This article was originally published on Chicagoist on June 12, 2015.
This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of Midsommarfest in Andersonville, the North Side neighborhood that was once a cherry orchard settled by scores of Scandinavians in the early 20th century. While it is no longer one of the biggest Swedish enclaves in the U.S., there are still homages to its roots—through cultural discussions and art exhibits at the Swedish American Museum, open-faced meatball sandwiches at Svea and glögg (warm in the winter, slushy-ized in the summer) at Simon’s Tavern.
Local brewers have also turned to Swedish tradition for their beer. In Geneva (a city which boasts its own authentic viking ship, by the way),Penrose Brewing made a glögg-spiced stout for the winter months. While this spring, Off Color Brewing debuted Class War, a Gotlandsdricka, an esoteric farmhouse-style made with smoked malt and juniper.
Meanwhile, along the Baltic Sea, Swedish brewers are finding inspiration in American beer. Like the U.S., the country is experiencing a beer boom. In 1988, there were only nine breweries operating in Sweden. Twenty-five years later, the number is now close to 200. Much of this has to do with Sweden’s entry into the European Union in the mid-90s—per trade agreements, the state monopoly on importing beer was lifted, which opened the door for importers to bring new beers into Sweden.
As a result, importers brought into the country a taste for the U.S.’s fledgling craft beer scene—after Canada, more US craft beer goes to Sweden than anywhere else in the world. Stalwarts like Brooklyn Brewery, Sam Adams, Lagunitas and Goose Island landed on their shores, influencing scores of young Swedish brewers (for more on this, here’s a recent talk with Steve Hindy of Brooklyn Brewery and a few Swedish beer professionals talking about the state of craft beer in Sweden).
With Omnipollo’s aesthete-forward, American-inspired beers leading the way, these young Swedish breweries have started bringing their beer Stateside. One such brewery is Brekeriet, an upstart run by three brothers that was named 2014’s Swedish Beer Producer of the Year. Brekeriet solely focuses on beer fermented with wild yeast and bacteria, most using Brettanomyces, a multifaceted family of yeast that can impart fruity flavors to what can be described as an earthy funk (Orval, in all its beauty, is a textbook exercise in Brett funk).
Through importer Shelton Brothers, Brekeriet’s beers started making their way into Chicagoland in limited quantities late last year—the brewery’s gorgeously-hued, blackcurrant ale Cassis quickly won over fans, and the currently available saison, Brillant, should as well. Brilliant pours a hazy, sunshine golden hue with a thin, pure-white head; an aroma of pear, apple and soft strawberry and earth; a taste of cracker, lemon zest and pinot gris grapes and a lightly acidic and dry finish. It’s a lovely midsommar beer.
For food pairings, Brilliant should play well with delicate summer salads and lean white fish, and brighten the season’s herbs, like dill and cilantro. Or, you could do as the Swedes do in the summer, and don a silly paper hat and have yourself a crayfish party.
You can find Brekeriet beers at West Lakeview Liquors, 2156 W. Addison Ave.