Budin, the Nordic-focused coffeehouse in Greenpoint, is now ambitiously showcasing another beverage from the Northern European region: beer.
When Crystal Pei, Rut Hermannsdóttir and Elliot Rayman opened Budin in February, offering a multifunctional space was their primary objective. “The Scandinavian way is using one thing in many different ways,” says Pei, who lives in Greenpoint (and also has a house in Iceland).
The trio started boldy as the first Nordic-themed café in the United States, according to Rayman. He had previously worked at Variety Coffee‘s outpost in the same neighborhood, but helped start Budin to consistently serve coffees from Nordic roasters such as Sweden’s Koppi and Norway’s Tim Wendelboe (a pricey latte made with Wendelboe’s espresso and Danish licorice powder incited “outrage” from the NY Post). They also dedicated the shop’s rear to selling various Nordic goodschtuffs: kitchenware, clothes, books etc. This component is curated by Hermannsdóttir, who lives in Norway.
Budin’s latest addition, which launched at the beginning of September, is alcohol. The highlight is an impressive selection of Nordic and Nordic-inspired beers. Lorcan Precious, owner of Williamsburg’s Beer Street, is captaining the fastidious menu comprising eight drafts and 15 bottles.
Precious, a former manager of The Ginger Man‘s location in Manhattan (his father founded the venerable chain of bars), often spotlights small and cultish breweries at his store on Graham Avenue, including Brasseurs Illimitès, Le Bilboquet and Le Trou du Diable from Quebec. He recently reopened Beer Street with a new bar, adding on-premise drinkery to the to-go growlers, bottles and cans. At Budin, he’s easily compiled the city’s deepest selection of beer from the Nordic region — a developing scene that, like its coffee, is still largely unknown in America.
“It was a challenge to create a menu focused exclusively on one region, but a welcome challenge because the Nordic beers are so great and still so obscure here,” says Precious. “There’s a long brewing tradition as well as a lot of creativity and experimentation in these countries, so the list is really versatile. It welcomes all kinds of beer drinkers.”
The most recognizable beers at Budin are from Evil Twin and Mikkeller, two inventive brands owned respectively (and irrefutably separately) by gypsy brewers and identical twins from Denmark Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso and Mikkel Borg Bjergso. I sampled Evil Twin’s Low Life Pilsner, crisp and hoppy, and Mikkeller’s Draft Bear, also a pilsner. Stronger than both though was the former’s Femme Fatale Yuzu: a bright, musty and citrusy IPA brewed with yuzu and Brettanomyces (coincidently or not, Budin also sells a yuzu-infused beer from Mikkeller, Orange Yuzu Glad I Said Porter?).
Jeppe, who now lives in Brooklyn, is one of the owners of Tørst, an unprecedented beer temple — each of its 21 drafts is calibrated to a style-specific carbonation and temperature — on Manhattan Avenue. His bar also houses Luksus, a backroom Scandinavian-style restaurant cheffed by Daniel Burns, formerly of Noma in Copenhagen (Burns actually bakes the coffeehouse’s rugbrød, a Danish rye bread).
“[Jeppe and Daniel] have both been a great help since we opened,” Pei says. “Jeppe gave approval of the temperature we were pouring his beers, so I think we’re good.”
Budin’s menu also has American-made beers inspired by Nordic brewing traditions. Brooklyn Brewery‘s Hammarby Syndrome, for example, is made with spelt and spruce fronds. Both ingredients were used to brew for centuries by farmhouses, which also explains the juniper berries to spice Nøgne Ø’s Prototype (as a preservative, juniper likely predated hops) and the smokiness of Haanbryggeriet’s Hesjeøl, labeled as a “Norwegian Harvest Ale” (most malts were kilned over a fire).
I also wasn’t surprised to encounter several beers made with coffee: To Øl’s Mochaccino Messiah is a creamy and sweet brown ale inspired by the chocolatey drink, while Mikkeler’s Koppi is an IPA brewed with beans from the aforementioned Swedish roaster. “The Nordics love their coffee in basically everything,” Precious says.
My favorite beer during my visit was Garún, a rich and commanding stout from Borg Brugghus in Iceland. It’s a viscous pour, the color of tar crowned with brown foam, with strong coffee and black licorice aromas. Budin will follow Garún with another beer from Borg: Fenrir, an IPA brewed with malt smoked with the feces of Icelandic sheep. Seriously. “In Iceland the fuel for a fire would often be sheep dung, so the beers would have taken on a smoky character,” Precious says. “We’ll find out when we tap the beer if there are any other interesting aromas.”
Photo credit: Ben Jay