BierTalk English 20 – Talk with Thomas Sjöberg, Founder of Fluid Boundaries Brewing from Brussels, Belgium

Thomas Sjöberg is from Belgium, now lives in Finland and has his fiancée in the USA. Together with his job as a brewery consultant and beer judge, this takes him around the world several times a year. During his youth, he discovered Belgian Trappist beers and decided to make it more than a hobby. After moving to Finland, the opportunity arose to jump on the slow-starting craft beer bandwagon. Along the way, he completed almost every beer sensory training course there is. Finally, the first job in a brewery in Estonia followed by one in Sweden and next the job as Head Brewer in Estonia at another brewery. In the podcast, Thomas talks about this exciting journey and his current projects…

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Zusammenfassung auf Deutsch:

Thomas Sjöberg, der in Belgien aufwuchs und jetzt in Finnland lebt, hat seine Verlobte in den USA und reist aufgrund seiner Tätigkeit als Brauereiberater und Bierjuror mehrmals im Jahr um die Welt. Seine Leidenschaft für Bier begann in seiner Jugend mit belgischen Trappistenbieren und führte ihn schließlich zur professionellen Brauerei, zunächst in Estland, dann in Schweden und schließlich als Braumeister in einer weiteren estnischen Brauerei​​.

Sjöbergs Interesse am Biergeschäft entfachte, als er nach Finnland zog und dort die Unterschiede in der Bierkultur bemerkte. Er absolvierte nahezu jeden Bier-Sensorikkurs und sammelte zahlreiche Zertifizierungen. Seine berufliche Laufbahn umfasst diverse Erfahrungen in verschiedenen Brauereien, darunter Freiwilligenarbeit bei Mikkeller und professionelle Arbeit bei Pühaste in Estland sowie eine Brauerei in Schweden​​.

Er gründete Fluid Boundaries Brewing, eine Beratungsfirma für Brauereien, und entwickelte unter anderem interessante Rezepte, darunter ein Bananenbier in Estland sowie ein Bier mit Pistazien. Diese Experimente spiegeln seine Neigung zu kreativen und unkonventionellen Braustilen wider​​​​​​. Sjöberg betont seine Präferenz für das Brauen von Lagers und hopfenbetonten Bieren und zeigt weniger Interesse an der Verwendung von Kveik, einer traditionellen norwegischen Hefe, im Brauprozess​​.

Er hat an vielen internationalen Bierwettbewerben teilgenommen und schätzt besonders die Vielfalt und Qualität der Biere, die er beispielsweise beim Asia Beer Championship in Singapur verkostet hat​​.



Markus Raupach: Hello and welcome to another episode of our podcast, BierTalk. Today we do a little bit like a world journey. We have a very dear friend of mine, Thomas Sjöberg and he really was living throughout the world, he was in breweries, he’s a beer sommelier, he’s a beer judge, he’s a very experienced expert in the beer world. And so I’m very happy to have him here and to talk about his life, his experience and his brewing perspective. So Thomas, it’s very nice to have you here. Maybe you introduce yourself a little bit to our listeners.

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes, of course. And thank you for inviting me. As I said, this is the first time that I’m on the podcast, so I try to do my best. But I’m Thomas Sjöberg, I grew up in Belgium, and nowadays, I live in Finland. But it’s also a little bit more complicated because I have a fiance in US. So I do a lot of moving between Finland and US. And on the beer side, I’ve been judging in commercial competitions a lot with Markus, actually, for the past six years. And I’ve also worked in the brewing industry. So I’ve worked as a professional brewer, I’ve worked in cellar, and I do a bit of everything with beer related. So that’s a little bit about me.

Markus Raupach: That’s on the very low basic what you do because it’s a lot of things, a lot of experience and also some big names. So I’m very happy to have you here. Maybe first time you say you are from Brussels, but you’re also, you sound a bit Swedish or Finnish in terms of the name. So is it about your parents, or what was the connection there?

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes, so my mother is from Finland, and my father is from Belgium, but he’s actually also half Norwegian. So in the end, I have maybe a little bit more Scandinavian blood. But I grew up and studied in Belgium. So I left Belgium when I was 25 years old and to some people, it’s confusing, because I have a Swedish name. I took my mother’s name, and I have a French accent. So I tell people that I’m a bit of both, but maybe sometimes I tell that I’m a bit more Belgium because that’s where I spent most of my life and important first years of my life. So culturally, I would say I’m a little bit more Belgian. But now it’s been more than ten years that I’m in Finland. So I’ve taken a bit from the Finnish culture as well.

Markus Raupach: Can you remember where you had your first beer?

Thomas Sjöberg: So exactly where I cannot really remember. I started probably very young, like, I think many youngsters in beer, traditional beer countries like Germany or the Czech Republic. So it was not much about tasting that I’m sure of, but I know that early on when I was already 16, 17 I started to enjoy drinking different beers. So a lot of the Trappist beers, not really lambic, because it wasn’t so popular and it was not, let’s say a type of beer that was available in many bars. So that was not really the kind of beers I was drinking. But beers like Chimay Bleue, and Orval, Westmalle Tripel and Dubbel. I mean, all these classic beers, I started enjoying already more than 20 years ago.

Markus Raupach: That’s a wonderful start in the beer world, to be honest. So not Heineken, not AB Inbev and things. So you started with the Trappist beers. Why not?

Thomas Sjöberg: And it’s also really funny because so I was going to the European School in Brussels, and I was actually living a little bit outside of Brussels. And after school, sometimes I was lazy to go back home. So I would stay at a friend’s house and the father was really into beer. So he always had a lot of beers in his fridge, like always, maybe eight or ten different beers. And with my friend during the week, even if we’re already really young, we would actually taste already different beers. So a bit the same beers that I just mentioned earlier.

Markus Raupach: And when came the idea to go into the beer business?

Thomas Sjöberg: So it came slowly, I would say it really started when I moved to Finland because the culture was very different in Finland. So first of all the domestic products were not so good. But at the same time, there were a lot of imported beers and that was like something very different than Belgium. So I started to be curious and wondering why Finland cannot make as good beer as Belgium. And then what are these, like American styles that I’ve never heard of? So I started to taste and drink, for example, some of the Sierra Nevada beer and Stone at the time, which was very new. And that’s kind of what slowly got me into beer.

Markus Raupach: And you also had your military service in Finland? In Germany, the soldiers drink a lot, especially at the Navy. I don’t know. How is it in Finland?

Thomas Sjöberg: So yes, I mean, maybe not during the week, because we were locked in. But during the weekend, we could go back home. And I was also in the Navy, actually. And we were drinking a lot, but it was not, especially in Finland, it was not very interesting beer drinking. It was quantity and not so flavorful beers.

Markus Raupach: That’s right. But you have a quite interesting craft beer scene now in Finland, and I think it started maybe so eight years ago, something like that, that you had this variety. Now it’s maybe 120 breweries, something like that, or it’s more?

Thomas Sjöberg: I don’t exactly know production sides, but brewery there is at least 120, maybe close to 150. And maybe, I don’t know, 20% are kind of contract brands or very small breweries. But there is quite a decent numbers. Actually, the density of brewery per capita is higher in Finland than in Belgium. Yes, by a little, but yes.

Markus Raupach: That’s good. It’s a very good figure. And so you had the idea to start in the beer business and so did you go to university and study brewing? Or did you go to a brewery and make an internship or what was the start?

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes, so as I said, it came fast when I arrived to Finland, my passion for beer, but it developed slowly. So like the way it started was for three or four years after work, I was reading about beer and reading about beer and, let’s say, after four years, I was already thinking that maybe I should or I want to work in the beer industry. But I didn’t really have much certification or papers from study. So I thought that, although I know already quite some, I should do some brewing certifications and like sommelier tasting. So first I did the general certificates from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. I did the Dumonds, but that was 2017. It was actually the first English class of Dumonds in Munich. I also did the certified Cicerone and then the BJCP, that was in 2016. And now I’m still studying. I think it’s important to always learn. And so I’m actually finishing a diploma in brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, which is like a bachelor degree in brewing. And I’m also in the middle of my advanced Cicerone. So I took the tasting part of the exam in the end of last year, and I passed that. So now I have the written coming in May. And so I do spend some time actually now to prepare for these two exams and hopefully, I can get the advanced Cicerone and diploma in brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling.

Markus Raupach: That’s a lot of certificates. And very interesting. Maybe you’re one of the most educated beer judges because you have all these different institutes. But that’s very interesting because sometimes we talk about that and then we try to compare what is Dumonds doing? What is the IBD doing? What is the Cicerone? What is BJCP? If someone would ask you what are the main differences, do you have an idea what you could say about this?

Thomas Sjöberg: I mean, it’s also a little bit tricky to compare, because on the IBD side, I’ve done only like brewing and packaging, and I’ve not done sommelier and let’s say a tasting judging side. So it’s a bit tricky for me to compare IBD with some of these sommelier certifications. But if I compare, let’s say, Cicerone with BJCP and Dumonds, depending also on the level, I think the Cicerone is requiring like knowledge in many aspects of beer and brewing. Dumonds and the BJCP, it’s more focused on the tasting and judging, whereas in Cicerone you also have brewing and draft and cleaning and food pairing for example. I also would say that I believe that the certifications for Cicerone and BJCP, I mean, again, it depends which levels. But they may give more because some of the levels require more, let’s say, like long, continuous studying. So for example, in Dumonds we get very good quality training and knowledge and like learning about beer styles. But the time to lead to the certification is actually in time relatively short. But for example, like, for advanced Cicerone, the preparation is very long and of course, because it has different aspects, not only tasting, let’s say it’s a broader, like wider knowledge I would say certification. Also compared to the BJCP. But yes, it’s not so easy to in a few words, really say the main difference and what are those differences?

Markus Raupach: Yes, of course. I was just curious. And also, because it’s also it’s a little bit coming from different beer ideas. So if you have a German Institute, I think the thinking in general is different from like an American institute, something like that. So the approach to beer is a different one.

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes, and I mean, also in the Cicerone, regarding beer styles, they use the BJCP. So when it comes to assessing beer and definition of beer styles, they use the BJCP. So if we are talking about tasting and styles, the Cicerone is the BJCP. So that’s kind of a similarity. Whereas Dumonds has a bit more their own thing and the German culture like you say that influences.

Markus Raupach: Yes, and then you also had experiences in different breweries. So I read that you have been, for example, to Mikkeller. So what was this first experience? What did you do there?

Thomas Sjöberg: No, actually like, yes, so I’ve worked with many breweries. But Mikkeller was actually volunteering. So in the beginning, before I got in the industry, I was doing not a lot of volunteering, but quite some and for beer festival. So I did volunteer in Mikkeller celebration three or four times. So that’s what you saw, I think. But in breweries, I first started to work in Estonian Pühaste. So I volunteered there to learn the trade, I was doing mostly cellar work. I was there for three months. And after that, because I just wanted to learn more and different ways of working in breweries. I had a friend from Sweden who is one of the founders and the brewer of O/O Brewing. I don’t know if you know about O/O Brewing.

Markus Raupach: I think I know the name from, I was several times in Finland for the small beers, great breweries competition which is every year in Finland, and I think they were part of it.

Thomas Sjöberg: I moved there a couple of months and I learned about brewing. And also I was doing cellar work. We were two persons in the production and after that, I got a head brewer job in Estonia, a small brewery, ten-hectolitre brew house and 13 fermentation tanks. And there I was for a bit more than a year and also doing new beers and the existing beers. And after that, I wanted to come back to Finland so I started consulting activity and with that consulting business, I have been making recipes for breweries. I have also been working, so some breweries, sometimes someone goes on holiday or maybe is injured or they have a lot of work and they need someone. So I have also been doing that and also some troubleshooting. So like to help. I have three breweries that I have worked for, like three to six months period. Actually one even for a longer period of time to help them make better beer. And also, one of those breweries, they had bought a 30-hectolitre brew house and they were only working with a five-hectolitre single vessel system. So they were not familiar to work with the three vessels, 30 hectolitre. And they had asked me to help them. And so I was also with them to show them and brew for a little while as well.

Markus Raupach: And then you founded also your own company?

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes, so I mean, my own company sounds like a brewery, because it’s called Fluid Boundaries Brewing. The idea to have this name was just for the consulting side of my activity and the idea that in the future, I will launch a contract brewing brand. So I have also made beers for contract breweries and also, I have made some beers for the supermarket that every year they want a new beer, and they have been making a beer for the supermarket. But I haven’t yet launched my own brand. But that was not kind of my main idea in the start. My main idea was to have my own activity and to do consulting, help breweries, and also make recipes for different breweries.

Markus Raupach: Yes, I think that’s a good idea because if you have your own brand and your own beer, then you are not independent anymore and you have always the focus, of course, on your own business. And that can be more or less inhibiting a good consulting job. So I think it’s good to be, if you are a consultant, to be as free as possible. And that of course, if you’re not part of the beer business, you can act freely there and consult in an easier way.

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes exactly.

Markus Raupach: And I also read you created a lot of interesting recipes. So I heard about a banana beer I think in Estonia. How do you brew with bananas in Estonia? So I don’t think they grow there normally.

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes, so I mean, nowadays, we can do any kind of beers from anywhere in the world more or less. And the brewery wanted to hire me also to make new beers and I wanted to do fruit. I mean, not only fruit beers, but the brewery was quite popular for like sour beers, like kettle sours. And I’ve always found, I mean, I’ve wanted to do beers that you wouldn’t see often. And also, I’ve been inspired by some fruits or nuts that work well in sour and people don’t necessarily think of that. Banana is an example. But for example, coffee or coconut or some cocoa even in my opinion, sometimes can work really well in sours. And so I wanted to do a banana sour. And it was actually not so strong sour. So let’s say it was maybe a little bit not a true, not a little bit puckering sour, but still smooth kind of at the same time.

Markus Raupach: And when did you add the banana? In the fermentation or in mashing? Or when you add the fruit?

Thomas Sjöberg: We add it to, banana purees in the end of fermentation, let’s say maybe a plate before finishing gravity. And we were adding about 90 to 100 kilo in 10 hectolitres of the banana puree.

Markus Raupach: That’s a lot.

Thomas Sjöberg: It’s a bit. I mean, everything is relative. In US some people are like doing much more than that even and some are doing less with great results.

Markus Raupach: That’s right, but do you remember another fruit where it was maybe a special challenge to brew with?

Thomas Sjöberg: When I was there, I also made a sour with strawberries and it’s a challenge in the sense more of the cost that you need to use a lot of strawberry to get some impact. And there was a little bit some like money budget constraints, so I couldn’t really get the result that I wanted. So we started, when I was at that brewery with 120 kilo of strawberry. And the result was decent, but not as much as I would want. And we couldn’t really go up, we even had to go a bit down with the quantity. So let’s say that the strawberry was a little bit a challenge because of the cost and the amount that you need to use. So but I have not experimented with like crazy fruits, so I’ve not made beers with kiwi or durian or stuff like that.

Markus Raupach: But you did a beer with pistachios. So I’m a big fan of the pistachio and I only had, I remember, I think I had two beers yet with pistachios, and I think both of them were cream ales from the States, which were quite well. But I’m always looking for pistachio beer. So you made, I think, a dark beer style if I remember the right way.

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes, so it was a dark beer and for me where it started was, there is Copper Tail Brewing, which is from Florida and one year in the Talent Craft Beer weekend the brewery who was there, they had an Imperial Stout with pistachio. And there was some other adjuncts. I think there was vanilla, and maybe cocoa, but I’m not sure. But the pistachio was really, really strong and pure. And I really loved that beer. And it was probably, it was, I think, maybe even my first beer with pistachio at the time and I’ve always had it in my mind. I remember I was talking with the brewer, what did you use and how much. And so I remember that beer. But now also there is another brewery which is called Arcane which I actually have the t-shirt. And they have, when we are talking about sours with some fruit or nuts, like they have like a pistachio sour but that’s also green colour. I think they use some kind of colouring. But for me, it’s really amazing. It’s called the Pistachio Cream Puff. I don’t know, if you’ve heard. It’s a very small brewery, so it’s difficult to get their beers. But anyways, so I did this beer with Volfas Engelman, which is a very big brewery owned by Olvi Group, which is a big Finnish company. And we made the milk stout with pistachio and vanilla. And I would say the beer overall was good, but it was a little bit lacking. I think the extract give a bit more almond, a little bit kind of more almond character. So I didn’t find it as good as those two pistachio beers that I mentioned earlier. But it was still some pistachio but I think it’s very tricky. They are, like most of it is. I mean, those two beers that I really liked, they have been made with extracts and I know there has been some beers that have been made with real pistachios, but to my recollection, I haven’t tried such beers. And I’ve heard with a good quality extract, you can get the best results. So that’s what I tried. But yes, it was an extract from US. And actually the Copper Tail told me that extract was the one they used, but for some reason I had a little bit less quality results.

Markus Raupach: But that’s interesting to hear. So because I was always was wondering how you get this nutty aroma into the beer. And I’m still wondering how you can do it with normal pistachios. But I think with the extract, it’s a good way. And so you have a concentrated aroma and then you can marry it with the beer. So that sounds interesting. So really great. And so a lot of experiments and at the moment, so you are still working for these three breweries? You are consulting? Or do you do something else at the moment?

Thomas Sjöberg: No at the moment, so I’m still attached to a contract brewer which means new beer factory. And it’s basically a friend of mine. He bought a house and he was doing renovation. And under the flooring, he actually found old labels and documents from a very old brewery which existed from like 1870 to 1920 in the city of Turku. And this friend of mine decided to relaunch the brewery with the same name and he has asked me to make the beers for them. But because it’s a contract brewery and the brewery where they make the beers or where we make the beers is not, let’s say, so available, there is limited production. But for this company, I have made a German pils and Helles. So let’s say that you have asked me questions about fruit and experimental beers, although I’m interested in those, let’s say that I’m maybe even more interested in making lagers and hoppy beers. Let’s say five, six, seven per cent more or less all styles of lagers except maybe a little bit the dark ones and on the hoppy side West Coast and hazy IPAs, those are the beers I like to brew. Because I like the challenge of clean fermentation and pronounced fresh malt and fresh hop character. So in some ways, sometimes when you do these fruit beers, you can screw of course, but it’s maybe less technical and it’s certainly a bit in a way maybe less artistic because you use some extracts.

Markus Raupach: Yes, of course. But you have a lot of Scandinavian roots, so no idea of using kveik or something like that?

Thomas Sjöberg: Not really. I mean, let’s say that, I mean kveik, of course, it’s been very popular and it’s been used like in Scandinavia in general. But in Finland, it has been more about the Finnish bread yeast with the Sahti. So kveik is also a little bit more of a Norwegian influence. And to me, I’ve rarely been convinced that using kveik can make good lagers, for example. So it’s also one reason why I haven’t used much of kveik. But I have had actually pretty good lager with kveik and pretty good hazy IPAs with kveik, but I’ve never really gone into that territory. So not much kveik for me.

Markus Raupach: Okay. I just think it’s an interesting field which is at the moment more or less uncharted. So I think there will be no few yeast strains or it’s not yeast, it’s a collaboration of different microorganisms. I think it’s not a single yeast always but they made a lot of fake lagers here in Germany and also very fruity IPAs with this yeast. So here in the home brewing scene, let’s say, it’s the hot shit at the moment for the home brewers.

Thomas Sjöberg: But what is your opinion with kveik and lagers, for example?

Markus Raupach: It didn’t convince me at the moment. So it’s an interesting idea and also on one side, it’s also a bit frightening. Because if they really make it that they can do lager-like beers in two days or something like that, that can be a huge impact on the business, especially for the big breweries. But let’s see. So but in general, it’s interesting that you have these old yeasts surviving in the Norwegian world and this behaviour that you can dry them and reactivate them and the whole brewing process, it’s very interesting. And I personally, I’m very interested in this historical beer styles or beer ideas. So I have been, I think, two or three years ago, I was in Finland for the Sahti Festival, where they have their own Sahti competition. And that was, for example, very interesting to see that being alive with that group of 200 homebrewers coming together in the middle of the country on a parking lot, and everybody pours his beer, and then they party and cheer, and it’s fantastic. So it’s beer culture. And that’s something very interesting.

Thomas Sjöberg: I haven’t had the chance to judge there, but I’m sure it must be very interesting.

Markus Raupach: It’s challenging, because all these beers are quite strong.

Thomas Sjöberg: In that sense, but also, I think, it’s kind of … I mean, maybe with some German, because it’s the bread yeast has a bit similarities with some of the Hefeweizen and the Phenolics and the banana. So but I think for a very lager country, it can be also a little bit more, like challenging, because it’s like and carbonated sweet style.

Markus Raupach: Yes, we had, we are doing our beer sommelier courses here and on the last day of the course, we all come together, have a beer judge, of course, also, and then a huge meeting in the evening. And we had three times I think we had guests, also participants from Finland in the course. And they brought from Finland, Sahti. And then we had that to the normal participants and sometimes also to the staff of the restaurants where we were. And this was always very interesting to see their reaction. If you tell them this is beer and you have like a 10-person, zero carbonation, sweet banana, Juniper thing, sometimes a bit smoky.

Thomas Sjöberg: Even a little bit smokey phenolics. Have you had a favourite or it’s not really your jam and you don’t remember one of your favourite.

Markus Raupach: I don’t remember the name because Finnish is so complicated for me. But I remember the guys and I think you will also know them. It’s there they are, they have clothes like furs, and they make five or six different Sahtis with lots of different berries. All of them are very strong, 12, 15, 16%. They look like Stone Age people. Also the labels with gods and things.

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes, it’s Raum, I think it’s Raum Bryki or something like this. I should double-check. But yes, the medieval, the brewer is always wearing, I mean, medieval kind of clothing. I think medieval is the best way to describe it.

Markus Raupach: Yes, it is.

Thomas Sjöberg: And it’s actually not far from where I live here. It’s maybe hour, hour and a half.

Markus Raupach: Not great.

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes, but you probably had some of those beers in the festival of the best beer of Finland.

Markus Raupach: Yes, in the festival and also I was travelling through Finland two times. So the last time I went from Helsinki to Turku. I was in Turku, I visited a brew pub, which was a school, from a school that was very impressive. And then I visited the Kakola Brewing. I think you know them on a hill. That’s quite a new brewery. And then I went through the islands to what is the name? Aland, the Aland Islands. Yes, sorry.

Thomas Sjöberg: You went to Aland Islands. So then you went to Stallhagen maybe?

Markus Raupach: Yes, I visited Stallhagen. That was great. Also the brewery and the honey beer they do is quite nice. And there’s another brewery on the main island, a small one. I also visited them. So this was really a very interesting trip.

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes, I come back to the school brewery because my mother actually used to go to school where the beer brewery is.

Markus Raupach: Wow.

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes. And I mean there are different rooms and one if not more than one, where even classes and she was in those rooms as a student. I have also been there drinking my beer like 50 years later. It’s kind of funny.

Markus Raupach: Yes, and it’s still a little bit looking like a school. So the maps on the walls and things.

Thomas Sjöberg: Exactly, yes.

Markus Raupach: Yes, it was great. That was a great experience. And next to it was a hall where you could buy food and things. And so I really liked the Finnish country. It was a very, very great trip. Also Turku as the city is very interesting with the castle and all the structures and the church.

Thomas Sjöberg: And you have always been here in the, I think good time of the year, right? Usually it’s been in July.

Markus Raupach: It was yes, true. It was always in the summertime and the first time I realized that it’s really a tough thing was when I was planning my first trip, and I asked the rental car people if I could rent a Cabrio so the car, you can open the roof. And they said, in Finland, we could only give that for maybe a month and the rest of the car would be in the garage. So we don’t have these cars. But I was always there in summertime, it was always very hot. So I was really astonished how hot it can be. So once we had in the morning, we had 28, 29 degrees at eight in the morning. So that was really very hot.

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes, I mean, I think because I recall some of the times when we judged in the Best Beer of Finland that the weather was really nice. But it’s also a little bit exceptional. So usually there are some summers where it’s quite rainy, and 20, let’s say low 20 degrees. So it’s not always super hot. But sometimes.

Markus Raupach: Yes, but when the beer is there, the sun is shining.

Thomas Sjöberg: Of course.

Markus Raupach: Maybe last question, if you go to competitions, so you have been to many beer competitions throughout the world. So do you have a place where you liked it most or which was impressing you most? Or something you really remember?

Thomas Sjöberg: So I mean, when you ask you mean more specifically, let’s say the place or like the competition itself?

Markus Raupach: Or whatever, whatever you have in mind. Sometimes it’s one and sometimes it’s the other. So I have very different also things in my mind about that.

Thomas Sjöberg: I mean, for me, also, judging outside of Europe has been quite recent. So for me that’s kind of has been an exciting thing that last year I went to judge in the Asia beer championships in Singapore. And I had been in Singapore before, but I think the competition and the ambience and the diversity of food, and also the quality of the beer was really good. So that was for me one of the great competitions I have been to. But of course, the Italian Beer Challenge, I love the Italian Beer Challenge and the Brazil Beer Cup and the competition in Mexico. I mean, usually I think that when it’s a little bit sunshine, good food, I’m always happy, and good beer of course. So those places have been great competitions and good countries and places to have fun.

Markus Raupach: Yes for me, if I look back, the biggest difference I think is between Mexico and Italy in terms of the beer competition. Because in Mexico I was last year in the summertime or early summertime. So the air was 28 degrees, the sea was 28 degrees, sunshine, so and we were judging really ten meters from the beach. So it was really like you go outside and you go in the water and it’s all the same temperature. It was wonderful. I was at Rojo and but, and if you go to Italy, we are normally in Rimini, which is also a beautiful beach and a great site, a great location. But we are there, we will be next week, so we are there in January or February. So in the total wintertime and that’s also interesting because you have the beach, but no people. So I think it’s the only time where you can walk the Rimini beach just walking along without meeting anybody. And it’s also beautiful. It’s different. Not hot, but also beautiful.

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes. No, I mean it’s true that in the Birra dell’Anno usually it’s been a little bit cold and chilly, but still it’s really good competition. I think lots of very talented judges and also the food. I’m very much a foodie, so whenever I go to a country where there is good food and there are many countries with good food. But I’m always also a bit more excited. So in Italy we have these evenings with the different cheeses and ham and whatnot, like everything.

Markus Raupach: The judges always bring additional things and that’s also interesting. Some bring cheese, some bring hams, some bring spirits, whatever. So of course, that’s the best thing to have the community, the crowd, and also maybe 50% of us are meeting three, four, five, six times a year somewhere on the planet and that’s like a family that’s moving together and that’s really a very nice thing. So I’m really looking.

Thomas Sjöberg: And actually we do I mean, I have been to, I mean, we have been in many competitions at the same time. So I think there are a couple of I mean, regulars, and we do we have been in quite a few together.

Markus Raupach: And that’s interesting, because you really make friends you would normally never meet. That’s also a very, very interesting and a global thing. So that’s what I really like about that beer judging thing that you meet interesting people, you have something, of course in common, but everybody has his own life, his own history, and that together it makes always a very nice time. So really great. So as great as our talk. So I’m very happy. Thank you for your time. And I’m very much looking forward to meet you next week in person. In Italy, let’s have some good beers, maybe some grape ales. What about grape ales? Brewing grape ales?

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes. I mean, it’s also not something I have worked with, but I have judged two years actually in Villa Verano and it’s a beer style that I really enjoy. I think it has a lot of, it can be quite broad. So you can have a bit of sour, not sour, and let’s say more grape and red grapes, white grapes, and funky, not funky. So it’s definitely something that is very interesting and a drinkable style as well. So maybe I should one day try to make a bit of grape ales. But so far I’ve more been enjoying tasting it than brewing.

Markus Raupach: Yes, of course. But I heard that also in Belgium, they are now growing wine. So maybe they’re … and also in Finland. So maybe the potential is growing for that.

Thomas Sjöberg: Yes, I think it’s, it should.

Markus Raupach: Alright, so have a nice time. Thanks again for your time. And yes, let’s meet next week.

Thomas Sjöberg: Thanks Markus, see you next week.

Markus Raupach: Yes, see you next week. Bye.

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