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Taste maker

Interview

Office – How long have you been living in New York?

 

Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø – Two and a half years. We live here in South Williamsburg and we work from here. We actually have an office in Greenpoint, but we never use it. It’s just easier to work from home. Wake up and start working right away.

 

O – What makes Brooklyn a fitting location for Tørst and Luksus?

 

JJB – I think Brooklyn is a fitting location for pretty much everything right now. The creativity just seems to be here, and everybody says that. Plus, we bike around, and it reminds us a little bit of a busy Copenhagen, I’d say. Then you go to Manhattan and it’s totally different, you come up from the subway and go “Holy shit, what the fuck is going on!” It’s fun, but I wouldn’t want to spend too much time there, it’s too busy, too corporate, too office. Brooklyn definitely inspires us a lot though, especially the food scene here, which is growing like crazy. The Michelin Guide came out yesterday and there were a lot of stars given in Brooklyn—actually Luksus was just awarded a star.

 

O –  Congratulations!

 

JJB – Yeah, we got that yesterday. It’s just a unique place, the fact that it’s a restaurant hidden behind a beer bar, and I think the food is amazing. It was one of our goals to get a star, and we’re the first Michelin-starred restaurant in the world that only serves beer, so it’s a big deal. We’re forging the way for what we believe in.

 

O – A lot of the beers at Luksus are not what one might expect—if you tasted them blindfolded you might not even know they were beer.

 

JJB – Totally, some you would almost think were wine. That’s exactly what we want to show—beer hasn’t been recognized for what it can be in fine dining, and that’s just because by tradition, you serve wine. There’s no other reason for it, because beer’s so diverse, and a lot of beers pair better with the foods than wine does. There are different red wines, but there’s not that much difference between French and Italian red wine, it’s still red wine, still made from grapes. Whereas beer, you can get one that’s 4% alcohol that tastes like grapefruit—plus, you can put stuff in beer. Chocolate, cherry, or I made one with licorice and beet. You can do all those things.

 

O – And on top of that brewers can use some of the same methods that vintners do.

 

JJB – Yeah, like putting beer in a wine barrel. We have two new beers coming out now that both came from wine barrels so they have a lot of wine flavor to them. That’s what we want to show the world, and for Michelin to acknowledge Luksus…

 

O – …it’s almost recognition for beer itself.

 

JJB – It is! And Michelin is very conservative, very traditional media, and for them to say “Hey, you can’t get a drop of wine here but we still want to give them a Michelin star,” that’s crazy. I hope we can inspire a lot of people to do more with beer in fine dining, that’s the whole idea.

 

O –  Wine has long been a front runner in ultra obsessive and elite circles of epicurean connoisseurship, but beer is making headway, as is coffee.

 

JJB –  The coffee world and the beer world are parallel in many ways, and we actually work together a lot and all know each other. We even use coffee in some of the beers, I’ve worked with Coffee Collective in Denmark, and I actually made a beer recently in Texas, it was a coffee beer without coffee in it. The brewmaster at Jester King in Austin and I decided to make a beer based on the description from the label of our favorite Kenyan coffee, it’s very fruity, floral, blueberries and stuff like that. We made a brown ale so that the coffee idea would come through, and we sort of reverse-engineered it, adding blueberries and everything—it ended up tasting a lot like the coffee.

O – Do people interpret your less conventional beers as just novelty recipes?

 

JJB – Definitely. I have a beer for example, a big imperial stout, that’s actually made with donuts. I had a base beer that just suited donuts really well, it has vanilla and coffee flavors, so we made a test batch with actual donuts in it, and it tasted like a donut! There are other donut beers on the market that don’t taste like donuts, but this one actually tasted exactly like a liquid donut. For a lot of people that’s a gimmick, and I understand why, but it’s a gimmick that we made into an awesome beer.

 

O – Do your experiments often fail?

 

JJB – I have a pretty good idea of what I’m doing now, and luckily I’ve only had a couple of beers that I wasn’t 100% satisfied with—I made a Belgian blonde ale a couple years ago with white grapes and it totally failed, the grapes made it really sweet and sticky. I still met people who said “Hey, that’s the best beer we ever tasted, when are you going to make that beer again?” and I have to say “I will never make that beer again, you can count on that.”

 

O – You’ve gained a degree of fame from Evil Twin, does that affect your ego?

 

JJB – I hope not! Maybe you should ask my wife. Especially the last year Evil Twin has become a lot more about me than about the brand, and that was definitely not planned. I think it’s because my story is unique, I’m an identical twin from Denmark, moved to New York, became very popular here very fast. I’ve had a life that’s not as normal as most other people, and it’s put a lot of attention on me as a person. I’m not going to say I don’t enjoy it, because of course it’s cool, but it’s also a little too much sometimes, now I can go places and people ask for my autograph and pictures. It’s pretty weird actually. I definitely know now how much it must suck to be a really famous person, you can never have a normal life, never walk down the street. That must really be bad. I hope I don’t ever get there.

 

O – How does the media coverage of your life narrative, particularly your fraught past with your twin brother, affect your relationship with your own story, and with your family?

 

JJB – It’s actually a good question—I often don’t read the articles about me. Someone read the [New York] Times article, which was by far the biggest, and described it to me and I wasn’t too happy from what I heard. I had told some personal things, and now I feel more guarded about what I share after that article. My brother and I got approached to do reality TV, and there’s no way I would ever do that. I’m not interested in putting our relationship on the spot. Fact is, yeah, we don’t have a good relationship. But we don’t fight every day. I haven’t talked to the guy for a year, and it’s totally fine, I don’t care about him. He did a festival in Copenhagen in May that I was attending, and this Danish journalist contacted us and said “Can I write about the big reunion?” I was like “What the fuck are you talking about? There’s not going to be any reunion, I’m going to a festival to show my beer.”  We both obviously make good beer, we’re both on top of the beer world right now. I think that’s more interesting, you know? We got a Michelin star yesterday, why the fuck do we have to talk about our relationship all the time? Talk about Evil Twin, Evil Twin is awesome!

We’re both on top of the beer world right now. I think that’s more interesting, you know? Why the fuck do we have to talk about our relationship all the time? Talk about Evil Twin, Evil Twin is awesome!

O – How was Evil Twin conceived?

 

JJB – I had been home brewing so I knew I could make beer, and I had a bottle shop, a beer store, and a distribution company so I knew I could sell beer as well. One day I was like, “Why don’t I try to make one and sell it?” I made the first batch at a brewery in Denmark, people liked it and it got good ratings on some respected beer sites. I didn’t expect Evil Twin to be anything, but then I met Brian Ewing from 12 Percent Imports in Brooklyn, and he was interested in shipping my beers to the USA. I took some convincing, but eventually I went to my friends at BrewDog in Scotland and we made twenty thousand liters of beer. We sent it to Brian, and he called me a day later and was like “We need some more.” I was like “Whaaaat?!”   Twenty thousand liters of beer is a lot of beer, you know? So we made another batch, and sold it all again. But it wasn’t planned out. Had you asked me after I started Evil  Twin where I wanted to take it, I would’ve said nowhere. But when things blew up like they did, it would have been stupid not to run with it. I’d been in the beer industry for quite a while, and got a lot of recognition for my shop and the distribution company. But the day I started producing my own beers, it was totally different, the way you get accepted into the whole circle of brewers and everything. All of a sudden I was creating something, not just selling something, and I liked that whole change of how people looked at what I was doing.

 

O –Would you call yourself an artist?

 

JJB – I would call myself more of a cook than an artist. For me, beer is the same as cooking. You make a recipe, you put ingredients together to create a certain flavor. I’m actually not very creative. I’m a good storyteller but I can’t draw or paint, anything like that, I’m bad on computers, so I’m not creative in that sense. I also can’t play music. No, I don’t want to call myself an artist, that would be silly.

 

O – And that’s the type of thing that could make you sound like an asshole.

 

JJB –Exactly. No, I’m a beer cook. I think cook is a good word. I just love food. I love beer, I love wine, I love coffee. I love everything that you can put in your mouth, pretty much.

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