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Archive for the ‘Norway’ 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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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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Ego Brygghus

Last Saturday, I gathered a few beer geeks and set out on a field trip in Østfold, the Norwegian county furthest to the southeast, on the Swedish border. My friend Henrik was generously our designated driver for the day and picked us up at the railway station in Fredrikstad.

We managed to visit four breweries during the day, and they show the range of activities on the Norwegian beer scene. We have to remember that ten years ago, there were just a few men in a garage producing craft beer in Norway.

Fredrikstad has a long industrial heritage, situated along the Glomma river, which has given electric power and transported timber from the inland forests. The industrial heydays are over, but this means there are buildings available for new activities. Both Nøisom Craft Beer and Ego Brygghus.

Tellef from Christianssand guest brews at Nøisom

The old traditions of farm brewing have died out in this region, but that hasn’t stopped the farmer at Gjerstad gård from running brewery courses and other events at his farm.

We ended up at Halden Mikrobryggeri, which I also visited last year.

I’ll do presentations of these breweries as soon as I get around to it. It was a warm and sunny day, with generous hosts along the way.

Gjerberg gård

 

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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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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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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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