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I had a lunchtime meeting with my publisher today. I like that. My publisher.

So, I have a signed contract in my hands. For a book. Estimate: 500 pages. Working title: Guide to Norwegian breweries and beers.

First printing: 3000 copies.

Deadline: Mid-July.

 

Wish me luck!

I did a public beer tasting last night here in an Oslo bar. The plan was initially to have a brewer come and present his beers, while I was asking questions to keep the words flowing. Well, the brewer couldn’t make it, so I had to run the show on my own, with a little assistance from Kenneth, the host of the event.

I was allowed to pick the beers, all from Little Brother Brewery, probably the smallest brewery in town to have a licence to sell their beers. They have a fine range of  beers, not being confined to the standard range of styles. Most of the audience had not tried any of their beers before, and I doubt if any had tried them all.

There was an audience of 40-50, the crowd was well-behaved – and I felt things went very well. Quite a few in the audience with more brewing knowledge than I have, but I was able to share some of the knowledge I have about the large number of new Norwegian breweries.

The beers were good, and my reflections were well received.

I do some talks for various audiences at work, but this is the first time I do this type of event. The feedback was very positive, so I could easily be convinced to do similar things in the future.

And the experience will also come in handy for a project I’ll tell you more about in the near future.

I was fairly busy, so I didn’t take any photos.

When friend and fellow beer writer Lars Marius suggested an oval weekend in Vilnius, I did not need much encouragement to go along. In the end there were four of us traveling, a convenient crowd.

 

I have been to Vilnius before, but that was ages ago. I did a stint in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Mid Nineties and attended a meeting in Lithuania in 1997. I saw a country trying to get to it feet after many decades of oppression, and I did not envisage it as a tourist destination for a long time.

 

Fast forward to 2015. Two hours flight from Oslo to the capital of a NATO and European Union country. They even adopted the Euro on 1 January.

 

But we were not there for the politics, but for the beer. Lithuania has an unbroken tradition of farmhouse and other small-scale brewing. These beers used to be really hard to find, but now there is a fair number of dedicated beer bars across the city where you find a staggering number of beers.

 

And these beer bars come in a number of shapes and sizes. Some are industrial chic, some are really converted garages tucked inside courtyards. Some are just off the gleaming high street. Some serve rustic food, some serve seriously rustic snacks.

 

The most amazing bar must be Snekutis Uzupio. 20 minutes walk from the old town, this looks like a wooden shack somewhere in the countryside. Wooden interior with lots of dusty memorabilia, a dozen or so beers on tap and a fridge full of mysterious brews.

 

It is extremely convenient to travel with Lars Marius, who has even written a book on Lithuanian beer. He tells us what to order. We drink it.

 

The beer is far away from industrial lager, and it’s not a close relation to, say, Czech lagers, either. The beers tend to be full-bodied, with lots of grain and straw in the flavour. Some of them have notes of honey in the aroma, whether they are brewed with honey or not. We’re talking local yeast varieties here, which you won’t find anywhere on the planet.

I don’t take any serious notes, just enjoy the half liter jugs of beer and the good conversation.

 

 

To be continued….

I got an email a few weeks ago from a guy I know, offering me a position as a beer blogger for one of the major Norwegian online news providers. The wording was flattering, and there was even money involved, meaning a certain amount per click.

An opportunity to write in Norwegian for a broad audience on a subject that (still) fascinates me!

But I had to decline. In addition to the featured bloggers, which are given exposure within the editorial environment, they also offer a general blogging platform, where everyone may publish everything. There is a code of conduct that you have to agree with, and they have staff in charge of this service.

As you might know, I have a day job in the health sector. In this capacity I learned, quite a while ago,  that someone had created a blog dedicated to a smear campaign against an employee of the company where I work. He was accused  of malpractice and the page  made similarities between him and war criminals.

I tried to have these writings removed, quoting the code of conduct. This was declined, both while the blogger was anonymous and when I, without much effort, told them her identity.

My reputation is not worth very much. But I am in a position to decline a co-operation with a company that has an elastic relationship with their stated ethical standards.

So, no thanks.

But there are other windows of opportunity – more about that soon.

The blog posts have been quite irregular here lately. As the focus has changed towards Norwegian breweries, I have also established a spin off on Facebook, which covers news updates from other sources, mostly in Norwegian. This has been very successful, much more so than my activity on twitter. So, if you’re not following my Facebook page, give it a try.

But I have had a few offers to migrate my beer writing to other platforms, too. More about that soon.

 

 

There are vintage ads. And there are vintage spoof ads. The Dangerous Minds has an article about the advertising parodies of MAD Magazine. The publication was able to survive without any outside ads – meaning they were free to make parodies. The tobacco industry was often the target, but there were some breweries among the victims as well.

This one is from September 1956. More ads on Jasperdo‘s Flickr account.

I was sipping a beer ( a very nice brown ale, since you ask) at Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri, one of the Oslo brewpubs, some days ago. Their blackboard shows their range of beers on tap, six of their own, the rest hand picked from around the globe. Wheat or wit, IPAs, pale ales, usually at least a sour ale, an imperial stout, maybe a barley wine.

But, for the last six months or so, they also have their own pilsener. They have always had Hansa pils, but it is not promoted in any way. An industrial alternative for those who get too scared of all this craft stuff. The Hansa pils is not selling much, though. The regulars want the home brews or the hand picked imports on the blackboard. Their own lager is another story. The barman told me they have pulled it form the menu at times to stimulate the sale of their other beers.

If you want Norwegian craft lager to take home, there are a few really good ones available from micros like Lillehammer Bryggeri and Sundbytunet, but they have a very small distribution.

Lervig started out as a lager brewery, way before Mike Murphy arrived to start making top fermented beers. Their pilsener varieties did not impress anyone back then. I’ve been told that they are much improved now. I will give them a try, but there is a lot of marketing work to be done as well, perhaps integrating a pilsnener and a few other lager varieties into their series of well designed bottles and cans.

But the one to look out for is further north on the west coast. Kinn has announced that they are reducing their range of beers to concentrate on a core range. But among those core beers, there will also be a pilsener. Knowing the quality of Espen’s beers,  I’m sure this will be a winner. But they might have to consider the price level. I’m not sure how much the Norwegian consumers are willing to pay for a bottle of pils, however good it is. We are used to drinking our pale lagers in larger quantities than the darker and stronger beers, so it’s a matter of keeping the price of a six-pack down to a reasonable level.

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