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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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Wot? No category for best beer glass?

 

A challenge from Mark at Pencil and Spoon, which really ended up as a personal year end review of sorts. 

I’ve decided to focus on interesting new beers and breweries. Sure, there was amazing stuff from BrewDog, Mikkeller and Nøgne ø this year as well, but the beer scene is far more complex: 

Best UK Draught Beer 

Acorn Lubeski IPA. Never heard of? They have a series of single hop IPAs or, rather premium bitters, and this one showcases Lubeski hops. Smooth base, fine malty body, lovely citrus hoppiness. Lemon and lime. Long dry finish. Obscure enough that it’s not even on their web site, but the Beer Nut can confirm I haven’t just made it up. 

Best UK Bottled Beer 

It must be the Thornbridge St. Petersburg Imperial Russian Stout Highland Whisky Reserve. So massive you’re unable to even tweet the name of the beer. Be sure to grab some bottles of their next release. In the meantime, their Jaipur and Halycon beers are awesome, too. They should have better international distribution, with new brewing facilities I assume they are ready to take over the world. 

Best Overseas Draught Beer: 

Chotěboř 12° Kvasnicová. 

A new Czech brewery with export ambitions. Their bottled beers are great, but their yeast beer is divine.  

Best Overseas Bottled Beer 

Both Christmas beers from Sigtuna Brygghus, Sweden took me by surprise. They are the Scandinavian brewery to watch in 2010. They are a stone’s throw from Arlanda Airport, so it should be possible to fit in a visit… 

Best Overall Beer 

Birrificio del Ducato Nuova Mattina (New Morning) 

Hazy peach color, rocky head. Very Belgian aroma. An explosion of flavour from the first sip. Full malt, sweet and sour, stable and barnyard, Summer flowers, pepper, spearmint, some ashes. Bittersweet finish with some peppery and warming ginger. Their beers are to be found across Europe now, try them all! 

Best Bottle Label or Pump Clip 

Nøgne ø Sunturnbrew 

Best UK Brewery 

BrewDog. 

Best Overseas Brewery  

Just one? I could just say Nøgne ø, but that’s cheating. De Molen? Yes, it must be de Molen. 

Pub/Bar of the Year 

The Football Pub, Rome 

Beer Festival of the Year 

Copenhagen Beer Festival. But I enjoy Pig’s Ear immensely. 

Supermarket of the Year 

I wouldn’t know. The expanded Marks & Spencer range with full information about the beer and their breweries is impressive. 

Independent Retailer of the Year 

beermerchants.com 

Online Retailer of the Year 

A tie: beermerchants.com, birraland.it 

Best Beer Book 

Pete Brown: Hops and Glory 

Best Beer Blog 

That’s tough,eh? If I could pick ten. And some have been praised so much lately its best for their egos if I ignore them.. 

I must say Ron Pattison. Not for the historical records, which are beyond me, but for his descriptions of his days out. As Alan recently observed, he is, at his best, Dickensian. But I must also point to two other expats who have their special angle on the beer scene and the general culture they have settled in – Barry and Max

Best Beer Twitterer 

@thebeernut 

Best Online Interactive Brewery 

BrewDog 

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year 

The Gunmakers. Good, no nonsense food, properly kept pints. 

Next Year I’d Most Like To… 

go to the US and drink beer. East Coast, West Coast, North or South. Not that I’m likely to. On quite another level, I hope to meet as many friendly and generous beer people on both sides of the bar and the mash tun as in 2009. 

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A penguin for Christmas?

If BrewDog have sold out, at the time of writing this, you can still get it at a very decent price from beermerchants. No Utopias style inflation driving prices here. Tell them I sent you.

Update: It seems like they are sold out as well.

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I’m lagging behind a bit on the cronicles of my days in London, so I won’t go into details about my return to the Pig’s Ear festival and the liquids consumed there. English licencing laws (and probably also the practicalities of organising festivals with volunteers) made sure we all had a fairly early evening, which meant I was quite early for my appointment in the Market Porter with John and Ally.

Tom at the Rake

For elevenses I was munching a wild boar pie from one of the mouth-watering stalls in the Borough Market, looking at the beers on display at Utobeer while contemplating if I could squeeze another bottle into my suitcase. John came by, still having some space in his backpack, and bought some nice stuff to take home. I had already had my pick from both the Fuller’s brewery shop and the bottled beer stand at the Pig’s Ear.

The Market Porter is only a few steps away and we almost had the place to ourselves. This place gets packed every evening, and on market days you’ll be lucky to find some space at lunchtime as well.

As far as I can decipher my notes, I had an Acorn Lubeski IPA, a single hop beer with lots of lemon and lime.

A few minutes, Ally appeared and joined us at our table. there were other beer writers coming in as well, including Mark Dredge, still on a cloud from winning the New Media award at the British Guild of Beer Writers the evening before, and Mark Fletcher.

We had some pubs to cover during the day, so we walked on to the Rake, where there were even more beer celebrities, including Melissa Cole. I had a Bear Republic Race 5 IPA, an American beer they available on keg. A seriously grapefruity beer with a crisp finish. My friend Tom, who is the assistant manager of the Rake, had a special treat for me, the BrewDog Nanny State. This barely fermented hop juice drink is way beyond what you expect of a beer, but far out there is an uneasy balance between the mostly unfermented malt and the herbal hops.

Luckily our next stop was a bit further away, giving my palate some time to rest before the next assault.

A short walk to London Bridge station and twenty minutes on the train, then another ten minutes or so by foot. Destination: Greenwich Union. This is the brewery tap of the Meantime brewery,whose reputation is spread far away from the meridian. Time for lunch - I had a very nice rabbit dish. Their London Pale Ale on cask did not get anyone very excited. A large bottle of London Porter to share was much more like it.

By now we were joined by Mark and Mark, who downed their drinks quite a bit faster than us. The next leg of our journey took us via London Bridge to Old Street station, through busy streets and housing estates to a London beer destination I’ve known about for ages but never gotten around to visiting on my own.

This is an old fashioned pub. When I started coming to London there were many of those spread around. Threadbare carpets, cobwebbed bric-a-brac on high shelves, locals who seem to have spent all their waking hours in there for decades. But there is a dwindling number of these pubs. The Magpie and Crown in West London was probably the last one I saw.

But this one is still thriving. In addition to the locals, who made the place quite crowded at about four in the afternoon, this is a beer destination because of its ever rotating range of beers, no ties to any particular brewery here. My notes are getting blurry at this point, but among the beers consumed were Shake, ramble and roll, Looney Tunes and Spearfish.

Westwards again, now by cab, to the Gunmakers, which was by now quite packed with the after work crowd, Jeff being very busy at the bar. One more beer blogger to meet, Woolpack Dave. Beers included Sharp’s Nudelik and Harvieston Haggis. Ron Pattison was propping up the bar, pint in one hand, single malt in the other.

At this time the Fellowship disintegrated, without anyone getting caught by orcs. John had a plane to catch, Ally had left us at the Wenlock for another appointment. There were proposals to go to the Pig’s Ear. I decided to call it a night. I had a morning flight the next day, and there was still the logistics of getting all the beers into the suitcase..

So, to everyone involved, a big thank you. It was so nice to be able to meet up add chat over a few beers – which is what this hobby is really all about. Hope to see you all next eyar!

I am nicking Mark Fletcher’s photo from his post here, as it’s got all of us in it.

Beer Bloogers United

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