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Archive for the ‘craft beer’ Category

Those of you who have followed this blog from the early days know that I have been a friend of Haandbryggeriet from their very early days. Established in 2005, four home brewing friends started up in a few tiny rooms in what used to be a stocking factory. They moved to larger premises in 2011, but they have already outgrown them, so they have set up a spanking new brewery, but they still stay in their home town Drammen. This is an area with a rich industrial heritage, so there is no big surprise that they once again occupy a building with a history of other activity.

Room for a few pints

They have come quite a long way in less than ten years!

There was an opening party for the new brewery this week, they are ready to take on the huge domestic demand, particularly from the supermarkets. It’s good to see that the first generation of Norwegian micro breweries have managed to expand and thrive. Everything looks sunny now, but there have been lean years as well.

The investment in the new brewery is about 14 million kroner, while their turnover in 2013 was 22 million.

More room for barrel aging, too.

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Ego brygghus is one of the many new breweries established in Norway this year, and they have established themselves with high quality beers from the very start. I visited some months ago, and head brewer Christer was very clear that he would not compromise on quality – they will only sell beers they can really stand behind.

 

Halvor Lindrupsen and Christer Edvartsen at Ego Brygghus

Ego is located in Fredrikstad, Østfold, the southeastern corner of Norway.

 

Their first batches showed the scope, two IPAs, a rye IPA, a pale ale, a stout and a wheat ale. They brew 500-700 liter batches.

The production in 2014, with only six months of actual brewing, will end up at around 20000 liters, while the aim for 2015 is at least to double that. The best sellers so far have been A Damn Fine Coffee IPA and Reign in Citra – a single hop pale ale. The number of beers is approaching 20, so it is a challenge to follow this as long as they have a limited distribution.

 

The plan was to aim for the pub restaurant market with both kegs and bottles, but Ego is now ready to move into both supermarkets and Vinmonopolet - the state monopoly stores. The first supermarket beer is a saison. They had plans for an unfiltered pilsener as well, but they were not happy with the first batch, so we’ll probably have to wait until the new year for that one. They have a new distribution deal with Strag, which has a number of solid brand names in their portfolio, including the Erdinger beers. I think both sides can profit from a partnership with a Norwegian craft brewery.

 

The Ego beers do not aim for the extreme, they are drinkable and accessible. This does not mean bland beers, there is plenty of flavor and bitterness, My current favourite is their Black Chocolate IPA. Dark brown, with very inviting aroma, berries and a hint of cocoa. Bittersweet flavor, roasted grain and herbal hops. The chocolate or cocoa is there, but not in an intrusive way.

A spotless brewery

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Ingeborg, Dag and Jeanette with Gustav Jørgensen

 

I had the pleasure of attending a beer event earlier this week – another case showing how much the scene has developed and matured. This was held at Cafe Sara, which has established itself as one of the very best beer bars in Oslo. The promotion had been fairly low-key, you are not supposed to do much in the way of beer promotion around here. I was really surprised that there was a long line outside when the door opened, and they managed to squeeze in about eighty of us. And we’re not talking big national or global names in the beer world. On the opposite, we were invited to a tasting with two fairly new breweries, who do not even have bottling plants, Voss Bryggeri and Lindheim Ølkompani.

Picking these two was a very good choice, as they both have stories to tell – and the voices to tell those stories. They both brew on a fairly modest scale – around 1000-1100 liter batches, and they are situated in rural areas with small local markets.

Ingeborg Lindheim  told the story of how she went to San Diego to buy their brewing plant, and how she was told by those who sold it to get in touch with a restaurant owner. This turned out to be one of the owners of the Lost Abbey/Pizza Port group of breweries. They struck up a friendship, and they have been doing collaborations with their brewers ever since. Not bad midwives for a small Norwegian company!

Lindheim is a family farm with fruit-growing as its main income. The turnover is too small to give an income for two people,  so they came up with the idea of starting a brewery as a sideline.

This has been very successful, and their most interesting beers use fruit from the farm. They have a Gose brewed with plums, but the most interesting beer of the evening was their Surt Jubileum. Jubileum is a type of plums, and the beer is a Berliner Weisse. Sort of. There is a fresh, clean sourness laced with the plums. Stronger than the usual Berliner Weisse at about 4.5%, yet a feathery light body. They didn’t just buy lactic bacteria from a brewery supply shop, they used live yogurt as a starter.

Lindheim and Voss back to back at Grünerløkka beer fest this summer

 

Voss was represented by Jeanette Lillås and Dag Jørgensen, two fo the three who run the brewery. They have kept their day jobs, meaning they have hired people to do the brewing. They are still very much hands on, however, developing new beers and marketing what they have to offer. Voss is one of the rural communities where home brewing has been kept alive, and they use the local yeast kveik in several of their beers. The yeast has been tweaked a bit, and it now gives a more flavourful beer than when they first tried it out. Their Vossing beer has even more of the traditional, it is brewed with an infusion of juniper twigs, adding a wooden dryness to the beer. (For more on kveik and traditional brewing in Voss, check out Lars Marius Garshol’s fantastic blog. )

Voss also have an Eldhus series of beers. Eldhus are small buildings used for smoking meat, sausages etc, particularly mutton. Dag has another use for the Eldhus, he smokes hops. To make this even more exotic, they pick wild hops for this. A delicate smoky aroma is then transferred to the beer, much more discreet than when the malt is given the same treatment.

The beers from Lindheim and Voss are hard to find, in Oslo Cafe Sara is the most likely place, but Grünerløkka Brygghus or Crowbar have also had their beers. They do not bottle any of their beers today, Lindheim plan to start bottling next year. But they both have been successful in introducing growlers, meaning you can pop in on thursday or friday afternoon and have your growler filled with beers blow 4.7%, fresh from the tank. The rest of the beer is kegged, and this has turned out to be a good format for distribution.

The second wave of Norwegian craft brewing is starting to come of age. I’m happy to see that some of them develop a clear profile. I think that will be needed in a market when everyone with a garage move from home brewing to selling their IPAs. You need a clear identity to survive. And I hope this identity will be mostly connected to unique beers, not just graphic profiles and good networking abilities.

And watch out for a Voss beer brewed with smalahove next year. That is cured and smoked sheep’s head. Extreme beers just got a new dimension.

The Voss growler

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(English text at the end)

20 minutter med buss på gode veier bringer deg til Follebu i Gausdal kommune, et sted jeg må innrømme jeg ikke hadde noe forhold til fra før. Jeg prøver imidlertid å følge med på alle etableringer av mikrobryggerier i Norge, så jeg visste det var aktivitet på stedet. Saloon 7null4 er navnet, og da jeg tok kontakt på e-post ble jeg ønsket velkommen. Jeg fikk til og med tilbud om å bli hentet på bussholdeplassen, noe som kom godt med på en sur oktoberettermiddag.

Jeg blir tatt imot av Amund Heggen og Vidar Kalløkken, som entusiastisk forteller om puben og bryggeriet.

Amund har kontroll i baren

Dette er en hobbyaktivitet for de tre involverte, men det betyr ikke at det ikke er lagt ned mange arbeidstimer i prosjektet. Bryggeri og pub er innredet i et uthus, der både låve og fjøs er tatt i bruk. Man kan bare gjette hvor mange timer som er brukt til nedvasking, snekring, isolering, maling og innredning. Her er det plass til opp til 400 gjester, og det er travelt fra nå og frem til nyttår med julebord og andre arrangementer. Det serveres Ringnes pils også, på en typisk kveld går det 250 liter eget øl og litt mer Ringnes.

Det er av og til åpne pubkvelder, men det lokale markedet er begrenset, så det aller meste av omsetningen er lukkede selskaper.

Fra melk til øl – Vidar har hovedansvar for bryggingen

Bryggeri og lagringstanker er også preget av ombruk, men det er bestilt nytt utstyr fra Kina som vil gi bedre kapasitet.

Vidar er den som driver mest med brygging, og han kan tilby smaksprøver på et stort spekter av øl. Her er det lyse lagerøl, men også pale ale, IPA, en red ale og en brown ale. Dette er ikke ekstremøl, men varianter som skal treffe et bredt publikum – og det har de lyktes med. Det er spesielt imponerende at nivået er så godt når Vidar forteller at ingen av dem har drevet med hjemmebrygging før de satte i gang!

Ølene ble tatt godt imot på en ølfestival på Tretten i sommer, et av dem ble faktisk kåret til publikumsfavoritt.

Så langt er ølene bare å få kjøpt på deres egen pub. Men det ligger en søknad om løyve hos Helsedirektoratet, og da satser man på å levere på flaske til utesteder på Lillehammer. Et sted å spørre er Nikkers.

En spesialitet de serverer i tillegg til ølet er meskebrød – et velsmakende flatbrød bakt med mesk fra bryggingen. En idé for andre bryggerier?

Det begynner å bli en del bryggerier i dette området nå, man kunne kanskje vurdere litt organisert ølturisme?

Mye arbeid når fjøs skal bli til pub

20 minutes by bus from Lillehammer brings you to the small community Follebu and Saloon 7null4. Three enthusiasts have started a brewpub in an old barn. It is a small scale operation, they have all kept their day jobs, but with new equipment coming in, they hope to expand a bit. There is a licence pending to sell beer to others, and they have a few places in Lillehammer ready to sell their beers.

They brew a wide range of beers, lager, pale ale, IPA, porter etc. This is not the place to come for extreme beers, but what you get is fresh, tasty and with more flavour than the industrial brewers usually offer.

They brew 250 liter batches, mostly with an ABV of about 4.5%. Well worth a visit, but get in touch with them first, as they do not have regular opening hours.

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Note: English text at the end!

En times kjøring fra Værnes gjennom Hegra og Meråker bringer deg til Teveltunet, et steinkast fra svenskegrensen. Her har det vært drevet hotell i lange tider, men nytt av året er at man også kan tilby eget øl til gjestene – både de som overnatter på hotellet og de som har sin vei forbi.

Jeg blir tatt imot av Ole Fredrik Haarsaker, som i tillegg til amnge andre funksjoner på det familiedrevne hotellet også brygger øl.

Han har ikke noen bryggerifaglig bakgrunn, og har faktisk heller ikke drevet som hjemmebrygger. Det har ikke vært noen hindring. Han berømmer andre trønderske bryggere for raushet og gode råd, spesielt Klostergården og Austmann.

Ole Fredrik brygger flere øltyper i butikkstyrke, det vil si at de kan kjøpes med fra gårdsbutikken, der det også er saft og syltetøy, flatbrød, lokalt kunsthåndverk og ost å få kjøpt. Det er også en kafédel med skjenkebevilling, slik at man kan nyte en øl eller en kaffe innendørs eller utendørs.

Teveltunet ligger ikke langt fra Storlien og de flotte fjellområdene der. Planen er å bygge et skitrekk i den retningen for å få flere skiturister. Og da passer det selvfølgelig å ha hjemmebrygget øl til After ski.

Jeg får smake på de ølene som er tilgjengelige, og her er det et fint spenn. På fat i lavvoen inne på området er det en Kölsch, og det kan hende det blir standardbrygget i stedet for å satse på en egen pils. Det er jo ikke så store avstand smaksmessig mellom disse øltypene, og da kan det være morsomt å servere noe annet. Kanskje blir det også servering i små glass slik de gjør det i Köln. Ølet er gyllent, fruktig, men med fin tørr ettersmak. Forfriskende, men med fin karakter.

Jeg får også prøve en Tripel, som er brygget med Meråkerhonning og tørket einebær. Disse ingrediensene gir ølet en fin aroma, og gjæren har nok spist det meste av honningen, slik at det ikke blir for søtt.

En brown ale har rik maltsødme og et hint av sjokolade.

Det mest spennende ølet er porteren. Den er brygget med malt fra Hegra, og har en flott, kraftig røykaroma. Smaken har også røykpreg, men ikke like kraftig, den blir balansert med en god porsjon maltsødme.

Dette er en glimrende start. Teveltunet er en merkevare i Trøndelag, og det er nok helt riktig å bruke det som navn på bryggeriet og ølene. Samtidig er lokale ingredienser med på å gi et særpreg, som jeg håper det er det som skal til for at dette prosjektet skal gå bra. Foreløpig er ølet i salg på Teveltunet, se nettsidene for åpningstider, men det er også håp om at de blir å finne i flere butikker etter hvert.

The Trøndelag region in the middle of Norway has it all – coastal archipelagos, rivers and fjords, broad agricultural plains, forests and mountains.

The mountains are most majestic close to the border with Sweden, and the road from Trondheim Airport towards Sweden is fairly busy, especially during the winter.

Just a few kilometers before the border, we are close to the tree line, and the landscape opens up. This is where you find Teveltunet, a conference center, hotel, outdoors adventure center – and brewery.

The brewery and shop/café is yet to open for the day, but brewer Ole Fredrik Haarsaker greets me and invites me in. The summer is a quiet period here, but the autumn conference season has started up, and he is keen to offer his guests local food – and local beer.

He has started on a very small scale, brewing for the guests of the hotel and visitors to the shop. And hopes to expand gradually.

A sensible range of four beers are available.

A brown ale, a porter and a tripel in bottles, and a nice Kölsch on tap.The tripel is too strong for take out sales, so you’ll have to enjoy that on the spot. Two of the beers are particularly interesting – the tripel is brewed with local honey and dried juniper berries, wich add a very pleasant aroma. The porter has some smoked malt from a farm in the area, giving some Stjørdalsøl edge to the beer. The smoke comes through quite strong in the aroma, but is more subtle as you sip.

The shop also has cheese from the area, freshly ground coffee, lemonades and juices. They plan to sell home made sausages, too. There are local handicrafts, too, and they have a licence to sell beer for drinking in front of the shop.

Add amazing scenery, mountains for hiking or skiing, and peace and quiet.

There are bus connections from Trondheim, and you can also take the Trondheim-Ôstersund train and be picked up at the station.

You want to pop over the border for some Swedish craft beer? While the small town Storlien is very close, you have to go to Åre to find any decent beer, 60 kilometers away.

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There is a very heated discussion in Sweden at the moment, as the government retail monopoly Systembolaget has changed its policy on the distribution of beer from small domestic breweries.

There is a general election coming up, which means that this also is of interest for the politicians.  Lawmakers and bureaucrats are in a bit of a twist – one one side there is pressure for a more liberal approach, allowing direct sales of beer, cider and wine from the producers to the public. On the other hand, this could undermine the monopoly, as foreign producers and their importers won’t have the same possibilities and will probably use legal means to challenge the changes. We are talking about a lucrative market with lots of buying power.

Systembolaget, obviously, want to keep their retail monopoly intact, and they have made some changes from 1 September. Their new rules include: Beer from small scale breweries may be sold in up to ten Systembolaget shops within a 100 kilometer radius from the brewery. The brewery is allowed to do the deliveries themselves. In town and cities, this will mean that the customers will have to visit a number of shops to find beers from different breweries. In rural areas, there will  often be less than ten shops within the 100 km radius.

The breweries will still have the option of listing their beers for specioal order through the Systembolaget shops. But they will then have to deliver the beers to the central depot in Örebro. Systembolaget claims that the depot does not have any warehouse capacity, meaning the breweries have to deliver every order by itself, at the brewery’s expense. This does not make sense economically for most of the smaller ones, who are now withdrawing their beers from the special order list.

A better account than the above is to be found on the BeerSweden site, they have published a press release from small scale brewery Beerbliotek (in English).

But I have a personal story to add. Later this week, I plan to visit a new micro brewery in Teveldalen, a conference/ tourist resort an hour’s drive from Trondheim, a stones’s throw from the border with Sweden. I thought I’d use the opportunity to cross the border to Storlien and buy a few Swedish beers. It is some distance to the nearest Systembolaget shop, but they have a network of ombud, meaning you can order your alcohol from Systembolaget and have them delivered to a local supermarket.

This is a modern, hi-tech Nordic country, scoring well on all the indicators for good living, so there is of course a web order form on the web page of the shop in Storlien. I carefully select four beers from the Åre brewery, 60 kilometers further into Sweden, add a few of the more interesting Oktoberfest beers listed in the Systembolaget app, plus a dozen imports from their special order list. I click send on the form, and hope a week is enough for the delivery.

 Screen dump, Systembolaget

Ten minutes later I get a call. From Sweden. From the man handling the alcohol deliveries at Konsum Storlien. Tyvärr, noen of the beers you have ordered are available through our shop.

-Nor even the ones from the local Åre brewery?

-We don’t get our supplies from Åre. We get them from the regional warehouse in Sundsvall. and they do not carry the Åre beers. And the ones from the special order list – we do not carry them.

One more argument for reforming the system, then. What looks like an impressive network of shops boils down to delivery of Carlsberg and Koskenkorva.

 

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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. I’m sorry that I forgot to credit Ølportalen (in Norwegian) as the source for this.

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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