Photos for this post kindly provided by Lars Marius, as I left my camera at home!
The Lillehammer brewery was among the small Norwegian brewers that was bought up by Ringnes to be closed down in 1983. (This means that I have tasted their beers, but I am afraid they did not leave any lasting expression..)
A group of local enthusiasts wanted to revive the brewing traditions in town, whose claim to fame is having hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics. They were able to establish themselves in the old brewery itself, and they even managed to snap the name Lillehammer Bryggeri under the nose of Carlsberg/Ringnes, who presently are busy registering old trade marks. The brewpub opened in 2006.
Lillehammer is 2 hours north of Oslo, and the train timetable allow just a one hour visit before returning to the capital. I have never gotten around to taking the trip on my own, but with four of my beer buddies it made more sense. A beer tasting on the train both ways made this a real day out. The conductors of both trains were muttering something about this being prohibited, but we were much bigger than them, so we got away with it!
We were standing outside the brewpub when they opened at seven, and were greeted with a warm welcome.
The place is like a local museum, you can still see marks on the floor from the old brewing vessels, and there are lots of items linked to local history. (If you have time to spend in Lillehammer, they actually have two fine museums, the open air Maihaugen with its historical buildings and the Lillehammer Art Museum with both a hand picked permanent collection and interesting temporary exhibitions).
The brewpub is owned and run by a number of local enthusiasts, with only one of them drawing a salary. The concept is based on local food and cooperation with other small scale producers, and they are in no rush to grow bigger. They hope to deliver kegged beers to to the local market. There will be bottled versions as well, but that does not have the highest priority.
There are four beer regularly available, with the occasional seasonal like Christmas beer in addition.
We had samples of their four beers, but the time available means I cannot give any decent reviews of them, just some short impressions:
A lovely aromatic pilsener with lots of fruit and malt and a rather low bitterness.
A wheat beer which was perfectly adequate, but not as outstanding as the rest of their range.
An English style ale packed with flavour, generous hoppiness makes it both sweet and bitter. (Note: They change the recipe for the ale for each batch)
A dark stout with a ruby tinge – sweet liquorice, nuts, grain and a hint of ashes.
All the beer had a freshness and full flavour in common. Let’s hope this stuff gets a wider distribution.
One word of advice – they have limited opening hours, so check their web page if you intend to make the excursion.
A quick walk back to the station, a quiet compartment – and soon we were back to tasting everything from African lager to a US raspberry ale. It was a rather jolly bunch that left the train at Oslo Central Station shortly after ten!