The brewery is located in Ljungsbro outside Linköping, 800 meters from the ruins of Sweden’s oldest abbey – Vreta Kloster – which was founded in 1101. In the abbey ruins, archaeologists have found what is believed to have been the nuns’ brewhouse. Here the nuns brewed, drank and gave beer to the poor.
During the Middle Ages, beer was brewed in abbeys (and every other farm) in those parts of Europe where wine was not produced. Not so strange since beer was both nutritious (liquid bread) and boiled during production. In other words, beer was safe to drink unlike water which was dirty.
With a preference for Belgian beer styles and the brewery’s location in the Vreta abbey parish, it was obvious that the brewery would have a nun with a beer label adorning the logo. Not least considering that the close connection between beer and abbeys in Belgium is often illustrated with images of monks or medieval men. It’s simply time for “more nun beer for the people!”
The artist behind the logo is Michaela Leo.
History of the brewery
On March 25, 2018, Andreas, the brewery’s founder, brewed his first beer at home by the stove in Ljungsbro. It turned out to be a Belgian triple which, according to Andreas, is still the best beer he has brewed.
Pretty soon, the first 30-liter brewhouse was acquired, and the brewing could be moved out onto the patio during the summer. The garage was rebuilt to be able to house the home brewery – drains were drawn in, the garage was insulated, ventilation was adapted and more. Yeast tanks of 30 liters with cooling jackets and glycol coolers were purchased – which contributed to a substantial boost in quality – the fermentation temperature for Belgian-style beer is central to the flavor profile that is created.
But problems arose. What was to be done with all the beer that was produced? It wasn’t allowed to be sold – and despite big parties with friends, beer had to been thrown away in the end. So in the summer of 2019, Andreas started reading about what was required to be able to start a brewery. He already had a company. So the application was sent to the tax authority and the municipality – and answers came fairly quickly that the company and Andreas, as well as the brewery in the garage, were approved as a tax warehouse and as a food production facility.
2019 – The brewery is founded
On October 1, 2019, the brewery was formally started, which was named after the parish in which the brewery is located – Vreta Kloster. With a penchant for Belgian-style beer, it was a short step to connect the brewery to the local abbey history and the ruins of Vreta Kloster – Sweden’s oldest abbey which was created back in 1101. A place where archaeologists found what they believe was the nuns’ brewhouse. What would be better, Andreas thought, to have a nun with a beer label as the brewery’s logo. A logo that symbolizes both the local history and the penchant for Belgian-style beer. A friend and artist – Michaela Leo – painted the painting that forms the basis of the logo – a nun in Cistercian nun’s garb with the wall of Vreta abbey in the background.
At the same time, a 200 liter brewhouse (Braumeister) and three 200 liter yeast tanks were acquired for the brewery. A glycol cooler was purchased to have full control over the fermentation temperature. The plan was to brew 2000-3000 liters of beer in the first year and sell to local restaurants and pubs. At the beginning of 2020, sales of the beer began. As January and February are bad months in the industry, things went slow. But the brewer’s favorite pubs in Linköping and Motala bought the beer, as did one of Linköping’s better restaurants. But then it stopped. Covid-19 struck and the plans had to be quickly changed.
2020 – First launch at Systembolaget
Instead of releasing the first beer at Systembolaget (the state monopoly for selling beer to consumers) in late 2020, the brewery released Den blonda nunnan (The blonde nun) on April 1, 2020, and Nunnans skördeöl (The nuns harvest beer) on May 4. Sales immediately took off. Just 40 minutes after the blonde nun was launched, the largest Systembolaget store in Linköping called and needed a refill – the shelves were empty. During the spring, the brewery switched gears, another fermentation tank was acquired and it was brewed and bottled at maximum capacity. Everything that was brewed was quickly sold off to Systembolaget, and to some pubs.
In the summer of 2020, a new decision had to be made: Would the brewery be satisfied with two beers at Systembolaget, and let the beers sell out at times or would the brewery scale up? As Andreas is a person who mostly looks ahead, it begged to be scaled up. Searching for premises was successful. It turned out that Rapps Glas in Ljungsbro had a premises available in a newly built industrial premises, even closer to the ruins of the abbey than the garage.
Moving into new premises took place on September 1, 2020. New equipment had already been ordered. During September to October, a new brewhouse of 500 liters (Braumeister) and three yeast tanks of 1000 liters arrived. A bottling line arrived from Germany, and a labeling machine from Italy. A 1000 liter bottling tank with agitator was acquired, and at the turn of the year a tape machine and conveyor belt arrived.
Production with the new equipment started in October, and brewing took place in parallel with both brewhouses – resulting in 700 liters of beer each brewing day. The plan was to brew three times a month, and bottle once a month. With a result of around 1800 liters of beer/month, and an annual production of around 20,000 litres. All with a focus on continuing to run the brewery as a sideline on the side of Andrea’s regular job as a professor of adult education research. When the sales for 2020 were summed up, it ended up at 10,000 liters of beer.
2021 – Digital beer tastings and further expansion
At the beginning of 2021, digital beer tastings began to be organized. Participants purchased the beer to be tried themselves (via Systembolaget), and the tasting was broadcast live via the brewery’s Facebook page. The first tasting had 250 connections (probably around 500 participants). The tastings contributed to increased sales, which meant that a fourth yeast tank of 1,000 liters was acquired in order to be able to increase production to approximately 2,400 liters per month. In the summer of 2021, a taproom with outdoor seating was opened where guests could try the brewery’s beers during the summer. It was a success. Sales continued to increase in 2021 so to meet demand a full-time brewer was hired as of September 1, 2021. In November the brewery received its first international medal when Nunnans skördeöl won the first ever Swedish medal in the Brussels Beer Challenge – Belgium’s largest beer competition. It received bronze in the Double Saison category and was on the podium together with two beers from the famous Brasserie Dupont. The brewery released its Christmas beer for the first time. The roughly 5,000 bottles sold out long before Christmas. When 2021 was summed up, 31,000 liters of beer had been sold.
2022 – increased sales and more employees
In 2022, demand increased further. Planning for the next expansion phase began with the ordering of a new, larger, brewhouse. Before the summer, the brewery was given the honorable task of producing two beers to celebrate Göta Kanal’s 200th anniversary. The beer came to be sold in pubs and restaurants along the canal. In September, another person was hired. This year, the brewery was awarded more medelas in international competitions – 2 gold medals (Belgian wit and Belgian trippel) in the Concours international de Lyon – France’s largest beer competition and a bronze medal for its quadruple (Belgian-style strong dark ale) in one of the world’s most prestigious competitions – the European beer star. The Christmas beer was again a success and the roughly 9,000 bottles quickly sold out. 2022 was summed up with a sale of 44,000 liters of beer.
2023 – tripled production capacity
Increased demand meant that on January 1, 2023, the brewery tripled its premises. A hole was punched in the wall connecting the old and the new premises. The “old” room was renovated as a production room only. A new brewhouse of 1000 liters and three new fermentation tanks of 2000 liters were installed. In this way, the brewery’s annual production capacity increased from 45,000 liters to 120,000 liters. In the new part of the premises, a warehouse and a brewery pub were built. This year the brewery for the first time launched an Easter beer (a quadruple). The beer was a success and more than 5000 bottles were sold all over Sweden. New medals were won. During the spring the brewery was awarded 1 gold medal (Belgian triple) and 3 silver medals (Belgian saison, golden ale and Belgian wit) in the Concours international de Lyon. During the autumn, a gold medal was awarded to Le Monde de la Biere (Belgian saison) in the European beer star and to the Nun Gluten blonde in Brussels beer challenge (gluten free beers). A bronze medal was once again awarded Nunnans skördeöl (double saison) in Brussels beer challenge. Once again, the Christmas beer was a great success with 10 000 bottles sold. When 2023 was summed up, almost 50 000 liters of beer had been sold.
About the brewery’s labels
The brewery’s labels are produced in collaboration with local artists. We think that art and craft beer belong together. As already mentioned, our logo was created by Michaela Leo. The painting behind the logo adorns our beer The Blonde Nun. In addition, Michaela has created two more works of art for us – a painting of a Cistercian novice and a painting of a Cistercian abbess. The former adorns our beer the blonde novice (which is not yet available at Systembolaget) and the other adorns our beer Abbedissan 12. Before the launch of our first Christmas beer in 2021, Michaela painted another work of art where the novice, the nun and the abbess meet over a glass of beer at Christmas time.
Just before the brewery started on October 1, 2019, our founder met the artist Louise Hävre at a friend’s 40th birthday party in Ljungsbro to whom Andreas served his home-brewed beer. Louise and Andreas started talking over a glass of beer and she told Andreas about her artistry and Andreas told her about his plans with the brewery which he was just about to start. During the conversation, she suggested that Andreas could use a couple of her artworks as the basis for labels for some of the brewery’s upcoming beers. She sent over a number of pictures and Andreas selected two – the painting Compromise which adorns Nunnan’s harvest beer and the painting Beyond the present which adorns our beer St. Helena. Louise has exhibited Compromise both at the Guggenheim in New York and at the Louvre in Paris. Another one of Louise’s artworks is used for the label for Vreta Kloster strong golden ale.
Please read more about Louise and her art at www.louisehavre.se