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Archive for December, 2009

When we complain about the quality of our lagers, other have to make do with less. I stumbled across this when looking for info on some strange beverages I found in a London supermarket:

Consuming rate of the non-alcoholic beer bottles has been increased since new non-alcoholic breweries have entered the market. In the recent years, there has been an outstanding increase in domestic market appeal to non-alcoholic beers -specially the new flavoured ones- which consequently has directly affected the growth rate of using particular bottles for these products.

It’s not so strange. The domestic market in question is the Iranian market. And I can only imagine the punishment if anyone started distributing other types of beer…

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The Financial Times has an article today about the success of the Charles Wells owned John Bull Pub Company in France. It initially ran two pubs to promote the beers it sold wholesale, but has now increased to five with plans to grow to 13 pubs by 2013.

While there are lots of fake British pubs around the globe, the John Bull pubs offer both Bombardier and Director’s on hand pumps.

The Frog chain of brew pubs, with outlets in Paris and other cities, also seem to be doing a roaring trade, with new pubs opening at a steady rate – even if I personally did not like their beers.

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Hygiene problems in brewpubs

While we all like to quote historical anecdotes about beer being safer to drink than water, there are critical factors in brewing as well. I have joked about the big lager breweries who seem obsessed about the technical side of beer, but, on the other hand, if you don’t have the necessary knowledge and focus on quality, you’ll soon be out of business.

The Austrian Health and Food Agency AGES took a closer look at some of the brewpubs in three regions, Upper Austria, Tyrol and Salzburg, and the results are not very encouraging.

Twelve of the 25 samples were had microbiological defects. Two of these samples were also criticized for not having original gravity as claimed.

The twelve samples had various problems: beer-spoiling bacteria, lactic acid bacteria or unwanted yeast.  Two samples  from Upper Austria contained- rather unusual – Escherichia coli, probably due to an unsanitary tap or leaking equipment.

AGES points out three critical factors for brewpubs:

  • Poorly cleaned pipes and tanks, increased risk of infection with internal components (such as flow meters and valves) .
  • The yeast used, which may be purchased or from the brewery’s own production.
  • The dispensing system; compensation valves are complicated constructions and they are heavy and cumbersome to clean.  Poorly cleaned beer lines will over time form a biofilm, which is not easily removed.

I dare say that these problems are not limited to Austria…

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Merry Christmas!

2o cm of fresh snow this morning. All the shopping done, now for some serious cooking. Merry Christmas to all of you, thanks for making 2009 such a great beer year. Nice to meet so many in person, hope to see even more next year.

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According to the Norwegian delegation to the European Union, who refers to the subscription web site Europolitics, the ban on bottles containing more than 100 ml of liquids will be prolonged. 

Current legislation has a ban until 29 April next year, but, according to a draft presented by the Commission to the Council earlier this month, it will be prolonged until April 2013. By then they hope to have developed scanning machines allowing liquids on board, be it beer, shaving foam or water. 

But I would not be holding my breath. Bubble wrap will probably be a life long companion. 

This is obviously an issue the Commission doesn’t wants any fuss about. I love the Europolitics wording: 

It is with the utmost discretion that the European Commission presented to the Council of Ministers, on 2 December, a draft regulation…. 

To drink here or to take away?

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Once, back in my student days, I worked the whole month of December at a bookshop in my old home town Trondheim. It was a busy period,at the time I think almost half their yearly turnover of general books was sold in December.

Christmas eve is the big day for family celebrations here in Scandinavia with most people taking the day off preparing their lutefisk, pork ribs or what have you. The shops are open for some hours in the morning.

We were almost ready to lock up on Christmas eve, when a man came running into the store at five minutes to one. He made a circuit of the table of best sellers, picking about ten of them and carried them over to the counter.

Could you wrap them up, please?

It is not quite that late, but I have a late recommendation for my Norwegian readers. If you have a young person – 18 to 20 – your need a present for, Gustav Jørgensen’s Verdens klassiske øltyper is the book to buy.

Gustav systematically goes through all the major beer styles, gives a historical background, gives examples of the style with an emphasis on beers available in Norway and makes excellent proposals for beer and food pairings.

If anyone wants to start beer tastings with family and friends, this is also a handy tome, giving a systematical approach and suggesting beer you can actually get, not only dream about.

And, just to make it clear, I know Gustav, and have a beer with him once in a while. But I would not praise a book I didn’t like!

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I wrote recently about the ranking of Swedish Christmas beers done by one of the country’s major dailies, and I was a bit puzzled that the standard industrial brews were rated very highly.

A good alternative, at least one that corresponds far better with my taste, is the beer test by Svenska Ölfrämjandet (sure, I’ll buy you a beer if you can pronounce that!), the national beer consumers association.

On top Oppigård Winter Ale. Number two Sigtuna Midvinternattens Mörker and number three Sigtuna Snowblind. Also close tot he top of the list are top breweries like Nils Oscar, Nynäshamn and Dugges.

The two Sigtuna beers were among the most pleasant surprises of the year for me – I’ll get back to that with a year in review post.

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