We talked to Mattias from Nevel - the pioneering wild ale and eco-conscious producer from Nijmegen, who some of you met at the launch of the Borderless Limets Wild ale collaboration with White Stork in 2018. Here is what he shared with us about their unique technique of beer making.
How did you get into craft brewing?
I started brewing during my studies of physics. A co-student proposed to brew for and by physics students and I was quick to reply. I have always been interested in food, taste and smells. Also, I was trying to find out more about the impact our food consumption had on the planet and its people. So, understanding the process behind our food was very interesting to me!
The Netherlands hosts the biggest number of craft breweries in EU per m2, is there space under the sun?
It is getting busy, but there is still space, I think. The craft breweries still only sell about 1-2% of all the consumed beer. So even if we all grow 200%, we still only have 2-4% of the market. As for us, we are brewing very different beer to most craft breweries as we focus on wild yeast. So, we are still quite unique in that perspective.
What is the philosophy behind your beer-making? Do you concider yourselves pioneers?
Pioneering I would say. The biggest ideology behind Nevel is how we source our ingredients. Everything is sourced direct from the farmers. No middle man. Also, we make sure we source from places that care about the environment and grow their ingredients sustainably. So, we work with organic, biodynamic, permaculture and agroforestry farmers! The other important part of our beer is the wild yeast. We grew up our own culture that we now use for all our beers. We keep the yeast alive almost like a sourdough culture for bread. Due to the wild yeast we age for much longer and so our beers are very complex and exciting to drink! We barrel age a lot of our beers for over a year!
Which one among your recipes makes you feel extremely proud of?
Difficult question as I am proud of many beers! I generally say that Dwaal or Meander would be the one I am proud of as they came about by direct inspiration from nature. So, I was not looking for anything specific but just tasting what nature had to offer and ideas just cаme up by walking in the food forest or permaculture garden. Dwaal is a real bestseller! People really enjoy it, as it is rather easy to drink for our standards. Meander is a bit more challenging, but generally people do enjoy it a lot!
Does it feel like rivalry in your segment or it is more of a fellowship and society?
More like a fellowship. We work together with a lot of breweries, also locally in our city. We get together every now and again. Talk about what we can improve overall, or how we can buy in things together to get a better price. Or even on sales, when I am in another town I can ask for accounts.
What was the direct effect and most sensitive aspect of the lock down, which plans and project did you have to drop down? Did you find any positive side anyway?
Sales in bars and restaurants dropped to 0 and also our export order all got cancelled and we didn’t get any new orders. So that was not very good. But getting our web shop out there and being creative in that part saved our business! We made special offers, a subscription action and home stayers’ boxes.
How do you foresee craft market after lockdown is down?
Very hard to say. People for now seem to stay interested in specialty beers. I do see that the more high-end restaurants are still doing well, which we supply with our beers.
In NL usually hundreds of craft beer festivals taking place - how does that scene look like this season?
Almost none, but that I don’t mind so much. Festivals are not that important to us. We don’t seem to get a lot of new drinkers attracted to our beers there, as most people go there to drink, and not to taste. Also, we lose money on them...
Do you still believe you can catch up with your projects, despite the weird year - any new brews happening at the moment?
Brewing wise we are still going strong. As the web shop sales have increased and we started focusing on super limited single barrel beers with big intensity. We made a blend of quince cider with a beer containing chamomile, but also a beer with white peach and rosemary. These things would be hard to make on large scale for us. Brewing in lower amounts allows us to experiment a little more.
Which beer impressed you from another brewery this year or not so distant past?
I really enjoyed Deutsche Angst from Butchers Tears and Gänstaller: a highly hopped pilsner. Also, the L'Illuminé (Perzik, Nectarine) from Antidoot was very tasty.