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You don’t normally put beer into the category of fine dining. It’s true that beer has experienced its own brewing revolution in recent years, but words like ‘terroir’ are usually reserved for the perceived superior world of wine. That is until you talk to Matt Orlando, former Chef de Cuisine at René Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagen, who has just opened a new restaurant, bar and brewery Broaden & Build, in that very city.
Orlando is of the Nordic school of gastronomy and has never approached food and cooking in a conventional way.At his restaurant, Amass, Orlando has created a kitchen culture that strives to produce food of the highest quality while working obsessively to reduce waste - and he will be bringing a similar approach to his new venture into the world of beer.
“We are just a few days into it, and everyone is asking me ‘how come you look so calm? You’ve just opened a restaurant and a brewery…’, and I say, ‘I’m calm now because the last year has been hell,” says Orlando.
“I’m so grateful that I went into this project with a certain naïveté because if I had known how much work there was involved, I might have considered otherwise.
“The actual logistics are nightmarish, it’s production. When you have a restaurant, you are in production, you make, and you sell. When you have actual production of a product that has to be sold over a period of time then the logistics of that are quite challenging.”
Despite the challenges, it’s obvious that this is a pure passion project for Orlando.
“I grew up in San Diego, just when it was becoming the craft beer capital of the world, I know what a real IPA should taste like. I love beer, I would drink it over wine any day and we’ve only scratched the surface of what the pairing potential with beer is,” he says.
“You have so many ideas about what you want to do and then as soon as you open the door and you’re actually doing it, then you realise, actually there’s way more potential that you realised in terms of creating new flavour and new ways to carry flavour.”
Orlando has assembled an experienced team of brewers, but he is very much wearing his chef’s hat when it comes to making beer at Broaden & Build. Beer and food are not perceived as ready bedfellows, but Orlando uses his knowledge of ingredients and how they can influence a beer's profile.
“As a chef the process of anything is interesting and when you get into brewing the process it’s fascinating because there are so many control points where you can add flavour. Then, once you add it, you can manipulate that flavour, through time and temperature, through the yeast that you use, so you have so much control over the beer.
“What we’re doing now with the process and the control point is something really progressive. I’ve done so much research to see if other breweries around the world are doing something similar and not just in regard to sourcing products but looking at the combination of products, looking at products that I really understand as a chef, and applying those to the brewing process, is something that is really interesting.
“A perfect example; I made this parsnip and coffee purée which I poured into a caramel and then we brewed an imperial stout with this coffee and parsnip caramel. It was fascinating to have the conversation with Thiago and Sean our brewers about adding this base product that is so sweet, but just think that all that sweetness is going to been eaten up by the yeast and fermented away. So now try to picture what this beer is going to taste like with 80% of the sweetness gone. That’s fascinating.
“After just a week and a half of fermentation the sweetness had already dropped to 50 %, then you start to taste it and see what direction the beer is going in. Then you have one more chance on the back side, once it’s cold, if you want to add more sweetness, you can, because we saved some of the coffee and parsnip caramel.”
There is a cross-pollination of ideas between Amass and Broaden & Build, much of the staff have indeed come across from Amass, and they bring with them a fresh approach to food, a culture of innovation that is fundamental to everything they do.
“The energy is vital to what we’re trying to do,” says Orlando. “Keeping that energy going back and forth between the two places is something that we talk about a lot. That’s why the people who work at Broaden & Build come from Amass, because it’s a very specific way of working. We have people coming from all over the world to be in the kitchen at Amass for anything between three weeks to three months and it doesn’t matter where you’ve worked before as a chef, you half to almost forget it and start from scratch.”
“Because how we work with our products, the awareness, and how we upcycle it into something delicious, is very different and the same goes for the brewery. We’ve learned a lot about what we need form a head brewer over there and its someone who has to be extremely nerdy, someone who’s really into microbial activity and they have to be really into flavour.
“Everything we do from a sustainability point of view, whether it’s at Amass or Broaden and Build is driven by the pursuit of creating something delicious.”
“We had a dessert that we made at Amass in the fall, it was an apple crumble. We peeled the apples, we took the flesh and used it. Then we saved the cores and the skins. A few weeks ago, we were making a saison with the apple cores and skins. We only put them in for about 10 minutes at 90 degrees and when we pulled them out of the boil, the smell was unbelievable.
“So, I grabbed them all, 50 kilos, and brought them back to the kitchen at Amass. I re-dried all the apple skins and pureed the apple cores, now we have this desert on at Amass, an apple crumble with this kind of hoppy, malty, apple purée and all the dried skins we made a crumble topping out off. The apple was used three times.”
Amass is a restaurant, Broaden & Build is a bar, and not one that thinks it’s a restaurant.
“It’s a bar,” says Orlando. “We opened last week an unbeknownst to us, Denmark was in the semi-finals and finals of the handball and in Denmark, handball is a really big deal. We were busy up until five o’clock and then we were just dead because Denmark has a population of 5 million people and 2.7 million of them were watching handball.
“Through that experience, we were thinking we should get a huge projector and if there’s a big event like the World Cup on, then we can just drop that from the ceiling and have the whole place full of people going crazy.
“Amass is a place where we have to do a certain thing. With Broaden and Build, the restaurant and the bar, we can do whatever we want. We can put a DJ in there and have a party. We can invite our friends from Holy Smoke in Sweden to come down, through the big front door wide open and have a massive barbeque. This is going to be the kind of place where we do crazy stuff all the time.”
As for the beer, it’s certainly delicious, with a lower ABV than other craft beers you find in specialist bars and breweries. It's often a tricky thing to navigate for the craft beer enthusiast.
“I want to go out and drink six beers and not feel like I have the worst hangover ever,” he says.
And what of those strong ABV IPAs we’ve gotten used to drinking of late?
“Yeah, you drink too many of those and you’re definitely going to wake up on someone’s couch,” he laughs.
We’ve all been there Matt.