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Archive for December, 2012

A long break for Christmas this year. A week in the snowy Norwegian mountains with skiing, food and family. Playing cards, reading books, reaching a consensus on what dvds to watch.

It’s been an autumn of learning, as I’ve told you, I have been following a German course at the Goethe Institut here in Oslo. I’m quite pleased with the results. Sure, I could have worked a lot harder with my grammar, but my general command of the language has never been better. Enthusiastic and cheerful follow pupils - Studenten is reserved for more formal higher education, we are told by our charming teacher Katharina from South Tyrol.

But this means that I have to avoid this new found knowledge slipping away again. There are some vague plans of spending more time in Germany, but closer to home, I try to read more German. The weekly newspaper Die Zeit is delivering what the English Sunday papers used to do – a good read.

I found two articles in the Christmas issue particularly interesting.

Deutschland al dente is about changing food habits, based on the publication Fremdes Essen by historian Maren Möhring. The foreign food in question is the food the migrant workers brought with them when they came looking for jobs in the fast growing Federal Republic of Germany, rising from the ashes of WWII. The came from Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia and Turkey and established pizzerias, tavernas, kebab shops and grill kiosks. What fascinates me is the time scale here, the snack food we now consider global did not really start spreading beyond their countries of origin until the seventies and eighties, when restrictions on setting up small scale eateries were lifted. Before that, the Italians living in Germany had to go to the pharmacy to buy their olive oil..

It is also interesting to note that most of these migrating dishes are not invited into the setting of more formal dining. Sure, there are upmarket Italian restaurants in Germany (and the rest of Europe) now, but the food of the Balkans is still regarded as street food. In Germany that usually means buying your food and beer from a kiosk and eating it standing up at an outside table.

The story is not, however, exclusively a matter of food finding its way from the South to the North. There is an element of there-and-back-again as well. Until the middle of the fifties, there were only ten pizzerias in Italy outside Naples. The transition from Neapolitan to Italian happened in Germany. And as the number of German tourists in Italy grew during the sixties, the pizzerias spread across Italy.

This is a scientific publication, but I hope a more popular (and cheaper) book is in the making. But food migration is obviously important in other countries, too. The melting pots of North America have their tales to tell. The curry lanes of Britain and the fierce  piri-piri chicken in Portugal, too. Not to mention how the cold and skeptical Scandinavians have turned down our herring and potatoes for factory processed versions of what we believe is Mediterranean cuisine.

The other article is about beer. Well, it’s not beer writing at all. It’s about beer in a particular setting, a universe away from our everyday tasting notes. The comprehensive article covers the fate of the Christian churches in the historical heartland of the religion. The Coptic church in Egypt, the Aramean church in Turkey – and the last Christian town in Palestine. This village is home to the Taybeh Brewery, which has won international fame as one of the most exotic brews on the planet. But  the brewer is also the mayor of the town, and the future is uncertain, squeezed between Jewish settlers and islamists, with the support of the governing party Fatah but with the fear that their rival Hamas will come to power.

- Our beer is resistance with peaceful means, says brewer David Canaan Khoury. That’s a bit more than most of his colleagues around the globe can claim.

As I wish all of my readers a happy new year, I raise my glass to David Canaan Khoury.

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It has certainly not been the most productive of years at the blog. The beer scene is more vibrant than ever, it’s really me being busy elsewhere. But I thought it appropriate to share a few world, as we seem to have survived yet another solstice.

The number of breweries in Norway is almost at the same level as it was in the last golden age a century ago – except this time around they don’t all go for the same German lager styles. As I have started to document in my series of presentations of Norwegian micros, there is a diversity out there that makes it even more fun to observe.

The question is, of course, is this sustainable? Denmark is a few years ahead of us, and they have seen some bankruptcies in the sector. Can we expect the same?

There are some major differences between us, making me a cautious optimist. Many of the new breweries are brewpubs, supplying one or a very few pubs and restaurants. This means no bottling plant, no capital tied up in bottled beers in shops up and down the land, the opportunity of tweaking and adjusting the recipes to get the right beer. This also means that brewing is often a part-time activity, you don’t have to find room for a full salary. On the other hand, the driving force here is often pure enthusiasm, and this may wear thin over time.

Others bottle their beers, aiming for local or national distribution. This may work out well for a year or two. The supermarkets in Norway are concentrated in four groups, and as long as beer is trendy, there are opportunities. But this depends on sales, if they do not live up to expectations, the shelf space will be given back to Carlsberg and Corona. It is partly a question of price, there are limits to what people are willing to pay for a beer at 4.7%ABV.

The Vinmonopolet stores have a huge increase in beer sales,  and some of them now have a very good range. The seasonal Christmas beers were sold out in record time this year. There are a number of importers trying to cash in on the opportunity, but I don’t think all of them will be successful. There are splendid beers to be had – but there are also far too many overpriced Italian clones of standard beer styles not worth a premium price.

The new brewpubs in Oslo are to be applauded for not sticking to their own beer, but also offering the best domestic and import beers they can lay their hands on. I travel far less than I used to – but I can get some of the best beers on the planet close to home.

I have stocked up a few bottles for the holidays, and will be taking a long break in the Norwegian mountains with my family. Skiing, cooking, reading, playing cards.  Merry Christmas to all of you!

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P1020915

(English summary at the end)

Det luktet fremdeles maling, og håndverkerne var ikke helt ute av lokalene da Crowbar, nok en bryggeripub i Oslo, hadde snikåpning en ukes tid før jul. Det gjenstår med andre ord en del arbeid, men det gjelder særlig andre etasje, der det blir matservering.

Hoveddelen av dette utestedet, inkludert bryggeri og lagringstanker, er på plass, og det var også de første tre egne bryggene. Brygger Dave Gardonio, som har erfaring blant annet fra Ægir, ønsker først og fremst å brygge balanserte og velsmakende øl, og ser det ikke som et mål i seg selv å være i den ekstreme enden av noen skala. Det brygges 500 liters batcher, men han er redd kapasisteten kan bli for knapp allerede fra begynnelsen.

Som sagt tre egne øl for salg:

Crow’s Scream Ale, en cream ale på 4.7% er velbalansert med en nøtteaktig smak og fin tørr ettersmak.

Santa Crows er en maltrik amber ale med finstemte kryddertoner, den holder også 4,7%

Den mest spennende av de tre premiereølene var Karasu, en meget behagelig stout som er tilsatt litt wasabi, som gir den litt ekstra spiss som kler den svært godt. Den er litt sterkere enn de to andre, og  var absolutt et øl å komme tilbake til.

Men man trenger ikke holde seg til det som er brygget på stedet, det er 20 kraner på plass med spennende øl, stort sett nordiske. Nøgne Ø, Evil Twin, Mikkeller, Huvila og Håndbryggeriet var på tavlen. I tillegg er det også et spennende flaskeutvalg.

Beliggenheten er glimrende, i Torggata 32, noen få minutters gange fra Schouskjelleren eller Mathallen. Offisiell åpning rett over nyttår.

Yet another brewpub in Oslo, Crowbar.  Official opening in January, but it opened for a sneek peek this week. Canadian brewer Dave Gardonio is recruited from Ægir, and wants to go for honest and well balanced beers. Three of their own beers on tap, with more to come – and a dozen selected Scandinavian beers on tap as well. Bright and airy, and there is a patio at the back for the summer months as well. Very conveniently situated for a pub crawl.

P1020919

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