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Beyond bottled beer, online shopping and beer geeks

The craft beer scene is growing steadily, with more and more people discovering an entirely new world of beer. They are once again experiencing beer as a lifestyle drink in a completely new way. It’s precisely here that Ronald Siemsglüss, Managing Director and co-founder of Brausturm.de, comes in. The Bierverlag sells around 500 different beers to specialty shops, catering establishments, beverage cash-and-carry markets, plus food and beverage retailers. But that’s not enough for Hamburg-born Ronald! Besides the Bierverlag and a craft beer tavern called Schankwirtschaft in Hamburg, another new project was recently launched – an online shop called Beyond Beer. I came across this out-of-the-ordinary shop while I was researching for the blog, and straight away I wanted to know who was behind this brilliant idea. So I decided to interview Ronald Siemsglüss …

 

  1. You’ve been running the Brausturm Bierverlag since 2014, haven’t you? How exactly did this get started?

Before we set up Brausturm, we were working at the Ratsherrn Brewery in Hamburg, where we experienced at first hand how difficult it is to get hold of good beers, since there were only a few wholesalers in this category. Thereupon we decided to start up our own company together, and to buy and market beers that we think are really good.

  1. What exactly is the Brausturm Bierverlag? Online shop and “real store” both at once? And where can people find you?

Brausturm is purely and simply a wholesaler but we also have close ties with the Beyond Beer shop in Hamburg. Beyond Beer operates online as well, under www.beyondbeer.de. So we’re represented in both digital and analog form.

  1. What is particularly important to you in terms of layout and ambience?

We want people to have a feel-good experience at Brausturm and Beyond Beer. We aim to create a welcoming, inviting atmosphere, with the primary focus on the beer. The main idea is to try out new styles, have a nice chat, and repeatedly embrace beer as a new discovery. We attach great importance here to direct contact and helpful advice.

  1. Who is behind Brausturm? How many staff are involved?

Besides the founders Max and myself, there are meanwhile three more permanent employees and one temp at Brausturm. Beyond Beer consists of Florentine as the Managing Director, Björn as the Manager, Deniz as a permanent employee, and two temps. We’re a diverse team, with very different backgrounds, but united in our genuine love of beer and brewing.

  1. What services does Brausturm offer?

We’re an importer and wholesaler specialising in craft beer, selling a range of more than 500 different beers to specialty shops, the catering trade, beverage cash-and-carry markets, plus food and beverage retailers all over Germany. We provide intensive support in terms of assortment and shelf-stocking, with seasonal specialties, price labelling options and hosting events themed round craft beer. These primarily include tasting events, but also educational courses, in brewing, for example, for staff from the above-mentioned categories. Beyond Beer also offers tastings and sampling evenings. We regularly invite the brewers themselves to drop by, tell us their stories and introduce us to their beers.

  1. What are your priorities when selecting your craft beers?

Good quality, interesting taste, uniqueness, authenticity. Of course, we also make sure we are offering a good bandwidth of beers, ranging from the more affordable first-timer beers to highly specialised beers that really belong only in niche business.

  1. What did the initial range look like?

Relatively small breweries that despite good beers were finding it difficult to gain a foothold in the fiercely contested Germany beer market.

  1. What does your present range of craft beers look like? Is it legitimate to speak of a “range” at all, or is your selection continually changing?

We have a core range of breweries whom we hold in high regard, and additionally a continually changing choice of interesting beers and breweries. Meanwhile we’re talking about more than 500 beers.

  1. Do you confine yourselves to German beer, or do you look abroad for inspiration as well?

We take our inspiration from German and foreign beers alike. Freshness, of course, is always an important criterion, which is one of the reasons why we focus primarily on Europe. Local beers are always brilliant, of course, and we stock all of Hamburg’s breweries, whose beers we ourselves like drinking.

  1. What are your criteria for including a beer in your range?

That we like the taste. This also has something to do with a good quality. Then, of course, craft beers always have to have reasonable prices. So we likewise attach major importance to transparency in the production process. We want to know how it’s brewed, what’s in it and who is really standing at the kettle.

  1. What varieties are perhaps particularly unusual? Are there some extremely popular varieties?

At present, we’re seeing particularly high levels of popularity for the beers from the Swedish Omnipollo Brewery, which are frequently brewed using out-of-the-ordinary ingredients. “Extreme” as applied to beer is for many people a question of individual taste. The list of “extreme” beers, though, will often definitely include the “Big Ass Money Stout” from Lervig in Norway. An Imperial Stout with 18 % abv, brewed with deep-frozen pizza and banknotes. Matured in wood for a whole year. The aim of the beer was to brew something typically Norwegian. And what do the Norwegians have in abundance? Oil, money, and the highest per-capita consumption of deep-frozen pizza in Europe. The whole thing is, of course, brewed with tongue firmly in cheek :-).

  1. Who chooses the beers?

We do that ourselves, all of the team together.

  1. Do you brew any beers yourselves? Does BRAUSTURM have its own brand?

Almost everyone in the team goes in for home-brewing, or brews their own beer regularly in our home-brewing courses. But it’s only for private consumption. Commercially, though, we don’t have a beer of our own at present.

  1. What does your customer base look like?

In the case of Brausturm, it’s primarily the specialty beer shops all over Germany that make up our customer base. In the case of Beyond Beer, all beer-lovers are our potential customers. 🙂

For many customers, the subject of craft beer is still something new, which is why we take our time and are always pleased to provide some introductory advice. But since we also have a lot of beers that aren’t available anywhere else, we frequently host get-togethers of aficionados or geeks from the scene. Every two months, for instance, we organise a home brewers’ meet-up as well.

  1. What in your opinion will be happening in future when it comes to craft beer? Are there any discernible trends or focuses in the scene?

Craft beer keeps on growing; more and more people are discovering an entirely new world of beer for themselves, and experiencing beer as a revelatory lifestyle drink.

At the same time, craft beer also has to contend with plenty of misunderstandings and in Germany is operating in one of Europe’s most fiercely contested beer markets. Restaurateurs are used to (and in most cases even dependent on) taking money from breweries and entering into purchasing agreements. This is impossible for most small brewers. Nor do they want it.

Brewers, retailers, the catering trade, and beer-lovers are all of them together in a process of refocusing, in which they will find it difficult to progress if they don’t all pull together.

 

This is the point to say “Thanks a million, Ronald!” Have we whetted your appetite for exotic craft beer? Then you can drop by straight away in the online shop :-).

Have fun trying out some new and exciting beers!

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