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Archive for May, 2009

Spending one day at a three day beer festival and trying to cover it,does not do it much justice. But, briefly, some highlights from my very personal point of view. At least I can make my Irish readers a bit jealous…

Busy at Hornbeer

Busy pouring at Hornbeer

Hornbeer had a high profile at last year’s festival , at a time when they had just started brewing. They went on to win the “Best New Danish  Beer” award for 2008 with their Caribbean Rum Stout, which meant that they had quite a crowd in front of their stand this year, too. Their brewery burned down just after they started last year, but they have managed to rebuild and keep it all going. It is a family business, run by Jørgen Vogt Rasmussen and his wife Gunhild. Gunhild paints the beautiflu labels for the bottles. One of the paintings was auctioned off for charity during the festival. I tried two outstanding beers from Hornbrew – Black Magic and Barley Wine. A bottle of the Caribbean Rum Stout currently resides in my cellar, where I doubt it will remain for very long.

Note that the brewer no longer  has a striking semblance to the Prime Minister of Denmark. He now has a striking semblance to the Secretary General of NATO. At least one of the brothers has an honest job!

Svaneke Bryghus, located on the holiday island of Bornholm, quite a distance from the rest of Denmark, seems to be doing quite well. They had to build a bigger brewery with a bottling plant to supply the national market while keeping the equipment at the brew pub, where they do experimental brews and one offs. They are not at the extreme end, but do well crafted beers that appeal to a wider audience. They have the most inventive names of the beers at the festival like  Den Udødelige Hæst, Medicinskabet and Salmesykkel. I won’t try to translate, I was the only one around the ratebeer table, Danish or Norwegian, who knew what Salmesykkel meant. Answers on a beer mat, please!

Charlie’s Bar had a tent outside with English cask ales, including a Fuller’s Vintage (they did not know which vintage..!). It was a rainy day – with better weather this would have been a fine place to hang around.

There were a number of Italian beers, presented by Brasserie 4:20from Rome. I had tried most of the beers they had offered, but they seemed to attract a lot of curious drinkers. They had hand picked Italian craft beers from breweries like Lambrate and White Dog, and the Danes seemed very impressed by the Tipopils, one of the very best lagers to be found anywhere.

The Dutch Brouwerij de Molen  has quite a name in beer circles, and they were present with lots of temptations on tap and in bottled. To try to get throug them at a festival like this does not really do them justice. I hope I get the opportunity to visit them some time.

The centerpiece of the festival, like last year was the stand by Mikkeller including guests like Nøgne ø and BrewDog. If you add Amager Bryghus around the corner, you get some of the most inventive and bold beers known to man. A number of special brews – I’ll get back to them later.

What’s more? Dozens of other Danish breweries. Rare lagers from Asia, bottled beers aplenty from Germany, England, Belgium. Beer Here, the new label from Christian Skovdal Andersen, formerly at Ølfabrikken, had some great stuff.

I almost forgot Djævlebryg. It’s a pretty good festival when you almost forget Djævlebryg. It’s at this point that my notes start to get illegible. Luckily I bought home a bottle of the Djævlebryg OriginAle. I have to get a Djævelbryg t-shirt!

The Devils Apprentices?

The Devil's Apprentices?

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Hops and GloryPete Brown’s new book is out on 5 June, chronicling his epic journey from Burton to India.

Hops & Glory – One Man’s Search for the Beer That Built the British Empire. You can pre-order it at half price through amazon in the UK, no dates for any US edition.

More information on his blog, and in this day and age there is of course a Facebook group, too.

New books to read while you drink are always welcome!

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It is interesting to get a glimpse of the thinking of the men in suits once in a while. Those who think that Bud and Heineken are high quality beers just because they charge premium prices for them.

Dave Peacock, president of the US operations of Anheuser-Busch InBev NV boldly proclaims in the Wall Street Journal that We feel we have brands that can meet any consumer need.

Not my needs, I can tell you.

But there is some substance to the story in the Wall Street Journal, too:

This year through April 19, U.S. retailers’ sales of domestic “subpremium” brands were up 2.6% by volume and 8% by value from a year earlier, according to market-research firm Information Resources Inc. The data exclude sales at bars, restaurants and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. outlets.

By contrast, the U.S. beer industry’s total volume rose just 0.5%. Sales of “premium” beers, such as Bud Light and Miller Lite, which account for about half the industry’s total sales, fell 1.4%.

For shoppers, the math is simple. While prices vary, Busch Light or MillerCoors’s Keystone Light generally cost around $14 a case, about $5 less than a case of Bud Light or Coors Light.

Not long ago, drinkers were “trading up,” favoring imports, small-batch “craft” beers and premium lights. Now, Heineken and other import brands are struggling, and the growth of craft beers has slowed.

There is further reporting pointing to the same trends, among them an article in Beverage Daily showing that consumers are more cost conscious when buying alcohol.

Maybe some consumers are concluding that one crap lager is as good as the next one, and that the only premium about Heineken is the price? The truly amazing fact is that so many of us have been fooled for so long!

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The others drop off their Ølbutikken purchases at their hotel while I enjoy my coffee, and then we set out for the Central station again. The train arrives right away, and it’s only 8 minutes to our destination. There is a huge sign outside the venue, but all others passengers are going there anyway, so we just follow the crowd, including taking a short cut across a four lane road.

We are just in time for the opening at noon. I’ve been promised a place on the VIP list, so I go for the special entrance. I am not on the list, but I get a free entry anyway. Sampler glass, festival booklet, 20 beer tokens and I’m ready to start sampling.

Arriving at opening time means you get a feeling of the layout of the place. This is obviously a venue used to arrange fairs, sports events etc, meaning that for example toilet facilites are more advanced than last year’s festival.

It is more compact than last year, but there certainly is enough beer to go around.

I head for a familiar logo – Nørrebro Bryghus has a very long list of beers, just like the last festival. They are struggling economically, with a large deficit last year, but the shareholders have refilled the coffers so they are hopefully with us for a long time to come. Nørrebro started out as a brewpub/restaurant centrally located in Copenhagen, thay have later added a bottling plant. They used to have a bar at Copenhagen Airport as well – a welcome contrast to all the Carlsberg lagers, but there are no signs of that any more.

I try a Spring Saison, very true to type. Fruit, barnyard and citrus, a refreshing beer well sutied to kick off the festival. Their Globe Ale is bottled, with claims of being CO2 neutral. That might be, but it is a sweetish beer without much of a character. Far better then their Saison/Vermouth/Lambic blend, wonderfully balanced beer. Fruity, spicy, fresh lemon tang, bordering on vinegar without falling into it.

The best Nørrebro beer of the day is Seven, a collaboration of seven Danish brewers, all contributing to the recipe. It is an imperial stout. Coffee aroma, not overpowering. Salt, liquorice. some sourness in the finish. A bit vinous, but very drinkable. There was a barrel aged version of this presented later on, but I missed that. Never mind, the standard was just fine.

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Beer tourism

The Indy has an article about beer tourism in Cumbria (England). A good read.

I am tempted, but I think I would prefer a tour with a bit more exercise between pubs. A walking tour in a picturesque part of England is definitely on my want to do list.

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Has Elgin lost its marbles?

Sometimes you feel lucky. Not because everything is rosy and pleasant, rather the opposite. The weather has turned from sunny to grey, the kids don’t want to get up at Monday mornings, the key card to the office was left in the other jacket. But still.

I feel lucky I don’t live in Elgin, Illinois. Their blurb goes like this:

Incorporated in 1854, Elgin Illinois is a city with a fascinating past, an engaging present and an exciting future. Home to nearly 106,000 residents, Elgin is a warm and friendly community that embraces newcomers and long-time residents alike.

Well, they don’t embrace everyone. Not quite. Not from what I read in the Chicago Tribune.

Elgin City Council members Wednesday approved an amended ordinance prohibiting the sale of single-serve beer and wine products to help combat public drunkenness.

The ban, which will go into effect June 15, is an attempt to rid the city of lewd behaviors which have been a growing nuisance–especially in the summer–in train and bus stations, on bike and jogging paths, along the river and in nearby neighborhoods, officials said.

The ordinance bans the sale of about 40 beers and malt liquors that are often sold in 40-ounce quantities. Included is Bull Ice, Keystone Ice and King Cobra Malt, which typically sell for $2 to $3 for a 40-ounce container. Banned wines Gino’s Premium Blend and MD 20/20, which sell for about $3 per bottle.

The amendment also includes fines for public nuisances including public intoxication, sitting or lying on sidewalks and aggressive panhandling.

Aggressive panhandling, well, I would think you could find more general legislation to cope with that. But sitting on sidewalks?

With a city council like that, I’d reach for a bottle of MD 20/20 as well.

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Copenhagen interlude

And across the street from Ølbutikken, there is a wonderful French coffee shop. Lovely cakes, French roast coffee. Newspapers. But they should, in a perfect world, open half an hour before Ølbutikken. But you can’t have it all, I suppose.

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