Gathered Together — Broaden & Build Brewery and Restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark
Matt Orlando is buzzing. His hands swirl the air around him as he speaks. He’s crouched, affording him eye-level with his seated audience. He needs to be heard.
At his newest venture, Broaden & Build, patrons seated at its exterior tables bask in the glorious, yet fleeting Danish summer sun. If the topic was sustainability in food or upcycling food by-products—subjects very dear to him—my surprise would be tempered. Instead, I’m listening to the owner and head chef of Amass (a sustainability-focused restaurant that sits at 85 on this year’s list of world’s best) and ex-head chef at Noma excitedly describe the myriad flavours produced by various yeast strains.
“It’s a whole new world, I’m like a kid in a candy store” he says, describing how beer production has opened his eyes to new flavours. His enthusiasm is palpable, and it’s infectious.
Broaden & Build is one of the newest entries to the now-bustling Refshaleøen, a once raw and remote industrial area near the centre of Copenhagen. Matt has been witness to much of its dramatic rebirth.
“We came out here six years ago to open Amass when there was nothing,” he tells me. “It was sketchy and even taxi drivers were like ‘why do you want to go out there, there’s no restaurant out there.’”
He and head brewer Tiago Falcone are seated in the empty dining room of Amass, soon to be filled with eager diners. Glancing outside, it’s difficult to imagine that time six years ago. This piece of land, located at the northeastern edge of the city, flanked by wind turbines, buffeted by gusts and waves from the Øresund—the span of water that separates Denmark from its neighbour Sweden—has become one of the more exciting destinations in Copenhagen.
Refshaleøen now teems with places like the street food stalls of Reffen, the idyllic water-side setting of La Banchina and Lille bakery. The sound of skateboard tails smacking against concrete at the skatepark is near constant. Mikkeller’s mixed-fermenation and barrel-aging outpost Baghaven is here, as are Empirical Spirits, who share a wall, knowledge, and occasionally pieces of equipment with Broaden & Build. But how these two found one another, and how a chef and a brewer work together, is about as surprising as the transformation just outside Amass’s doors.
A chef and a brewer walk into a bar. While I’d love this story to begin that way, their paths to Copenhagen occupy different timelines. Matt’s first stop in Copenhagen was in 2005, accepting a role as sous chef at Noma. After a brief stint in New York City, he returned to Noma as Executive Chef. James Spreadbury, Noma’s General Manager, remembers this well.
“He’s a fantastic chef, but a big part of it is just his personality.” he tells me. “I remember hearing about the great Matt Orlando coming back. He’s just so passionate and so positive.”
Orlando’s ambition urged him out on his own, opening Amass in 2013. While opening a restaurant doesn’t sound surprising, a chef opening a brewery does. Or perhaps it doesn’t. “It didn’t surprise me at all that he was opening a brewery,” James says. “I mean, he is from San Diego.”
Orlando’s relationship with craft beer does indeed go back to his life in Southern California. We chuckle reflecting on the early arms race of hops, with IBUs (International Bitterness Units) soaring into the triple digits.
“I grew up in San Diego during the boom of craft beer in the early 2000’s,” Matt says. “When I was six years old, I’d go to Pizza Port in Solana Beach to get pizza before they even had the brewery.” It’s clear Orlando is not just a chef dabbling in a trend.
Tiago Falcone arrived in Copenhagen—literally—on two wheels. His Pedlar Project, launched in 2017, combines his love of cycling with brewing. With ten years of brewing experience, he took his knowledge on the road, working and collaborating in short bursts with breweries around the world, his two legs powering him to the next gig.
He spent time in Belgium at both Alvinne and Brussels Beer Project, as well as at Jopen in the Netherlands, to name just a few of the breweries he’s worked with. A year and a half—and some 20,000 kilometres later—Falcone found himself in Copenhagen, pausing to work with Dry & Bitter Brewery during the cold months.
“I needed a place to work for the winter so I got in touch with Søren,” he explains. Søren Parker Wagner, co-owner of Dry & Bitter, was consulting for Matt Orlando and Broaden & Build at the time, lending his expertise to help the fledgling brewery get off the ground.
At this point, it clicked—Broaden & Build was looking for a head brewer, and by coincidence a head brewer had just arrived in the Danish capital.
“I told Matt, ‘I think I have the guy, and he’s staying in my spare bedroom,’” Søren tells me, leveraging his network of industry connections to help them get off the ground. “I’m a facilitator. I believe in this project and want it to succeed.”
While Falcone has now vacated his spot on Wagner’s couch, he’s not done the same with Copenhagen. “I was going to stay for three months and keep cycling for another few years, but I really liked the idea of this project, so I stayed,” he says. His website estimated his departure in March 2019, but sometimes, opportunity knocks. He grins and says “Yeah, I put the Pedlar Project on hold.”
How exactly, then, does a chef and a brewer work together? Quite naturally, as it happens. The two meet every week to discuss brewery projections. Falcone works up recipes to keep an array of selections on tap at the brewery while Orlando keeps him abreast of what’s growing in the Amass garden as well as what’s happening in the kitchen. And that’s when their synergy suddenly makes total sense.
“We had a conversation months back where I told Tiago ‘do you realise you taste different than I do?’ I’ve spent my career tasting in solid form and Tiago’s spent his career tasting in liquid form,” Matt says.
Listening to the pair, it’s difficult not to get excited. It’s as though each has found a partner that makes them think in a completely new way.
“The best part of our conversations is getting his knowledge of how he’s transforming something in the kitchen and how to translate that to make [those flavours] possible with the fermentation of beer.” Matt adds “I understand how fermentations happen, but then you get into yeast and brewing and you’ve a whole new toolbox to create different flavours.”
His enthusiasm grows more evident as our talk goes on. “The more I get into it, the more I get excited about it.”
A guiding principle at both Amass and Broaden & Build is sustainability. The restaurant strives to eliminate as much food waste as possible, producing dishes with an environmental mindfulness. That ethos extends to the brewery in fascinating ways. Take one of their newest beers, a collaboration with Brooklyn’s Other Half Brewing. Called Brownie Loop, it’s an imperial stout brewed with brownies. But not just any brownies.
Matt jumps up from the interview and exclaims “Oh, you should taste this!” He races to the Amass kitchen and returns with three triangular shaped brownies. “That’s spent porter grains blended into melted butter until it disintegrates, burnt chocolate, parsnip puree and then a fudge we make out of leftover potato skins.”
It tastes as delicious as it sounds. But the story doesn’t end there. The brownies are trimmed to create their shape. Those trimmings were then used to create the stout with Other Half, which again produces spent grains, which will again be used for the brownies back at Amass.
“We’ll take that, save that up until next year and start the process all over again,” he says. “It’s a loop.” The recycled and up-cycled products go both ways. The ingredients may start in either facility, but there’s a good chance they’ll be used in both. My mind is sufficiently blown.
Broaden & Build is not, however, created in service of Amass. It is its own entity, acting as brewery first, and provider of occasional beers to the restaurant second. After all, it has its own food program, and it’s one anyone should be excited by, beer drinker or not. Smoked carrot “tartare”, yeast emulsion, toasted buckwheat. Grilled mackerel with kohlrabi, salted red pepper and fennel. These are not your usual suspects when glancing at a brewery’s food menu. But when your older sibling is a mainstay on the world’s best restaurant list, your menu will reflect this.
“There’s nothing wrong with serving burgers or pizza with beer, because they’re delicious,” Matt says, “but through cooking at a higher level, you elevate the beer.”
Barely six months in and Broaden & Build is already something of a trailblazer amidst the Danish brewing landscape. Food and beer have always gone together. However, it’s not every day that one of the world’s most celebrated chefs steps out of the kitchen and into a brewery. That a chef and a brewer work so closely, each informing the other to push what’s possible in pursuit of flavour, is elevating the conversation surrounding food and beer.
As an observer, to see these two in a room, vibing off of one another’s expertise, sensing their desire to shoot up out of their seats and walk out on our interview because they just can’t wait to go make a beer, is exhilarating. As a lover of both food and beer, it’s an exciting time to be in Copenhagen.