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Archive for July, 2011

Boxes of beer from breweries are always welcome, and when they are domestic, it means I don’t have to fork out any money for duties and VAT. The package I got the other day was from Lervig Aktiebryggeri in Stavanger.

When Ringnes/Carlsberg closed down their brewery in Stavanger in 2003, this led to lots of local protests – and a new brewery. Initially they focused on varieties of pale lagers, but they have gradually evolved into a more interesting brewery. The four beers I received for review are good examples.

White Dog is their wheat beer, easily recognised bu the bubble gum and lemon in the nose and the hazy yellow color. Not totally a true to type German Hefewisse, it is a bit Belgian, too, a hint of soapy coriander. Very refreshing, a good and honest wheat beer. I hope this will be a regular.

Betty Brown is a brand new beer, a brown ale. The lady on the label is clad in a sou’wester hat, and the beer is, according to the label, the beer to go for in typical wet Norwegian summer weather. It is a deep dark red rather than brown color with a dry cocoa aroma. IT has caramel, burned sugar and dark fruit, a lovely bittersweet flavour. Lots of flavour for its 4.7% ABV, I would not mind being stuck somewhere with Betty Brown while the summer rain pours down. But I think a slightly stronger version could have been even better.

Lucky Dog is an American Pale ale, and the room is filled with lovely hop aroma as you open it. The flavour has a full hoppy character as well. Flowers, some pine, fresh herbal finish. Not extreme in any way, a fine step upwards for a lager drinker. The question is more how to market this to a local public when ads are banned.

The last one is a more serious beer than the others, Konrads’s Stout is an Imperial Stout, a part of their Brewmaster’s Reserve series, which also includes their Winter Ale. The beer is pitch black, with low carbonation. Lovely flavour of tar and old ropes. Smoke, liquorice, coffee, bitter chocolate. A perfect late night tipple, and a serious competitor to similar beers from Nøgne Ø and Ægir.

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Light a candle

No way we will let one madman destroy the qualities we have in the Norwegian society.
But this week is a time for mourning and contemplation. In a small socity most of us know someone closely affected. I actually work in one of the ministries hit by the bomb, butby a stroke of luck i left work early on Friday.

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Pub signs

If you’re dreaming of owning an original English pub sign, you’ve got the chance. Fuller’s are now selling signs from some of their pubs. They don’t come cheap, £ 350 each, but they aren’t mass produced, either.

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Our only excursion during our week in Corfu was a day trip to Corfu town. It is a pleasant place to stroll around, and we ended up at the Old Fortress, with magnificent views of the town and surroundings. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with a lot of history if you want to look into it.

Signs pointed the way to a café, where I was pleasantly surprised by the beer list. Almost fifty beers, lots of Belgian and German imports. The standard Greek pale lagers, but also a good selection of Greek micro beers, including smoked lager and a dunkel from the Craft brewery in Athens and the whole range from the Corfu brewery.

I had the smoked lager from Craft. A fine hoppy lager with a little campfire added. Cereals, long dry finish. And a small glass of the Corfu lager, which was not quite in the same league, but it did its job nicely on a hot day.

Note that this bar/café/restaurant is inside the fortress, which is a museum with limited opening hours.

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Corfu beers

It turned out that the beach bar had two beers from the Corfu brewery, luckily the two most interesting ones. They brew two pale lagers as well, but they do not really stand out among the others on offer – and I don’t think they are meant to, either.

The two dark beers are both 5% British style beers. The Corfu Bitter is slightly hazy brown. Unfiltered and with low carbonation, but there is no residue in the bottle to speak of, either. Caramel and toffee, a little yeast. Moderate bitterness. Pleasant bitterness, though I would have preferred a more liberal use of hops.

When I order a bottle of the Special, the bar maid lights up.

- I prefer this one. It is really fresh!

Sweet malt and grainy body. Glowing amber, slightly hazy. Low carbonation. Fine bitter and aromatic hops, a discreet kiss of yeast.

A wonderful beer, and they seem to take the freshness seriously. The beer was bottled just a few days before I bought it, and it had a best before date only two months later.

By the way, I received a kind invitation to visit the brewery, but it did not fit into my schedule for the week, as it was on the other side of the island. Maybe next time.

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Sign of the times

A week with my family on a sunny Greek island does not include any great expectations for beer hunting. Sure, I know there are micro breweries in Greece, a few of them with very respectable beers. I had even sent off an e-mail to Corfu’s own micro, asking if they could deliver a few sample bottles to my hote, but I had not received any answer.

So I was quite content in sipping a few pints of Alfa and enjoying a can of fairly decent Greek versions of German pilsener. But then I managed to wander a few meters down the beach from the hotel, where there was a very inviting sign.

Maybe there is a God after all. At least a minor Greek one.

Corfu Beer sign

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A week in the sun

Luckily, there were more interesting beers than Mythos to be found. Stay tuned!

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It’s been rather wet around these parts this summer, meaning that the opportunities for outdoor drinking have been somewhat limited. A pity, as there are a few places that really stand out among the hundreds of pubs offering bland lagers and uninteresting food.

Olympen has an outstanding beer selection throughout the year, with Norwegian micros and interesting Danish and British imports. Their terrace is open during the summer months, with a more moderate selection of beers plus a barbecue menu that made me regret I had eaten before I arrived.

Of particular interest among the beers are two fairly strong newcomers from Inderøy Gårdsbryggeri which are only available from a few bars, being too strong to be sold in supermarkets.

Mærrabætt (The Mare’s Bite) is an APA with a very complex and inviting aroma. Strong in-your-face flavour, sharp hops on a foundation of sweet malt. Mint and grass, the hops are sharp enough to cut through the malt like a knife through butter.

Stut (The Bull) is an imperial stout, with a magnificent smoky nose. Deceiving light body. Fennel and soot, some milky coffee, too.

Both of them well worth exploring.

But if you want to enjoy them outdoors, you’d better get there early. It’s  a residential area, so their guests have to move indoors at eight. Sharp.

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There used to be one good pub at Euston station, the Head of Steam, featuring beer from a range of breweries. This was later taken over by Fuller’s, renamed the Doric Arches and the ale range has gradually shrunk. It is probably still the place to go if you want to have a proper meal before or after your journey, and there is nothing wrong with a pint of London Pride.

When it comes to the beer range, you don’t have to go far to find a world class bar. Sure, you can call it a pub if you prefer, but in this tiny building, which looks like an old gatehouse for the station, they have crammed in a range of beers from around the globe that would impress the most spoiled beer drinker, but there is not much to associate with a traditional English boozer.

Dozens of cask and keg beers from breweries like Thornbridge, BrewDog and Otley plus interesting Continental and US beers. And if that isn’t enough, there are fridges full of temptations. The bottles are available for takeaway, too, so your journey does not have to be boring, despite delays.

It is very tiny, but there is seating up some rickety stairs and even some places outside. I went on a Sunday lunchtime when it was blissfully quiet, but I assume this place is packed on weekday evenings.

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Time I summed up my London impressions from last month, right?

In Kentish Town, easily accessible by Tube, though you have to walk for ten minutes if you don’t want to figure out the bus routes, lies a small but charming pub, the Southampton Arms.

Their aim is to sell only beer and ciders from small UK breweries, so you’ll be sure to find something interesting here. A dozen cask ales, almost as many ciders. Keg beers from Camden, too, a pils and a wheat.

It is a small one room pub, with additional seating out back. Laugher and friendly conversation. I did not make a real estimate of how many customers it can seat, but with 30 it would be rather full.

Cash only, no phone, no nonsense. The menu is a range of pork pies and other snacks, though I find the notion of a vegetarian Scotch eggs a bit weird.

On offer when I visited: Thai-Bo, a lemongrass beer from Otley. Hardknott Atomic Narcissus ( a fairly conventional bitter, despite the name), Titanic Last Porter Call and Buxton Black Rock.  There is even a “Suggest an ale” scheme, where you may nominate your favourites.

My favourite of the day was the Dark Star Saison. Fantastic flavour, apricots and oranges, some funky yeast character, dusty hops.

Despite the stiff competetion nowadays, this is firmly in the Top Ten of London pubs. Don’t miss it!

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