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Archive for the ‘beer marketing’ Category

There were lean years when there were no beer festivals in Norway whatsoever. Now it’s difficult to keep track of them all, and I do not have the time or resources to visit more than a few.

Luckily my old home town Trondheim has one of the most interesting events. Trondheim beer festival, or Bryggerifestivalen i Trondheim to use its official name, has established itself as a great place to visit  in just a few years. It is a part of a bigger regional food festival taking place in the first weekend in August, showcasing fruit and vegetables, game and fish, cheese and sweets. This far north, this is when the vegetables are in their prime, the berries and fruit are beginning to ripen.

And in the middle of this, the beer festival is evolving. This year they had a custom built long wooden bar, plenty of seating both in the sun and the shade – and loads of good beer. Some of the national breweries are there, Kinn, Haand and Nøgne Ø – but most interesting are the beers form the smaller producers.

The brewer from Røros

Røros Bryggeri

They were close to cancelling the beer part of the festival just a month ago, as an official in the city administration refused to give them the necessary license to buy in the strongest beers. When this was know, there were several politicians from both the local and the regional level cutting through the red tape. This has become an integrated part of the annual celebration of the regional food culture – beer is finding its proper place alongside other food and drink.

Several breweries manned their own parts of the bar, meaning this was a great possibility for the public to talk the the brewers – and for the brewers to get spontaneous feedback.

Alongside the professional brewers there were volunteers with ample knowledge of beers.  And they had a splendid range to choose from. Along the medium strength beers there were a few barley wines, but, showing how the low alcohol trend continues,  also a number of milds. Two types of traditional Stjørdalsøl made with home made smoked malt. Very appropriate in the sunny weather were some very refreshing saisons from Klostergården and Namdalsbryggeriet. There were also authors of beer books promoting their publications.

Klostergården (To Tårn in the background)

New breweries were present, most prominently Namdalsbryggeriet, started just before Christmas. To say something about the speedy changes, Austmann, who made their debut last summer, is now one of the established breweries in the region. To Tårn has been around a bit longer, but they did not attend the festival last year, so they made their debut in this context. Røros Bryggeri has focused on beers with a broad appeal – they sold out their special oaked festival beers very fast. Rein Drikke were also newcomers with highly drinkable session beers.

Add sunny weather, no entrance fee, moderate prices for most beers. A dozen Norwegian breweries represented, half of them from the region. I was happy to meet new people from the breweries, I hope to get back to some of them on the blog later.

Haandbryggeriet and To Tårn

I am sure there are ways to develop the concept even further, and I have no idea about the economical side of the event. But I will do what I can to attend next year as well. Maybe I’ll even volunteer for a session behind the bar.

Austmann

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(English summary at the end)

Bak St. Olavs kirke, inn i en bakgård i Akersveien, ligger hovedstadens minste bryggeri. Mens andre har ambisjoner om å brygge én million liter øl i året, har Little Brother bryggeri ambisjoner om 7000 liter det første året. Men de har ikke tenkt å gi seg med det.

Hver onsdag i sommer er det åpent hus i nanobryggeriet. Skinnende rent og ryddig er det, der Cameron Manson viser frem utstyret der det produseres 80 liters batcher med øl. Cameron, som opprinnelig kommer fra Australia, har ikke noen formell bakgrunn fra bransjen, men har holdt på som hjemmebrygger i nesten ti år. Dette er godt dokumentert, slik at de øltypene som nå settes i produksjon er finpusset. Den IPAen som nå er i salg er for eksempel brygget åtte ganger og justert for å få den slik han ville ha den.

Little Brother har altså valgt å starte i det små – og ikke investere penger de ikke har. Anlegget er kjøpt og betalt, og ikke finansiert med banklån. Planen er å kjøpe et større anlegg etter hvert, men det er det salg av øl som skal finansiere. Da kan det nåværende utstyret brukes til test og utvikling, mens produksjonen gjøres i større volum. En mulighet er også å kontraktbrygge øl i større skala, for eksempel for flaskedistribusjon.

Av det som står til gjæring under mitt besøk er en ny runde med IPAen Epic Venture, som slo godt an under Oslo Beer Week tidligere i sommer. Det kommer også en hveteøl brygget med tysk gjær, men som brygges med humlen Sorachi Ace, som vil gjøre at den skiller seg ut.

Det meste av det som er brygget så langt gikk med under Oslo Beer Week, nå satses det på salg til cafeer og barer i Oslo. Forkus vil være på salg i nærområdet, særlig på fat, men også noe håndtappet på flaske. Neste skritt er å tappe på key kegs, et format som mange barer nå foretrekker.

Hvis alt går i orden med kommunale tillatelser, satses det på et utsalg i lokalene deres fra høsten, de håper å kunne tilby fersktappet øl i growlers – store flerbruksflasker etter amerikansk mønster.

Her starter det i det små, uten mye egenkapital eller ekstern finansiering. Jeg håper motivasjonen holder seg til det er penger til å øke kapasiteten. Og ta turen innom i sommer, så kan du fortelle om hvordan det var hos Little Brother mens det ennå var en lillebror!

 

Cameron and his brew kit

Cameron Manson, Little Brother bryggeri

 

Tucked in behind St. Olav Catholic church. A few minutes walk from downtown Oslo, Little Brother bryggeri is the newest additon to the Oslo brewery scene. The newest and the smallest. A true one barrel brewery, they brew 80 liter batches – but the ambition is to expand, slowly. Their flagship beer is the Epic Venture IPA, but there is also a German wheat beer fermenting when I visit.

The beer was the most popular duing Oslo Beer Week this summer. The ambition now is to sell the beer to local bars and restaurants, there are no plans for distribution outside Oslo. If the local authorities give their permission, there will also be the possibility to buy beer in growlers to take home leater this year.

The little brother is Cameron Manson. His partner, the big brother, lives in Australia. This means he does not do the hard work in the brewery, but he does design for labels and glasses and other stuff that can be done online.

 

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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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The long-expected news came a few days ago. Ringnes/Carlsberg are scaling down their brewery in Trondheim. E.C. Dahls bryggeri was one of the big regional players, enjoying a cozy government sanctioned monopoly situation for decades. They were gobbled up by Ringnes a long time ago. And Ringnes was gobbled up by Carlsberg after an attempt of a merger.

The Norwegian system of deposit glass bottles meant that it was sensible to have regional breweries, or at least bottling lines, but things have changed. Nowadays most of our home consumption of pale lagers consist of canned beer.

Ringnes state that they will continue to brew E.C. Dahls pils in Trondheim, but will cut the number of employees involved in actual production of beer and soft drinks from 134 to 14. It does not take much of a crystal bowl to guess that the number will be zero in a few years.

What is happening when you scale down a production plant like this? You have a very valuable, centrally located piece of real estate just waiting for development. It does not make sense to keep on brewing in a small corner of this area. Storage and distribution of Carlsberg products made elsewhere takes some space, but it makes more sense to build a logistics center somewhere close to a transport terminal out of town.

I do not feel much nostalgia over the death of E.C. Dahls. I am very happy to say that the Trondheim based Austmann Bryggeri, launched just a year ago, is filling up the shelves of shops and bars across the land. And they make more inventive and tasteful beers than E.C. Dahls (or the rest of the Ringnes group) have made in my drinking life. Which is approaching four decades. There are also small breweries popping up in the region – and the supermarkets have changed their attitude, they are happy to have real local products.

Keeping a tiny presence for the time being is probably a PR move to avoid local consumer outrage over beer brewed elsewhere and passed off as local.  I am sure there are men in suits who have calculated the risks. The establishment of Lervig in Stavanger some years ago was a result of Ringnes closing down their local operation.

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Nice to see that most micro breweries in Oslo (and one from Commuterland) have joined forces for Oslo Beer Week.

I am joining in for a brewery walk this afternoon, starting at Grünerløkka Brygghus, led by John Hudson from Nydalen Bryggeri, formerly at Schouskjelleren. The weather is splendid, so this could be a real success.  If I could give one piece of advice, I’d offer standard size beer samples at 50 kroner each to avoid wasting time.

There are collaboration beers, tap takeovers, brewmasters dinners and the launch of two new breweriers – Little Brother and Dronebrygg.

The week culminates at Grünerløkka Brygghus with at least 20 beers from Oslo on tap.’

I miss Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri and Oslo Mikrobryggeri from the list, hope they will join in next year.

And I think the new brewery at Kolonihagen Grünerløkka has entered under the radar of the organisers. Their first beer is a Mosaic single hop IPA. For a first brew from a newcomer, it passes the test very well. I’ll be there for a refreshement before the walk.

Kolonihagen No 1

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Hop-a-billy coming soon, said the poster on the stand your slightly bewildered correspondent happened to stop at. The event was the Zythos beer festival, the biggest national event of its kind in Belgium. They don’t claim to have all the breweries in Belgium present, but there is a fair chance you’ll find something to your liking among the endless row of stands.

But back to the Hop-a-billy. I asked for a sample, and a polite young man barely out of his teens filled my glass. A boy who looked even younger shared the stand with him.

- Are you a new brewery? I asked.

- No, we have been around for about ten years

- Have the two of you you been running a brewery for ten years? You must have been very young?

They explain that ‘t Hofbrouwerijke is a family business, and that they were helping out doing the bashing and bottling from the early days.

The beer is a 6% saison, but with some lovely South Pacific hops added in. Crisp and refreshing. Nice to see that when others are playing around with their styles, the Belgians can think out of the box as well.

I also try the Flowersour. As the name implies, it is both sour and flowery, with an aroma of rose petals, sour fruit and balsamico. Maybe a bit too flowery, but I am very happy to have some beers that are not true to their style at this point.

I buy some of their bottled beers to take home, despite the fact that my baggage allowance is way too low.

The festival as such is a pleasant surprise. This is a Sunday afternoon, there is plenty of beer available, and it is nice, clean and tidy. Not too crowded, either. Convenient free shuttle bus from Leuven station, which again has direct trains to Brussels airport. A day trip is doable, at least from Northwestern Europe.

I have a feeling that the Saturday session is more crowded, but I could be mistaken. And a beer festival without enough customers would not be much of a success, would it?

So Zythos is definitely a festival to come back to – next time for a full day session. Some of these breweries and beers are hard to find, and, while I recommend a round trip of Beligum, you are not likely to cover all the ones you’d like to try.

I travelled to Belgium as a guest of VisitFlanders.

 

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I must admit I have never given much thought to beer glasses. Sure, there are special designs, be it a revived pewter mug in England or a Kwak glass in a touristy bar in Brussels. And there are iconic glasses for classical beer styles, Kölsch, Berliner Weisse or Bavarian Weissbier. There are small samplers for, well, sampling. And there is the liter Mass glass of the Bavarian beer gardens.

But I was recently invited to a beer tasting where the focus was as much on the glasses as on the beers.

Bavarian glass maker Spigelau, with a history going back to the middle ages, has had a huge success with their IPA glasses, developed in cooperation with Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada. They are now launching a Stout glass, this time they have used Rogue as their partner.

Their range now includes a lager glass, a wheat beer glass, a tulip glass and the IPA and stout glasses mentioned above.

The tasting made us compare the same beer from two different glasses, one of them a generic beer glass being used in bars and restaurants all over the globe, the other glass the one developed especially for the type of beer in question.

Did they manage to convince me?

Well,  despite a slight feel of evangelism in the presentation, there is a significant difference. It started off with a plain Carlsberg, and the Spigelau glass managed to make the most of even this standard lager, lifting aroma and flavour. With the Hefeweisse the difference was even more pronounced. And the big beers, a Chimay and a Sierra Nevada Torpedo, were just great when served in an optimal glass.

The glasses keep the beer at the right temperature, as they are thin without being brittle. They lift the aroma and flavour, and they give the right carbonation and the right head for the beer they are made for.

You can buy boxes with all the glasses or pick the ones you want. A quick search shows that you can get sets with four  different glasses for about 350 Norwegian kroner around here. Which is not much when you consider what you pay for a beer…

At the very least, I will retire a few glasses with brewery logos to the basement and make room for the IPA and stout glasses from Spiegelau.

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When I checked in at my hotel in Leuven, there was a package waiting for me at the reception.

I got a e-mail back in March from Lode Devlieghere at www.belgianbeerz.com. This is a fairly new web shop shipping Belgian beers just about everywhere, and he was reaching out to selected beer bloggers to get some exposure.

As the shop is based in Leuven, I told him that the most convenient would be if he could have a sample box delivered to my hotel on arrival. Less postage for him, no worries about taxes, fees and so on in Norway for me.

What I received was a dozen Belgian Tripels and Saisons. Some from the well known and established breweries, others from more obscure ones.

Two examples of the Tripels:

The St Feuillien has a fruity aroma with some fresh notes of lemon. The flavour has more sweetness, peaches and other soft fruit, but there is enough citrus to leave a clean and crisp imprint. Elegant, a beer that show what you can do within this style.

The Sint Canarus Tripel is sweeter. It has apricots and a little yeast in the nose. An honest example of the style, but it is hard to stand out among the many similar beers brewed in Belgium and beyond. But if you wnat a good example of the style, order this instead of a more famous one. Brewed at De Proef, meaning no flaws.

The beers were were well packed with both an individual bubble wrap on each bottle plus Styrofoam popcorn filling the box. Probably the best packaging I’ve seen from a mail order company.

Check out their web site, giving inventory and prices. There is always room for one more quality supplier, especially for those of us who have meager supplies in our own shops.

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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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Our hosts in Visit Flanders  provided comfortable accommodation both in Bruges and in Leuven, but these were in chain hotels that do not merit a blog post. The night in between, however, we stayed in a small family run hotel, Klein Nederlo, in the countryside. As rural as can be, but if you look closer, you see the highest buildings of Brussels in the distance.

There are sheep grazing in the fields next to the hotel. It is quiet enough to sleep with your window open – if you don’t mind a wake up call from the cock across the road.

Large, comfortable rooms, too, and a generous breakfast buffet.

I arrived at the Klein Nederlo at the end of a long day, I actually skipped a beer festival to be able to check in and freshen up. But at the reception I was told that their café was still open, and after a shower I felt I was ready for one more.

The Tavern has a menu of small snacks and more substantial meals, but at the time my main interest was the beer list. The usual suspects, of course, also Orval both fresh and cellared for one year. A few hand-picked beers I’ve never encountered. A Moriau Oude Geuze, a Witte Trippel from Ronaldus.

And two beers from the Brussels Beer Project. I went for their Delta IPA. The beer menu said blond, the label said IPA. The color is blond, the hops are definitely IPA. Spicy and herbal, yet there is something Belgian in the background, underlining the crisp bitterness.

Some locals finishing their meals in the back, a quiet and pleasant atmosphere as the day was coming to an end. A place to come back to – perhaps to enjoy a few beers on their terrace while reading a book? Buses with Brussels Zoo as their destination passed right in front of the hotel, so it should be easy to get there.

The Brussels Beer Project popped up again the other day. They are planning their own brewery, but are at the time being hiring capacity elsewhere. They go new ways, crowdfunding their activities and crowdsourcing to decide which test beers to  brew on a regular basis. Not surprisingly they are not in total agreement with the Belgian breweries who, in an open letter, use strong words about contract brewing.

Once more – I traveled to Belgium as a guest of Visit Flanders and local tourist authorities. They do not in any way influence the material I publish.

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