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Archive for the ‘Norway’ 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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I’ve lost count. We all have. There are new Norwegian breweries popping up every week or so, in the most unlikely places. The beers? The good, the bad and the bland. Don’t get me wrong, there is room for both the good and the bland.

I rarely write about the truly bad breweries. There are a few, usually there are people who wanted a novelty for their pub without any interest, let alone passion, for the styles, the nuances and the flavors of beer. This is a place where your are likely to find someone behind the bar who do not actually like beer, but they would happily down a Kopparberg alcopop or two.

Then you have breweries who aim for a local market, and who don’t want to alienate their public. But that is no excuse for being lazy. You can still aim for flavourful and balanced beers with more character than the industrials, who taste of summer meadows and amber grain. Beers that leave refreshment at the bottom of your half liter glass, yet leaves enough bitterness on your tongue to make you consider another round.

And I have respect for those who have ambitions. Who dare to take up a second mortgage on their house to expand production, who dare to quit their day job to follow their dream. There are a few in the second tier of the Norwegian craft breweries. Not up to the volume and experience of Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet, Ægir, Kinn or Lervig. But some of them will soon be snapping at their heels.

Austmann, Lindheim, Nøisom, Ego, Balder, Voss, 7 Fjell and Veholt are the names I want to mention. Scattered around the coast, each with their own profile, which I hope they will continue to develop. Right now the supermarkets are eager for local beers, I also hope there will be enough outlets in pubs, bars and restaurants for these quality brews. It would probably make sense for some of them to cooperate on distribution,

Then we have another category where I find it hard to have much enthusiasm. These are beers that claim to have local or national identity, but where, like the industrial giants, the marketing is more important than the beer and the brewing. I have no membership in any nostalgic organisations condemning giant corporations, and I have no ill feelings towards those who drink their Stellas (as long as they don’t beat their wives). But I have some resentment towards those who take me for a fool.

There are several companies who are riding the crest of the beer boom right now who claim to be breweries, but are not. Local journalists write, starry-eyed, about local lads make good without asking where the beers actually come from. One of these companies was launched in the summer of 2012. The uncompromised nature of Norway in a bottle is their slogan. The problem? The beers are brewed in England.

Then there is a newcomer claiming allegiance to a gentrified but traditional industrial area of Oslo, launching industrial lagers in supermarkets and aiming for a slice of Carlsberg’s market. At last, Oslo gets its own beer, they boast. Christmas beer brewed with local ingredients, says one of the local newspapers.

Two problems. One: There are several breweries in Oslo, two of them have bottling lines and already distribute a range of beers. Two: They beers are, for the time being, not brewed in Oslo, but in Arendal, on the southern coast. Sure, they are building a brewery. But if they are half as successful as they hope to, they will not have the capacity to brew on a large-scale on the premises. So the local connection is dubious.

Carlsberg has a half-hearted attempt to cash in on the local card as well. They bought up a number of breweries around the country decades ago and closed them down, while keeping some of the brand names. They have the nerve to market beers like Nordlandspils or Tou as ”local beers”, overlooking the fact that they are all brewed in Oslo.

I don’t mind contract brewing. I don’t mind gypsy brewers. But when I buy food and drink I want honesty about where it is produced. Particularly when geography is a major part of the marketing campaign.

Bu maybe I’m old fashioned.

The real thing (at Austmann)

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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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A small piece of Paradise in Hell, according to the cash register.

I spent the best years of my life in this house. Well, that is exaggerating, But this was back when the world was young, when politics were important and you could mobilize thousands of students for a political agenda.

30 years on, Studentersamfundet i Trondhjem – the Student Society in Trondheim – is still thriving. It was always a place for a lot of cultural activities and parties, and it still is. Way back then, the drinks were limited to the local Dahls Pils and a cheap house wine, but they have moved with the times.

I have mentioned my visits to the on site brewery. They have expanded, and there are now four house beers on tap in their dedicated beer pub, Daglighallen. And this is the most dedicated beer pub I have ever seen. They serve beer and soft drinks. Period. Now wine, no alcopops of fake ciders. Not even a bag of peanuts.

Me like.

Sitting in the bar for a few hours on a Saturday night tells me that very few ask for the generic pils – the Dahls. (Often ordered in Norway by raising the number of fingers you need to order the number of half liter glasses you want.) They sell a lot of pale lagers, sure, but there is also a good trade in foreign and imported craft beer. And many customers have heard about the in-house brewery and ask for their beers.

I’d say this is among the top ten beer bars in Norway. And you won’t find their well made beers anywhere else. Check out their opening times before you go.

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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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