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Archive for the ‘barrel aged beer’ Category

 

Man in the Moon

Visting Stockholm a few weeks ago, I had a long list of places on my “maybe” list. It was an oval weekend for many, as it included Ascension day, meaning that some places were closed. I managed, however, to try two bars very close to each other. Together they mirror the diversity of today’s beer scene. Ten years ago, I was overjoyed with a diverse beer list and would overlook everything else. Now there is the option of finding the place that suits you most.

We arrived at the Man in the Moon in Vasastan, to the North of the city center, in the late afternoon. This establishment has the decor of an upmarket English pub, or, rather, gentleman’s club. Leather and wood, lots of lamps in different styles. A large room with plenty of space between the tables. Quiet conversation, polite service.

The menu included a numberof aspargus dishes, as they were in season, we both went for the entrecote with asparagus. Not cheap, but a great meal, cooked to perfection.

The beer list was staggering, the bottled list would have been plenty. But, additionally, they are marking their twentieth anniversary this year. This means a special list of draft beers brewed especially for them from the best of the Scandinavian craft breweries:

Amager Bryghus
Beer Here
Beerbliotek
Brekeriet
CAP
Dugges Ale- och Porterbryggeri
Eskilstuna Ölkultur
Mikkeller
Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri
Nøgne
Stronzo
Ängö Kvartersbryggeri

I had to limit myself to a glass each of the Beerbliotek Double IPA and the Nøgne Ø Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale, no less. The double IPA was good, the Nøgne Ø beer was great.

Across the street: Mikkeller & Friends Stockholm. Welcome to Hipsterville. True to the original concept in squeezing everything into what must have been a tobacconist or another type of shop with a modest need for space. Afternoon was giving way to early evening. the front room was filling up, but there was still seating in the back , where you feel like you are a part of a art installation and graying beer geeks struggle to . The usual blackboard with Mikkeller beers and a few of their collaborators. The house geuze is rebranded as Vasastan Spontanale. The beer is served in small glasses – encouraging the customers to go for quality rather than quantity. Their crowd is young and beautiful.

I have to say that this does not appeal much to me – but then I’m not in their target group, either. That does not mean there is anything wrong with the bar or the concept. This is the flavor of the month, where people in their twenties can brag with their newly acquired knowledge about beer styles. But I don’t think anyone has any illusions about this becoming an institution on the Stockholm beer scene. This is a place that will stay open and popular for a year or two, there is no big investment involved. No kitchen, barely a fridge. They did not even have ice cubes when I asked for a glass of tap water. But the gueze was fine, so was the Omnipollo double IPA.

I think the Man in the Moon will be there for its thirtieth anniversary, too. But for craft beer to continue to grow, there has to be beer spots that appeal to other groups than the grumpy men past fifty. Concepts will come and go. I will look in, have a (small, if that’s the only option) glass of their most interesting beer before I walk on to somewhere else.

But we adapt. London pubs that were gutted and redecorated in Scandinavian pine and large windows seem almost cozy now. We’ll get used to the bare brick, steel and concrete, too. If we don’t get too grumpy.

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When you look at a typical list of Belgian beers, you could be mistaken to think that there is a limited range of styles being repeated over and over again. On one hand, there is a kernel of truth in this, the market does not actually cry out for one more dubbel or tripel. On the other side, the beers most eagerly sought out do not bother too much about following guidelines and conventions for styles and traditions.

De Struise Brouwers are among the rock stars of the European beer scene. They set the tone for the first Copenhagen Beer Celebration with their van filled with lots of good stuff, I do not envy anyone trying to get attention if they have the stand next to them at a beer festival. We were lucky to be able to meet Carlo at the brewery in their old school house in Ostvleteren.

De Struise have the same humble beginnings as most craft brewers. A group of friends started home brewing together in 2001. One of them lived on an ostrich farm, that’s where the name came from. One of them had a family history of home brewing, and they tried to recreate a strong dark beer being brewed by fishermen by the North Sea a century ago.  The result of this is the Pannepot, named after a flat bottomed fishing boat.

Things were going slow until they were contacted by a Dane wanting to try their beers. It turned out he was Jeppe, who was running Ølbutikken in Copenhagen. They started delivering beers to them, which lead to fame around the world.

While experimenting with beers big and strong, there is also a range of more quaffable session beers, they usually  get less attention than their Pannepøts and Black Alberts.

We were able to sample quite a few of their beers during our visit. Most remarkable are their high strength beers, which manage a balanced flavour despite their extreme punch. If you haven’t tried any De Struise beers, it is about time.

Many of their beers are hard to find, but if you are in Bruges, they have their own shop there – probably the easiest way to try a range of their beers. But you won’t regret a visit to the brewery, either.

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Kris Boelens

Three weeks in the barrel

Leaving Brussels behind, it was time to meet our first brewer in the village of Belsele in the Waasland region.

The Boelens family has been brewing since the middle of the Nineteenth century. Our host was Kris Boelens, who took over from his father in 1980. A long history for a brewery in Flanders means large fluctations, with the two world wars brought both destruction of the brewing facilties – the stripping of all the copper – as well as restirctions on raw materials. Boelens was reducet to a distribution company at one point, supplying beer to a number of pubs and cafes in the area.

When Kris took over, he decided to make a new start, but his current brewhouse is still small, the batches are 2500 liters.  The old 500 liter brewery is rented out to those who want to make small batches.

He brews with local city water and gets malt from a maltery just 20 kilometers away.

There is a fairly traditional core range of beers, with a Dubbel and a Tripel, but also two honey beers, one from an old recipe at the brewery.

We were served a special treat, the Tripel Klok that has spent some time in Bruichladdich oak barrels. This has a smoky nose, the whisky blends in very well with the beer without taking total control. The secret? Only three weeks in the barrel.

Kris prefers to work with his core range of styles and not jump on any new bandwagons. As he summed it up:

You can have IPA and IPAPAPAPAPA.

They are open Tuesday-Saturday, check their web site for opening hours. I’m afraid I have no idea about getting there by public transport.

 

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Maturing bottles

For the years to come

On arrival in Brussels, I met most of my fellow travellers at the Cantillion brewery. We were not given any special tour, and I will not  waste your time retelling the information in their brochures. But if your are seriously interested in beer, this is a place you need to visit once. It is a living brewery museum, where lambic, the spontaneously fermented beer of the Brussels region, is brewed the way it used to be. If you want to see the active process, you need to turn up during the winter, as this beer can not be brewed during the warm months. There are open brewing days when you can participate more actively, too. Check their web site for details.

After finishing your trip, taking in the aromas of the beer alchemy taking place in the oak casks, there are two beer samples waiting for you. But there are also some special bottles you are unlikely to find anywhere else. We shared a bottle of the Zwanze 2012 Geuze with rhubarb. A fresh, well-balanced geuze with a hint of sweetness. Some rhubarb in this blend, but, while there is some fruitiness, it is impossible to detect any particular flavour from that.

Since my last visit – about seven years ago, I suppose, they have rearranged the reception area, expanding the shop and adding a sit down bar area. There used to be just a very basic counter and a few empty barrels, now there’s a lot of blond wood and a place where you could actually hang out and sample some beers.

But that was not for us. We had places to go. Many places.

Cantillon glasses

As real as they come

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I had serious ambitions about doing live blogging while in Belgium, but the schedule did not really allow for that. It was only on the plane back that I really felt able to sit down and think through it all. So, yes, there will be some impressions from our brewery visits, less on the beer cafés, a bit about beer tourism and so on.

And to make this perfectly clear once again, I travelled to Belgium with seven other Scandinavian beer writers. We were guests of Visit Flanders, the Flemish tourist promotion office. I am not obliged to praise everything I experienced,  and I will give my honest impressions to the best of my abilities. But it was really an adventure. So stay tuned.

What we saw were contrasts, even among the small scale breweries we visited. The deeply traditional, the passionately local, the exclusively organic, the scientifially based, the beers that came back from the dead and the rock ‘n’ roll brewers that take their show on the road. And these people have stories to tell. Maybe traditional television goes the way of printed newspapers. But I hope someone records the thoughts of the people we met on this trip, it would be another way of protecting the heritage.

A side note: If you want to visit Belgium, do it now. If they had figured out what to do with Brussels, the Belgian state would probably be gone already.

 If you want to see the coverage my colleagues have from the trip, you will find them here:

http://www.portersteken.se/

http://skrubbe.com/

http://www.ofiltrerat.se

http://www.garshol.priv.no/blog/beer

http://www.humleochmalt.blogspot.no/

http://beerticker.dk

www.carstenberthelsensordogtale.dk

 

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A nap on the plane, a coffee on the train, ready for some sponanous fermentation. First stop of the Grand Tour of Belgium: Brasserie Cantillon.

As they say on their web site: A time machine. Back to beers from another age. Saved from extinction by a handful of enthusiasts. A museum, but a living, working museum.

We share a bottle of Swanze 2012, if there were rhubarbs involved in this they are hard to detect now.

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In addition to visiting two lambic breweries, Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen,  our visit to Belgium also incluces a beer festival for hardcore fans of spontanously fermented beers. The Night of The Great Thist takes place in the tiny village of Eizeringen, organized by the Geuze Society. As you can see, there is even an American brewery on the list. But they are owned by Belgians, I believe.

The problem will be how to pick just a few of these in the time available. The preliminary list:

Boon (Lembeek)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Geuze
Geuze Mariage Parfait 2009
Kriek
Oude Kriek
Kriek Mariage Parfait 2009

Geuzestekerij De Cam (Gooik)
Oude kriek

Brouwerij Cantillon (Anderlecht)
Gueuze
Kriek
Vigneronne
Saint-Lamvinus
Rosé de Gambrinus
Lambic Bruocsella

De Troch (Wambeek)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Geuze
Kriek
Framboise

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen (Beersel)
Oude Geuze
Oude Gueuze Vintage
Oude Kriek
Schaarbeekse kriek 2005

Brouwerij Girardin (Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle)
Oude Lambiek
Kriekenlambiek
Gueuze
Kriek
Faro
Framboise

Geuzestekerij Hanssens Artisanaal (Dworp)
Oude gueuze
Oude kriek
Oudbeitje

Hoge Raad voor Ambachtelijke Lambikbieren
HORAL Megablend 2013

Brouwerij Lindemans (Vlezenbeek)
Oude Lambiek
Apple
Faro
Framboise
Kriek
Pêcheresse
Oude Kriek Cuvée Rene
Oude Gueuze Cuvée Rene

Moriau (Sint-Pieters-Leeuw)
Oude Geuze

Brouwerij Mort Subite (Kobbegem)
Oude Gueuze
Oude Kriek Oogst

Brouwerij Oud Beersel (Beersel)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Gueuze
Oude Kriek
Framboise

Gueuzerie Tilquin (Bierghes)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Gueuze
Quetsche

Brouwerij Timmermans (Itterbeek)

Oude Lambiek
Oude Gueuze
Oude Kriek
Geuze
Kriek
Lambicus

Allagash Brewery (Portland, Maine USA)
Coolship Resurgam (assemblage van twee spontane gistingsbieren van twee verschillende jaren)
Coolship Red (bier van spontane gisting waaraan frambozen werden toegevoegd)
Coolship Cerise (bier van spontane gisting waaraan krieken werden toegevoegd)

 

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Belgian flag

I had to rearrange the schedule of my day job this Easter. In Norway, this is serious vacation time. Many take the whole week off, going skiing on the last patches of snow or opening their summer houses for the season.

I’ll be home most of the week. I was supposed to be on duty the week after Easter, but I received an email that made me change my plans.

Visit Flanders, the tourist promotion body for the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, has invited 8 Scandinavian beer writers for a four day visit from 24 April.  Four Swedes, two Danes, two Norwegians.

We will be visiting cafes and restaurants, breweries and beer festivals.

Here are the breweries where we will make a stop:

  • Cantillon
  • Brasserie de la Senne
  • De Halve Maan
  • De Struise Brouwers
  • Brewery 3 Fonteinen
  • Brewery De Kroon
  • Hof Ten Dormaal
  • Domus

 

Full coverage here on the blog, but also on twitter, @KnutAl, and Facebook.

This is a part of what looks like a general push for Belgian beer tourism. The craft beer explosion has swept the globe, but Belgium has the whole range from historical styles saved in the nick of time to daring newcomers pushing the boundaries. In my nine years of beer blogging, I haven’t given Belgium its fair share of coverage – I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to remedy that.

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The Grand Old Man of the Norwegian micro brewers is doing well. But that does not mean that Nøgne Ø slow down their innovation.

Nøgne Ø has been through some tough times during their ten years of existence, but at last they are enjoying the fruit of their labors. They have actually reduced their exports, and no longer have the capacity of brewing for Mikkeller.

This could mean leaning back a bit, concentrating on their core of commercial successes. But that would not be Nøgne Ø.

There is a steady trickle of new beers arriving on the market now, I got some samples recently which really show the range they are operating in.

Well, one of them is not brewed at Nøgne Ø, it is a collaboration between them and the Saint-Germain brewery in France. The Rhub’IPA is brewed with rhubarb, a frist one for me. Incredible floral and fruity nose. Hazy yellow, do not go for this because of the looks. Light beer base, wonderful rhubarb flavour, refreshing.

Horizon Tokyo Black is another collaboration, this time with BrewDog and Mikkeller. An imperial stout based on their extreme beers with the same names, this one is many steps removed from your everyday session beer. Black, some fizz when you open, then an oily feel. Very inviting complex aroma, tar, treacle, wood, smoke and coffee. Warming alcohol. Somehow, they have managed to make a bittersweet balance, this is drinkable and not overpowering. But it is to be taken seriously.
The Kriek of Telemark is a sour beer with sour cherries from the county of Telemark. It pours a glowing read with a pink head. Sour and sweet aroma, lovely fresh cherry favour.

Almonds, cherries, it balances on the fine line between fruity and sour. The fresh cherry juice comes through in an amazing way. There is much to be said about the aged krieks of Belgium – but this interpretation has really won me over. I find it hard to believe that this will improve with time.

To celebrate the brewing of batch # 1000, they have brewed not one, but two beers.
Both with 10 percent alcohol, both brewed with spices. The beers are sold in sets of two, meaning you get a lovely little box including #1000 and #1001, both inspired by One Thousand and One Nights.

#1000 has a warm, spicy nose. It is dark gold, and has lazy bubbles. Cinnamon and ginger. Apricots and sweet apples. Sweet, but well-balanced, mature. The alcohol is well hidden. Elegant, but it lacks a wow factor. It leaves a dry mouth feel, probably a combination of the spices and hops.

#1001, though, is the one they need to launch on its own. Dark, soft, inviting. Cinnamon, cardamom, feels like the Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout as a starting point, with some extra sweetness this is a splendid host for the spices. Coffee, molasses, tar, oreo biscuits, To be served at midnight by the fire with some home-made gingerbread.

Not enough?

This year’s Christmas beers have been released, too.

For the record, I bought the rhubarb IPA myself, the other beers I got from the brewery.

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The city where I was born and grew up, Trondheim, has lagged behind when it comes to beer. The scene is dominated by Carlsberg subsidiary E.C. Dahls bryggeri, and they have not shown any signs of innovation for decades (if ever?). I am happy to report that things are rapidly changing.

There is an annual food festival in Trondheim at the beginning of August, showcasing regional produce, including fish and game, fruit and vegetables, cheeses and preserves. I have blogged briefly about this before, suggesting that beer should be included as a part of the festival. A few of the micro breweries in the region are brewed on farms, so they fit very well in, and they are finding their way into some of the stalls, both Inderøy and Klostergården beers are to be found in the main festival area.

New this year is a separate beer festival, Trondheim Bryggerifestival. In a separate tent and with a 100 kroner entrance fee, you get to sample a fine range of beers, most of them Norwegian. Nøgne Ø, Haandbryggeriet, Ægir and Kinn are there, so you get the best of the established national craft breweries. But there are two others that merit special attention.

I blogged about Klostergården Håndbryggeri after my visit there in May. They have brought along a splendid range of brews for the festival, from a highly refreshing summer beer at 4.5% ABV to a barley wine aged in bourbon barrels at 12.5%. My current favourite among Norwegian breweries.

There is also a brand new micro in Trondheim, who will have national distribution from the very start. Austmann Bryggeri go for sessionable beers with a moderate alcohol level. They had two different saisons and a brown ale on tap yesterday, all very respectable.

The festival is staffed by volunteers, but several of the breweries are presnt, giving talks and hanging out to talk to the drinkers.

Some minor details could be adjusted. I’d like a souvernir glass instead of plastic samples, and a full beer list with descriptions would also be welcome. But the important thing is that the festival is there to promote craft beer in the region, I hope they draw enogh people to make this an annual event.

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