“When Peter and I played in the band we toured the States a lot,” says Daniel Svensson. He’s the founder and head brewer of the Swedish craft brewery Odd Island, and former drummer for the iconic Swedish death metal band In Flames. “We made waves, and we drank a lot of beer, obviously. That’s what you do. And we mostly drank Bud Light and Budweiser, because you could drink a lot of beer without a lot of flavor.”
Odd Island is one of many breweries in or near Gothenburg, the craft beer capital of Sweden. The city is also the birthplace of melodic death metal, a subgenre that melds guttural growls and rapid drum work with harmonic vocals and sweeping, face-melting melodic guitar. In Flames is an originator of the subgenre and one of the bands that made melodic death metal famous throughout the late ’90s.
Svensson joined In Flames in 1998 and spent the next seventeen years behind his drum kit touring the world. Alongside him for the entire ride was bassist Peter Iwers, who joined the band one year before Svensson, in 1997.
“As we started to travel all around the world we were young and we just wanted to get drunk,” Svensson says. “We got free beer and just drank whatever was easy.” The specific type or brand of beer they drank was barely an afterthought.
In Flames toured the United States on a regular basis, and the band’s cross-country travels coincided with the craft beer renaissance of the early 2000s. Suddenly the towns and cities they were visiting had interesting craft beer bars with an assortment of well-made local brews. And amidst this growing movement, a funny thing started to happen: music venues began incorporating craft beer into the band’s nightly cache of Budweiser.
“Every day we got at least one case with a brown bottle with a green label on it, and every time it was so fruity and we’d go ‘ugh!’ and just throw it away, every time,” Svensson says. “And then when we grew older, we started to experience more and more of the craft beer scene in the States as it was blowing up, and we noticed that the beer that we’d been throwing away for the last four or five years was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Like, the first craft beer most people drink.” He laughs. “We were throwing that away for years!”
Craft beer started to leave its mark on the band, and particularly on Svensson. He recalls that Great Divide’s Titan IPA was one of the first beers that really broke into his consciousness, and he started brewing beer in his garage when he wasn’t on the road.
Iwers also wanted to focus on a project outside of performing. In 2011 the band took a year-long break from touring, and together Iwers and In Flames guitarist Björn Gelotte opened a craft beer and burger bar in Gothenburg called 2112, named for the seminal Rush album. Iwers discovered how much he enjoyed being an entrepreneur. In fact, he liked it so much that in 2015, when Svensson left the band and decided to open Odd Island, Iwers asked if he could join him to handle aspects like marketing, advertising, and business development. In 2016 Iwers officially departed In Flames, and that same summer he became co-owner of Odd Island. Recently they’ve also hired on additional help, bringing in a guitarist named Daniel Forsman as assistant brewer and a salesman named Jesper Lindberg.
Odd Island’s beer slate still shows the influence of their time touring the States: The very first beer they produced was Citrauvin, an American Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) made with Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops that’s still one of the brewery’s flagship offerings. The general lineup, however, is a broad range of everything from light sours (Hallon Passion, 4.2% ABV), to porters (Harwood Porter, 4.9% ABV), to New England IPAs (Hazie Dizzie, 6.2% ABV).
Regardless of style, Svensson and Iwers want to make the kind of beer that speaks to drinkers like them. Sweden on the whole still prefers light, mass-market lagers like Carlsberg, and both of the former bandmates remember how inaccessible craft beer initially felt. They decided to focus on approachable, “high drinkability” beers with low carbonation, which they say leaves you feeling less full, and their beers are designed to appeal to people who, like their younger selves, might not be interested in something packed with hops or with high ABV.
Opening the brewery was personally transformative for both Svensson and Iwers, who by the time they left the band were both married with children. “I loved touring and being on the road and playing in front of an audience,” Iwers says. “That was my childhood dream. But leaving the band and going off the road made me a man of my own hours. I could decide what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, for the first time in my adult life.”