Q&A: BJORN ERICKSON
HEAD BREWER, CASTLE DANGER

By Holly Kelsey-Henry

HH:
So tell us what inspires your creativity when it comes to brewing your beer?

BE:
Castle Danger beers are all designed with a flavor profile in mind. We may start with a base style, but expand upon it to create something unique. There are hundreds of great beers that are true-to-style available in the beer market. We prefer to use traditional brewing practices to produce unique, flavorful beers. In our minds, this is the only way to approach brewing.

HH:
Your Castle Cream Ale sounds amazing. Tell us how that one came about.

BE:
Sitting around the kitchen table during our start-up days, the need for a sessionable beer became clear. Our first intern actually came up with the idea to brew a cream ale, so we started designing the recipe. As with all Castle Danger beers, we start with a flavor profile, then expand upon it to create something unique. Castle Cream is our version of a cream ale. Deep gold in color, it has a soft malty aroma, slightly sweet creamy texture with a balanced bitterness, while finishing smooth and clean. Castle Cream Ale has become our most popular beer throughout Minnesota and is the most recognizable of all of our brands.

HH:
What’s your favorite pick for summer? Summer Crush perhaps?

BE:
Definitely Summer Crush – a beer brewed just for summer. It has a pleasant lemon flavor and aroma from using Sorachi Ace hops, which is a defining characteristic of this Japanese hop variety. The malted barley lends a slightly sweet, biscuity backbone. Summer Crush is a sessionable beer and our take on a shandy without being one. Most shandies are flavored with lemonade or juice, but we prefer to stick to the four main ingredients in our beer: water, hops, barley and yeast. Like a summer crush back in the day, or Minnesota’s short summer season, this beer won’t be around for very long. Enjoy it while you can!

HH:
What is one thing you wish people would really “get” when it comes to beer?

BE:
It’s just beer! I love it, we all love it, but some folks take the whole thing too seriously. Probably too much blogging and rating and arguing. For me, brewing is about crafting a product to be proud of. And beer is about food, fun and friends.

HH:
Is beer like wine in that there are certain ones that pair well with specific foods?

BE:
Certainly, perhaps even more so. Beer has hundreds of flavor components and will pair with most any dish. Hoppy, bitter IPAs goes great with spicy food. A robust and complex stout may be the only beer that can match a rich chocolate dessert. Pairing beer with food works two ways – either match similar flavor profiles so they harmonize and enhance each other, or totally contrast and allow the beer to play against your dish to balance it out. Having a platter of smoked and cured meats and cheeses? A slightly smoky bock or porter may make a great companion. Likewise a crisp, tart, or slightly bitter lager might be just the ticket to help wash down fatty or sweet meat dishes. But remember, the best beer to pair with your food is the one you are holding right now.

HH:
What’s your pick for what to drink with a burger?

BE:
Pale ale, all the way. Our 17-7 or Danger Ale are fine ways to wash down a hamburger sandwich. They won’t get washed out by the rich food, so you still taste your beer. And they have just enough bitterness and alcohol to cut through that tasty grease.

HH:
Have you had beer recipe failures?

BE:
Well nobody is perfect, but no real dirty laundry to air out here. Since we know what we are doing we can usually smooth out the bumps and push out quality products. We’ve had a few surprise ingredients show up before which we were able to turn into a success called Big Dumb Stout, which people seemed to love.

HH:
What sets Castle Danger apart from other breweries? How is your beer different?

BE:
See answer for Q1.

HH:
What are your favs when you visit other breweries?

BE:
A big part of brewing is the process engineering side of things. So when I’m visiting a brewery I am always looking around at pipes and hoses and infrastructure to see how everything works, because maybe I can learn
something. Most of the breweries I’ve visited have been much bigger than Castle Danger, so there is always so much to learn about.

HH:
What’s the craft beer community like in your experience?

BE:
The craft beer community is incredibly welcoming, fast-paced, challenging and exciting to be a part of. With the craft beer industry nearly exploding in the past five years, it keeps everyone on their toes. The outcome is insanely good beer.

HH:
What are some of the challenges you face?

BE:
We like to consider the “challenges” we face to be more of “good problems to have.” Especially in the past two years, we have grown exponentially, which has pushed us to become more efficient. Recently, we decided to expand our brewery in Two Harbors to include a packaging facility. This expansion will give us the room to grow with the increasing demand for our beer. Another good problem to have is our location. Being located in Two Harbors was never a question for us. We were born and raised here and want to support our local community. We also get to tap into one of the best resources for brewing beer – Lake Superior water. Some say we’re out of the way, but we find that being located in Two Harbors has helped bring business to our small town. We hope that increases in the years to come.

HH:
What’s next? Do you have a dream beer you’d like to create?

BE:
We’re focused on brewing dangerously good ales and we plan on continuing to do so for a very long time. As far as “dream beers” we would like to create, I’d like to think we’re already brewing them.

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