The ironworks in the Wulfel district of Hanover is an old industrial street. This is where the Bernstorff Eichwede company once had its factory, which was responsible, among other things, for the Ernst August monument in front of the state capital's main train station. That was a long time ago, but today the Eisenwerk is home to an event location, storage facilities – and with "Mashsee" a small brewery. With numerous creative beers, it has also made a name for itself beyond the city limits. And its founder and owner is Kolja Gigla, who comes from Ettenbuttel in the district of Gifhorn.
The 37-year-old has his kingdom at the ironworks. This is where his office, storage rooms and experimental kitchen are located. When Gigla ventures into new ideas, it's usually on the weekends. "There's not much time for it during the week. Planning a day in a structured way is nice, but it works out for five minutes in the end," he says. But taking time, being concentrated, smelling, tasting and listening is very important for the brewer. "Brewing does not wait for me. I have to keep certain times and temperatures. As a brewer, you have to be there with all your senses," says Gigla.
Gigla: The weekend is perfect for experimenting
The weekend is perfect for it. No phone ringing, no external distractions. Just water, malt, hops – and an idea. "I often have scraps of ideas in my head because I liked a certain beer but would make it a little differently. At some point, another influence will come along, and then it's time for me to get to work."Even though such a day of experimentation demands all of one's senses, one of the first things one has to do before getting started is to go to the music system. Soul and funk are welcome for the start, it's just getting started. Not too loud, everything rather for the background. He grinds the malt to a desired grain size and mashes it, converting the starches in the grains to sugars. Only later does the yeast metabolize these. These are the first two hours on this brewing day. In English it means "to mash", it is one basis of the company name, the other is the Maschsee in the city center.
The brewing thing started for the former Ettenbutteler after his military service in his early 20s. The goal was to learn something from the ground up, and it had to be a craft. His father gave him the brewing idea. Kolja Gigla read up on the subject, was thrilled by the wide range, the immersion in natural sciences and technology, and says mischievously: "And I've always liked beer."Quite a craftsman, Gigla begins an apprenticeship as a brewer, very close to his parents' home at Wolters in Braunschweig. "I still remember exactly how I arrived at the brewery site and the fumes wafted over from the brewhouse." Maybe not every resident can relate; Gigla, however, was thrilled with his "absolutely right decision".
After training at Wolters, it's off to study in Berlin
Back in the small brewing kitchen "Am Eisenwerk": The mashing process is complete, here the temperatures in the kettle still vary, the next step is to take a closer look. Purification separates the solid from the liquid. Around 30 kilograms of solid spent grains remain. Usually it is used as cattle feed, but it is also good for baking bread. "The lautering is the longest of the steps in brewing, two and a half to three hours," explains the graduate brewmaster.
It was already clear during Gigla's apprenticeship that he would want to continue on this path afterwards. He said the decision to learn at a large brewery and work through all the departments was the right one. Afterwards, however, to work in only one, and not to accompany the whole process would not have filled him, however. There are two opportunities in Germany to train as a master brewer, in Freising near Munich or in Berlin. Gigla went to the capital and, to put it simply, did a master's degree here in this special course of study at the TU without having done a bachelor's degree beforehand. Thematically, it was a lot about microbiology, but also about plant technology, raw material procurement or accounting basics.
In the capital, the brewery idea is gaining momentum
In Berlin, his personal brewing story also picked up steam. Especially in the exchange with many students from abroad, who presented their beers. Craft beer originated in the U.S., where many small breweries formed in the 1970s, working in a craft manner rather than producing large quantities industrially. Through his studies, he came to the affiliated research brewery and, in a project, helped large breweries throughout Germany to work more efficiently and, with an outside view, to uncover errors in the process.
The time in the capital was also a decisive one for another reason: The 37-year-old developed his first own beer, which he later launched on the market. And he met Alexander Herold from Hanover, who was his compagnon from 2014 until they separated in 2018. Gigla as a man for the craft, Herold as a master of numbers. They started their brewing dream in conjunction with a specialty store, where hundreds of other craft beers from other creative brewers were available for purchase, in addition to the starter called "Training Camp". 2014 was also the year when craft beer really started to boom in Germany, with major beer festivals in many cities drawing attention to its diversity.
Gigla brewing process: "Fresh milk vs. UHT milk"
Things get more liquid in the experimental kitchen. Soul and funk have been replaced, it's getting poppier, for Gigla it can now be rap from "Blumentopf". Now the liquid is boiled at 100 degrees, then the hops are added. Those who think of the umbels from the commercials are wrong, however. The hops are also added here in pressed form. The cones would later have too large a volume for the kettles during production, and the 37-year-old also wants to be very close to the end product when experimenting. "The earlier I add the hops, the more bitter the beer becomes," the brewer explains. Unwanted flavor carriers evaporate. 60 minutes is cooked, with Gigla it may be gladly a little longer. A large brewery is not interested for energy reasons, especially since the beer is still filtered here. It's different with Gigla: "None of my beers are preserved. It's a bit like fresh milk compared to UHT milk."
Since 2018, when he parted ways with Herold, Gigla has been solely responsible for his dream of owning his own brewery. Because he has not yet. He cannot produce the quantities he sells at the ironworks. For this he buys from two larger breweries, one is in Aschaffenburg, the other in Bremen. Gipsy brewing is what it's called, but it's anything but unusual in the craft beer industry. The plans to finally work on his own kettles are in the drawer and still come from the time of the division of labor, a location had already been found on the Expo grounds. The professional separation and this year, of course, the Corona pandemic intervened. "In the meantime," says Gigla, "I'm also thinking a bit smaller, more in the direction of a brewery with its own pub attached."
It takes five weeks before the beer is ready for tasting
The bridal day is coming to an end. What takes between eight and ten hours net, can easily take 13 to 15 hours with all the trimmings. The music is now faster, more electronic. "I need that to stay awake and focused then," says the 37-year-old. The liquid has reached the whirlpool, 96 degrees it is still hot. Further, finer components are withdrawn here, what remains is further cattle fodder. 20 minutes before it is cooled down to fermentation temperature. "Into this chilled wort then comes the yeast. So the work is done for the brewer, the yeast does the rest." Simplified, of course, not quite true. For the brewer continues to be important as a controller, with cold hopping there is a renewed hop addition.
It will be quite a while before the new beer can be tasted. Around five weeks lasts the maturation process. For Gigla, it's on to cleaning up the plant. Perhaps the most annoying part of this process, but by no means the least important. Working in a sterile environment is enormously important.
The dream of his own brewery with gastro
His brewery concept lives and works in him. Only when the kettles are his own is the "mashsee" complete for him. He already has the product portfolio, he has created nine different beers and also sells them all, mainly in Hanover, but also through a wholesaler throughout Germany and, of course, through his own online shop. Everything under our own steam. The output of the small craft beer brewery from Hanover-Wulfel is around 2,000 hectoliters. By way of comparison, Wolters has around 660 in 2019.000 hectoliters ejected. "But the craft beer market continues to grow, while larger breweries are losing sales," says Gigla. He is and remains convinced of his project. He has not become rich with it so far. But happy. And that includes these days in the small test kitchen, where there used to be an iron factory. The music from the loudspeakers has since fallen silent. Gigla says: "These are my favorite days to fire up the boilers here."