Omnipollo Gets It Right: The Art of Beer with Karl Grandin

Interview appears in issue #6 o the Mash Tun Journal Karl Grandin is part of the dynamic duo that is Omnipollo, a Swedish-based beer brand that he and Henok Fentie created in 2011. The beers have been sporadically making it into the US marketplace, and they are both unique and delicious in their packaging and taste. Conceptually and aesthetically the bottle labels leap from the shelves and entice you to pick them up. A mixture of psychedelic abstractions and pop/religious culture icons, the artwork is unique, almost mind-blowing, really. Omnipollio bottles are collected by beer nerds and designers alike. We bugged Karl to see what is ticking in his mind, to give us the story of their liquid dreams, and to explain how important it is to present their beers the way they do. Ed Marszewski: Please tell me how the idea of Omnipollo started. How did you and Henok meet? Karl Grandin: We were introduced by a mutual friend in 2010. She is a curator at a gallery and knew about my art and Henok’s brews, and thought the two of us should create something together. The first time I met Henok, he had recently returned to Stockholm after spending a year in Belgium. He told me about this strange new beer that he was working on. We ended up spending a whole day talking about Max Ernst, René Magritte, Hieronymus Bosch, Cabaret Voltaire and Dadaism, and never really stopped. E: Were there any other breweries that inspired you? K: We were excited by what a lot of different breweries were up to at the time, new as well old ones. It seemed like things in the beer game were changing—many people trying out new ideas and new ways of working, not only in the US and Europe but all over the world. But it was also important to us from the very beginning not to look too much at what other breweries were doing. Instead, we wanted to find our own way of doing things and create something that we really enjoyed. E: What breweries do you make your beer at? And how difficult was it to get your beer distributed? K: We have been brewing most of our beers at De Proefbrouwerij in Belgium, but we work closely with a number of other breweries as well. Like De Molen in The Netherlands, Buxton in the UK, and Pub Dog in the US. We have also brewed in Brazil, Spain, Denmark, and even a few beers here in Sweden. E: Does the artwork inspire the recipe or does the recipe inspire the artwork? K: Both ways. Usually our ideas feed off each other. Rather than trying to make artwork that would somehow describe or portray the style or taste of a beer, I look for what is going on around Omnipollo and try to capture something less obvious. There is always a synergy between the beer, the artwork, and the name. Sometimes it’s straightforward and obvious, and sometimes it is more cryptic. E: How important is the presentation of your beer to the public? K: We want Omnipollo to be about more than just the beer and the artwork. Presentation and stories are important parts of what we create. The shape of Omnipollo will keep developing and shifting. We have made handmade glass cups, garments, jewelry, and a book on homebrewing. Through all the people we meet, the collaborations we do, and the ideas we dream up, Omnipollo is becoming more than the sum of its parts. E: You said, “Omnipollo is an imaginary world that is developing with each bottle. Most of the Omnipollo images are about transforming and distorting the meaning of symbols and other popular references.” Can you give me the narrative of that world to date? K: Most of the Omnipollo images are based on my dreams, and I try to bring that psychedelic and enigmatic sort of logic into the artwork. It’s an open-ended cosmos. Although the Omnipollo imagery is often allegorical, I encourage people to explore their own interpretations rather than explain my intentions. E: Can you tell us a bit about Brygg öl? It looks like the most beautiful home brewing book I have ever seen. Where can we buy it? K: Brygg öl, translated as “brew beer,” was published in spring 2013. About a year before, I was contacted by an editor at Natur & Kultur, a Swedish publishing company well known for their books on food, and she asked me if we was up for making a book about making beer. There are many books about brewing and most are explaining the complexity of the craft. We wanted to make a book about the joy of brewing and show people that this is something that anyone can pull off, that you can actually create something amazing in your own home. The way we did the book was more or less a documentation of Henok teaching me how to brew in his kitchen. You can get the book from most book shops here in Sweden or from the Omnipollo website. Brygg öl is in Swedish, but hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to make translations of it in the future. E: You said, “My ambition is to change the perception of beer… forever.” I think your contribution to exalting the art of the beer bottle has helped accomplish that goal. What advice would you give to other budding breweries when they consider their marketing and branding strategies? K: Go your own way and have a good time! E: Where should we drink when we are in Sweden? K: At Omnipollo’s hatt, our bar opening in Stockholm in Spring, 2015. Welcome!

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