The Flying Dodo: insights from a Beer Hunter

Beer samples at the Flying Dodo Brewery (via Flying Dodo)
Beer samples at the Flying Dodo Brewery (via Flying Dodo)

Any beer drinker will tell you that the first thing that gets them is the sweat on the bottle. Moving past that, the act of pouring the hops in the glass leaving a nice tidy film of foam at the top. Then comes the wait. A sharp intake of breath to prepare for that first long and meaningful sip of your favourite ale.

I recently came across the term Beer Hunter. According to google, the term does not officially exist. But I’m told it’s basically someone who goes around looking for the next new beer to taste, enjoy and if all goes well – recommend.

The Hunter I want us to focus on in this article is one Oscar Olsen, a Mauritian who is doing his bit to keep the memory of the Dodo bird alive. Now almost 40 years old, in his younger years every time Olsen went home from University, he was frustrated that there was no beer to “show off” to tourists apart from the one major brand in the land – Phoenix Beer.

Tapping into the fact that the Phoenix is a bird and a powerful one at that – he decided to have some fun and push the imagination with the name of his brand of craft beer – the Flying Dodo.

The Flying Dodo Brewery Company was launched in 2011, two years after Olsen started a beer restaurant called Lambic House, where to fan his passion for beer he imported in excess of 400 different beers.

CGTN Africa had a chat with Olsen on what it takes to start and run the only craft brewery in Mauritius.

What was your vision for the Flying Dodo?

Flying Dodo Brewing Company is a small craft brewery focusing on taste and experience. We brew different beers all the time and even the regular beers get re-visited often. It’s all about flavour rather than making numbers. We also have a restaurant in Port Louis where we import beers, mostly from Belgium. We import different beers all the time. Since we opened 10 years ago we must have imported at least 400 different beers. Again, it’s all about the experience and the flavours.

What was it that made you feel brave enough to take that first step?

Blind love for beer. The question wasn’t “will it work?” but rather “how to make it work?” I just had to work in beer as that’s my passion. Hence, I started with a beer import shop and from there I grew into a small craft brewery

What hurdles did you have to climb and struggles did you need to overcome to make this dream a reality?

I am honest and passionate. I earned (the) respect of people for that. Therefore no one ever asked for a bribe and all were quite encouraging. The biggest fight might have been with myself. To stop procrastination and start a business. All other fights were never deal breakers. In life, you always find hurdles. I don’t consider them as real issues.

What exactly is a Beer Hunter since the term does not officially exist on the internet?

A brewer knows the ‘technicity’ of how to brew. Very often, brewers are confined in a specific beer culture. For example German brewers and their purity laws. A beer hunter on the other hand is adventurous and tries as many different beers as possible. He/she has no pre-conceptions about a specific method (using enzymes for example) or specific beer styles (sourness of spontaneous fermentation). We read about the stories behind breweries and beers. It helps me today to be creative and find solutions across beer cultures. What I love is beer in general, from its history to its variety.

What level of expertise do you hope to achieve with the Flying Dodo?

When you open your first brewery you are just guessing. Guessing this and that equipment will be good. Guessing how much beer to brew/sell. Guessing what customers will like. Now after six years of brewing, we are not guessing anymore. We have good relationships with suppliers. From raw materials to equipment. We get advantages/discounts/etc. We make special requests and we are being heard.

Can you swear by the qualities promised with regards to your beer soap – ultra smooth skin?

Beer soap is a gimmick. There is really beer and hops in it, but we don’t try to reach any specific healthy benefits. It’s a proper handmade soap made with beer for fun.

What does your next dream look like?

We can’t open more places in Mauritius. There is a total lack of manpower in the hospitality sector. Market for craft beer is also small as we don’t have a beer culture. Therefore that’s my challenge. To change people’s view on craft beer. It’s today a very small niche market. I am hoping that with perseverance more customers will be attracted into drinking craft beer.

To add to the fun, beer lovers can also opt for a beer spa treatment where they soak in a tub filled with their preferred ale.

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