I’ve been interested in rustic farmhouse ales since the day I started homebrewing back in 2008 because farmhouse brewers and felt close to, and connected with, what I was doing in my backyard when I brewed. So when I heard there was a whole farmhouse brewing scene in Norway that included the use of traditional landrace yeast blends and home malting I was very excited and read everything I could find about it, which wasn’t much. I went to Norway in 2008 to meet farmhouse brewers and learn more. What I discovered blew my mind, especially when it came to their special types of yeast.
You know how every small brewery that gets a little hype seems to run out of brewing and fermenting capacity in no time and its beer becomes more and more scarce? Then, a few years down the line the brewery owners raise money and invest hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars building a new facility to double or triple their capacity. Well, imagine if they could instantly double their capacity just by switching the yeast strain they use for their most popular releases. That would revolutionize craft brewing and enable brewery growth unthinkable using the currently popular brewer’s strains such as Vermont and Chico.
That is the promise of…KVEIK…so let’s explore this yeast stating with how to pronounce it!
HOW DO YOU SAY IT?
I was in Norway for the Norsk Konølfestival in 2018, it’s a small festival in Hornindal Norway centered around traditional Norwegian farmhouse ales. While I was there I heard what sounded to my ears like three different ways of saying this word.
The first was K-VIYK, with a subtle vee sound. My understanding is that this is the most correct way to say the word. That said, some Norwegians I spoke with didn’t seem to say the vee sound as much and their pronunciations sounded more like KWIYK, with a “W.” Another way was QUAKE, like “earthquake.” The differences are fairly subtle. Saying KVIYK can be a little difficult for English speakers, but if you say KWIYK or QUAKE to a Norwegian beer nerd they'll understand what you’re getting at. So, KWIYK or QUAKE or KVEIK.
Bonus fun fact number one — the term “kveik” comes from Old Norse and is related to the Old English word “quick,” which meant alive or lively…as in, if you put this stuff in a sweet liquid the whole thing comes alive…and ultimately become beer…or makes bread rise.
Bonus fun fact number two — Kveik is not actually the word that all Norwegians use to refer to their traditional farmhouse yeast blends, even though it has recently come into that use for the rest of us in order to keep things simple. In Norway, people in different regions call their yeast a variety of names including yest, yester, gong, and barm, among other things. But because that’s pretty confusing, it’s been generally accepted that Kveik is an appropriate term.