Gypsy brewer in South Australia for international beer brewing festival

By / 19th of May, 2014
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WHILE most Danish travellers of his age come to South Australia to swim with sharks, hang out on Kangaroo Island or hike in the Flinders Ranges, Tobias Emil Jensen has only one purpose.

“I come here to brew beer for five days,” he says. “I don’t see any of the sights. Only the inside of a brewery – but then that’s not so unusual for me."

Known to craft beer aficionados around the world as Denmark’s “gypsy brewer”, Jensen is in South Australia to participate in Good Beer Wheaty Yeastie – a unique brewing exercise being held at Adelaide’s Wheatsheaf Hotel until today.

Jensen and his business partner Tore Gynther make a range of cutting edge beers under the To Øl (Danish for “two beers”) label, but do not own their own brewery – preferring to borrow other people’s equipment and spend any profits on expensive hops, malts and other exotic ingredients.

Founded in 2010 To Øl now exports to over 30 countries, including Australia, but has never spent a cent on traditional advertising or marketing.

“We sponsor cool events for charity,” he says. “But we don’t advertise. We rely entirely on social media to get our message out there.”

Last week, the Dane joined five other celebrity guest brewers – Leo Di Vincenzo (Italy), Stuart Ross (England), Shane Welch (US) and Darren Robinson (Australia) – to create some unique winter brews at the Wheatsheaf’s 600-litre microbrewery.

“Collaboration is a big part of what we do as gypsy brewers,” he explains. “For example we teamed up with Brewfist in Italy to make Space Frontier Grape, which is an India Pale Ale made with grape must.”

Jensen says that while the financial rewards of being a gypsy brewer are scant, this nomadic lifestyle allows him to create exceptional, full-flavoured ales which appeal to a global audience.

“Big breweries spend a whole year developing a new product. We do the same thing in two weeks.”

Would he ever be tempted to give up this uncertain lifestyle for a well-paid job in a brewery?

“When I give an interview or conduct a tasting I’m actually working,” he says. “So I imagine plenty of people would be jealous. I go to festivals, breweries and events. That’s my job. I think it’s a great job.”