One of the best compliments you could share with Evil Twin Brewing’s experimental brewmaster Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø is that his beer reminds you of shit or, more specifically, baby shit. After all, the kernel of his idea for Soft Dookie (or “Soft DK,” as it’s named and sold in the States), a well-balanced, surprisingly light stout with hints of vanilla on the nose and bananas, molasses, and wood on the palate, was sparked one morning while tending to his young son.
“I know this is a stupid story, but I was changing my son’s diaper, and when babies are newborn their poo actually smells a little bit like vanilla,” he says. “You know, it’s soft and it’s sweet so, yeah, that’s when I started thinking about the beer. It’s all fun, as long as it tastes good.”
Jarnit-Bjergsø is leading a group of about 20 beer geeks through a tasting of three Evil Twin beers at Brooklyn’s Beer Street, a small shop on Williamsburg’s Graham Avenue where you can buy bottles of rare (and somewhat pricey) microbrews from around the world, as well as fill 32- and 64-ounce growlers with a wonderfully curated selection of 10 draft beers that, today, includes brews from Captain Lawrence (New York), Stone Brewing (California), and Schlenkerla (Germany) in addition to Evil Twin’s Soft Dookie, “Melvin,” and Ron and the Beast Ryan.
It’s more difficult to pinpoint where the Evil Twin beers were brewed because there is no Evil Twin brewery: Jarnit-Bjergsø is what some call a “gypsy brewer” or a “nomad brewer,” which essentially just means that he imagines his beers, finds extra space at another brewery, then hands off the recipe and let’s his brewing partner take care of the rest. They brew it, they bottle it, they price it and they sell it, then send Jarnit-Bjergsø a check. ““Right now I’m brewing at about 10 or so brewers, which is not what I planned, but my brand is growing a lot and I’m way under capacity,” he says. “Every time I make a beer it sells out in like 90 seconds, so I try to expand by doing different beers at different places. Normally I go for the first time to try the system and see how it works, but of course I can’t go every time because I can’t be in 10 places at once.”
A Dane who recently relocated to Brooklyn, Jarnit-Bjergsø clearly enjoys what he does and how he does it, by which I mean to say he doesn’t necessarily always do things the easy way, but rather the way he wants to do it. For example, Evil Twin beers are currently being brewed in everywhere from South Carolina and Scotland to Holland and Fanø, an island off the southwestern shore of Denmark where last year he says he brewed about 20 different beers. Regardless of how well-received those 20 beers are — and Evil Twin Brewing’s popularity far outpaces its capacity, as he mentioned — Jarnit-Bjergsø is unlikely to exactly reproduce many if any of them.
He just doesn’t care to dwell on the past.
“It’s not because I have the urge to do all kinds of different beers, but when you don’t have a lot of capacity and you have a lot of ideas… I mean, every time I get an extra capacity I always want to try this new idea out because if I do the same beer over and over again, I’m not going to try new stuff,” he says. “I hope to find more capacity, and that’s what I’m working on now so I can make some beers more permanently, but that’s a little bit down the road.”
Jarnit-Bjergsø’s lack of interest in the actual makeup of his beer is another quirk in his beer-producing philosophy. While recipes are treated as Holy Grail by most craft brewers (and understandably so), Jarnit-Bjergsø is always looking forward and claims to essentially discard his recipes once they’re finished. “I don’t care too much about recipes. A lot of brewers are very much into using this yeast, and doing this with the water, and using that hop, and adding a little bit of that,” he says. “When I make a recipe, I look at the recipe and I have an idea of what it will end as, and actually after I make it I kind of forget it again because I don’t have interest in it. It’s just a different approach.”
It’s an approach that, so far, works for Jarnit-Bjergsø and resonates with craft beer enthusiasts the world over, even when, on occasion, his beers remind you of baby shit.
Evil Twin Brewing is on Facebook and Twitter. Beer Street is located at 413 Graham Avenue in Williamsburg / Brooklyn, NY, near the corner of Withers Street. Open Tueday to Friday from 2 – 10pm, Saturday 1 – 10pm, and Sunday 1 – 9pm. Check out their current draft list here and follow them on Twitter here.