Levig Q&A - Mario Beltrán

Hi Mario, we’re over the moon to be distributing Lervig in Northern Ireland! First up, can you please tell us how the brewery came into being and how it has developed up to this point?

Well we do have a very interesting story, our brewery was conceived by some local businessmen as a protest brewery in 2001. This was in response to Carlsberg buying the local Pils brewery (Tau) and moving production to Oslo. The idea was to just brew Pils for the local market – local beer for local people, something we’re proud to still do today. We sourced a location on the outskirts of town and began with our first Pils “Ein Te” (one more in the local dialect). After a few years of tweaking the recipe a decision was made to find an experienced head brewer – Enter Mike Murphy. Mike started brewing in the early 90s in Philly, but then made a real name for himself in Italy were he brewed the first ever Italian IPA. Work took him from there to Denmark where he was head brewer at a couple of different breweries before moving to us in Stavanger in 2010. When he got to LERVIG he wanted to do things his own way he had a really clear vision of where he wanted to take LERVIG, so he brewed our famous APA, Lucky Jack which was and still is a huge success and he took it from there.We like to challenge people, we make beer that leaves something on you - and I really like that.

Much like the Irish scene, Norweigian craft beer seems to be on a fairly vertical trajectory. What do you put this down to? 

I think the Norwegian and pretty much the Scandinavian scene has grown so fast but not only as number of breweries but quality in both innovation and experimentation. I think that ten years ago nobody would have believed that the Scandinavian Craft Beer Scene would be where it is now. We think that there are new things coming… From a LERVIG point of view – we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

We know you as a well travelled brewery. Do you have a favourite beer destination or festival that you never want to miss?

We do love to travel and take our beer to new people. We’ll be attending festivals in Japan, China Europe and (all going well) North America this year. I can’t tell if we have a favorite venue, myself, I love a small craft beer festival in a town I can’t pronounce or a big festival where I get to meet people and see colleagues and have a good time and of course drink amazing beer. There are some festivals we never miss out on however - MBCC, What’s Brewing, London Craft Beer Festival and IndyMan Beer Con to name just a few. And of course we’re very excited to be in Northern Ireland at the ABV festival this year for the first time.

Being Irish, we love our stouts at Prohibition and it seems you love them too! What is it about this style that keeps you brewing more/bigger/better/madder stouts?

Well, we’re very fortunate to have one of the best stout brewers in the world at our disposal. Stout by definition or by taste itself is just something that has to be with character, and Mike has plenty of that to go around. We embrace that attitude, we like making stouts with strong character, stouts that push the envelope, that walk the line between a drink and a desert, stouts that when you taste them you know its one from LERVIG.  

The sense of family, sharing of ideas and experience is strong in the beer scene. What brewers and breweries do you take inspiration from, like to spend time with and what beer do you like to drink from other producers?

I think we got inspiration from the classic craft breweries that were around from the beginning, especially West and East Coast in the US. But also we are always looking at what is coming up, whether it’s from small breweries that just started or the giants of the industry that have been around for years. We take inspiration from pretty much from everywhere, we’re not looking always at the same brewery or at the same style. We’re open with our friends in the industry and we do love to help discover and define what is upcoming. We love to collaborate, and always try to do this with the guys we respect and want to hang out with. Regarding drinking beer I can´t name a craft brewery I really enjoy, there are too many. Let’s just say we like a Pils well brewed or can enjoy a complex- funky beer, it all depends on the situation.

Which of your beers should Irish drinkers absolutely not miss when they see them on tap or in fridges?

Definitely Tasty Juice IPA, 3 Bean Stout, Supersonic, and also our Pilsner which we are really proud, a lot of people think that Pilsner are boring and I think its a really underrated beer, I think we make one of the best Craft Pils around. We also have a new Session Ale (House Party) that’s really great. It’s an easy going 4%... What’s not to love!

What’s next for Lervig? Will you seek to expand further and will you continue to spread your wings around the globe? What challenges do you foresee?

We have big plans. First and foremost is that we’re reaching capacity in our current brewery and want / need to move in the coming years. We’ve very recently installed 4 new 25,000 litre fermentation tanks and 2 new 25,000 bright tanks. On top of that we have a new canning line coming in September. As our history is so rooted in Stavanger the new brewery will be here, but hopefully more central to the town. We want to be a focal point for the locals, as well as for tourists coming to Stavanger. In terms of spreading our wings, our goal is that people form all over can experience our beers. I love when a guy in South Korea writes to us and say “hey guys, I just tasted your Coconuts and it blew my mind”, or when a guy from Chile writes us and tell us that he “was in Europe for vacation and he asks when our beer will be available in Chile”. The issue with that is that we’re very conscious that we don’t want to promise too much to too many. We need to look after the loyal customers we already have before we seek out new ones. Another challenge is that we want to people from all over, especially the countries that are far from us to taste our beer as if they got it in a local bar in Stavanger. Some of our beers are delicate so we are on top of that, we ensure that a really hazy, hoppy IPA that should be drunk fresh doesn’t sit in a container ship for two months before it’s unloaded.

Beer seems to be getting ever more crazy, with seemingly endless opportunities for experimentation. Where do you see this going in the future and what is Lervig tipping as the next big thing in beer?

Experimentation is something that we have never been afraid of. We’re not afraid of using “weird” ingredients to brew- like actual cash money and frozen pizza in our Big Ass Money Stout, or Kveik wild yeast in our Lawless Norwegian Farmhouse Ale. I think its just natural to experiment and expand in order to grow and produce new beers that will challenge people, but of course it’s got to be good!

Finally, we’re delighted that you’re going to be attending ABV festival in Belfast on Aug 31st and Sep 1st this year. What other Irish delights are you hoping to take in while you’re in the country?

Good times, me being Mexican I really like Irish culture, you are in general a vibrant, happy, open people. I love music and Ireland is full of music, and for me it will be a good experience. I’ve just been in Belfast one time for a couple of days so can´t wait to go back, and spread the word about LERVIG and also to let the people in on a project that we are working on there, that I think people will love it, but I can´t speak about it in detail yet.

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