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Kaineken alcohol free beers were born in unprecedented times.
Estonian brewery Õllenaut had the opening party for their big new brewery in February. They had invested in more capacity to brew three new alcohol free beers – Kaineken Pale Ale, Kaineken IPA and Kaineken Smoked Porter.
Then we all know what happened…
‘Crazy days’, says Õllenaut boss Urmas Roots. ‘We basically launched these three beers in lockdown, with no distribution.’
A calm head was required for the hectic months to come, which makes the name Kaineken very apt, translating as it does to ‘sober zen’.
Lots of labels!
The meditating man in the logo says it all. ‘You’re sober and you’re in a good state,’ says Urmas. ‘We were so happy with the design logo that we forgot to add the nutrition facts to the label. We didn’t realise until we’d ordered 6,000 labels.’ (Unlike alcoholic drinks, non alcoholic beers must have nutritional info on their labels.)
But they managed to put the labels to use: ‘During lockdown, we used them in packaging – much better looking than ordinary tape but a rather expensive option!’
Oh, and the labels show Kaineken beers are low calorie (between 22 and 28 calories in 100ml), vegan, and packed with vitamins.
The brewery name ‘Ollenaut’ also translates well, as ‘beer enjoyer’ or ‘beer explorer’.
‘That’s what our company is about,’ says Urmas. ‘We’re enjoying beers and looking for new beers to enjoy.’
He first thought of founding Õllenaut in December 2012, working with brewmaster Ilmar Räni, an evangelical homebrewer who converted him (and a lot of Estonians) to the wonders of craft beer.
It was a new world. ‘I found craft beer and I was astonished. I didn’t know where to start.’ The first beers were on the shelves by November 2013.
Urmas can barely describe what was on offer in Estonian before craft beers arrived. ‘Plain plain lager. I’m not able to drink it anymore. I have tried, but it’s difficult.’
Estonia’s population of about 1.3 million people basically had a choice of two bland lagers from big brewers, or vodka.
‘Once you have craft beer, there’s no turning back,’ says Urmas.
Having won the market (and awards) with alcoholic beers, Urmas and Ilmar turned to perfecting alcohol free brews to meet a growing demand.
Change perceptions with Ollenaut Kaineken
‘I try and encourage people to understand that it tastes like beer,’ he laughs. ‘That’s the biggest problem with alcohol free beer, people think it tastes like boiled potato water!’
‘Some beers boil the alcohol out but in our case, we have a new age yeast that’s especially meant for brewing non-alcoholic beers. It’s great – the maximum alcohol it can produce is 1.2% … We have to be careful to stop it at the right point. This means our non alcoholic beer is brewed exactly the same way as our alcoholic beer. We don’t take anything out or add anything. We just brew it.’
Urmas wants his alcohol free beers to satisfy from the first aroma to the finish.
‘First there’s the smell, then the first sip… with our beers, the experience gets better and better. By the end of the bottle, you feel ‘I would like another one’. It’s not about feeling thirsty, it’s about wanting to enjoy craft beers.’