Ørbæk Spring rises near Lykkeholm Castle in East Funen, providing Ørbæk Å river with water. Formed during the Weichsel Glacial Period, Ørbæk Å river winds its way through the scenic landscape into Holckenhavn Fjord, before continuing its progress into Nyborg Fjord. If you are lucky, on the banks of the river you can spot kingfishers, western marsh harriers and the rare osprey.
The banks of Ørbæk Å river also form the setting for Ørbæk Brewery, established in 1906 by the Madsen family. The brewery was built as brewery for malt beer (1906) and light ale (1914). On Funen, the brewery was particularly famous for its stakitøl, brewed using smoked malt from the brewery’s own malthouse. Stakitøl was an over-fermented dark beer with a smokey taste. The beer came in five-litre bottles placed in wooden slatted baskets resembling fences (‘stakit’ in Danish).
In the late ‘70s, the Madsen family sold Ørbæk Brewery. From then until 1994, the Brewery had a succession of owners. The changes of ownership were due to the increasing competition in the beer and soft drink sector from larger breweries, and in the early ‘90s the then owner was compelled to close down.
In the early ‘90s, their son Nicolai asked why there was no organic cola on the market. That led to a search for suitable production facilities. In 1996, they decided upon the run-down, yet intact Ørbæk Brewery in East Funen.
In 1997, using water pumped just a few metres away from the source of Ørbæk Spring, they launched what was probably the world’s first production of organic fizzy drinks and other soft drinks under the name of Naturfrisk. Niels and Nicolai came up with the name of Naturfrisk when they saw some old Ørbæk Brewery labels, discovered in the attic of the old brewery. One of the fizzy drinks previously manufactured on the premises had actually been called ‘Naturfrisk’. The name ‘Naturfrisk’ (English: ‘Naturally Fresh’) reflected many of the values that Niels and Nicolai wished to incorporate into their company and inspired them to name their new company Naturfrisk.
Following the millennium
In 2001, the Brewery once again started producing beer – organic, of course. The Brewery had a capacity of 20 hl per brew with an annual brewing capacity of around 2,000 hl. As the Brewery became more successful and special beers became increasingly popular in Denmark, in 2005 they opened a new extension with more state-of-the-art brewing and tapping equipment.
Out of respect for the history and soul of the Brewery, the old brewing equipment and malthouse remain untouched, helping to sustain traditional, quality-oriented production. What’s more, the old brewery can be used for the production of small ranges and to assist entrepreneurs who want to try their hand at making their own contract brew.
In 2009, Niels and Nicolai also started producing whisky at Ørbæk Brewery, and in 2017 they founded Nyborg Distillery in Danish State Railway’s disused workshop buildings on the banks of Nyborg Fjord. Today, the products include award-winning organic whisky, gin and rum.
In 2019, Ørbæk Brewery and Nyborg Distillery merged under a single management and became Naturfrisk Group A/S. In addition to the production of soft drinks, beer and spirits, the company also has a small property company, which manages the company’s buildings, Restaurant Remisen at Nyborg Distillery and the two-masted schooner Fionia, which is moored in Svendborg Harbour and used for both internal and external events.
Naturfrisk Group beverages are sold in both on-trade and off-trade in Denmark and abroad.