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Interview with Jörgen Hasselqvist of the Oliver Twist pub

Oliver Twist in Stockholm is, in my opinion, one of the best pub in the world. Tell us please the history about it.

Oliver Twist opened in 1993 and it was really back then when the beer revolution started with new laws making it easier to import beers from all over the world. At the time I had a importcompany introducing ales´s and cider from the UK and I actually sold beers to Oliver and also working there in the bar part time. The former owner, Mr Rune Bohlin, had a clear vision about what we should do, be better than everybody else and I was hired fulltime in 1996. We did a lot of research and travelling and that was really the foundation of it all, to really get out and see what was  going on. As a person I am a firm beliver that everything is possible so the word no just doesn`t exist! To be a real british styled pub we just had to serve Real Ale and it was an adventure to convince the UK brewers that their beer could travel. Now we have served over 2500 different real ales, totally crazy. We where also the 1st pub outside of the UK to receive Cask Marque in 2000 and we have managed to get it every year since.

How many beers do you stock? All beer-styles are covered?
We have 19 beers on tap, 1 cider and 3 handpulls for real ale. Bottles is about 100-150 depending on what I have found! We import a lot from the US and of course from all craftbreweries in Sweden and others. We own our equipment so we can sell what we want, this is still not common in Sweden. I try to cover all beer-styles but we are a small place so I wish I could have more but most styles are there.

I know you are a great lover of bitter beers. Have you been a pioneer in your country? How was the first reaction of Swedish drinkers?
Well, people who had travelled was happy to see ale´s from the UK but it has been a long hard road to get people into choosing craftbeers. It really have been great to be a part of the beer revolution the past 18 years, from a desert to where we are today. I guess you can say that I was one of the pioneers, Stene at Akkurat as well of course. The 1st reaction from “normal” Swedes on UK ale´s was basically that it had “to much” taste, but that of course changed quickly, people hadn´t had a craftbeer for so long.

 

What is good and what is bad nowadays in the lively Swedish beer scene?
Hm, the good thing is that the demand for craftbeer really is growing fast, and new craftbreweries opening up eventhough it is very hard with all our stupid regulations. There is simply a great buzz around craftbeers and that feels great. But we still have our retail monopoly, difficult to get in there with a product and then our alcoholtax isn`t helping either. And the biggest problem right now is the media, or more the lack of media attention. Very little is written about beer in the newspapers , myself and others are now focusing very hard on this, you get 2-3 pages of wine but nothing on beers.

Why an Italian beer lover have not to miss Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival?
Well first of all, Stockholm is beautiful city! As for the beerfestival, it is a great moment to sample beers from all over the world in a rather small place, nearly all importers and Swedish craftbreweys are there, and also craftbrewerys from Scandinavia. And with the Whiskies it is even more fun for the conniseur to visit, Sweden drinks the most single malt in the world so there Is a superb range of whiskies and a lot of destillers attend aswell as brewers from around the world.

 

I enjoyed it a lot on 2002, I found great beers and astonishing homebrewed products. As in Italy, I think homebrewing is very important in Sweden, am I right?
Yes you are right, the problem here is peoples lack of time but homebrewing is growing aswell.

 

You are a regular attendee of Pianeta Birra in Rimini, what’s your opinion about our beers?
Oh, you have made an amazing journey in past years. This year was my 3rd visit to Pianeta and I was totally amazed by the number of brewerys and beers available, and certainly the superb quality, very impressed and I think we should have a Italian craftbeer booth next year at the SBWF, we need to talk about that!

 

Everybody knows about your friendship  with Stene of Akkurat pub. Who had the great idea about “Bitter and Sour” festival? Did people appreciate it?
Well, most good ideas comes from having a beer! And this one because Stene´s love for lambic and me loving the US hops and what Is going on over there. So the name was obvious, get Sour & Bitter in Stockholm. I was amazed with the reaction, people came from Everywhere in Sweden, Scandinavia, I had e-mails from Australia, Canada, it was insane. It was of course a logistical nightmare but as I said, I am not a no person so we made it work and will do it again for sure.

 

Tell us about your next challenges and future perspectives
Well, the on going challenge is the media and to get the word beer out there, then we can get people into what beers. I am also doing some import from the US and is hoping to make that grow of course. Next up is a visit to the GABF, I haven´t had a chance to visit it before since it´s always the same time as the SBWF so I am really looking forward to that. Thanks for the opportunity to say hello from Sweden.

 

Lorenzo Dabove, aka Kuaska, chats up the big names in beer