Ancestral Brew

The author and his father enjoying a beer at the Norsk Kornolfestival in Norway.

As the word “homebrewer” suggests, we brew in our homes. But what if you had the opportunity to learn about brewing in your ancestral home?

For me, that’s Norway, where my father was born and raised. These days, he lives about 25 kilometers (16 miles) away from me and my family on Vancouver Island, Canada, so we chat often and are never shy to share a beer or two.

In the summer of 2019, I first read about the Norsk Kornolfestival in Hornindal — an October festival celebrating farmhouse brewing in Norway, and I flippantly mentioned to my dad that we should go to it someday. 

“Let’s go this year,” he said, surprising me with a rare bout of spontaneity. “You never know what might get in the way.”

A few months later, and we’re on a plane to Norway.

Coastal Norway certainly has its differences from coastal Canada, but what I really wasn’t prepared for was how different this beer festival would look from the festivals I attended back home. Picture attendees dressed in full Viking gear and brewers serving beer out of wooden jugs and recycled pop bottles.

But the biggest appeal for me as a novice homebrewer was to be fully entrenched in the homeland of kveik, strains of yeast that have been used by Norwegian farmhouse brewers for generations. While kveik seemed to be a trendy new thing in the craft beer I was drinking at home, it had been an essential part of brewing here for a long time. 

Brewers at the festival were more than happy to share their knowledge about various kveik strains and how they used them in their brewing. We also got to chat with Lars Marius Garshol, a Norwegian researcher and author who is seen by many as the driving force behind the resurgence of kveik and Norwegian farmhouse brewing traditions.

On the first day, we sampled farmhouse ales brewed by commercial breweries, followed by a day of homebrew sampling and more from the commercial brewers. Most exciting of all, we got to witness a brew day at a traditional farmhouse with a local brewer — a guy who it just so happened had gone to school with my dad!

The brew day started early on a clear and crisp morning. While a juniper infusion was boiling in the old farmhouse, the brewers shared tips on achieving the ideal mash thickness, how slowly wort should run off into buckets (“the speed that a little boy pees”), and, most importantly, that one must scream at the top of their lungs while pitching the kveik. 

It was an all-day endeavor where our group, made up of Norwegians, Americans, Belgians, Finns, us Canadians, and others shared local meats, cheeses, and breads while nerding out about craft beer. Turning brewing, what is often a solitary pursuit, into an international social event was a major highlight of the festival. At the end of the event, we were offered the opportunity to take home various samples of kveik yeast strains from brewers in the region. 

This unforgettable experience inspired me to experiment with kveik more often in my own homebrewing, and I took what I saw and learned to replicate a similar brew day at home with friends in Canada. As snow fell lightly around us, juniper was boiled, wort was heated over an open fire, and yes, we screamed while pitching the yeast.

Most importantly, my dad was there that day too, happy to share another beer and another experience, not letting anything get in the way of a good day. 

The 2024 edition of the Norsk Kornolfestival runs October 3–6 in Hornindal, Norway. For more information, visit:

Issue: March-April 2024