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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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Sooner or later, there was bound to be a Portugese beer blog.

Cerveja Artesanal Portugesa.

 

There seems to be a fair number of micro breweries being established. Let us see if I’m able to find some good brews for my holidays in Algarve, although the most interesting beer places seem to be to the north of Lisbon.

Craft beer on the beach – in Portugal as well?

 

 

 

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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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Quite a heritage!

Though I’ve visited Stockholm many times over the years, my knowledge is to a large extent limited to the central areas, the most renown beer bars and the tourist attractions.  When I was in the southern commuter town Södertälje, I managed to find a micro brewer. This time around I stayed mostly in the northern suburbs, but there is local beer to be found there as well.

I found a reference to Sundbyberg Köksbryggeri in a web discussion. Köksbryggeri means kitchen brewery, so the name suggested that this was just a hobby. A quick search told me that they had indeed started out as a amateur outfit, but that they had gone professional earlier this year. As I was spending an oval weekend in a hotel just a few minutes away, I sent off an e-mail inviting myself for a visit and received a positive reply.

When I arrived at Friday lunchtime, it turned out to be a rather busy day, as they were delivering their first consignment to Systembolaget, the governmental retail monopoly shops for alcohol. I am greeted by Thomas, one of the three brewers. He shows me the setup of the brewery. I later sit down with Per for a chat about the brewery and the Swedish beer scene.

While they are taking a big step these days in delivering to the Systembolaget shops, they have been available in local bars and restaurants for some months. Sundbyberg today is a commuter town just a few minutes from central Stockholm by train or Underground. It has, however, its own identity, to a large extent linked to its industrial heritage. A century ago, the breweries and distilleries of this town supplied the Stockholm are with much of its beer and aquavit.

The new brewery tries to be a part of this heritage, and the ambition is to stay local, to cooperate with local companies and associations. The local market is big enough, they already have problems keeping ut with demand.

They also plan to open a pub on the first floor of the brewery, where there is already exhibition space for local artists. And the building is of particular interest. Because this is also a part of the Sundbyberg heritage. But it does not have an industrial pedigree. The brewery is located in an old church. For marketing purposes, they should have named themselves Church Brewery, not Kitchen Brewery.

The building had been abandoned for years before it was refurbished. All religious elements have been removed. There are stained glass windows, but these are abstract, so they do not carry any Christian message. The new inhabitants have been in touch with the congregation when they stared up, and they even have had the pastor coming in to taste the beers.

As for the refurbishment of the building, there were a number of challenges. There is a blog about this for those particularly interested.

The three friends who run the brewery – Per, Peter and Thomas – do not have any formal qualifications in the field, but they are experienced home brewers. Two of them share a flat, the kitchen in the name is the kitchen of their flat, where they have brewed lots of beers.

The aim, now that they have gone professional, is to brew balanced beers, often in a British style, but also with nods to Belgium and Germany. The beers being distributed now are an English bitter, a Kölsh and a Saison. These are beers with moderate amounts of alcohol – and moderate amounts of hops. Everyone else brews American style IPAs, they prefer to go for something else.

The Kölsch – Halvlager – has become very popular for those who want an all-round alternative to lager to serve with food. Fruity, with a pleasant dry mouth feel. The saison is brewed with a fair amount of coriander, and wehat malt and passion fruit is also added. The saison yeast makes it a saison rather than a wit, but it blurs the distinctions between the two styles.

The Sumpen (slang for Sundbyberg) ale is closely related to an English bitter, a fine session beer.

Their beers are, as I said, widely available in the area, there is a map on their web site showing where to find them. The bottles can be delivered to any Systembolaget shop, I don’t know if you have to order a minimum number of bottles.

A well hidden brewery

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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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- My wife sent me off to the United States with the message:  Don’t come back until you have a smile on your face.

There is a flicker of the smile before he continues:

- I found something to work with. I found a brewery. In a burned out building. I had it dismantled and sent to Belgium.

Our host is Andre Janssens at Brouwerij Hof ten Dormaal, another scenic spot in the Flemish countryside, yet not many minutes’ drive from Leuven. He had a stroke a few years ago, was feeling depressed and did not want to continue his office work.  That was when his wife insisted he should travel.

We are seated around an old, worn oak table in Andre’s living room.

- My father told me three men were made on this table. And five were killed.

This is not only a brewery, but also a working family farm focusing on sustainable production, with hops and barley grown on the farm, even the malting is done just up the road. Much of the energy used in the brewing process comes from rapeseed oil also produced on the farm.

Tending the hop fields

The brewery was started five years ago, and they now brew 1500 liters twice a week.

The beers started off as rather traditional Belgian styles, but things have really taken off with a series of barrel aged beers, using oak barrels previously used for various European wines and spirits. Before they started barrel aging, they cultivated wild yeast. 10 buckets of beer were placed on various spots around the farm. They all went sour, two of them were usable for use when they barrel age the beers.

 

There is the most charming setting you could imagine – a small brewery tap offering beers to drink on the spot or take away. A lovely garden. A pond with ducks and frogs. And even horses of old Brabant stock being used in the hop cultivation.

There is a lot of experimentation taking place. We get to try the Brand von Leuven, a beer in their Taste Lab series. This is to commemorate the firebombing of Leuven. The beer has smoky flavor and aroma, elegant balance of sweet and sour.  The soot and destruction is there in the finish.

A most unusual brewery to visit, check their web site for details. I think you will find their beers quite hard to find in Europe, the distribution seems to be better in parts of the US.

The visit was sponsored by Visit Flanders, who kindly invited a number of Scandinavian beer bloggers last month. They have no influence on the editorial content of this blog.

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When I checked in at my hotel in Leuven, there was a package waiting for me at the reception.

I got a e-mail back in March from Lode Devlieghere at www.belgianbeerz.com. This is a fairly new web shop shipping Belgian beers just about everywhere, and he was reaching out to selected beer bloggers to get some exposure.

As the shop is based in Leuven, I told him that the most convenient would be if he could have a sample box delivered to my hotel on arrival. Less postage for him, no worries about taxes, fees and so on in Norway for me.

What I received was a dozen Belgian Tripels and Saisons. Some from the well known and established breweries, others from more obscure ones.

Two examples of the Tripels:

The St Feuillien has a fruity aroma with some fresh notes of lemon. The flavour has more sweetness, peaches and other soft fruit, but there is enough citrus to leave a clean and crisp imprint. Elegant, a beer that show what you can do within this style.

The Sint Canarus Tripel is sweeter. It has apricots and a little yeast in the nose. An honest example of the style, but it is hard to stand out among the many similar beers brewed in Belgium and beyond. But if you wnat a good example of the style, order this instead of a more famous one. Brewed at De Proef, meaning no flaws.

The beers were were well packed with both an individual bubble wrap on each bottle plus Styrofoam popcorn filling the box. Probably the best packaging I’ve seen from a mail order company.

Check out their web site, giving inventory and prices. There is always room for one more quality supplier, especially for those of us who have meager supplies in our own shops.

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When you look at a typical list of Belgian beers, you could be mistaken to think that there is a limited range of styles being repeated over and over again. On one hand, there is a kernel of truth in this, the market does not actually cry out for one more dubbel or tripel. On the other side, the beers most eagerly sought out do not bother too much about following guidelines and conventions for styles and traditions.

De Struise Brouwers are among the rock stars of the European beer scene. They set the tone for the first Copenhagen Beer Celebration with their van filled with lots of good stuff, I do not envy anyone trying to get attention if they have the stand next to them at a beer festival. We were lucky to be able to meet Carlo at the brewery in their old school house in Ostvleteren.

De Struise have the same humble beginnings as most craft brewers. A group of friends started home brewing together in 2001. One of them lived on an ostrich farm, that’s where the name came from. One of them had a family history of home brewing, and they tried to recreate a strong dark beer being brewed by fishermen by the North Sea a century ago.  The result of this is the Pannepot, named after a flat bottomed fishing boat.

Things were going slow until they were contacted by a Dane wanting to try their beers. It turned out he was Jeppe, who was running Ølbutikken in Copenhagen. They started delivering beers to them, which lead to fame around the world.

While experimenting with beers big and strong, there is also a range of more quaffable session beers, they usually  get less attention than their Pannepøts and Black Alberts.

We were able to sample quite a few of their beers during our visit. Most remarkable are their high strength beers, which manage a balanced flavour despite their extreme punch. If you haven’t tried any De Struise beers, it is about time.

Many of their beers are hard to find, but if you are in Bruges, they have their own shop there – probably the easiest way to try a range of their beers. But you won’t regret a visit to the brewery, either.

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Our hosts in Visit Flanders  provided comfortable accommodation both in Bruges and in Leuven, but these were in chain hotels that do not merit a blog post. The night in between, however, we stayed in a small family run hotel, Klein Nederlo, in the countryside. As rural as can be, but if you look closer, you see the highest buildings of Brussels in the distance.

There are sheep grazing in the fields next to the hotel. It is quiet enough to sleep with your window open – if you don’t mind a wake up call from the cock across the road.

Large, comfortable rooms, too, and a generous breakfast buffet.

I arrived at the Klein Nederlo at the end of a long day, I actually skipped a beer festival to be able to check in and freshen up. But at the reception I was told that their café was still open, and after a shower I felt I was ready for one more.

The Tavern has a menu of small snacks and more substantial meals, but at the time my main interest was the beer list. The usual suspects, of course, also Orval both fresh and cellared for one year. A few hand-picked beers I’ve never encountered. A Moriau Oude Geuze, a Witte Trippel from Ronaldus.

And two beers from the Brussels Beer Project. I went for their Delta IPA. The beer menu said blond, the label said IPA. The color is blond, the hops are definitely IPA. Spicy and herbal, yet there is something Belgian in the background, underlining the crisp bitterness.

Some locals finishing their meals in the back, a quiet and pleasant atmosphere as the day was coming to an end. A place to come back to – perhaps to enjoy a few beers on their terrace while reading a book? Buses with Brussels Zoo as their destination passed right in front of the hotel, so it should be easy to get there.

The Brussels Beer Project popped up again the other day. They are planning their own brewery, but are at the time being hiring capacity elsewhere. They go new ways, crowdfunding their activities and crowdsourcing to decide which test beers to  brew on a regular basis. Not surprisingly they are not in total agreement with the Belgian breweries who, in an open letter, use strong words about contract brewing.

Once more – I traveled to Belgium as a guest of Visit Flanders and local tourist authorities. They do not in any way influence the material I publish.

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