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Archive for the ‘Denmark’ Category

Jul 003

According to a campaign in the Danish newspapers, there will be 1450 new jobs in Denmark if the taxes on beer and soft drinks are cut by half.  They will buy their cans and bottles at home instead of leaving their money at the border shops in Germany.

I am not able to find any signs of this in the reports of a new government package of measures to boost growth in Denmark.

Because there are other factors, too. If you compare to most countries, the taxes are pretty low today. And the Danes do eat and drink far too much for their own good already. What is good for Carlsberg is not neccecarily good for Danish public health.

And I wonder if those who paid for the ad considered how many Danish jobs are dependent on the border trade from Sweden and Norway. Probably around 1450.

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I’m on my way to Stockholm. A city I used to visit several times a year. A beautiful place, both summer and winter. And a city that has a number of beer pubs with a splendid reputation. I have hardly visited since I started blogging, and not at all since I moved over to the WordPress platform.

A train journey this time around. Then I finally have the time to read Pete Brown’s book.

The blog homebru net Scandinavia has counted 400 new Swedish beers in 2012. (Check out their blog. A great resource for documentation on new breweries).

Add that to the figures for Norway and Denmark, and we end up with about 1400 new Scandinavian beers last year.

Who’s gonna drink it all?

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756 new Danish beers in 2012 is an all time high. But 220 new Norwegian beers ain’t half bad, either. Lots of them only on sale locally, so there are strong incentives for Norwegian beer tourism.

And this is just the start. There are a number of new breweries starting up over the coming months. My prediction is that we will see one hundred Norwegian breweries before the wave peaks.

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There are speedy ways of getting to your destination, this usually involves a plane plus various means of transit at either end.  There are cheap ways of getting around, in Scandinavia this would often mean an express bus. Not very comfortable, at least not if this lasts for many hours.

Then there are comfortable ways.

The Oslo-Copenhagen ferry is one of them.

While the ferries to Jutland are basic no-frills transportation with some excessive drinking thrown in, this route is more civilized, at least if you avoid the Christmas season. It’s been some years since my last voyage, and I was pleasantly surprised.

There are two ferries on the route, both departing in the afternoon and arriving just before ten in the morning. The cabins are standard size, but the beds are comfortable. The food is good, even the buffet restaurant, which often is the option for bulk eating rather than finesse, had a fine range of delicacies.

That’s the praise.

But there is room for improvement.

They could have a better beer range.

Apart from the usual Carlsberg stuff in bottles and cans, there are quite a few beers from the Skands brewery. Lagers, stouts, and IPA, an abbey ale. Looks good, but, frankly, these are too boring.

My proposal: Add beers from one or two of the more prolific Danish and Norwegian breweries. I would suggest Ægir from Norway and Hornbeer or Amager from Denmark. The Skands beers are fine for the unexperienced palate, but give us something a bit more challenging.

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There are many pubs and bars that do a brisk trade during the winter months, but are more or less deserted during the winter. Even if the beer range may be limited, we tend to seek out beer gardens or other outdoor watering holes when weather or temperature permits. The vaulted cellars are more appealing when there is a need for a warm fireplace in the corner.

A charming place to have a beer or two is the courtyard at BrewPub Copenhagen, just a few feet away from the busy streets filled with locals and tourists. Large parasols shield you from the sun if you wish, and they are sturdy enough to cope with a rain shower as well. Painted walls that remind you of Italian palaces.

I have eaten here on several occasions, and their lunchtime dishes are great. A bit pricey, sure, but you get real quality for your money. There is a good list of bottled beers to choose from, too, right now with lighter summer brews.

Their home brews are a bit hit and miss, with rather mundane examples of Weisse and pilsener and ales which are very moderately hopped. The beers are not bad, but they are not up to the general standard you expect in what has become a major beer destination.

Right now, there is an exception. The Roadster XK 50 barley wine.

Hazy brown, thin head, lazy carbonation. Loads of maltiness, generous amount of hops to balance. Some warming alcohol, true to style sweetness that does not get too sticky. And the plate of ripe cheeses with nuts and olives was a match made in heaven. I believe this beer is on sale for a limited time, well worth seeking out if you are in town.

Note that they are closed on Sundays.

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I did not set up a list of favourites from the Copenhagen Beer Celebration, even though both the 20 year old sour ale from de Struise and the spontaneous blueberry from Mikkeller were standouts.

In the weeks after the events, I have particularly enjoyed two beers.

RyeKing from the Copenhagen brewery Amager Bryghus was one of the beers I picked up at Ølbutikken. It has an intense flavour of liquorice and liquid sour Russian rye bread, a little salt and a deep bitterness. There is a malty body that is able to cope with all of this and balance it in a strange way.

Charcoal in the dry finish. Mouth-watering, and a great candidate for further barrel aging.

The other one has mixed origins. Italian Gypsy brewery Revelation Cat brew their lambics in Belgium and then transport them to Italy for aging and blending. Their Islay lambic has a clean whisky aroma, and when you sip you find a lovely lambic laced with peaty smoke. Exciting – I won’t claim that his is a major trend for beer in 2012 (though I told you barrel aging would be the Big Thing), but this certainly shows that there still are new roads to explore. Nice sour tail and a smoke flavour I haven’t really felt since my last packet of John Player’s Special several decades ago.

Available at Schouskjelleren, Oslo, right now,  I’m sure it will also pop up in London, Copenhagen and Rome.

Revelation Cat Islay

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A few beers from the Ørbæk brewery in Denmark are now available in Norway, both through Vinmonopolet and in selected restaurants and bars. I’ve been toild there are more beers to come.

The Fynsk Forår is soft and round, brewed with elderberry flowers and wheat malt. The flowers blend well into the wheat, and there is a nice little citrus sting in the finish.

If you crave a wheat beer on a hot day, this can certainly do the trick. Personally, I would have prefered a drier version with more hops, but there is nothing wrong with this.

The other two beers are also at session strength – about 5%. The Dark Horse is a Schwatzbier, with a nice tone of roasted malt. A dry mouth feel, it avoids the sticky maltiness you often find in German versions.

The Ørbæk IPA is glowing gold with a firm rocky head. Bittersweet, light and refreshing. Herbs, a whiff of forest pines. Not in any way extreme, but very pleasant. Of the three, this is the one I would go for as my summer tipple.

Attractive 0,5 liter bottles. And organic, it that is important to you.

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When I travel, I do not always set up a tight schedule to see all the sights. I prefer to spend some time getting the feel of the place, and as a foodie, this means that I often end up at a food market. There are lovely old markets in Florence and in Stockholm, there is the cornucopia of produce from near and far in Borough Market in London. Oslo has one under construction, with its own micro brewery on site. But Copenhagen beat us to it. Last year, about 50 years after the fruit and vegetable market closed down on the same site,  Torvehallerne opened on Israels Plads.

Even before I arrived, I knew it had one major success factor covered  – location. A stone’s throw from Nørreport station, it is easily reached by train or Metro, not to mention bus or bicycle.

The layout consists of two moderately sized halls with lots of glass. On both sides and in between there are open air stalls.

This is not the place for endless rows of stalls hawking the same strawberries, they have gone for diversity rather than volume. Sure, there are several of the outside stalls offering similar seasonal produce, but inside there is an impressive range. Spanish tapas and Italian antipasti. A shop full of goods from the island of Bornholm. Fresh fish and seafood, old-fashioned open sandwiches. Artisan cheese, smoked venison. Wine, olive oil, vinegar and cognac straight from the barrel. Snacks and ready meals to eat on the spot or take away, perhaps for a picnic in one of the nearby parks.

And, this being Denmark, there is beer. Fynsk Forår from the Ørbæk brewery on Funen. Draft Mikkeller. The full range of bottled beers from Svaneke in the Bornholm shop. Bøgedal beers on tap and in bottles at the organic shop. Catalonian beer in the tapas bar. Even an outside stall with a miniature version of a German Getränkemarkt with quite a few bottles worth considering.

This is not the place to go to eat and drink on the cheap. But I would not mind a place like this for weekend shopping. I had plenty of beer already, but I bought two kilo of asparagus. White fleshy ones from Germany. Tender green ones from Denmark. Yummy.

Open every day. Direct transport links to the airport so you can drag all the good stuff with you.

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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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Up early in the morning for a few days of beer festivals. Meeting people from the international beer scene. Bloggers, drinkers, pourers, brewers. The occasional reader of this blog, too, I hope.

No Diaego products will be consumed. Though I plan to have a few from BrewDog.

Blog posts to follow next week, but you could also follow me on twitter at @KnutAl

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