Kristian Normark Dahl

Updated: 02 Apr 2013 | By:

Kristian has been in the brewing industry for nearly 14 years, started off working for Carlsberg Group in Denmark as a Brew Master Trainee back in 1999. It is the 6th year in a row that the brew master has stationed out of Denmark. 5 years in Hanoi as Regional Technical Director and for the past year Kristian has spent time in Malaysia brewing away and also, “partying” away (which seems inevitable considering his position in the company).

Kim Choong finds out what brought this young brew master to Malaysia and his view on the local workforce, food, woman and beer.

You have been in Carlsberg all your life, what would you be doing otherwise if you were not working for this company?
I would probably have been a Research Scientist which definitely wouldn’t have been as fun. When I graduated in Chemical Engineering, I started 2 months as a research chemist in a pharmaceutical company until receiving the job offered by Carlsberg Group to be a Brew Master Trainee. It was a very close one that my lifetime career would have been something completely different from what I do now.

Why did you choose to come to work in Malaysia?
I have wanted to move to Asia for a long time and the position in Hanoi gave me the opportunity to be here. I was stationed in Hanoi for 5 years holding a role as Regional Technical Director overseeing the supply chain operations in Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos. After 5 years with a lot of travelling, I started to miss the everyday action in the brewery, so when the possibility came to take on the role as Supply Chain Director in Malaysia I knew it was time to take on the challenge and work in another existing market in Asia and lead a staff force of 160+ people at one of the most established Carlsberg breweries in Asia. Malaysia is a very competitive duopoly market; yet I find it rather interesting and attractive to work in, especially during this period of Carlsberg Malaysia’s evolution from a one beer brand company to a dynamic brewer with international portfolio of brands. In just last 12 months, we increased the production by brewing Kronenbourg 1664, Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc and Asahi Super Dry locally in the Shah Alam’s plant.

Furthermore Malaysia has good comfort of living, it’s easy to get around and there are plenty of places to go to enjoy your free time, not forgetting the beautiful golf courses and the fantastic food. Also majority of people understand English and are generally, very warm and friendly towards expatriates and their families. All in all, the quality of life is fantastic in Malaysia.

What is your role in Carlsberg Malaysia?
My day-to-day job here is to run our Supply Chain operations. This means it is my responsibility from receiving the raw materials until the product reaches my customers in the right quality and at the right cost. So my time is spent making sure we achieve the right quality, that the production cost is under control, and that the brewery is an attractive and safe work place where we can attract and develop talents. And of course being the brew master, I am very lucky to brew and taste the best brews daily.

How does developing talents in Carlsberg Malaysia help the business in the region?
Carlsberg Malaysia has a really high level of competency in the workforce. One of the main reasons is that the company has been established for many years and we have always taken pride in developing people here. We have a good mixture of long serving experienced employees and dynamic young talents, which puts us in a very attractive position in terms of continuously improving the business. To leverage on this one of my objectives going forward is also to develop talents for the region. Like every other business good people is your key to success and therefore we also benchmark well in Malaysia compared to our peers in the region.

How hard is it to retain your skilled employees in the company?
Malaysia is highly competitive in the recruitment market, there are always head hunters looking for talents, so we need to be attractive not only on pay but also in providing a fun and challenging workplace where people can develop themselves. This is not always easy, but we do have talented staff who have been working here for over 20 years.

What are the professional hazards have you develop since working for Carlsberg?
My friends would say that I am totally brainwashed by this job and it is definitely a big part of my identity. Whenever I go out to a bar, restaurant or supermarket, the first thing I do is to check our products, the production code, turnaround and positioning on the shelfs. It is the same when I travel, I will start by checking the hotels minibar to see how long products are sitting there. I guess this comes naturally when you take pride in your job and you want to make sure consumers have a good experience with your products.

What do you really enjoy about your job?
That my colleagues and I make fantastic beers that we ourselves and our consumers enjoy! Every time we go out to a bar, it is quite satisfying to be drinking a great beer that we have brewed ourselves. I am not sure you feel the same emotional connection if you are in a different business.

What is the common trend for drinking between the Danish and the Malaysians?
Both Danish and Malaysians like to drink socially, but the drinking habits are a bit different. In Denmark we tend to invite our friends home for food and beers. This is partly because it is relatively expensive to go out and partly because it is tradition to invite friends to your house. In Malaysia it seems much more common to meet your friends in a restaurant or bar.

And of course there is a lot more “yum sing’s” here which generally sets a fantastic atmosphere in the beer garden.

Do Danes and Malaysians like the same taste? How about the taste difference?
In terms of taste, the Danish market is more mature and willing to explore. 10 years ago there were probably less than 10 breweries in Denmark, now there are over a hundred mostly craft brewers making speciality beers. These specialty beers have different flavours, created for different occasions, to be paired with different types of food. This growth has revitalized the beer market and beers have become a subject of conversation and somehow considered cool to be put on the dinner table again instead of wine. This is something that is very positive for the beer industry as a whole.

In Malaysia majority of the beer drinkers still prefer their lager beer, however we slowly see the same consumer trend as in Denmark, where consumers are requesting more choice. Therefore in Carlsberg Malaysia we do focus on offering more choice and at the same time educating our consumers in terms of pairing beers with food or even incorporating beer into the dishes. Only last year we had the famous Michelin Chef Anton Mossimann creating a fantastic beer menu incorporating our beers into each dish. We have also started up the local production of Asahi, Kronenbourg 1664 and Kronenbourg Blanc as well as imported Somersby Apple Cider from Sweden in order to offer more choice to our consumers. Simultaneously our sister company Lueng Heng is importing a wide range of speciality beers to satisfy the growing demand in Malaysia for trying something different.

If you were to mix two of the labels brewed in house, which two will you put together?
I very rarely mix my beers – they are already very good the way they are. If I do, it is when I want to reduce the full body of a Danish Royal Stout and still enjoy the dark malty flavours. Then I will mix my stout with half a Carlsberg lager.

What is your favourite Malaysian dish and which brew will you pair it with?
There is a lot of great food in Malaysia, which unfortunately I am reminded whenever I step onto the scale. My favourite is probably bak kut teh and I will have Carlsberg green label to go with it. What most people don’t realise is that beer is a fantastic companion to food. The CO2 in the beer will actually dissolve the grease from the food in your mouth and clean your palate before your next bite. You really get to enjoy the flavours of the food a lot more when you have a beer with it.

What beer should a girl choose to make an impression on you?
The usual drink I see girls liking would be a wheat beer like Kronenbourg Blanc or a Somersby Apple cider, which are both aromatic and sweet in flavour. If a girl orders something like the Grimbergen Amber, which is more bitter and heavy in flavour, she definitely shows she is serious about her beer.

You are called a “geek” in your industry, do you also do other geeky stuff outside of work?
I collect milk cartons… not!
I have a passion for electronic gadgets, cars and golf. Unfortunately my passion for gadgets isn’t fully shared by my wife and most items I buy quickly end up in a box. My passion for cars is also somewhat unfulfilled as Malaysian car prices prevents me from getting even close to the car of my dreams. So I am left with my passion for golf, which isn’t too bad in a prime golfing destination like Malaysia!

Tags: brewer