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Archive for December, 2008

Christmas reading

It is still Christmas, and if you haven’t read the Beer Nuts wonderful tale  of shame and redemption, it’s about time.

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I will not do any lengthy “year in review” posts, just a few subjective highlights of the beer year, starting here in Norway.

  • Inderøy Gårdsbryggeri have established themselves. They cater for the local market, so their beers are hard to find, but they are definitely worth tracking down.
  • Some of us finally managed to visit Lillehammer Bryggeri, and had a very warm welcome and some splendid beers. Their brews are also only to be found locally.
  • We have visited Haandbryggeriet in Drammen several times, and have had very good discussions with them. Their Rodenback-style Haandbakk has established itself as one of my favourites, but it is not easy to find, either. Look forward to some outstanding brews from them in 2009, they should be available in North America and other export markets, too.
  • Splendid new beers from Ægir and Nøgne ø, too. There are new micros establishing themselves around the country, so there will be. I’m happy to say that the distribution of craft beer has taken large steps this year, and I think the increased visibility in the bar/restaurant market will pay off.

I have a few hopes for 2009:

  • That the legislative work in progress on allowing private import of alcohol will speed up a bit
  • That the government Vinmonopolet stores will start taking beer seriously
  • That there will be adjustments to current regulations making it possible for beer and cider makers to sell their brews to visitors on a limited scale.

I’m afraid none of this will happen.

But I think the range of beers available in bars will continue to increase, expect Carlsberg to enter the high end of the market with imports via their House of Beer concept.

Lillehammer brews

Lillehammer brews

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The new beer year looks promising already. The Mikkeller/BrewDog collaboration will be available – a 12.5% barley wine called Devine Rebel.

Here is the draft label (from the BrewDog blog):

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Sometimes the conveyor belt at the airport seems to be filled with suitcases just like yours. And, admit it, despite the new glasses you are unable to spot the nuances ten meters away.

There are solutions. Retro style stickers that declare your interest in faraway places. Multi-colored string attached to the handle. Buying a suitcase in a day-glow color.

Or you can get your luggage ID handle wrap, showing your preference for your favourite tipple. If we buy enough of those, maybe they will feature various types of beer, too.

On the other hand, this will probably not be the thing to make your bag stand out from the crowd if you are flying to or from Munich during the autumn. But they have other designs.

A Swiss flag showing you’re neutral, a Norwegian flag showing you’re rich or an Icelandic flag to show you’re bankrupt. Or maybe a skull and crossbones?

 

I found the wraps via the Another passport stamp blog.

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Merry Christmas!

I will be summing up the year later, for now I am running around like a Duracell rabbit. The presents are sent off in all directions, the tree is bought, the pork and turkey and salmon has forced the beers out of the fridge. I see that we still need coffee, milk, carrots and some other bits and pieces, so I’m off again.

I think I have enough beer to get thorugh the holidays, including some Dark Horizon 2, which I really look forward to.

Merry Christmas to all the readers of this blog, thanks for all the feedback, both on the site and though e-mails and even personal meet ups during the year.

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My kind of town

The English town Melton has a novel idea for getting men to do their shopping in the town centre. According to the BBC, the Leicestershire town has offered men a free pint if they do their shopping on its high street. It looks like  you get a voucher in each shop where you buy somethng, so I think this could turn into a quite merry evening.

Before you pack your bags, this offer was only valid on Friday.

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Sad news on the Norwegian scene – the brewing side of  the business at Møllebyen Mikrobryggeri in Moss is closing down. Some time after Christmas, the house brews will be replaced by the usual range from the Antichrist the major player on the Scandinavian field.

I don’t think they have been losing money, but the owners have decided to close down the brewing for economic reasons.

Brewer David has been doing a good job there for several years. The customers have been fairly conservative, so most of the turnover has been lagers and wheat beers, but there have been very tasty seasonals and one offs, and it is sad to see the place go.

It might be that Moss is a bit small to host a brewpub, but there is certainly room for one in Oslo. And David has a good CV, he has been working in various breweries both there in Norway and in the US. Some of you met him at the festival in Copenhagen in September.

But if you want to sample his beers at Møllebyen, you’ll have to head down to Moss as soon as you can. Maybe we should arrange an excursion to make a proper event of it.

David showing how its done at Møllebyen

David showing how it's done at Møllebyen

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TANSTAAFL

The Morning Advertiser informs me that a pub in Wiltshire, England, is giving away free food and drinks to customers.

The owners of The Roebuck Inn at Marlborough, Wiltshire, will be declaring dinner for all customers on the house at least once a month.

Licensee David Barrone : “The eat and drink free night will be a regular feature. Obviously we’re not going to be telling people the date of each event, but if they come to us for a meal on any Monday to Saturday evening, there’s a chance you’ll be dining free.

“Every pub and restaurant is running offers because of the economic climate, but as far as we know we are the only place in the country doing this.”

 

It could, possibly, be because it is a pretty shaky business plan…..

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Lots of non-beery things going on in the run up to the holidays, there are trees to be bought, cards to be sent, dinners to be planned, end of term events at school and at work. And it is pitch dark, just above freezing with a drizzle of rain, meaning it hardly gets light even at midday. Time to pick up the latest Rankin book and a decent beer when the day is done.

There are some nice side effects of being a blogger, too. (No, there are still too few breweries sending me beer!) I was contacted aboutattending a beer event in Romania, aiming at educating the country’s journalists about beer styles, beer tasting and beer history.  Too bad I don’t have time for activities like that – I have a day job and a family. I was very happy to help out when one of the mid sized US craft breweries asked me to point them in the right direction to find a Norwegian importer recently. I hope this can lead to something, as soon as there are concrete results I will let you know.

As I told you recently, the beer scene here in Norway is generally improving. I popped into Bar & Cigar last night, and it is very nice to see the Nøgne ø industrial chic beer engine on the counter and their porter available on tap. In addition they have the Haandbryggeriet Ardenne Blond on cask, which is a rare treat hereabouts. It’s been on for quite some time and it is probably past its prime, but it still has a wonderful hoppy aroma and the flavour is far better than any alternatives on tap around town.
Ole Gunnar, who is running the bar, is very pleased with the new beer range. He is rotating keg beers from Nøgne ø, one 40 litre keg sold out in two days.
Nøgen ø is now distributing keg beer to a number of bars in Oslo and the rest of the country, so this is really promising. They are switching to disposable 20 litre containers, which makes the logistics much easier and ensures that there will be a new beer on very often.


I talked briefly to a man who has been involved with Vinmonopolets beer range. He was proud that they increased the range from about a dozen in 2002 to 60 in 2006, buthe is not optimistic aboutthe future developments. There is no knowledge or passion for beer in the system, and the corporate leadership all have their background from general retail chains now, with no specialist knowledge about the products they are selling.
There are some new Nøgne ø beers that have yet to find their way into the Vinmonopolet lists, luckily they are now turning up in bars around the country. Recent reports say that Olympen is the best bet of finding those gems in Oslo. The best beer bar in Norway is Cardinal in Stavanger, which I am yet to visit. Both those bars have the new Dugges/Nøgne ø collaboration, which is a beer inspired by the obscure Finnish sahti style. I’ll have to find time to visit Olympen soon!

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Erik at Jerrys

Erik at Jerry's

Frederikshavn, Denmark.

During the summer, this is the gateway to Jutland for ferry-loads of Norwegians and Swedes. Year round it is a destination for those who take the overnight ferry from Oslo, with two hours for shopping – meat and booze mostly.

In this pre-Christmas season, most of the passangers seem to be either sleeping it off or still partying, there are rather few of us who queue up to get off at seven thirty.

We get off and the first stop is the breakfast buffet at Damsgaard supermarket. The shop itself has seen better days, but the cafeteria is still good value for money. Before I sit down with my coffee and rolls, I make a phone call.

There is aa new attraction in town for a beer hound – one of the restaurants has started brewing its own beers. I e-mailed them last week, and the manager gave me his mobile number. They are only open in the evening, but he told me we’ll work something out.

I call, and he tells me he will be in the restaurant in five minutes. This being a small town, so I agree to meet him there.

The door to Jerry’s restaurant is open, and Erik is the man behind the bar. He greets me warmly, and he is pleased that there are people interested in what he is doing. He emphasises that he does not consider himself a brewer. His main beers are not aimed at beer connoisseurs, either. They are simply beers aimed at the pilsener market. The pale ale is rather similar to a pilsener, but the top fermentation means that he can cut down on the conditioning period. The red ale is similar to the Danish Classic style, with some more malty sweetness and a darker color than the pilsener.

The restaurant has been running for 17 years, while the brewing only started this year. He had the big advantage of having an established bar/restaurant and knowing exactly how many thousand liters of beers he sells in a year. This made it possible to set up a more realistic business plan than many others who start both the pub and the brewing at the same time.

So far, he has mainly followed the recipes form the company that delivered the brewing eqipment, Fleck’s Brauhaus Technic in Austria. He tells me they also delivered the equipment to Lillehammer Bryggeri, and when I look them up, I find that they also are behind the Pri Kmeta brewpub in Sofia, which I visited last year.

I addition to the advice from the Austrians, Erik also relies on the advice of an experienced home brewer, who knows how to adjust the settings to get the desired results.

I try both the pale ale and the red ale, and, while not outstanding, they are pleasant beers that can be consumed in quantity. The recipes will be adjusted from the next batch. The pale ale will have a more pronounced hoppiness in the finish, and the red ale will have more body and color.

In addition to the two standard beers, there will also be a rotating seasonal beer , and this will be more experimental. Erik was rightly proud of his Christmas brew, a dark beer at 5.1% ABV with a strong anise aroma. The flavour reveals even more spices, it is brewed with star anise, cardamom, cinnamon and other Christmassy spices. This blend well with the dark beer base, with a malty full body.

I don’t usually taste beers at eight in the mornig, but this was a very pleasant experience. I promise to be back to taste his improved beers the next time I am in town.

There are two boxes with bottled beers on the counter, and I ask if I can buy them to take away. Erik insits on giving them to me as a present, and I won’t argue with that.

Then it is off into the frosty winter morning again, but is doesn’t seem so cold any longer!

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