Ehren Schmidt of Insight Cellars and Copenhagen Commons describes how he went from head brewer of Mikkeller’s Baghaven operation to strike out on his own. With his wife and a colleague they have created an impressive portfolio of wild ales in their first year under their own banner.
Baghaven was Mikkeller’s attempt to develop its own spontaneously fermented sour beer styles. Schmidt was brought over to Denmark in 2017 to head up operations at Baghaven from a base of twelve large oak foeders and over fifty 225-litre California Chardonnay barrels.
Schmidt came to Mikkeller’s attention due to his work at Toolbox Brewing in California. Now at Insight Cellars, and its experimental arm Copenhagen Commons, Schmidt is making great wild ales and sours.
Insight Cellars launched its first beers in May 2023 with an inaugural bottle sale followed by a beer dinner with Bokke and Bofkont in Belgium.
Insight Cellars specialises in oak-aged, spontaneously fermented wild ales and mixed fermentation saisons, using a house yeast culture that has been collected, isolated and refined from wild strains native to Refshaleøen on the Copenhagen harbour.
He uses fresh fruit, foraged herbs, vanilla, and house-made noyaux, an essence made from apricot kernels. He also works with wine grapes to create hybrids. For example Riesling Blomst is a wild ale made with Riesling grapes from Germany’s Mosel region, elderflower blossoms, and dry hopped with Babre Rouge.
Insight gets it wort from other brewers. For example Transcending Terroir is a collaboration with De Garde Brewing in Oregon, USA. It is a blend of Danish saison and De Garde’s wild ale with German Pinot Noir grapes thrown in for fun.
The beer then spent an additional year in oak barrels for this wine/beer hybrid.
Meanwhile Copenhagen Commons allows him to experiment with and refine different traditional non-sour beer styles.
We interviewed Schmidt at the 2023 BxlBeerFest.