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teo

Thirty years ago, Teo had a dream. A dream that slowly would give birth the the Italian beer revolution. A dream that has grown into a giant brewery, but is much more than that.

Thirty years ago, Teo Musso started a beer bar in his home village Piozzo. He was tired of the bland industrial pilsners on offer, and he knew there were some interesting beers out there that he could sell. His bar soon featured 200 beers, mostly imported, many of them Belgian. Hoegaarden was an early favourite.

For ten years, the bar grew in reputation and scope – and then Teo created his Baladin brewery.  The rest is history.

Piozzo is one of thousands of sleepy Italian villages, among the hills in the Northwestern corner of the country. It’s lush and green here, the Alps make sure there is enough water both as rain and as rivers. The crops here are barley and maize – but mostly grapes.  Alba 20, Barolo 7, the signposts say as we approach.

I was one of a selected few beer writers invited to mark the anniversary of Baladin and the opening of the brand new brewery. Which is much more than a brewery.

The new brewery is situated on a sizeable area of land, with possibilities of growing ingredients, brewing beer with state of the art technology and the aging of beer in 14 century cellars. There is no real threshold for production here. The new brewery does not start out with a capacity far beyond the old one, but the possibilities for expanding are endless.

The bar turned into a brewpub in 1996, and the first bottled beers were sold one year later. Since then there has been a slow expansion, until this year’s move to fantastic facilities outside the village.

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The investment is sizeable, 12,5 million Euro plus VAT, but then everything should be in place. Some of this is crowdfunding. This is not only for the financial aspect, it is also a way of getting the local community seriously involved.

The most impressive is the automated bottle maturing process. This is bacically a closed box. The beer is matured for various lengths of time at three different temperatures, and a robot makes sure it is moved to the correct place at the correct time. Groundbreaking beer technology, with a potential in other fields like winemaking or cheese production if you ask me. This was intended as a Horizon 2020 project, but a Spanish partner had to resign, and Baladin lost 1.5 million Euros because of that.

There is more. There is land set aside for growing barley, other grains and hops. There is a drying area for hops, and they plan to build maltings. They are establishing a magnificent garden open for the public, with stone mills, and old communal oven and cheese makers and butchers invited in. The craft of barrel making had almost died out, Baladin uses Japanese craftsmanship to build new ones and to take care of old ones. There is education, too, with a small brewery set up for students at the nearby Gastronomical University to acquire brewing skills.

Baladin is no longer one of a handful of Italian craft breweries. There are now one thousand Italian breweries – yet the growth potential is big. Craft beer still account for just 3% of the Italian market. Baladin sells half of its production abroad, and ten percent in their own bars and restaurants. There are Baladin bars in a number of Italian cities, as well as in New York.

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Teo is proud of what he has managed to achieve. I have moved mammoths, he says, and points out that the Italian beer revoulution is also a cultural revolution. What is important is the next stage is to watch out for the big industrial players making beer they pretend to be craft.

I admire people who set u a goal and then work towards it for decades. Some have to throw in the towel, but Teo did not. His contribution to the European ber scene should not be underestimated.

I had expected a range of inventive beers for this launch, but I assume we will have to wait until the products from the new brewing plant have been allowed to mature, be it in the old cellars or in the new warehouse with temperature zones. One beer to look out for is a light, hoppy blonde simply called POP. Available in brightly colored cans, ask at your local beer shop wherever you live. Of course you should enquire about the Xyauyu range of beers too, aimed for a more discerning public. And there are lots of beers in between to explore, too.

And if you are in the area, there are tours of the brewery. A gallery going through the building gives good Access. There is even a shop selling souvernirs and beer.

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Check out Martyn’s report on the event as well.

Disclaimer: I was invited to the opening of the new Baladin brewery as a guest, and they paid my travel expenses.

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I often sing the praises of the tiniest breweries, and of course they make good stories. But the ones capable of taking a significant bite of the Norwegian market are the medium sized breweries, often with a strong regional standing. In Oslo there are now several breweries to be taken seriously – one of them is St. Hallvards Bryggeri.

A trio of beer enthusiasts with Anders Rohde as the key figure started brewing in 2015, just in time to get featured in my book. They have listed 17 beers available for a beer event next week – when you add special beers for restaurants and supermarkets and three new Christmas beers, the total adds up to about 25.

Several restaurants in Oslo are shareholders in St. Hallvards. The brewery was crowd funded, and they have 450 shareholders.

St Hallvards. does not aim for the extreme ends of the market, the focus is on high drinkability and lots of flavor. They have the usual range of British, Belgian and American styles. What has impressed me most are the beers brewed at 4,7%, allowing them under Norwegian legislation to be sold in supermarkets. There are lots of dull beers on the market because of this limit, St. Hallvards is one of the exceptions. Look out for their saisons and brown ales of various strength.

St. Hallvards Bryggeri is named after the patron saint of Oslo, and their beers are named after various colorful characters from the city’s history.

Look for their beers in the Meny supermarkets and in Vinmonopolet as well as well stocked bars and pubs and beer festivals. The last project they are involved in is a series of beer and aquavit glasses in cooperation with  Magnor Glassverk, Arcus and Sentralen restaurant.

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Furuhaugli 1

Visiting Norwegian breweries does not only mean downtown brewpubs and drab industrial areas. Some of them are in idyllic surroundings – and the smallest ones combine brewing with rather exotic activities. I wanted to visit Furuhaugli Turisthytter this summer, and sent off an e-mail. The reply came fast, asking me to please call ahead, as the owner might be out guiding on a muskox safari.

My wife and I were in the Dovre National Park last year, and got quite close to the animals. We saw the through a bus window, but this safari offered a chance to get closer to them. So we decided that  instead of just stopping for a few beers, we included dinner, a night in one of their cabins and a muskox safari the next day.

When we checked in, we were made very welcome.

  • So, you are the author? We have your book right here!

Inger-Lise and Stein runs the establishment now, they are the third generation to rent out cabins in the mountains – Inger-Lise’s grandmother started this in 1930.

You can make your own meals in the cabins, but you should really try their food. Excellent home cooking, we had pan-fried Arctic char, which Stein and their children had caught themselves, but there are other options as well.

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Stein claims to have the smallest commercial brewery in Norway, and I am sure he is right, his 25 and 50 liter batches are unlikely to wipe out the competition. He likes to brew a wider range of beers and to keep them fresh. The beers are not for sale off the premises, they are only available in the restaurant.

I try the Blonde at 4.5 % ABV. It is dry and fruity. Light and drinkable, with moderate amounts of American hops. The Red Ale is stronger, at 5.9%. It is a rich, malty beer, with just enough hop bitterness to make a pleasant balance.  A true to type Wit (5%) has lemon, camomille and coriander, while the Amber X at 5.8% is malty with notes of nuts, toffee and roasted grain.

The beer labels do not hide the inspiration for the brews, Stein has used several of the recipes from Gahr Smith-Gahrsen, which are freely shared both through 7 Fjell Bryggeri and via the book Den norske ølrevolusjonen.

This is not the place to go for extreme beers – but for beers to enjoy after a day’s hike in the mountains and to go with the wholesome food.

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In addition to large mammals like muskox and elk, the Fokstumyra nature reserve is very close, giving excellent opportunities for birdwatching if that is your thing.

The muskox safari takes place on foot in the Dovre National Park, a short drive from Furuhaugli Turisthytter.

We were in a group with various nationalities setting out on the safari the next morning. Expect a hike of about five hours – obviously depending on where the animals are. They tend to be closer to the road and railway in spring and autumn. The guides are experienced, and as these walks are arranged every day in the summer, they know the animals well, know where to find them – and know how close to them you can get and still be on the safe side.  They are big enough to be dangerous if you provoke them.

We were able to get very close to a young bull, who did not seem to mind us watching while he was grazing. An experience well worth the time and money involved.

Noet that you are free to hike in these mountains on your own, a guide is not required. There is a network of well-marked trails and a number of hostels within a day’s walk of each other. In the winter you can go skiing instead. But if you do this on your own, you should be careful to stay well away from the animals.

Furuhuagli Turisthytter and the muskox safari are easy to access – both just off the main road – E6 – between Oslo and Trondheim. You could make arrangements to be picked up at Dombås or Hjerkinn Railway station as well.

Thanks to my wife Astrid for the photo below!

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Furuhaugli is not the only Norwegian micro-brewery to offer a good combo with outdoor activities.Here are some more:

At Ansnes Brygger, Hitra, you can go hunting, diving or fishing.

You can bike the spectacular road along the railway line from the 1223 Micro Brewery at DNT Finsehytta (at 1223 meters above sea level) to the Ægir brewpub in Flåm (at the end of a fjord offering boat connections.)

You can go rafting, explore glaciers or do some serious mountaineering at Espedalen Mikrobryggeri, which is located in Ruten Fjellstue.

You can hunt for small game, go skiing or fishing at Tuddal Høyfjellshotel, the new home of Fjellbryggeriet.

No stones unturned

StoneThese two cans sort of followed me home the other night, or, as they used to say when there was a sale of contraband in Oxford Street: “Fell off a truck, mate!”

The beers are fresh off the canning line in Berlin, where Stone have set up their European operation.

The IPA has intense hoppiness – grass and pine. A fresh, in-your-face IPA. If that’s what your’re looking for, look no further!

The Arrogant Bastand Ale is one notch up. Deep red, full malty body. PAcked With fresh hop aroma and a punch of bitterness.

Both cans show that they are part of both the Norwegian and the Swedish recycling scheme with a deposit. Should mean that they will be widely available soon.

Talas

Jeremy presents his beers

 

Last weekend I invited myself to a beer festival. Talas is the house brewery at Basarene, the beautifully restored old covered market in Hamar, now an organic cafe/restaurant.

I knew about the brewery, they are in my book, but they don’t have any distribution ousdie their home town, so I found this a good opportunity. As Jonas from Eiker Ølfabrikk was driving, I even managed to hitch a ride.

The festival was a low key affair, with a few selected guest breweries. Some of them were local, all of them from Southern Norway.

The beers from Talas are not made for the beer geek market, aiming instead for a more broad appeal. The one I enjoyed most was the American style lager. Incredibly fruity and inviting aroma, yet light and easy to drink. In the basemanet there are a few wooden barrels with imperial stout – hope to get an opportunity to try it!

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Beer from the saloon

Other local breweries were Saloon 7null4 from Follebu. I visited them a few years ago, they have invested in New equipemnt and og for a broader distribution in the near future. I did not get to sample their beers, but as they now do bottling, I hope to fix that later.

Tingnes Spiseri is located in an island in lake Mjøsa, the easiest way to get there from Hamar is by boat. The brewery is a part of their family-owned and -run restaurant. My favourite of their beers was the IPA.

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Try a beer from Tingnes!

Cervisiam brought their Jungle Juice and Toxic ALEvenger, and they seemed to be very popular – they sold out fast!

Hegg Ølkompani is the new name of the brewery at Svenkefjøset in Lier. They brought two New beers, a Vienna lager and a blonde ale, both a 4.7% ABV. We are talking about beers for a broad Public here, I would say they should aim for something with more caracter to stand out from the big players.

Eiker Ølfabrikk brought a colloboration with Cervisiam, a raspberry saison. Lovely berry flavour that blends in with the beer, will be out in bottles soon. I also enjoyed the linganberry wit, brewed with saison yeast. Lots of tart/sour character, would be nice to pair with food!

Hamar is perhaps not the epicenter of the Norwegian beer scene, but events like this really contribute to expose people the wide range of flavors available. It was sold out, so I hope there will be more festivals in the future!

Eiker

Why not try our lingonberry beer?

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Restaurant Håndverkerstuene in Oslo has specialized in Nordic Food and Nordic beer (as well as aquavit). This is reflected in their seasonal menu, and you will also find a dozen craft beers on tap, most of them Norwegian, but the other Nordic countries are also represented.

This year is the third time they are running Bryggeribråk or Brewery Brawl. The concept is simple – every Monday the restaurant sets up a three course menu. Two breweries try to match the dishes with beer. Up to 60 diners then vote for the best match for each dish. The winning brewery goes on to the next round. Most of the breweries are Norwegian, but they have also invited participants from Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden.

It’s a great way to get people interested in beer and food combinations, it’s a nice opportunity for the breweries to promote themselves, and it fills the restaurant on a Monday evening.

Disclaimer: I have been invited twice as a guest to the event. But I would not recommend it if I didn’t enjoy it. And, compared to many beer tastings, it is excellent value for money.

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Ten minutes walk from the centre of Horten you cross a Canal and enter the old fortress Karljohansvern. Next time I’ll spend some time exploring the area, which is now a museum, now I went straight for a large wooden building, home to Sjømilitære Samfund. This is a building belonging to a voluntary organisation, freely translated as The Naval Society, built in 1883 and retaining the old charm.

The house is now run as a hotel/restaurant by Stig Thorsen and his wife Torill. They do a lot of business functions, and they are now expanding, there is a side building under construction with more hotel rooms and conference facilities. With a central location surrounded by a beautiful park, this should have a great potential. The main building is to a large part restored to its former splendor, well worth a visit in itself.

But Stig also brews beers to be enjoyed by his guests. He only has a municipal licence, and the restaurant does not have regular opening hours for the public, this means that his beers  have been under the radar, even for most beer geeks.

The beer is brewed on a Speidel in 50 liter batches, then bottled. I was happy to be presented with a broad spectrum of brews, all with a consistent high quality.

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I particularly enjoyed two of his beers:

Biblioteks, a Belgian Dubbel With oak chips in the boil. It has lots of sweetness, yet, there is enough hops to keep this in check.

Tordenskiolds Porter is well hopped, giving a complex beer. Asphalt, liquorice, molasses – and bitterness.

But the most interesting was the Vestfold Ale, brewed with floor malted grain grown in the area. This is discreetly hopped, letting the delicate maltiness be in focus. Elegant. I am very happy to see small-scale malting in Norway, I think there is a great potential that taps right into the current interest in real local food.

The overall quality of Stig’s beers impressed me, they should be available to more serious beer drinkers. Perhaps an annual beer and food event during a quiet period with advance ticket sales could be an idea? A beer festival is not a serious option with the present capacity of the operation.

Local malt