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PICK YOUR POISON: Interview with Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity)

What might be a surprise to some metalheads is well known among beer geeks: Mikael Stanne is a true beer nerd and connoisseur! He drinks it, he brews it and he sure likes to talk about it! Before Dark Tranquillity‘s show in Biebob earlier in April this year (review) we sat down with him in the tour bus, cracked open a Bavaria (for which he sincerely apologized) and talked about his passion.

Be sure to check out part one of the interview about Dark Tranquillity’s latest album Atoma, the touring life and the early days here.

Let’s start talking about beer now! [all laugh] You’re obvious a big beer lover. How do you approach finding good beers when you go all over the world? You seem to find the good stuff looking at your Untappd profile.
I really try hard to! [laughs] And Untapp’d is a great tool for that. Especially in America, you can find amazing things every day wherever you are. That’s my favorite thing. You just wake up early in the morning and you’re like [pretends to look at phone]…

“…okay where am I going today?”
Exactly, find a great bar, a good beer store. Amazing, I love that. This tour has been kind of rough, but we found some cool stuff, nice spots here and there. Me and Ted [Lundström] of Amon Amarth looked at each other every day asking “So what did you find?” [laughs]. You can tell the beer scene here in Belgium, Holland and Germany has not really caught up with the whole craft beer scene, just yet. At least not everywhere.

Then I can recommend to keep your eyes open for beers of Brussels Beer Project, De Molen, Het Uiltje,… What would you say with your experience with beer from all over the world, do you have favorite styles or favorite countries?
My first love for craft beers was American stuff. Like West Coast IPAs, Sierra Nevada, Ballast Point, that stuff. Which was really frustrating for us because you could drink all that amazing stuff but then when you got back home in Sweden… there was nothing. But now Sweden is catching up and we have some incredible breweries. I just love it, some of my absolute favorites, and I have tried them all. In Gothenburg, in my area there is a brewery just around the corner where I live that has some of the highest rated IPAs on Ratebeer ever…

[Editor’s note: We guess he was talking about Stigbergets Bryggeri]

Nice world we live in, right?
[Laughs] I’m slowly getting into Belgian beers more, but I just don’t know enough about it. I’m trying and that’s really interesting. There are so much American IPAs and now it’s interesting to go back to the more traditional, more classic styles. Also in Germany, just finding a good bock or weizen, all of that stuff is also really interesting.

You seem to try and take it as broad as possible?
Yeah. Well, and sometimes… [looks at the Bavaria beer of the tour bus] Well yeah, this is just horrible… [laughs] Sometimes it’s kind of frustrating when you come to a venue and you open the fridge and you’re like [sighs]… Heineken. I think it’s my least favorite beer in the world.

I can feel your pain. Have you considered putting it on your rider list: at least one craft beer?
Oh but we do, we do! We ask for local stuff, just something from the area.

Did you already check what they gave you for tonight then?
We got some Martin’s IPA I believe. I don’t know where it’s from, but I haven’t tried it yet. And then there are some Jupiler [lifts shoulders]. I’m okay, we still have some good ones in the bus [lifts the bottle we gave him as a gift at the start of the interview].

För alla er som längtat efter att få testa Atoma så kommer Mikael stå i baren på Bomber Bar Motala nu på Lördag och…

Slået op af Dark TranquillityFredag den 24. februar 2017

I haven’t been able to try it yet, but can you tell us a bit more about your own beer, Atoma? I hope to taste it one day.
It was released a couple of days after we left on tour. I had the chance to try it already, luckily. It is out in some bars in Sweden, but next to that only in the monopoly stores Systembolaget. [Editor’s note: in Scandinavia there are a lot of governing laws on alcohol]

How did you come up with the idea, how did you approach it?
I talked to a couple breweries throughout the years and we were like “We would love to do it, it would be great”, but it never happened. And then there is this brewery in Gothenburg called “All In Brewing”, they have a bar as well. I’m often there and always talk to the owner and he realized I’m super geeky about all this stuff. He found out I’m in a band and he was like “Maybe we could do something together”. And then there’s this other brewery, Lycke, outside of Gothenburg. It’s run by another bar where our previous bass player works, Michael Niklasson. We started talking and said “Maybe we should do a collaboration between Lycke and All In Brewing”. We started talking if it should be a regular IPA or something else. And we felt like we should do something Dark Tranquillity-like, something solemn, something super dark. And All In Brewing used to do some really amazing stouts that I loved so I know they were good at it. So I said “Let’s do something in that vein, but make it even darker”. Because I have been brewing for myself for a couple of years I also wanted something from the first stouts I made where I used whiskey. Like a really smokey peated, single malt whiskey. Just to get a really different flavor. I really loved it because when you opened the bottle you get that whiskey tone, but also that sweet stout smell. I wanted to do that. So we aged it with oak chips soaking in two types of whiskey. That really added to the flavor. I think we also used ten different types of malts and two 2 different hops. It’s not that hoppy, though. It’s a super dry imperial stout. I’m so happy, it’s amazing! Apparently now they have done two more batches I haven’t tried yet. They tweaked the recipe a little bit. But it was so much fun, just coming up with it and being there doing all the hard work. I love it.

I can imagine, it sounds really really good.
Actually, I’m gonna make a beer together with Peter [Iwers] and Daniel [Svensson] from [ex-]In Flames, who have their own brewery Odd Island, when I get home in a few weeks. [smiles]

Any idea on which style you want it to be?
We have been laughing about it and coming up with stupid ideas. Because Daniel’s beers are always puns, stupid jokes in Swedish humor. So we were thinking of doing something like a ‘Mich-ale’ [Editor’s note: pun with the singer’s name for those who wonder] and of course it had to be a red ale [Editor’s note: referring to the singer’s hair colour for those who wonder]. I think that’s where we are going. I’ve been brewing some beers lately that I was really happy with. We’re gonna see if we can replicate that in his brewery.

Something to keep our eye on! The way you approached Atoma is quite different from what we are used to so far. We looked into quite a lot of metal beers already and for some I have the impression it’s just a commercial act. I think it shows in the beer because they’re not always that good. Did you try other bands’ beer already?
Actually, the biggest metal magazine in Sweden have a yearly article about metal beers and I’m the official taster. [smiles] So, every year I sit together with their reporter and taste them all and we get super drunk. I have tasted all we could find.

Well, I keep track of what I find online on my Untapp’d list and I’m close to 200 beers right now so maybe you’re not there yet? [smiles]
Holy shit, no definitely not, far from it! But so, the first year it was just the Motörhead Bastards Lager, AC/DC pils and Iron Maiden‘s Trooper that had just come out. Bland, middle of the road, nothing special, just bullshit beer with a metal logo on it. But then the next year it was better. We had some of 3 Floyds, like the Amon Amarth beer. And a black metal beer that was a stout that was just amazing. Last year, we had the Nuclear Assault beer from Mikkeller that had just come out. We had some stuff that Mastodon did that was incredible. So now it’s really happening. That inspired me as well, I wanted the best. And I think it is! [laughs] But it’s fun. Now you realize there are so many beer nerds in the metal world.

That’s why we started the column as well, because we realized there is a big crowd not just trying to get shitfaced but who’s also looking for quality beers.
I really like where we are heading.

Any plans on expanding and distributing it outside of Sweden, maybe?
I’d love to but the hard part is Swedish law, which is super weird when it comes to alcohol. I don’t know how it works but it’s super difficult. But one solution would be that we ship tons of it to Denmark where they have different laws and people can order from the online shops over there. We’re looking into it now because I’d love for people to be able to try it at least.

That would be great! Thank you for your time for this interview
Thank you for the beer!

I hope you like it, but I’m sure I’ll see the result of that on Untapp’d!

As a token of gratitude we had given Mikael a bottle of Rio Reserva by the Belgian brewmasters of The Struise Brouwers. We are under the impression he appreciated it: