When we think of prestigious craft-beer brands, we tend to imagine brewers with dedicated facilities that enable them to experiment and produce enough product to distribute to the hip bars and small-batch vendors that want to carry their beers. However, opening your own brewery as an independently owned brand is a massively expensive and risky endeavor, and many beer-making hopefuls question whether it makes sense to take such a huge leap right off the bat.
But some inventive beer entrepreneurs choose to sidestep this concern by engaging in a so-simple-it’s-brilliant method known in the industry as “nomadic brewing.” These brewers find space in existing breweries, allowing them to make their own beers without shelling out big bucks for a facility of their own. Among the trailblazers of nomadic brewing are Jeppe and Maria Jarnit-Bjergsø, the Danish couple behind Evil Twin Brewing (so named because Jeppe’s twin brother, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, is the founder of internationally acclaimed brewery Mikkeller
Now that they’ve been in operation for several years (and have their beers carried by a number of top NYC bars and restaurants), Evil Twin feels ready to take a game-changing step by opening their first-ever permanent brewery and taproom. Set to open in the fall of 2019 in the quickly evolving neighborhood of Ridgewood, Queens, Evil Twin Brewing NYC will include a fully operational brewing facility, a welcoming taproom perfect for events, and a spacious outdoor courtyard with a fleet of food trucks to provide sustenance for intrepid beer tasters. We had the chance to catch up with Maria Jarnit-Bjergsø to get her thoughts on the transition from nomadic brewing to a brewery to call home, and what we as the beer-loving public can expect from Evil Twin Brewing NYC.
The Manual: How would you describe your former “nomadic brewing” process, and how will having a permanent space change the game for Evil Twin?
Maria Jarnit-Bjergsø: I think that the “nomadic” model is a more democratic method for people [to get started in brewing]. It makes it easier for people to start their own beer businesses, but obviously, you need to have a mindset focused on expansion and logistics in order to handle brewing in different places. On the other hand, [when you use the nomadic model], you don’t need to build your own facility, which is a big expense. So that’s how we started. We’d rent space at other breweries; we started with small breweries, but as the brand grew, we got space at bigger breweries, which allowed us to expand our quantities. It was a natural growth for us, but now, we want to try going the other way. We want to move from nomadic brewing to more of a local-brewery business model now, but when we were starting out, nomadic brewing was the right thing to do. But the market is really different now; you can’t make plans even 5 years in advance in the craft-beer business. You need to focus on what’s going on now and you need to [trust your instincts about] what feels right. That’s what we’ve done up until now, and it’s been good.
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TM: Is this notion of indie brewers renting space in existing breweries a common concept in today’s beer world, or is it still an unusual move?
MJB: I think that we were actually among the first to do it at all; it wasn’t at all common when we were getting started. It’s becoming more popular now, and some breweries are actually building spaces [with the specific purpose of] hosting nomadic brewers. It’s a great way [to help new brewers] start their own brands without having to put out a lot of money for their own workspaces and equipment. </span
TM: Why did you decide to open a permanent location?
MJB: We’ve been playing around with the idea for a couple of years. We actually thought that we’d do it outside of the city, mainly because it’s cheaper. Building in New York City is not a good business model. So we looked at a couple of spaces upstate but didn’t really find the right one. Then a couple of years went by and it didn’t happen … then, all of a sudden, we got contacted by a Danish photographer who told us that he had a space in Ridgewood. He owns two buildings; he has a studio next to the building we’re now using. And he told us, “I have the perfect building for a brewery.” And, at first, we were like “No, it’ll be too small and probably too expensive.” But he convinced us, and after a while, we said “Okay, let’s go and see this space.” And we just ended up loving it. Most of the buildings that we had looked at were boring, boxy warehouses, but this building had character and history. It’s right in the middle of a cool neighborhood, and the landlord is a nice guy, which means a lot. So we ended up making it work, even though it’s not what we had initially thought we would do. [Opening the brewery] has been a long process … we’ve had the space for 3 years now. But between permits and different layouts, we’re still waiting for the taproom to open. But it’s gonna happen soon, and we feel good about it and we’re brewing beers in the space now. It’s been a good decision, and we love the neighborhood.
TM: What is the biggest advantage to having your own space as opposed to hopping around as a brewing nomad?
MJB: The biggest advantage definitely has to do with the product. We can make changes as needed, we can go in and taste it every day, we can add and remove ingredients — the product is right there in front of us, all the time. This was definitely a challenge of nomadic brewing; you have to go in with a recipe and you have to know what the end product will be. [Brewing from your own facility] is definitely more fun, and it’s better for the quality of the beer.
With our own permanent space, we can work on different styles [that we haven’t made before], like sour beers. And with ingredients, we’ll have no limits to what we can put in the beer now. We’ve had a lot of fun with that over the past six months. That’s always been our dream: to be able to do whatever we want with our beers.
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TM: How do you hope to use Evil Twin’s public spaces once they open?
MJB: We have a big taproom and a big space overall. We’re looking forward to doing brewery tours, and we want to host [private] events. We also want to do collaborations [with other brands] and put out special releases. We want to take advantage of how cool the space is and make it a place where people want to come and hang out and try new beers.
>We have a huge courtyard, which is very unique. We built a big greenhouse in the middle of the courtyard, and when you sit inside it, you still feel like you’re outside. We’re filling it with plants, and it’s part of what makes our taproom so special. Also, we’re going to have a rotating group of food trucks [out in the courtyard]. We’re already talking to some cool vendors, and a good thing about being in New York is that you have access to so many great restaurants. [In addition to the food truck options,] we’ll also have small snacks on our taproom menu. [With the food truck plan and the look of our space], we took a lot of inspiration from breweries in Austin, TX. We have string lights, lots of plants, eclectic design, and you see all of that in Austin
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