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Archive for June, 2012

There has been some discussion about beer innovation lately – today I’ll focus on the opposite, the celebration of beer heritage.

The border region including the Austrian Mühlviertel, the Czech South Bohemia and the German Lower Bavaria  wants to be a lighthouse for beer tourism, according to Genuss Bier. (You are about as far away from the sea as you are likely to get in Europe, so I assume lighthouses are few and far between there..)

The capital of South Bohemia is České Budějovice, better known as Budweis, which shows that their brewing credentials go way back.

The project has a budget of almost a million Euro, most of which come from EU funding (And Norway is most likely a proud sponsor).

There are four elements to be established by mid-2014:

• the establishment of a Beer Academy

• a quality offensive for hotels and restaurants 

• the establishment of a beer fair covering the whole region
• a common marketing of the BeerWorldRegion.

I applaud this for various reasons. There is, obviously, the beer part of it all. The promotion of beer tourism rooted in local traditions and linked with local culture is an end in itself.

On the other hand, have a look at the map. This is a region that today will look idyllic with its fields and forests, towns and castles. But it is also a region that has seen more than its share of war and conflict . The Iron Curtain ran right through this part of the continent, but that is just the culmination of a thousand years of strife.

There are many ways of stimulating the bonds between neighbours that have been separated by political forces. I can hardly think of a more pleasant way of doing this than by beer.

The reason that this struck a chord is probably that I am currently reading  the book Microcosm, a history of the Central European city today known as Wroclaw, recommended by Boak and Bailey in an earlier discussion.

Freshening up my German is rising towards the top of my to do list.

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There are speedy ways of getting to your destination, this usually involves a plane plus various means of transit at either end.  There are cheap ways of getting around, in Scandinavia this would often mean an express bus. Not very comfortable, at least not if this lasts for many hours.

Then there are comfortable ways.

The Oslo-Copenhagen ferry is one of them.

While the ferries to Jutland are basic no-frills transportation with some excessive drinking thrown in, this route is more civilized, at least if you avoid the Christmas season. It’s been some years since my last voyage, and I was pleasantly surprised.

There are two ferries on the route, both departing in the afternoon and arriving just before ten in the morning. The cabins are standard size, but the beds are comfortable. The food is good, even the buffet restaurant, which often is the option for bulk eating rather than finesse, had a fine range of delicacies.

That’s the praise.

But there is room for improvement.

They could have a better beer range.

Apart from the usual Carlsberg stuff in bottles and cans, there are quite a few beers from the Skands brewery. Lagers, stouts, and IPA, an abbey ale. Looks good, but, frankly, these are too boring.

My proposal: Add beers from one or two of the more prolific Danish and Norwegian breweries. I would suggest Ægir from Norway and Hornbeer or Amager from Denmark. The Skands beers are fine for the unexperienced palate, but give us something a bit more challenging.

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There are many pubs and bars that do a brisk trade during the winter months, but are more or less deserted during the winter. Even if the beer range may be limited, we tend to seek out beer gardens or other outdoor watering holes when weather or temperature permits. The vaulted cellars are more appealing when there is a need for a warm fireplace in the corner.

A charming place to have a beer or two is the courtyard at BrewPub Copenhagen, just a few feet away from the busy streets filled with locals and tourists. Large parasols shield you from the sun if you wish, and they are sturdy enough to cope with a rain shower as well. Painted walls that remind you of Italian palaces.

I have eaten here on several occasions, and their lunchtime dishes are great. A bit pricey, sure, but you get real quality for your money. There is a good list of bottled beers to choose from, too, right now with lighter summer brews.

Their home brews are a bit hit and miss, with rather mundane examples of Weisse and pilsener and ales which are very moderately hopped. The beers are not bad, but they are not up to the general standard you expect in what has become a major beer destination.

Right now, there is an exception. The Roadster XK 50 barley wine.

Hazy brown, thin head, lazy carbonation. Loads of maltiness, generous amount of hops to balance. Some warming alcohol, true to style sweetness that does not get too sticky. And the plate of ripe cheeses with nuts and olives was a match made in heaven. I believe this beer is on sale for a limited time, well worth seeking out if you are in town.

Note that they are closed on Sundays.

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I did not set up a list of favourites from the Copenhagen Beer Celebration, even though both the 20 year old sour ale from de Struise and the spontaneous blueberry from Mikkeller were standouts.

In the weeks after the events, I have particularly enjoyed two beers.

RyeKing from the Copenhagen brewery Amager Bryghus was one of the beers I picked up at Ølbutikken. It has an intense flavour of liquorice and liquid sour Russian rye bread, a little salt and a deep bitterness. There is a malty body that is able to cope with all of this and balance it in a strange way.

Charcoal in the dry finish. Mouth-watering, and a great candidate for further barrel aging.

The other one has mixed origins. Italian Gypsy brewery Revelation Cat brew their lambics in Belgium and then transport them to Italy for aging and blending. Their Islay lambic has a clean whisky aroma, and when you sip you find a lovely lambic laced with peaty smoke. Exciting – I won’t claim that his is a major trend for beer in 2012 (though I told you barrel aging would be the Big Thing), but this certainly shows that there still are new roads to explore. Nice sour tail and a smoke flavour I haven’t really felt since my last packet of John Player’s Special several decades ago.

Available at Schouskjelleren, Oslo, right now,  I’m sure it will also pop up in London, Copenhagen and Rome.

Revelation Cat Islay

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At least not if you cannot be bothered to send me one.

Now, go back to your Marketing in Social Media for Beginners class. You are interrupting serious drinking.

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