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Master of flavours

Hartwall’s Brew Master Hannele Alakarhu draws inspiration for new flavours from people, colours, music and ingredients.
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Hartwall’s Brew Master Hannele Alakarhu is in her dream job. The Brew Master is responsible for the production of all drinks at Hartwall, but recently one product category has occupied a special place in her mind.

“Every day at work starts with beer. We taste the previous day’s batches first thing in the morning, and we also do special tasting. Tasting the beer is part of quality control. We try to find any off-flavours and we discuss our preferences on the new flavour combinations that we are working on,” she explains.

Hannele Alakarhu frequently uses the words we, awesome, team, Lahti and Mattsson.

Designing new flavours is creative work. Ideas can come from almost anywhere. Sometimes the ideas come from the ingredients or from some completely different product categories, like for example food.

When Hannele Alakarhu is developing ideas, she uses music to help her. Through music she can dive into the world of the flavours and beers that she wants to create.

“I experience flavours in a very visual way, as colours and shapes. I like to first formulate an idea of the flavour in my head and then start the planning from there. I also draw inspiration from people. That is where it all usually comes from.”

Flavours and pleasures in everyday life

Having sensitive taste buds affects the daily life. When tasting is part of the job description, the sense of taste also becomes more refined through practice. Friends and colleagues often laugh at how Alakarhu experiences flavours.

“I do not consider myself an expert chef, but I always have an opinion on the food. A good combination of flavours is a great relief,” she laughs.

People who know her say that the Brew Master constantly talks about food and drink. “Flavours are my whole life. I want to taste new flavours all the time, to enjoy new experiences and life’s little pleasures.”

Hannele Alakarhu hopes that she can give other people those life’s little pleasures — flavours that they want to taste again and again.

“I try hard to get the taste and sophisticated aromas of the beer just right. However, to taste the best, beer should be enjoyed in good company and served right.”

Locally produced beverages from Lahti

The cornerstones of high-quality beer are the yeast and local ingredients like grain and fresh groundwater. For example Hartwall’s specialty beer brewery Mattsson gets all its core ingredients except for hops from within 100 kilometre radius from the Lahti brewery.

Hartwall has a long history of brewing high-quality lagers. The specialty beer brewery that started its operations in 2017 allows brewing small, experimental specialty batches that were not possible to produce in the large scale of the big brewery.

“Only the sky is the limit to our experiments. I have warned my team that we may end up drinking a lot of beer in the coming years. We taste and we try out what works and what does not work,” Alakarhu says with a smile.

The Mattson brewery was named after the local grand old man of beer-making, the founder of the Mallasjuoma brewery, Henrik Mattsson. The Mattson brewery is deeply rooted in the region of Päijät-Häme. People who work there live in Lahti, Heinola, Orimattila and Hollola.

“My team has plenty of expertise developed over decades, and every one of us is passionate about this work. The best thing in this job is seeing how we achieve great results as a team.”

“There has to be something personal in a beer. Emotion and passion for its idea. It is not possible to make great products with an indifferent attitude. Every beer has a personal touch, and everyone in the team has given something for its flavours,” Hannele Alakarhu promises.

The Brew Master uses nothing but high-quality ingredients

Water

“I can honestly say that we are using the best water in the world. A dedicated spring of pure groundwater that is filtered in the ridges of Salpausselkä is reserved just for the brewery. Approximately 90% of beer is water.”

Yeast

“Yeast is a brew master’s best friend. Yeast makes all the good things happen. At Hartwall, we use several strains of yeast, and the yeasts that we use are kept in strain collections. We select the appropriate yeast for each beer. It is best to stay in good terms with the yeast.”

Hops

“Hops are the soul of the beer. They give sophisticated flavours, and together with the malt they create the flavour profile of the beer. Hops are the only ingredient of beer that is not grown in Finland in large scale because of our climate. The hop variety affects the final taste of the beer. You can even taste in the beer the influence of for example the climate and the soil on the aromas of the hops.”

Malt

“Our malt is truly locally produced. 90 per cent of the malting barley that is used at Hartwall comes from within 100 kilometre radius from the Lahti brewery and it is malted at the Viking Malt malt house in Lahti before it ends up in the kettles in the brewery.”

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