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Archive for the ‘craft beer’ Category

Vi kjenner historien fra før – en gjeng med entusiaster som ønsker å starte bryggeri, som finner et gammelt industrilokale pog setter igang. Dette gjelder også Nøisom Craft Beer i Fredrikstad. Men her har det faktisk gått mye raskere å få etablert seg enn man trodde på forhånd.

Da Nøisom etablerte seg i et gammelt industriområde – faktisk i det som en gang var et tapperi for matolje – i 2013, var håpet at de skulle holde på i disse lokalene i to år, forteller Stig, en av gründerne. Etterspørselen har langt overgått forventningene, så nå etablerer de seg på nytt noen hundre meter unna. Denne gang er det Haandbryggeriets gamle utstyr de overtar. Skjønt gamle utstyr, det er jo ikke mer enn et par år siden Handbryggeriet flyttet til Sundland heller, så det går raskt i svingene.

To årsverk foreløpig, mye skjer fremdeles på dugnad. Pål er den eneste heltidsansatte, man leier også inn noe hjelp til flasking. Av det som virkelig vil gjøre utslag i de nye lokalene er en flaskelinje, i dag skjer alt pr. hånd.

Fokus er i stor grad på butikkøl, det er det som gir penger i kassen. Hvete  (med lite hvetepreg), ulike PA og IPA-typer. Hvete og blond er bestsellerne. Men det er også et par mer avanserte øl som modnes på flaske – en stout og en imperial stout som begge lover bra.

Det nye anlegget skal settes opp i september, og man håper å være klare til brygging i oktober. Da går kapasiteten opp fra knapt 3000 liter i uken til 9000 liter i uken.

 

Soon to be replaced

 

Nøisom is the name of an old farm in Fredrikstad – but it also means prudent. They were anticicating leaner times whent they started brewing last year – but the growth has been far better then they planned for. They thought they would use their current setup for two years, but they have already bought new equipment and will move to biger facitilties during september.

This is another bunch of friends with a vision. Most of them have kept teir dey jobs, Per is the only one currently working full time.

The focus right now is to supply supermarkets, mostly in the Fredrikstad area, but also a number of shops in Oslo. This means beers 4.7%ABV and below. A wheat beer and a blond are the best sellers – also the beers with the lowest treshold for lager drinkers lokking for an alternative. There are more hoppy APAs, IPAs and a porter, too. This is where the money is right now. But there are also plans for stornger beers, for the pub/restaunnat market and for sale through the Vinmonopolet stores.

Industrial heritage

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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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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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- My wife sent me off to the United States with the message:  Don’t come back until you have a smile on your face.

There is a flicker of the smile before he continues:

- I found something to work with. I found a brewery. In a burned out building. I had it dismantled and sent to Belgium.

Our host is Andre Janssens at Brouwerij Hof ten Dormaal, another scenic spot in the Flemish countryside, yet not many minutes’ drive from Leuven. He had a stroke a few years ago, was feeling depressed and did not want to continue his office work.  That was when his wife insisted he should travel.

We are seated around an old, worn oak table in Andre’s living room.

- My father told me three men were made on this table. And five were killed.

This is not only a brewery, but also a working family farm focusing on sustainable production, with hops and barley grown on the farm, even the malting is done just up the road. Much of the energy used in the brewing process comes from rapeseed oil also produced on the farm.

Tending the hop fields

The brewery was started five years ago, and they now brew 1500 liters twice a week.

The beers started off as rather traditional Belgian styles, but things have really taken off with a series of barrel aged beers, using oak barrels previously used for various European wines and spirits. Before they started barrel aging, they cultivated wild yeast. 10 buckets of beer were placed on various spots around the farm. They all went sour, two of them were usable for use when they barrel age the beers.

 

There is the most charming setting you could imagine – a small brewery tap offering beers to drink on the spot or take away. A lovely garden. A pond with ducks and frogs. And even horses of old Brabant stock being used in the hop cultivation.

There is a lot of experimentation taking place. We get to try the Brand von Leuven, a beer in their Taste Lab series. This is to commemorate the firebombing of Leuven. The beer has smoky flavor and aroma, elegant balance of sweet and sour.  The soot and destruction is there in the finish.

A most unusual brewery to visit, check their web site for details. I think you will find their beers quite hard to find in Europe, the distribution seems to be better in parts of the US.

The visit was sponsored by Visit Flanders, who kindly invited a number of Scandinavian beer bloggers last month. They have no influence on the editorial content of this blog.

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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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The West Coast means the Norwegian West Coast today.

While I have given a fair amount of coverage to the established craft breweries in Norway, I have not written much about Lervig from Stavanger. This is a brewery that is making its mark,

Lervig was established in 2003, when Ringnes/Carlsberg decided to close down the Tou brewery, which had supplied the Stavanger region with their pale lagers for many years. And to begin with, they mainly produced pale lagers. Nor very impressive lagers, I have to say.

Fast forward to 2010. The arrival of Mike Murphy. An american brewer with the most impressive CV. Ha had brewed in the US, in Italy and in Denmark, with a reputation both for quality and for innovation. Just what Lervig needed. For an interview with Mike Murphy, check out the Die by the Beer blog.

Since the, there has been a wide spectrum of beers released on the Norwegian market. Some of them have been strong and serious beers aimed at the more discerning beer drinker. Others have been aimed at the supermarkets, giving us fresh and hoppy everyday beers which have really filled a domestic niche.

They have some new beers out, among them two in their new Art Collection series, where they let artist design labels for limited edition runs of beers. I asked them to send me some, and here is my verdict:

The Scull and Cross Blades Belgian Black Ale pours a very dark brown with a lovely beige head.

Chocolate, prunes and liquorice. The beer is velvety smooth. They could have called this a foreign stout if they wanted, but there is a Belgian funky element in the background that adds a dimension and lift this above the ordinary.

The Funky Moi Rye Saison has a hazy brass color with a lively carbonation. I tried this on tap, too, and seem to recall that it was slightly lighter in color, but never mind. A saison with a deeper flavour spectrum than most. Oranges, cherries, some funk and a distinct rye sourness. A great beer.

But the beer that will make its mark is a more humble one, Johnny Low.  This is a grassy, well hopped beer at only 2.5% ABV, meaning there is something decent to drink even if you have to drive or have other reasons to avoid the alcohol. The low alcohol beers in Norway have barely been drinkable, this is like a fresh breeze giving hopes for the summer season. It is also being launched in cans, which I think will give a boost in the market.

 

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Lunch in Brussels meant cured meat, cheese and bread – and a beer tasting. While the two Moeder Lambic bars have established themselves as cornerstones on the Brussels beer scene, this is the first time I have visited any of them. Easy to find, minutes away from the main attractions for the tourist and strategically located if you are in town for business. Business usually meaning government.

We enjoyed a conversation with  Jean Hummler, one of the two owners of the company since 2006. With great passion he gave us samples of some of his beers while talking about his philosophy about beer (and food).

Their focus is on Belgian beer, but not exclusively so. Among the 150 Belgian breweries, there are 15 outstanding, according to Jean. When he considers which beers to order, he considers both taste and how the beers are made. Freshness is the imperative word, and the taps and the temperature control makes sure the quality is as good as it gets.

There is a broad range of customers in the bar, an estimate is 60 per cent local, the rest expats and tourists. Most are in the 25-25 age range, but there are also students saving up to drink the best beers they can get.

There is no best beer in the  world, says Jean, but there is one that is best for my palate.

Among the beers we got to sample were an Oud Bruin from Verzet, less sweet than others of the same style, and a very interesting brewery to follow.

Cuvee de Ranke is a blend using sour beer from De Ranke blended with Girardin lambic. The lambic has consumed the sugars from the other beer, but it still has a hop profile that is is more prominent.

This is a bar, not a restaurant, but there is excellent cheese, salami etc if you cannot tear yourself away.

Endless rows of beers on tap, bottles in the fridge, too. Not exclusively Belgian, we even got to try a fresh pale ale from Kernel while we were there. But the imports also have to live up to the demands for freshness that they set for the national beers.

Check out their website for a list of the current beers on tap. You will not regret a visit.

 

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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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