Monkey Brew - the short story.
We are a small independent craft brewery located in Trondheim, Norway. Making heavily hopped IPAs, kettle sours with real fruit additions, barrel aged imperial stouts and real sours aged in foeders and oak barrels.
Always Evolve! - Our philosophy and promise. A promise not to stagnate, always try to improve even when you are considered among the best!
Monkey Brew - the long story.
It all started back in high school when the three of us, Pål, Bjarke and Jorg, found each other in our nerdiness. We spent the weekends playing Dungeons and Dragons listening to King Crimson, and as you understand we were the coolest kids in school. In the years that followed we shared a flat while studying at Dragvoll, and as most other students we spent many weekends drinking beer. But, good beer. While the majority back in 2006-2007 was still consuming those cheap light lagers, we’d got the taste for more hoppy, darker and weirder stuff. Nøgne Ø and Håndbryggeriet were both inspirational breweries and we often found ourselves sitting at Trondheim Mikrobryggeri and later Den Gode Nabo as their selection expanded. Sometime late 2008 Pål suggested that we should try to make our own beer. We went straight for a Double IPA, and it actually turned out quite good. We brought it to a local home brew competition put together by Det Gode Øls klubb where we took first place with that beer. Our love for good food and drinks met our nerdiness when it came to brewing beer. We dived into how temperatures affect fermentation, how IBUs are calculated and how the hops affect flavor. It was the perfect hobby and we were hooked! We bought more and more equipment, and in 2011 we started to rent a cheap apartment at Møllenberg fully dedicated to brewing, even though our time as roommates was over. Brewing once a week and always exploring different styles - gradually the equipment got fancier and the beer got better and better. In 2013, with a few hundred batches of experience, we entered the Norwegian home brew championship with eight beers. Six of them took either gold or silver in their classes and our double bock, Jesus, won the whole thing. Beside becoming Norwegian home brew champions, we also got to make a big batch of that beer at Nøgne Ø (under the name Primator as Jesus was "too controversial at Sørlandet"). Selling our first beer commercially and finding it on the shelves was a proud moment. After this, our plans of starting our own brewery really started to get serious. We thought that even though there were a lot of good beers and breweries in Norway at the time, there was still a huge potential for improvement quality wise. We got a few offers from investors, but we didn't feel ready nor good enough to start a brewery back then. So we decided to get more experience first. Pål took a summer job at Kinn Bryggeri and later started working at Vinmonopolet. Jorg spent the fall in California and Oregon visiting breweries and getting a feel for the craft beer culture there. In 2014 he started working part time at Austmann Bryggeri and doing evening shifts as a bartender at Den Gode Nabo.
Late 2014 we got a tip from a friend that there was a space opening up at Bakklandet, Trondheim. A small cafe was closing and they were looking for a new concept. We teamed up with a woman that wanted to run a vegan cafe in the daytime. Spending all of our savings on this project, refurbishing the old cafe into a small microbrewery and setting up a 100 L advanced home brew system, we were ready to open the doors of TAPS the 27th of April 2015.
Selling our first pint under the name of Monkey Brew. We quickly realized that the setup was way too small, and we struggled to make enough of our own beer. Our good friend Jørn at Klostergården Bryggeri at Tautra had some spare capacity so we drove out there and made some bigger batches of our Plato Pale ale. Hundred liters of a pale ale sold too quickly at TAPS, but a 1000 L was too much to have it all consumed while it would still be considered fresh. So, to get the batch out fast enough, we started selling to some other spots in Trondheim. Early 2016 our first beer was sold at Moskus and shortly after our first tap tower was put up at Antikvariatet. At the same time we climbed to the top of Untappd’s list of best Norwegian breweries, dethroning our old heroes at Nøgne Ø.
This gave us some attention from other beer bars in Norway, so we decided to make more batches at Klostergården. The situation in 2016 was complicated. Running a bar, driving out to Klostergården to brew and selling beer around Norway while working part time at Bakke brygg was taking its toll. So in june 2016 Jorg was hired and took out the first salary from the project, Pål joined shortly after in August and Bjarke sometime later that fall. By early 2017 we had to take some measures to change our situation. We were making almost no money and selling very little beer since the spare capacity at Klostergården was limited. We decided to move TAPS and join forces with the guys from WorkWork and DIGS to start the craft bar Habitat. At the same time we had to increase our production, so our friends at Graff Brygghus took over the production of Plato Pale and Darwin IPA so we could make other stuff at Klostergården. We also started actively looking for investors so we could finally get our own brewery up and running. 2017 and half of 2018 passed by with increased sales volume but no luck on the investor side.
Finally, by the end of 2018, we decided to buy a brewery from a bankruptcy with some loaned money from our family. That significantly lowered the investment cost. We contacted some of our friends and friends’ friends who scraped together the capital we needed to get our location at Nyhavna up and running. With a lot of help from family and friends we spent almost every day including weekends to get the brewery ready. A broken arm and five months later, the first batch was made at Kobbes Gate 10 the 19th of May 2019. It was a batch of Darwin IPA. In August 2019 we released our first cans entering both Vinmonopolet and local stores. Doing so made us capable of tackling the pandemic that hit the world in March 2020. In fact, it went so well that we expanded with a new and more fancy mash tun and some new fermentors before the year was over. In 2021 we hired more people and started exporting. We are currently five full time employees making the beers we love: Heavily hopped IPAs, barrel aged barley wines and stouts. We got our own dedicated sour beer room with lots of different oak barrels. So even though we are not getting rich anytime soon, we are living the craft dream to the fullest!
In the end we want to give a special thanks to all of our friends and family for helping us paint walls, weld steel, teaching us about the importance of margins and so much else! If there is one person who deserves an extra special thanks it is Jorg’s brother Eirik. He has spent almost every weekend and evening swinging his hammer, setting up both TAPS and the brewery at Nyhavna for nothing but a piece of take away pizza and sparkling water. <3