Fast Times are Good Times
How Evil Twin crafted a brewing and running success story
Words by Andy Waterman
Photography by Ben Rayner
This summer, as New Yorkers build up for the return of the New York City Marathon in November, Tracksmith has been hosting weekly long runs from Evil Twin’s new tap room in Dumbo. Evil Twin’s not-so-evil owner Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsoe, a Danish brewer and middle-distance runner who combines a love of beer with a love for running hard. We caught up with Jeppe to learn more:
Name: Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsoe
Occupation: Brewery owner of Evil Twin Brewing
Notable results: Participated in the World Junior Cross Country Championships in 1994. 800m: 1.52.31; 1500: 3.56; 3000m: 8.37 (all 1993-1994)
TS: Running and beer have a pretty deep relationship - which came first for you?
JJB: Running! I ran competitively from about 14, so beer hadn't entered my life at that point!
TS: How did you make a career in beer? I'd guess there are almost as many failed pro-brewers out there as there are failed pro-runners. Was it something you studied?
JJB: I started as a beer nerd and home brewer and I'm just the kind of person that when I do something I want to know it all and be good at it. So I spent a lot of years tasting, writing about and studying beer and home brewing, and later I decided to turn that into a business, mostly because I felt I had something to contribute.
TS: What's the running scene like back home in Denmark?
JJB: It wasn't very good for a long time, but right now it’s booming. Denmark doesn't support youth talents as much as they should so its hard but right now distance running is better than in a long time, led by two young prodigies Axel Vang Christensen and Joel Ibler Lillesø.
TS: And the brewing scene?
JJB: So so to be honest. I really haven't kept up with what’s happening the last couple of years because I found it to be rather uninteresting and uninspiring with one big craft beer brand pretty much running the show. I know there are some cool, small breweries starting to show themselves now which is much needed!
TS: I know you run a lot with your son. That's got to be fun - and a good reason to stay fit and actually do workouts, right? You want to be able to keep up for as long as possible.
JJB: I do and I love it! Melvin started running last January and has been improving like crazy. He is still only 11 and after less than two years has run a 2.22 800m up to a 18.23 5k. When he started improving last year and I wasn't in great shape I actually felt at times I couldn't keep up which was one of the reasons I decided to get back in shape, which I have. I predict he will pass me in 2023.
TS: A lot of people, if they take a bunch of time off running and come back in their 30s or 40s, they gravitate towards the longer stuff. You took that time off and it seems you're still driven by those shorter distances. What's the appeal?
JJB: In short, I just really like to run fast. It’s almost like the faster I run the more I relax. Doing 400m repeats in 70s seems way more relaxing to me than 1000m repeats in 3.30. Maybe because I did a lot of speed work as a kid and the speed sticks with you? I have had three sports-related surgeries in my life and I’m still hurting a bit from them, so running long is also not really possible – when I hit 30 miles in a week I can feel it – so I try to stay below with more speed. That just seems to work better when training for shorter distances.
TS: What brought you to New York and when did you start to call the city home?
JJB: Since March 2012. My company brought me here. We were brewing in Denmark and other places in Europe but exported most of what we did to the USA so we wanted to move the production over here.
TS: I'd love to know a little about the history of Evil Twin - when it started, what was your first beer, how you've grown etc.
JJB: Evil Twin was started as a company in Denmark in 2010, a so-called ‘gypsy brewery’ with no physical space of its own, so we rented other breweries to make our beers. We moved the company (and my family) to the USA in 2012 because we saw an opportunity. It started growing fast from there. In 2018, we opened our first brewery in Queens with a tap room and earlier this year we opened our second tap room in Dumbo. My first beer business was a small beer shop I opened in Denmark in 2005, and in 2008 I formed an import company that still exists, importing craft beer, mostly from the USA, into Europe. We also opened a bar called Torst and restaurant named Luksus in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 2013 (Luksus is to this date still the only beer-only restaurant in the world to ever get a Michelin Star) and I opened a bar in Denmark, Himmeriget, in 2016. I sold my shares of all those places last year to concentrate 100% on the brewery.
TS: Tracksmith has been hosting long runs from the new tap room in Dumbo. How tough has it been getting that off the ground during the pandemic?
JJB: It has actually been surprisingly easy. While the start of the pandemic was hard, we managed to change things around and it has actually been doing great, so to open a taproom more was something that we just saw as an opportunity as negotiating a lease for example was easier during this time.
TS: And how important has running been to you during the pandemic?
JJB: Extremely! I ran competitively as a kid and then took 20 years off with no running whatsoever. Now that I'm back at it I'm as hooked as before. Being able to run during the pandemic has been very important. Working hard trying to manage your business and employees and keep everyone happy is stressful so the one time of day when I can go for a run or an interval session on the local track is actually something I look forward to all day. I love that.
New York City is the center of it all and its marathon draws all comers to chase greatness on its streets. Over a rolling 26.2 miles, waves of runners pass from bridge to bridge and from borough to borough absorbing the energy from the city.
This summer and into the fall Tracksmith will host a weekly supported Saturday morning long run from Evil Twin Brewing in Dumbo, Brooklyn, including 4 point to point runs to explore the course's boroughs.
Whether you’re training for NYC or another fall race, we hope you’ll join us for some miles this fall.