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Archive for the ‘craft beer’ Category

Breaking news this morning: BrewDog bar to open in Norway. Or, on closer scrutiny: One step closer to one or more BrewDog bars opening in Norway.

Three Norwegians have secured a franchise agreement with BrewDog, establishing BrewDog Bar AS. They will not run the bars themselves, but in McDonald’s style deliver everything. Beer engines, interior design, cash registers .. and beer.

Two of the three investors are involved in newly established 7 Fjell Bryggeri in Bergen, which is rapidly making a reputation for high quality beers. They are distributed nationally by Cask Norway, who also distributes BrewDog along with other acclaimed breweries from around the globe.

I am not in the restaurant industry, and I am no accountant, either, so I cannot give an economic analysis of this venture. Of course BrewDog is a familiar name in Norway, Cask Norway has done a great job, getting their beers on the supermarket and Vinmonopolet shelves in remote outskirts of the land. The market is also ready for trendy beer bars appealing to the younger crowd – there are a number of them already, at least in Oslo.

But on the other hand, there are some extra obstacles around here.

  • They cannot name it BrewDog. The rest of the graphic design also has to be toned down to follow the rather draconian Norwegian legislation when it comes to advertising alcoholic beverages. Pump clips seem to be all right, but apart from that they have to limit themselves to a clinical list of the beers on offer. This means that a lot of the promotional effect of using the well established brand name will be lost.
  • The concept of these bars is expensive beer in small glasses, even in markets where beer is cheap compared to Norway. If you add an extra link in the supply chain – the Norwegian franchise holders – and top up with Norwegian taxes and Norwegian wages, the cost of a beer could be astronomical.

They could go for low rent neighbourhoods, playing on the rough, no frills style of their bars. OR they could go for the other end of the market, finding prime spots where the customers don’t worry too much about the prices.

I have followed, with amazement and amusement, the BrewDog penomenon from its early days. I have enjoyed (most of) their beers, and I have praised them on this blog before they became a world famous brand.

I welcome BrewDog Bar to the Norwegian scene. I doubt that their bars (singular or plural) will be my favourite hangouts. But, as I wrote about Mikkeller Stockholm recently, all beer bars or pubs do not need to appeal to all discerning beer drinkers any more. There will be niches for various segments – and we old-timers will have to adjust. What a luxury!

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I knew there were Portuguese craft breweries. They have Facebook pages. They are in the ratebeer data base. But they all seem to be located between Lisbon and Porto.

And I was nowhere near Lisbon or Porto, but on the southern Algarve coast. There was nothing in the immediate area, so I had to cast my net a bit wider.

An exchange of e-mails with the Mean Sardine brewery informed me that they had only one outlet in the south, a place called Algarve and friends in the town of Alvor. I tried to google this establishment, but with no result.

Anyway. I needed to rest my skin a bit from the sun, and Alvor was just 40 minutes away on an air conditioned bus. If I did not find the place, I could surely have lunch there before returning.

Alvor seemed like a fairly typical holiday resort, quiet at midday, but offering plenty of options in the evening. When the bus approached the town, a banner proclaimed the All day 90 cent pint, while a more classy place across the road was charging a Euro. A brief survey revealed a fair number of Irish pubs with and without resident troubadours.

After a stroll through town I found the Praca de Republica, and Algarve and company turned out to be a cafe/delicatessen, promoting craft produce. Cheese, sausages, wine, honey, tinned tuna and sardines … and a number of beers.

I order a (very nice ) cup of coffee and looked around. The beers are from two Portuguese Micros,  Sovina and Mean Sardine.

Nuno Miguel Vieira Dos Santos runs the shop. I tell him that I tried to look it up on the web. He apologizes, and tells me the reason is that he has been far to busy. He actually opened the same week I visited. That also explains why there is a steady traffic of people with various foodstuff, handing over samples for him to try out.

I try an amber ale from Sovina. Hazy amber, lively carbonation. Malty aroma, some funk and barnyard, Belgian yeast character.  Cereals and sweetness, very pleasant.

My lunch is a plate of assorted cheeses and cured sausages, which  are all very good. Some are chorizo-style with paprika, but the pepper is not very strong. I get an extra side dish of two types of blood sausage, one of them made with rice. A rich sweetness which show how honest food does not need to taste of more than its ingredients. With this I try a Mean Sardine Amura, an American pale ale. This is clear amber, with a fluffy head and a flowery aroma. The flavor is bittersweet. Malt and bitter herbs, some eucalyptus. Well crafted, by no means extreme.

I fill my backpack with sea salt, honey, almond cakes, beer, tinned sardines and anchovies.

Surely a place to return to. Easy to find, across the street from the Alvor tourist office.

If you want to explore the wonderful world of Portuguese craft beer further, here is a list of Cerveja Artesanal Portuguesa.

 

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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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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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