International Insights: Tapio Kangas-Heskia, Sinebrychoff

International Insights is a continuing series of Q&As with brewing members, but this time branching outside of the US and into the rest of the world.
In this series, Brewer will share personal insights from international breweries each week about the craft beer market in other countries, where those brewers get their inspiration, and how the market compares to craft beer in the US.
*Note from Timo Mikkola, Communications Manager of Sinebrychoff: “In Finland the Coronavirus situation is still under control but causing naturally a lot of concerns and we are moving to a locked-down nation as many others. But thankfully we can offer some refreshments to our ‘socially distanced’ customers, our brewery is still 100% operational.”

Tapio Kangas-Heiska, Head Brewer, Sinebrychoff — Finland

BREWER: Being the oldest brewery still in operation in the Nordic countries, how has the brand grown and evolved over the past 200 years?
KANGAS-HESKIA: Sinebrychoff started its operation in a time when the craft of brewing beer was still being learned and its science was in the hands of brewmasters teaching the skills to their apprentices and other brewmasters. After the 1883 invention of the pure yeast method in the Carlsberg laboratory in Copenhagen, the Lager beer began its success story, which also happened in Finland. During the 200 years we have been part of the evolution of brewing — adapting to the latest innovations and also being the innovators ourselves. After 200 years, Sinebrychoff is the market leader in Finland. In addition to beer, Sinebrychoff manufactures a lot more beverages — cider, ready-to-drink cocktails, energy drinks, soft drinks — we are the official bottler of Coca-Cola. But beer is still at the core of our brewery.

BREWER: What can you tell me about your most popular beers?
KANGAS-HESKIA: Sinebrychoff has several brands in its portfolio. The best known beer brands, KOFF and Karhu, are still examples of this high-quality lager brewing. They have both been awarded several times in the International Brewing Awards and are good examples of Finnish Lagers, fresh and suitable for all occasions — especially saunas, where 25% of beers enjoyed in Finland are consumed! During the recent years the more lager-oriented brands like KOFF and Karhu have created their own successful IPAs, APAs and other specialty ales, which are currently more and more interesting to the beer lovers in Finland. KOFF Porter has been brewed for 63 years and is still one of the most esteemed beers from Finland — a favorite of the great late beer guru Michael Jackson for example. We have also made some collaboration beers with KOFF Porter, for example with Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery in 2013, “Two Tree Porter” with spruce from Finland and maple syrup from the state of New York. A big trend at the moment globally and locally is the growing popularity of alcohol-free beers. We are also leading the market with our Crisp alcohol-free beers with four different styles, lager, dark lager, IPA and wheat. In Finland the market for alcohol-free beers rose 18% in 2019.

BREWER: As one of the largest breweries in Scandinavia, what do you do to reduce your carbon footprint?
KANGAS-HESKIA: As part of the Carlsberg Group we are committed in the Together Towards ZERO actions to reduce our carbon footprint drastically. Our goal is to be carbon-neutral in 2030 and we are already making good progress. Some examples: We recycle the brewery process heat to keep our offices warm in the cold Finnish weather – the recycled heat corresponds to the heating of almost 500 houses. We also harvest the CO2 that is born in the brewing process and – after the cleansing process – carbonate all our beverages with it. Karhu beer bubbles in Coca-Cola! Reducing package materials is a key factor, our plastic roadmap focus is on recycled material and less plastic – during 2020 our bottled waters, Bon Aqua from Coca-Cola, will be in 100% recycled plastic bottles, for example.

BREWER: Which of Sinebrychoff’s values have ensured the success of the brewery, leading it to become a leader in the Finnish market?
KANGAS-HESKIA: For our 200th anniversary we researched the history of our brewmasters and we found an old contract between Nikolai Sinebrychoff, our founder, and one of his earliest brewmasters, Gottfried Putzscher, made in 1829. In that agreement Putzscher promises to “make the best brew, corresponding in quality with the best bread available in the area”. We feel that the promise to always aim for perfection and highest quality still lives on and is at the core of our success. You can see the full contract and the study online at

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