(Exhibition photo source: http://www.thefaceofbeer.net/)
Even in Switzerland with its vast number of microbreweries, La Nebuleuse stands out as being unique. Arthur Viaud, Jeremy Pernet and Kouros Ghavami started brewing beer in Lausanne on the shores of beautiful Lake Geneva in 2014. The beer they create is anything but conventional. The three friends are not afraid to add a hint of mustard, or to reinterpret an IPA as “Italian Pizza Ale”. BESTMALZblog talked to Kouros Ghavami, one of La Nebuleuse’s three founders.
BESTMALZblog: Tell me, Kouros, why did you start brewing beer? Is there a story behind it?
Kouros Ghavami: I’ve known Arthur since we were 14, and Jeremy and I go back even further to kindergarten. We were beer freaks before we’d even reached the legal age to drink, and started working on a beer encyclopedia when we were still boys. Even then, we dreamed of opening a beer bar. After that, we went our different ways, studied different subjects and moved away from Switzerland. One time when we were back home on vacation, Arthur gave us his first homebrew to sample – and we were amazed! So we started brewing our own beer in the kitchen while we were at university. A few years later, we took the plunge, quit our jobs and opened a small brewery in a basement in Lausanne. The rest is history. And now my parents are overjoyed to have a brewer in the family again – my grandfather ran an Altbier brewery in the Rhineland region of Germany.
BESTMALZblog: What is important for your work as a brewer? What matters most?
Kouros Ghavami: The most important thing for me as a brewer is precision. I don’t believe I will ever brew such a thing as a “perfect” beer. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in good beer. There are so many factors that can affect the result of a beer: the malt bill, enzyme activity, water quality, fermentation, and so on. My aim is to control as many of them as possible, so I can reproduce each batch as true to our intentions as possible. We also try to take all the biochemical interactions involved in the brewing process into account in our recipes. This scientific approach is one that I find very intellectually challenging and exciting.
BESTMALZblog: What is your favorite beer from your own product range? And from other brewers?
Kouros Ghavami: It’s a bit like with your own children – you can’t say you have a favorite! Still, one beer I’m really happy with at the moment is our Hold Hop, a double oat IPA. It’s great, with oat and wheat flakes that give the beer a really smooth body and a powerful mosaic hop addition in the whirlpool and dry hop for maximum aromatics. Although the beer has an 8% alcohol content, it goes down so easily it is treacherous! As for my favorite beer from another brewer, I am in love with Consecration from Russian River. It is a strong, red-wine-barrel-aged ale that perfectly marries the woody, red-wine character with beautiful caramel and chocolate aromas from the malt.
BESTMALZblog: And which of our malts do you like best?
Kouros Ghavami: Again, I like a lot of them. I’m particularly a fan of your spelt and smoked malts. We’ve been brewing more pilsners recently, so we use a lot of pilsner malt.
BESTMALZblog: Have you had any disasters – has the brew or the beer ever gone wrong?
Kouros Ghavami:The worst thing that happened to us was when our old brewery burned down! We were very lucky that the fire fighters arrived early enough to prevent any injury or serious damage to the building. But the brewhouse was in an extremely bad shape. It took us quite a while to get everything back up and running, because there was water everywhere in our offices and machinery, and we couldn’t continue working.
BESTMALZblog: You have become very popular and grown very fast since you set up business. What else do you want to achieve?
Kouros Ghavami: We don’t have any real plans to grow more. It can be risky if you grow too fast. As long as we can brew what we want, we are happy. Our aim is to create interesting, high-quality beer that is fun to drink. We are regarded as a brewery that “converts” people to craft beer and taps into new target groups. Our focus is on the social aspects of beer; we try to create emotions and try to find out why people like beer. We are working to reinstate beer as a gourmet product. Here in our region, people appreciate good cuisine, but this almost always applies to food and wine. We want to change that and raise the profile of beer again.
BESTMALZblog: What is the meaning of the name “La Nebuleuse”?
Kouros Ghavami: It refers to the cosmic nebula or gas clouds. What we are trying to say is that we want to do more than just make beer: We want to create a cosmos of beer. We regularly hold events in our tap room and try to work with as many different art genres as possible. We have even turned our production into an exhibition space, for example, for the project “The Face of Beer”, where the artist developed photographs of brewers using beer.
BESTMALZblog: What is your tip for a perfect beer?
Kouros Ghavami: As I said, I don’t believe in the perfect beer! Nevertheless, I am convinced that even the best beer can be improved, even if the end consumer doesn’t taste any difference! I always recommend to brewers that they should be aware exactly what biochemical reactions take place, and how. That way, they can interpret them and never leave space for uncertainties.
BESTMALZblog: Do you have a motto?