elmer NMT (New Money Ticker), Fentie explains how Yellow Belly’s recipe itself ruffled beer drinkers’ feathers.

“We used it as a chance to experiment with these extracts, and it was a cool thing to see the beer world not being overly snobby about it,” he says. “It really kicked off something for us in that regard.”

Even so, the use of extracts and other over-the-top adjuncts, and the startlingly high finishing gravity of some beers (Elmer NMT, for example, finishes at 20 degrees Plato, which means it has more sugar in it than many Double IPAs do before they are fermented) have raised eyebrows. These recipe choices have continued to define many of Omnipollo’s best-known beers—like Anagram, a blueberry cheesecake Stout, and Noa Pecan Mudcake Stout—and have underlined the kind of criticism the brewery routinely receives. 

Most of the brewery’s releases have, at some point, been met with groans of “why doesn’t beer taste like beer anymore.” Nevermind that the criticism is ahistorical, and that there is no universally agreed-upon definition of what “beer” tastes like—but even on Omnipollo’s fan-packed feeds, you’ll find purists lamenting the direction that Imperial Stout and kettle-sour brewing has taken, and claiming that the brewery is giving a false impression of what craft beer is about. It’s difficult to quantify assertions that such beer styles are damaging the industry’s reputation, or taking sales from more classic styles. Fentie argues that his beers actually bring in more consumers, and that every design and recipe choice the brewery makes has this aim in mind. “Even my mum now loves good beer because of this guy,” says Grandin. 

Canada-based beer writer and college lecturer Jordan St. John agrees that while pastry-style brewing may bring new drinkers in, converting them to other styles can only happen when breweries (and beer writers) are actively attempting to get them enthused about beer’s base ingredients. In some ways, he says, pastry-style brewing means bypassing that conversation: Why try to appeal to drinkers by using a malt that tastes like coffee when you can simply add coffee and put that on the label?

“One of the problems with craft beer is we’ve made the concept so difficult to approach,” he says. “The reason seltzer took off is because they can say, ‘Hey, this is raspberry flavor.’ Your Pastry Stout, well that tastes like brownie doesn’t it? And that sort of competes conceptually with seltzer.”

Whether that’s actually a problem is up for debate. At the end of the day, a brewer’s job is to brew beer that consumers want to drink. Alex Kidd, founder of satirical beer blog Don’t Drink Beer, coined the term “Pastry Stout,” and regularly pokes fun at those who line up for beers that taste closer to childhood candy than hops, malt, and yeast. But even he’s conflicted about whether pastry-style brewing has had a negative impact on the beer industry in the long term.

“It cuts both ways,” he says. “People who are new to something will crave the familiar, and beers that mirror pre-existing desserts will be a novel experience that may lead them to seek out similar beers in that style. However, there’s the capacity for their palate journey to begin and end there, because the focus really is on residual sugar and flavor mirroring, and not the underlying beer itself.”

Such arguments can get surprisingly complicated. Is it still “mirroring” if, rather than extracts or flavorings, these beers use the precise ingredients they include on the can or bottle? Does it taste like cacao, or is it literally made with cacao nibs? Flavor-wise, that choice may result in only a small difference in complexity, but from a conceptual standpoint, the two are worlds apart. Brewers of artisan beer have always been obsessed with authenticity, and if a Pastry Stout brewer is using whole coffee beans, cacao nibs, and vanilla pods, how is that different to, say, using cherries in a Kriek Lambic, or orange peel in a traditional Witbier?

The next day at the Kyrka, I arrive in time to watch the brewers load up the spice cannon. It’s time for the second dose of almonds, which were roasted by Fentie’s supplier and then blitzed and roasted again in-house. By the time I get there, the cannon is already loaded with half a dozen malt-sack-sized bags, and there are still boxes of nuts to go in. It’s laborious work—each bag is heavy enough that the brewers have to throw their full weight into heaving them around. I start to understand why extracts might be preferable at a commercial scale.

“If there is a way to make a beer taste better but doesn’t have a very romantic story to it I’ll definitely use it,” Fentie tells me. “But we have naturally moved towards more natural ingredients as time has passed because we’ve had better results.”

Omnipollo now sources whole ingredients from all over the world. Elmer NMT uses coffee from a farm in Sudan, where the beans were roasted to Fentie’s specifications after he visited himself. He has taken the same approach for cacao nibs, too, and Omnipollo now has a whole procurement team dedicated to sourcing the ingredients Fentie chooses for his beers. As a result, he makes no distinction between his hop or malt sourcing and his adjunct sourcing. 

The use of such ingredients should quiet some critics, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the wider issue—especially when Omnipollo’s labeling and social posting rarely reference those materials. As beer marketing relies increasingly on headlines and emojis rather than storytelling , getting the more involved information across is getting harder.

“Bringing people to more classic beer styles only worked when we were doing education on it during the last decade,” says St. John. “You’ve got to have the education, because you’re meeting people where they live and people have a tendency to stay there.”

Despite what it may look like from the outside, nobody knows this as well as Fentie. 

By 2020, Omnipollo was distributing to or brewing in 45 countries. With an audience most breweries can only dream of and an army of collaborators and contract breweries, its growth seemed inevitable. But in this regard, the creativity of its founders was its undoing.

“In theory we are probably more scalable than any brewery I know, but me and Karl don’t do anything scalable,” Fentie says. “It could be an adjunct or a special ink on the label, but we can’t seem to make anything we can afford to scale up.”

Something needed to give, but growth wasn’t the only thing on Fentie and Gradin’s minds. To keep momentum going in all those different locations, Fentie had been traveling the world constantly, brewing collaborations that gave Omnipollo fresh beers and legitimacy in some of the most engaged but competitive beer markets. Predictably, the United States was the focus, and Omnipollo has worked with the likes of Monkish Brewing Co., The Veil Brewing Co., Trillium Brewing, and Other Half Brewing. Seeing the journey these breweries had taken, Fentie was starting to feel like Omnipollo needed somewhere to call home. 

It’s not the first time he’s felt that call to put down roots. In 2015, the brewery opened Omnipollos Hatt, a cozy neighborhood pizza bar in the Södermalm area of Stockholm, but it’s surprisingly restrained—a small beer list, simple shaker pints, lots of houseplants, and a wood-fired oven. The brewery also runs a pop-up beer garden in central Stockholm every summer, and has bars in Hamburg and Tokyo—though due to the pandemic, Fentie hasn’t actually been able to visit the latter since it opened.

For the first 10 years of the brewery’s life, Fentie never envisaged owning a production facility. But the homebrewer in him was yearning to make the kinds of beers that don’t export well and which need education as much as marketing behind them. Finding a location that could match Omnipollo’s reputation and ethos should have been hard, but actually it happened within a matter of months. 

Before the pandemic, Fentie visited Sundbybergs Köksbryggeri, a collective of homebrewers that had set up a microbrewery in the nave of an empty church. The idea caught his imagination, and it certainly suited the reverence that his Pastry Stouts had been given by some beer geeks. Fentie had a casual chat with the brewers, part-joking that if they ever decided to move on they should let him know. To his surprise, he didn’t have to wait long.

True to Omnipollo’s form, if Fentie and Grandin were going to build a brewery in a church, they were going to go big. Fentie went straight to Germany’s BrauKon, one of the world’s most premium brewery fabricators, with a brief to build a bespoke brewery that included a whole raft of modifications to make high-gravity brewing possible.

“Coming to a respectable equipment producer like BrauKon saying, ‘I want to be able to make these recipes I came up with in my kitchen’ had certain challenges,” he says.

While the kit had to be capable of brewing wort that hit the high 30s in degrees Plato, Fentie went to BrauKon specifically because of its expertise in making equipment that yields the cleanest wort and would allow for decoction—both important in the brewing of classic European Lager styles. For Fentie, owning his own brewery wasn’t just about having a place to finally make his own beers—in fact he worried he’d never be able to compete on quality with his partners. Rather, it meant a more fundamental shift, or at least broadening, of Omnipollo’s output towards fresh Lagers and Pale Ales.

“We’re trying to bring high drinkability and low ABVs to the world of Omnipollo,” he says. “I think as a contract brewery this is where your added value of innovation gets lost a little bit. A fully hops, malt, yeast, and water beer is more dependent on process and having your own brewery makes focusing on that more worthwhile.”

The idea of an Omnipollo Pilsner might seem laughable to those who have dismissed the brewery’s excessive beers, but there’s no denying it has been done right. As well as the significant outlay on a BrauKon kit, Fentie personally selects his hops from Bavaria, and ages and serves all his Pale Lagers from four horizontal lagering tanks. As a result, the last drop of each batch can end up being lagered for several months. 

So far, the brewery has focused solely on German-style Helles and Pilsner. Despite few German breweries still bothering with decoction , pretty much all Omnipollo’s Lagers are at least single-decocted, and those that aren’t are given additional depth by maturing over oak spirals. They may now be producing the world’s most-consumed beer style, but Fentie and Grandin have still found a way to make it entirely un-scalable. 

“I never thought we’d be able to produce and sell Lager in any meaningful way at all, but it seems like it’s happening, and on a broader scale too,” Fentie says. “I’m really worried about it though: You can’t really innovate, you just have to add layers of complexity.”

If you can’t innovate with the recipes and processes of classic brewing styles, you can still modernize how they are presented—and Fentie can’t help himself. Every beer at the Kyrka is served via a side-pour faucet, and each time Fentie poured me a Lager it took at least 10 minutes. He’d start by hard-pouring the beer to fill the glass with foam, then slowly topped the beer up to create a mountain of meringue-like head. The silhouette is a visual double for the brewery’s Slushie beers, and evidence that Fentie knows he has to find connective threads to win over those who were first attracted by the brewery’s dessert-like styles. 

When he finally passes me the glass, I try to find a way to get at the aroma. In the end, I just have to dive in, taking in a mouthful of whipped-cream-like foam before the honeyed, bready, and lemony body washes over it. It’s low in carbonation due to the pour, but its dryness keeps it crisp and refreshing. It is exceptionally clean; so clean it almost feels colder and lighter than it is at 5.2%. The same could be said for the wet-hopped Pilsner we try next, except that this one positively vibrates with bitterness and snaps at my throat all the way down. 

“We have someone from BrauKon doing a placement here right now. She hates it,” he smiles.

Even if the bitterness of that Pilsner weren’t turned up to 11, it’s still a world away from the beers that have built Omnipollo. Until this point, the brewery has had a simple ethos—more has always been better. Lager, and in particular German Pilsner, has never been about that. I ask Fentie how he thinks Omnipollo’s fans, and indeed detractors, are going to react to this shift towards nuance and drinkability rather than impact and instant gratification.

“We are making the opposite journey to many people in our industry,” he says. “People have always expected lots of different, unusual beers from us, and only now are we having to earn credibility in Hazy IPA and Lagers. We know it’s going to take at least two years to gain that credibility.”

Fentie says 100% of the Kyrka’s research and development is focused on producing great Lager and sessionable hoppy beers, but because they’re so process-focused there’s no intention to ramp up their production of these styles at his contract breweries. To him, the joy of contract brewing is the freedom it provides—to focus on the concept and ingredients, and leave the process of production to someone else while you work on the next thing. The Kyrka allows him to look at life the other way; to focus on the production and process of styles that have been fine-tuned for decades or even centuries. Just like in the wider beer context, he believes the two approaches can coexist. He says that brewers and drinkers are sometimes still critical of Omnipollo’s exploits but that it happens less and less, and he still loves this style of brewing.

“We’ve put in the work and gained acceptance,” he says. “I am a brewer and a baker packed into one. That will never change.”

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