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Archive for the ‘beer festivals’ Category

There’s a room in a house in a street in a manor in a borough
That’s part of a city that is generally referred to as London
It’s a dark place, a mysterious place
And it is said that if you’re born within the sound of Bow-Bells
You have the necessary qualifications to be christened a Londoner
[It's a cruel place, it's a hard place]
But when you think back to all the great Londoners
William Blake, Charles Dickens, Dick Whittington,
Pearly kings, barrow boys, Arthur Daley, Max Wall
And don’t forget the Kray twins.

Ray Davies –London Song

I make no claim to have the necessary qualifications to be christened a Londoner. But I used to visit London at least annually.

A week every year.

For decades.

I explored the city. On foot, by bus, by tube. I went on guided walks, I bought guidebooks.

I explored the pubs in number of boroughs, usually sticking to Young’s Special or Fuller’s London Pride.

But times changed. There were pubs with a broader range of beers. There were beer festivals. Utobeer and the Rake offered exiting American import beers. BrewDog entered the scene. Young’s disappeared.

The last four years I have only visited once. I have tried to follow the developments, but I cannot claim to have my finger on the beer pulse of London the way I used to.

Time to do something about that. Time for a pre-Christmas visit. In particular, it is time to get so know some of the dozens of new London breweries that have emerge over the last few years. Many of them are clustered in East London. Hackney seems like the centre of gravity right now. And my research shows that on the weekend I am in town, there are two events in the area worth visiting in addition to breweries, pubs and brewpubs.

There are four of us from Oslo going to London for an oval weekend. The other three have more knowledge of beer and brewing than I do. But I know a thing or two about advance planning.

We are talking Friday 6 December, starting at lunchtime. Anyone is welcome to join, get in touch about more exact timing.

Start: Old Street Tube Station.

Or Shoreditch High Street, if that’s more convenient.

There used to be a rather good beer shop around here some years ago, carrying the Pitfield range of beers brewed to classic English recipes. That’s history.

But we have a good alternative. The first stop is a something really special. A pop up beer shop.

The Wanstead Tap is a moveable feast,  selling beers at festivals, farmer’s markets and other event. It  has settled for two weeks in 87 Leonard Street in Shoretditch.

As far as I can understand, the concept is simple: Bottled beers from the London breweries. According to the East London and West Sussex Guardian, this is a case of true love for beer: A father of two has given up a successful career in television to dedicate his time to promoting beers brewed locally. I have already asked him to reserve something specialfor me. Have a look at the Facebook page if you are looking for something out of the ordinary..

I haven’t been to any of the BrewDog bars yet, and BrewDog Shoreditch is just up the road. 51 Bethnal Green Road. Maybe a swift one? www.brewdog.com

 

The question is if the Redchuch Brewery on 275-276 Poyser Street is worth a detour? I may be convinced. On the other hand, their beers might be available later in the day, too.

I think we will jump on a bus going north. Just before the road crosses the Regent’s Canal, the first brewery of the day is Hackney Brewery, just to the left. in Laburnum St. They don’t seem to be open to the public, but I have e-mailed them.

The next stop is across the Canal. It used to be the home of Beawertown Brewery, but they have moved on. But Duke’s Brew and Que is still the brewery tap. And, dangerously, they have around ten of their beers on keg or cask. Not to mention bottles.

I think I’ll have a Bloody ‘Ell Blood Orange IPA.  

Adress: 33 Downham Road, De Beauvoir Town

After this it is probably sensible that we strech our legs, and our next target seems to be about a kilometre due east. Perhaps we will walk along the towpath.

London Fields Brewery has a core range of session beers and more challenging stuff in their Bootlegger Series.
The brewery and brewery tap: 365-366 Warburton Street. Gift packs of beers to take away are available.

If the weather and overall condition is up to it, we can continue walking. The alternative is to get on a bus along Mare Street towards Central Hackney.

Pressure Drop Brewing is located in a railway arch, but don’t have a brewery tap. I think we’ll have a fair chance of sampling some of their beers in the Cock Tavern, which I seem to recall as a rather grim establishment in its previous incarnation, but presumably gentrified along with the rest of the area. According to the Craft Beer App, there are chances of us finding beers from the otherwise elusive Happy Collie brewery from West London there. And, conveniently, the Cock Tavern has its very own Howling Hops Brewery at the premises. 315 Mare Street.

Just a few minutes away, Five Points Brewing is close to London Fields station. I thought I would e-mail them to ask them if they want visitors. But I don’t think we will be up to a serious presentation of a brewery at this stage.

It’s dark by now. But the Pembury Tavern, across the street, is like a beacon. It is actually the only stop on the route that I have visited before. 16 hand pumps, including a fine range from the Milton brewery. 90 Armhurst Road.

The sensible thing now is to return to wherever we came from. Eat some junk food and go to sleep. But there is a beer festival. The City and East End CAMRA Pig’s Ear Festival. With lots of one off beers from London breweries. It’s in an old chapel (!) in Powerscroft Road. Lots of friendly natives. Come on. Just for a pint?

London Beers listed for the festival include brews from

  • Beavertown
  • Belleville
  • Brew by Numbers
  • Brew Wharf
  • Brodies
  • By the Horns
  • Clarkshaw’s
  • Crate
  • East London
  • Five Points
  • Fourpure
  • Hackney
  • Howling Hops,
  • Kernel
  • London Brewing
  • London Fields
  • Moncada
  • Partizan
  • Pressure Drop
  • Redchurch
  • Redemption
  • Strawman
  • Tap East
  • Truman’s
  • Weird Beard
  • White Hart
  • Wild Card.

That makes 27. And, while there is no way to know which beers are on at any given time, there should be enough for even the most enthusiastic ticker.

Even the affectingly mentioned Pitfield from the beginning of this ramble is listed with a few beers. They have made festival one offs for Pig’s Ear for many years, now they are being brewed somewhere in the countryside.

The festival will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, which advocates the use of wooden barrels as part of British beer heritage.  Several wooden casks will be featured, including a one-off anniversary special 7% classic Red Ale brewed by award-winning Cambridge Moonshine Brewery.

There is food available at a number of the pubs on the route, I suppose we will be snacking along the way rather than sitting down for a proper meal. Scotch eggs, crisps and beer cover most of the basic food groups.

 

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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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I haven’t been blogging much lately, and I have even skipped the major beer festivals in Norway and Denmark in May. Well, there are lots of others chronicling what is going on.

I guess it is very much a matter of inspiration – and a question of life outside of the beer blogosphere.

Anyway.

As I’ve told you, I took a course in German at the Goethe Intitut here in Oslo last year. This was very inspiring, and I will probably be doing more courses on a more advanced level in the future. But it is also a matter of practicing the language. Sue, I can do oval weekends in Hamburg or Frankfurt, becoming very proficient in ordering Scnitzel and Apfelwein. But I could also be more daring.

I work in the communications department of a major hospital in Oslo, and I asked my boss if I could approach a similar hospital in Germany and ask to do a few weeks’ internship. This was approved, and my e-mail to a university hospital in Munich got a prompt and positive answer.

I am sure the days will be busy enough, trying to keep up with what is happening around me. But there will hopefully be some mellow evenings and ample opportunities to sample the local brews. I hope to get out of Munich and see some of the nearby cities and countryside, too.

So I’ve been researching a bit, showing that there are some hidden gems besides the famous attractions. There are tiny family run inns with their own brewery if you look closely enough, even if they tend to be overshadowed by the giants of Lövenbräu, Hofbräuhaus and the others. So, I send out e-mails in awkward German and try to figure out bicycle paths and suburban train maps.

There is only one problem. As I’ve said before – It’s not the beer, it’s the water:

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The lineup for this year’s event in Drammen (30 minutes from Oslo) is more or less ready.

This year it takes place on Friday, May 24 (16-22) and  Saturday, May 25,  (12-22).

Confirmed participants so far:

  • Aass Bryggeri (N)
  • Bierbrouwerij Emelisse (NL) @Rest_emelisse
  • Birrificio Toccalmatto (IT) @Toccalmatto
  • Brouwerij de Molen (NL) @molenbier
  • De Struise Brouwers (B)
  • Haand (N)
  • Lervig Aktiebryggeri (N)
  • LoverBeer (IT) @LoverBeerBrewer
  • Magic Rock (UK) @MagicRockBrewCo
  • Monks, Stockholm (SE) @Monksevent
  • Naparbier (ES) @Naparbier
  • Närke Kulturbryggeri (SE)
  • Partizan (UK) @partizanbrewing
  • Picobrouwerij Alvinne (B) @alvinnebeer
  • S:t Eriks Bryggeri (SE)
  • Ægir Bryggeri (N)

I particularly look forward to the return of Magic Rock, the new London brewery Partizan and Lervig from Stavanger, Norway. Not to mention Alvinne, Emelisse, de Molen and the rest of the stellar lineup.

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Brewing in South Tyrol

I’ve mentioned before that I had a wish to freshen up my German. The last time I had any formal lesson in that language was some time in the late Seventies, and I have rarely used it apart from touristic purposes. A number of visits to Germany and Austria over the last five years or so have, however, wet my appetite to get a better grasp of the language.

So I enrolled in a course at the Goethe Insititut here in Oslo. Back to school every Wednesday from five to quarter past eight. Plus homework. Grammar, vocabulary, the lot.

It is challenging, but it’s great fun.

I ahve even started ordering books from the German amazon shop. Short stories to begin with, but I decided to have a look at more beer related titles in German, too. Lots of home brew books, some German translations of English language books, crime novels set in hop yards or Kneipen.

Some beer history, too, like this book about brewing in South Tyrol, a German-speaking region in Italy. There were 27 breweries in the area in 1880, a number that dwindled down to just one during a century of war, closed borders and taxation that favoured other beverages. But the book also covers the birth of small scale brewing in recent years, with portraits of the new brewpubs.

No plans of a visit to there area for now, but I think I’ll try to ask for a review copy.

But there is more.

Amazon.com and amazon.co.uk will not surprise you by giving unorthodox suggestions when you search for beer books. They will recommend pub guides and atlases, Brew like a monk and How to Start a Brewery Even if You’re not interested in Beer.

Amazon.de has a broader approach.

Sure, you have a guide to the most beautiful beer gardens of Bavaria, but they also have the Dirndl Sexy Romance series. 

But even if I was tempted, these Kindle tales of lust during the Oktoberfest are only available in Germany. Maybe it’s for the best.

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After all the years in the wilderness, I guess we should bow and be grateful. The Oslo beer scene has exploded, and next week it is a matter of picking and choosing.

In addition to a beer festival at Aker Brygge and one at the new Vulkan food hall, held simultaneously in separate parts of town, there is a the-more-the-merrier Oktoberfest competing for attention. There is the 2nd birthday of Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri, featuring some very interesting new stuff.

There are beer tastings at bars and restaurants. There is a press event celebrating Pilsner Urquell, I’d not be surprised if that involves the (excellent) unfiltered version of the beer.

You can attend a Brewmaster’s Dinner several evenings in a row. One of tem with beers from Erdinger, hereby nominated for the Least Exciting Beer Event of the Year.

Me?

I’ll be at our mountain retreat most of the week, without losing any sleep for not attending the proceedings. But I’ll probably pop in at both festivals on the Saturday.

But I have a feeling that this is far too much. That some of the events will be less than succesful. And that there are far too many people without a clue jumping on the bandwagon. But that does not mean that things were better when we were an underground movement.

The more the merrier? Photo nicked from the amazing Oktoberfest Girls blog.

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So. This event was announced last autumn, the tickers tickets went on sale – and were snapped up in November. We were promised two magnificent days of great beers and top class food, something way beyond what we have experienced before.

I won’t go into any detailed review here, but I feel like summing up my experiences:

First of all – the beers. Full score on this. There were world class brews from a number of the best breweries in the world. The hosts had actually toned down their own offerings from Mikkeler and Evil Twin to make room from all the others. Some were household names, like de Struise, Nøgne Ø, de Molen and BrewDog. Some were legendary, like Three Floyds and Cigar City. Some of them were new to me – Broadies (from London) and Farmer’s Cabinet (from Philadelphia).

There were sour ales and barrel aged ales. Barley wines and stouts. IPAs and Apas. Even examples of Gose and Berliner Weisse. Some of the line up was changed from the Friday to the Saturday. Some were festival specials, some were rarities very few of us had tried before.

So, for the beer selection and the beer quality, I can only applaud.

With all the tickets sold out many months ago, there were no long lines to get in either. We were let in, given a few tokens and a wristband showing our dining time.

The crowd was different from your average beer festival. Lots of friendly people from around the world, everyone seriously interested in beer. No stag parties, no one there to proclaim their undying love for their regional brewery.

A laid back and friendly atmosphere.

What about the venue? Early in the day, it was quite bright and airy.  A sports hall, with a large area set aside for benches and tables. But everyone were shooed away from the tables around four, as they were preparing for the first dinner seating. Only half of the tables were needed for each seating, but it meant a quite packed crowd for the second half of each day.

The setup of the brewery stands did not allow much in the way of presentation. Some of the stands along the walls had some posters and artwork, but the tables in the middle had a setup that looked more like a homebrew festival. This might have been a deliberate decision, but I would say that the best breweries in the world would have deserved a more professional presentation. The Haandbryggeriet festival a week ago had a setup where all the breweries were able so present themselves in a much better way.

The food was hyped a lot, anticipating a close-to-NOMA-experience, or, at least, what in the programme was called an uncompromizing gourmet experience, with food and beer pairings.

The Friday meal was nice enough, with a piece of tender meat, mashed potatoes, a green sauce with aromatic hops and some watercress. Honest food, but not gourmet quality.  And this could have been served all day without any time slots with us walking up to a counter and asking for a plate when we got hungry. This would have meant no need to rope off more than a small part of the hall, leaving ample seating for everyone.

And the food available at other times? Fairly average Danish sausages with a variety of mustards based on beer. Period. No salads, no cheese, no cured meat, nothing resembling gourmet at all.

One main ingredient in a beer festival is water. Sure, bottled water with the Mikkeller logo is fun.  But running water is also needed. Water for drinking, water for washing your hands and even your face. Water for rinsing your glass. Even water as in toilets. And as this was in an athletic venue, there were toilets roped off somewhere. Too expensive to clean? Come on!

And where were the hosts? They were briefly spotted, but a highlight would have been a trumpet fanfare and some words of welcome at noon on Friday. Maybe a stage with some round table talks with the beer personalities present, too? If less space was allocated to sit down dinners, there could easily have been a stage at the back of the hall. some of the showmanship we have seen from Mikkeller at previous festivals in Copenhagen would have been nice.

 There were some seminars this time around, but they were not widely publicised. The one I went too, on blogging, was poorly attended, and just when the discussion was starting, we were shooed out again.

There was, on the second day, a poster advertising free wi-fi – but the password wasn’t working.

Maybe the critical words seem to harsh, so let me get back to my main points:

  • Great beer
  • Great breweries
  • Great people
  • Fine venue, with some adjustments.

Given that, everything else can be tweaked and adjusted the next time. And it is very much a matter of very high expectations when you use big words when building up the advance buzz.  

The real test if I liked it: Will I be back?

Yes, I will.

 

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The Haandbryggeriet beer festival sold 1200 tickets in total on the Friday and Saturday, the budget was 1000. This means a new festival next year, I will keep you posted.

But back to this years event. I have praised the setup, but how were the beers?

First of all, I was only present at the Friday session, meaning I cannot do justice to all breweries present. I did not go through the range of beers from the hosts, for example, as I hope I will be able to taste them later.

Prestesonen is a new porter from the Norwegian Kinn brewery. Not trying to be too pretentious, this dark brown beer has a smoky nose and a fairly light palate. Roasted grain and coffee, fine balance.

The Oaked Sunturnbrew from Nøgne Ø has not been barrel aged, but is a special order that’s been aged with oak chips. I feel there is some extra dryness compared to the regular version, maybe some vanilla, too. This is one of my favourites among the Nøgne Ø beers, but I’m not sure if the extra treatment really lifted it.

A legend in European beer circles is the Stormaktsporter from Närke in Sweden. The version available here was aged in Cognac barrels, adding an intense aroma that was very much to my liking. The Närke stand was probably the hit of the festival, both for the eccentric range of beers and for the great visual presentation.

De Molen from the Netherlands had brought a wide range of brews along, some of the will probably turn up in Copenhagen this week as well. The had a brand new Flemish sour ale in two versions, one aged with cherries. I preferred the variety without the cherries, having a cleaner sour flavour which I really enjoyed. We’re talking Rodenbach territory here.

But the brewery which really made my day was Magic Rock from Huddersfield, England. Lovely keg versions of ales available on cask closer to home. This small-scale operation is inspired by American craft beers, meaning a far more liberal use of hops than the standard British fare.

Their Amber ale, Rapture, had a stong, refreshing herbal bitterness. Low in alcohol, intense in flavour, this would make great drinking for the summer months ahead. Honorable mention for their High Wire and Cannonball beers, too, but my highest praise is reserved for their imperial stout, the Bearded Lady. The regular version come in bottled form, and is a smooth and deceivingly soft tipple with fine chocolate tones. The barrel aged version has a lovely bourbon character, smooth beer given extra dimensions. Sweet and dry, charcoal, some sour smoke in the background. Oak and smoke in the tail. All these served by two friendly brewers.

The rest of my notes are blurry. I hope the good people from Emelisse and Alvinne come back next year, so I can do justice to their beers.

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I am very happy to report that the Haandbryggeriet festival last weekend was a success – and it looked to me that this applied to everyone involved.

Some parts of the concept seemed to work particularly well:

  • Getting to meet the brewers. For most of the dozen breweries attending, there were you actually got to meet several people actually  involved in the brewing process and in developing the brands. We are talking small-scale enterprises here,  meaning you get intelligent conversations, getting to sample various editions of the same brew etc. I think there were the precisely right people to guide the visitors to try beers that were challenging, but not necessarily extreme while also having something for the hardcore geeks.
  • Having the event in the brewery was also a good choice. While it is 15 or 20 minutes by foot from downtown Drammen, they were still able to draw a crowd from near and far. Having the festival within an operating brewery environment added a dimension that would have been absent in a congress centre or in a hotel function room.
  • Diversity – geographically and by style. Breweries from England, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Norway plus bottled stuff from across the pond. Cask session ales. Festival one offs like the Nøgne Ø Oaked Sunturnbrew. Flemish red ales. Barrel aged imperial stouts. Most important: Breweries with splendid beers.
  • Having the breweries present their beers meant you got a proper pour and presentation. Preferable to both enthusiastic CAMRA lads (no offense intended!) and blondes with dirdls (did I really mean that?)
  • Good no-nonsense food – the artisanal sausages I had were splendid value for money.

What do I want next year? More seating and some nice t-shirts, nothing more than that, really.

I’ll get back to you about some of the beers I enjoyed.

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After the Easter break, there are a number of beer events crammed in over a few weeks. Two beer festivals in Copenhagen during the same week in May.  The Association of Small Swedish Breweries arrange the event Big Beers, Small Breweries next weekend, surely something worth attending. Come to think of it, I have never been to any of the Swedish beer festivals, big or small.

Today there is the launch of new beer import company Beer Enthusiast her in Oslo, promising 20 beers new to the Norwegian market. Breweries like St Austell, Midtfyns Bryghus, Sundbytunet and Bryggeriet Skands will be present, with additional beers from Baladin, Kinn, Sierra Nevada and Hornbeer.

I think I’ll pass the Norwegian cask festival during the weekend. There is the Haandbryggeriet festival in two weeks time, too. And there is a box from myBreweryTap at the Post Office.

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