10 Questions For...

Søren Parker Wagner

Dry & Bitter Brewing / Founder & CEO

1) So Søren, you’re a very busy man at the moment! Can you tell us a bit about how you came to be doing what you do, and how Dry & Bitter Brewing reached this stage?

Well, it all started with Fermentoren in Copenhagen, a beer bar. A mate of mine wanted to open a bar and he knew that I knew about beer. It came from a long standing interest, and that eventually turned into more pubs that eventually turned into ‘why not take the next step, the full step and invest myself fully in a brewery’.

We got an opportunity to buy into a brewery two and a half years ago, it was one of those foreclosure deals. Chances like that don’t come around too often and I thought ‘if there was ever the time to take the leap, that would be it’. And that was two and a half years ago and things have progressed for Dry & Bitter quite nicely since!

2) And what was the inspiration behind that starting point of Fermentoren? Were there any venues you went to before opening it that made you think ‘yes, this is what I want to achieve!’

There’s no doubt that there is something about a place, when you start thinking about what kind of identity you wish to create in a place… for us it was very much that it had to be something that was real, it had to be something that had character, it had to be something that makes you feel something when you walk in, that there is more to it and that it was made by humans. There were a few other bars in Copenhagen like Ørsted ølbar a little bar that inspired the basis of it but I honestly don’t know of many other places quite like that.

3) It does have a very unique feel, very understated and laid back. You’re a very busy human, and clearly very passionate about what you’re doing. What motivates you and what is your working pattern, is there a structure to how you work or is it just constant? What is a day in the life of you at the moment?

I make decisions, but I guess the biggest part of my job is communication, PR, social media, being out and about and getting to know people within the industry and networking. It might sound like a wonderful job… well yeah, it is!

I always try to tell people this, it’s not the job, it’s got nothing to do with that. I run a business and when I say ‘run a business’ it’s not in the corporate sense but rather… I don’t have children, I don’t have a family like that (of course I have my parents and my sister!) but I don’t have my own family like that and I live and breath this. I mean everything about it, everything I see and the understanding, the identity, the flavours, the evolution of it. And watching how it fits into the culture wherever I go is always the ongoing fascination for me.

And people inspire me! I know it’s such a fucking cliche but whenever I… for instance with Bundobust (in Leeds, UK) it’s a great example, coming over and seeing that, because we don’t have a strong Indian food culture in Denmark at all but seeing a modernised version of that, as I told Marko one of the guys who runs it, it’s the best McDonalds I’ve ever been to! Twenty Draught lines and an amazing selection of really tasty easy going food?! And it’s none pretentious, that inspired me! And making that beer with them was like a dream come true for me.

Dry & Bitter Brewing Tanks
Dry & Bitter Brewing Soren
Dry & Bitter Brewing Brewery
4) Yeah, those boys done good! So let’s say we’re visiting Copenhagen for the first time, where would you tell us to go and what should we do while there?

I would say Mikkeller and Friends is a must, Fermentoren is a must, in terms of beer at least. Apart from that I would recommend going to Papieren which is our food market, you can sit and enjoy cocktails and beer and a variety of different foods and dangle your feet over the water to some nice beats, it’s a wonderful summer location. Visit Christiania because it’s such a unique and weird place. And more importantly make sure you take your time. It’s a city that you really get to fall in love with if you just sit and basically be available to it, enjoy looking at it, enjoy feeling it and seeing what’s going on. There are so many great things – make sure you also drink some Dry & Bitter Brewing beer too! 

5) You’re right, it is a city to fall in love with, we definitely have! But you also travel a lot. Do you have any favourite cities outside of Copenhagen? What makes those places so special to you?

Well, I mean ‘The North’ of England has become one of my new homes in many strange ways. If you had told me 18 months ago that I would be back here more than six times over the course of 18 months and, well… when we had the release of our Dry & Bitter Brewing / Bundobust beer the Juicy Bhangra recently, we had half of Leeds beer scene come out just to say ‘hi’ and see how I’m doing, that is such a humbling and welcoming feeling that you’re being part of something, I actually almost feel like I’m a local brewery in The North, that’s one of my absolute favourite places.

6) Tell me, if you could go on a beery adventure anywhere in the world where would you go and why?

The US has always been the place for me in that regard. It seems it’s so endless, there are so many different varieties. If I would make a trip… well I always go to California or the East Coast, because those are pretty much my homes over there. But… if I were to do a pilgrimage of some sort I would have to go to Austin Texas and visit Jester King.

Dry & Bitter basement
Dry & Bitter Brewing Bar
Dry & Bitter Brewing Barrels
7) Great shout! Ok, so we love going to different beer festivals and events, trying new beers and meeting the brains behind them. What is the best beer event you’ve recently attended and what made it so special?

Well, I’m gonna be a North, UK fanboy here again and say that the one that meant the most to me without a doubt was Hop City. Very much due to the identity of The North, the character of The North and very much that we were there with some of the… well, first of all the hop focussed aspect of it.

We were there with people that specialise in hoppy beers. This is what they do, this is what they’re famous for, Alchemist, Cloudwater, Other Half and so many others. To be at such a well curated show with so many good people around me who are so highly respected, and to be lucky to call so many of them friends! And the fact that Dry & Bitter Brewing  Fat & Fruity won best of the festival doesn’t make it any worse! But it was a humbling and beautiful and very very happy weekend!

8) Nice! So what excites you the most about the European beer scene at the moment and who do you think we should be looking out for?

I think that there is a new revolution coming in Europe right now. I think that the breweries that are able to show versatility, especially towards also being able to create such things as lagers and other styles that are on the rise in the States. In the UK I’d say Cloudwater has done an amazing job of straddling that divide and making these insane double hopped IPAs and then making a straight up German Helles which is like ‘mmm this is simple and uncomplicated, I love that!’

I wouldn’t be able to point a finger in any direction in terms of which breweries to keep an eye on because it’s not an evolution it’s a revolution, especially what’s happening in England, umm, it’s been insane! Denmark, Scandinavia, it has a reputation for all these people, very much so, But what has happened in the UK in the last three years has been mind boggling!

9) True that! So what’s next for you, for Dry & Bitter Brewing and Fermentoren?

Well, open a couple of new spots. This Sunday we opened our new bar called The Dispensary which is in Norrebro. 36 draught lines, 500 whiskies… Yup! And a 5am license and a downstairs basement for live music… it’s probably gonna be hopefully part of a change in trend of moving beer away from only being dorky, not that it hasn’t already done that, I mean here in England with the pop culture it’s always been sort of an integrated part on one level or another but in Scandinavia we have a tendency of specialising a lot in places and saying ‘this is what we do here’ and it can become a little bit poshy? And sterile and a little bit too focussed if you’re not totally on top of your game. So the idea of integrating things like music and other cultural things into it and not being so stiff is important.

That’s what we are doing with YEAST BERLIN, pulling in music, art, other elements…

Exactly! Creative people are creative people and if you can combine things that make sense then good on you, it’s obvious! It’s actually kind of weird that more people haven’t done that before because it’s right there!

For Dry & Bitter I think the word is expansion. We are getting a 50% production increase hopefully next week with the new tanks, buying equipment hand over fist because we’ve had seven markets we’ve had to turn down, basically because we can’t keep up. So; growth, hard work and most of all just keep pushing forward. I think our IPAs have gotten better and better and we’ve turned quite a sharp corner recently, you know? Over the last five months that’s given us quite a lot of attention and now it’s a case of keeping up and keeping creative and keep loving what we do.

Yeah, keep loving what we do. Creating the lives that we want for myself and for my employees at Dry & Bitter so that we all have something that we can live and breath in a manner that’s both sustainable for ourselves and our minds, but most of all for the future so that we can keep doing this.

10) Amazing! Ok, last question… it’s Groundhog Day and you can only have one beer, one meal and watch one movie every day for the rest of your life. What will those be?

Aah That’s easy, The Big Lebowski… Umm, a meal… that’s a tough one…. I actually imagine it would be Southern style fried chicken with red beans and rice…

You’d get really fat!

No but it’s Groundhog Day! Yeah, everything that I do has no consequence! Oh but one beer?! That’s a tough one. Can I have more than one of it that day?

Yeah yeah you can drink it all day every day! And there’s no hangover because it’s Groundhog Day!

Yeah there’s no hangover! OK, um, that’s a tough one. I would probably go for… it’d have to be a session IPA of some sort or an American pale ale… I’d probably… I’m gonna be so much of an asshole and so self indulgent and probably go for our  own Dry & Bitter Brewing ‘Body Pillow’… it’s like a 4.8% double IPA that we mashed way too high. It ended up having this massive starchy body so it has all the bang and all of the flavours but at the same time you can drink a hell of a lot of it. Which for me, I like drinking, I don’t like getting drunk but I love drinking, it tastes great!

Amazing – thanks for your time today Søren, catch you soon!

*You can read more of our awesome interviews with kick ass people in beer here

Anja M
ANJA M Small human with a penchant for all things beer. Can usually be found in a taproom or sweating off a hangover at Bikram Yoga.

Fan of aviation, motorbikes, climbing, music and eating. Professional dog botherer.

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