Archive for August, 2009

Paris, please!

Any updated information on the Paris beer scene is very welcome. We will be staying close to Gare de Lyon, but everything in the central areas is of interest. Versailles, too…

Not to mention the friendly litte bistro with cheap fixed price menus.

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Second thoughts

I have often criticised the Norwegian alcohol monopoly stores, but my concern is more about the system than the shops themselves. They seem to have good knowledge of everything they sell (except beer, that is), and there is friendly and service minded staff in most shops.

They even have a color magazine for their customers, which gives fair and well written information about various tipples without promoting any particular brands.

In the summer edition they have a good article on food and drink outdoors, where they sing the praises of having a picnic on a balcony or in the park. There are brightly illustrated recipes for a chilled vichyssiose and vegetables with home made aïoli. With this they propose drinking a Savignon Blanc or Riesling, with a pale lager or wheat beer as alternatives.

But then, as an afterthought – please don’t do this anyway:

Remember it is not allowed to drink alcohol in parks or other public places.

Dream on. What passes for summer around here is over anyway!

Vega 199

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The White Horse on Parson’s Green, London, has a Belgian beer festival starting today. 15 Belgian Cask ales. They promise:

• Pure unfiltered lambic in cask from the Oud Beersel and Bockor breweries.
• Alvinne Podge Stout, Gouyasse Tradition, Barbar Honey and ten other Belgian beers all in cask
• Bellegem Oude Bruin, St.Bernardus Prior, Tripel and 12 on draught
• Oud Beersel’s Bersalis Kadet on draught for the first time ever outside Belgium
• Budvar Yeast beer, another first in the UK for The White Horse

If you hang on until the third week of October, London is still the place to be. The Rake in Borough Market has a lambic festival with the following on cask:

  • Hanssens oude lambic
  • Hanssens kriekenlambic
  • Cantillon jonge lambic
  • Cantillon oude lambic
  • Cantillon kriekenlambic
  • Cantillon framboisenlambic
  • Lindemans oude lambic
  • Boon 1yr lambic
  • Boon 2yr lambic
  • Boon 3yr lambic
  • Boon framboisenlambic
  • Girardin oude lambic
  • Girardin kriekenlambic
  • Drie fonteinen oude lambic
  • Drie fonteinen kriekenlambic

Too sour for you?

Go to Stockholm. Sure, they have a number of festivals, including a showcase for Swedish micros. But what impressed me the most is that Monks Cafe in Stockholm offers 453 American beers, starting tomorrow. Four hundred and fifty three. From 79 breweries. And their ordinary beer list is mighty impressive, too. Have a look at their beer list, and bring your credit card!

The Yanks are coming!

The Yanks are coming!

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I have, on occasion, written about the need to liberalize the Norwegian licencing laws, allowing small scale producers to sell a bottle or two of their own produce, be it fruit wine, cider or beer. So far the liberal party, Venstre, is the only one with the issue visibly on the agenda.

There is a similar discussion in Sweden, where the matter has been raised by several members of parliament. In addition to beer and fruit wine, the southernmost and sunniest parts of Sweden have farms who have established wineyards. There have been several proposals for these farms to be able to sell some of their produce directly to consumers.

Peter J. Olsson, editorial writer for Malmö daily Kvällsposten, supports these changes and is disappointed that this is not included in a new draft alcohol law. He indicates that disagreements within the ruling non-socialist coalision government might be the reason, with the Christan Democrats being the most sceptical.

Two spokesmen for the temperance movement IOGT-NTo have a comment in the newspaper, worrying that a more liberal legislation would mean the end of Systembolaget, the government monopoly stores.

Olsson replies that alcohol is readily available in Sweden already, and allowing a few hundred farms to sell their produce will not mean any challenge to public health whatsoever. People with drinking problems will not get their fix from wine produced in Sweden. He also points out that the experiences from Finland after they established a more liberal legislation have been very positive.

A footnote: Without twitter, this would have slipped under my radar! Peter is @pjolsson.

Italian farm brews

Italian farm brews

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The other posts in this series have been about permanent shops and bars, today I want to draw attention to an event. Sure, it is linked to the Aku Aku Tiki Bar, but it’s also a sort of one day food and beer festival.

One sign that craft beer is coming of age here in Norway is when established restaurant moguls are getting involved. Jan Vardøen is running at least half a dozen shops, restaurants and bars in the rapidly gentrifying Grünerkøkka area of Oslo, and 12 September he is launching a book about sausages and beer. At the same time you can try Nøgne ø’s new Lemongrass Ale, only available on draft. I hope there will be more interesting beers as well – and I hope this means a stronger commitment to beer in Mr. Vardøen’s other establishments!

The programme promises oysters and stout, home made sausages, imported beers and micro brews. I think events like this makes more sense than large festivals here in Oslo.

Aku Aku flyer

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Longyearbyen at noon (January)

Longyearbyen at noon (January)

If you are living in one of the most remote communities on the planet, I don’t blame you for taking every opportunity to make life a bit merrier.

Mind you, we are not talking Siberia here. Longyearbyen, Svalbard is a place people volunteer to go, where no one is supposed to be a permanent resident. I’m not sure the Norwegian governments would have kept it going if it wasn’t for the Cold War, nowadays it’s roughly one third coal mining, one third Arctic research and one third tourism. It’s not as if you’re stuck when the fjord freezes, either, there are daily flights from Oslo via Tromsø.

But even if it’s a place appealing to the adventurous, a winter night lasting for several months can be tough enough.

Well, it’s not winter yet. And it won’t be in September, either. But the range of entertainment on a given weekend probably tends to be limited. So a beer festival is probably just the thing.

SvalbardSo, for 1990 Norwegian kroner you get festival tickets, a cruise on the fjord and two nights with breakfast. No beer, presumably.


But look closer at the ad. Would you travel to the end of the world to drink Corona?  On their web site, the organisers promise that During the three days of the festival you can taste beers from Norwegian and foreign breweries. Brand new types of beer will also be served..

Gun cabinetI’ve been to Longyearbyen, and it is certainly worth a visit, it is as exotic as they come. There are two places in the world I’ve seen signs asking people to leave their hand guns in the reception, Sofia, Bulgaria was the other one. There was even a decent beer selection in the pub at Radisson Blu.

But I would not spend 1990 kroner for attending a beer festival there. At least not when the cheapest plane ticket would set me back another 3000,-.


Actually, Longyearbyen could be a great place to start a micro brewery. The Northernmost in the world. The locals and the tourists could buy the beers on tap, then they could ship out bottled extreme beers named after the great trappers, explorers and pioneers. Nansen Old Ale, Bering Imperial Porter, Nobile IPA, Amundsen Bock….


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Armchair travel

West GermanyI can hardly complain. I have done my fair share of travelling over the last five years. I’ve visited most countries in the EU, and most often I’ve had the chance to get to try some of the best beers – in the best bars – of every city. But there is always a craving for more.

I used to go to Germany quite often a few decades ago, combinations of business and pleasure. I did not have the same analytical angle to my beer drinking then, but I enjoyed many a fine evening in various bars and Kneipen. Frankfurt, Bonn, Münster, Hamburg, Kiel plus smaller towns and villages harder to recall. My German was never good enough for elevated conversations, but after a few rounds of schnapps I managed to get by.

I long back to those days when I read an excellent book sent me as a gift by my fellow beer blogger Ron Pattison. He is a Brit residing in Amsterdam, but he has travelled extensively over the years. He is one of the most productive beer bloggers on the planet, and in front of me is a collection of his posts and notes from the Western part of Germany.

It is not an all-inclusive catalog of breweries and bars. It is more like having an experienced travelling companion leading the way, a guy who knows the short cuts from the station to the brewery tap, who know which inns have a pleasant little garden in the back and know where it is sensible to fit in a meal.

Cologne, Düsseldorf and Dortmund are covered in depth, other cities have shorter entries.

The hard copy version of thosse books – a series of 11 – are not for sale – he just prints 10 of each. I am privileged to have one of them in my possession. Thanks Ron, keep on blogging and writing. You do a tremendous job documenting brewing history, but I find I enjoy your travel writing even more.

Note: The book series can be bought as digital downloads from Ron’s blog.

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Mean machines

Mean machines

The most established music venue in Oslo is Rockefeller, an old public bath which has been staging concerts and other events for a few decades. It comfortably fits in about a thousand, and, if the guy next to you can keep his mouth shut, the sound and light is superb.

The question is always where to meet up for a beer before the concert. Sure, there are dozens of pubs and bars in the area, but the beer range has not been very impressive.

Problem solved. Just around the corner from the Rockefeller entrance, in what I’m told used to be the shower rooms of the bath, there is a new bar. It is so new they don’t have a sign outside, no web site, hardly a phone number.

In addition to the liquids on offer, they have a game arcade in one of their two rooms. Not fruit machines or other forms of gambling. No, about twenty classic pinball machines as well as a vintage jukebox. All of them were not operative when I popped in, there were a few mechanics still making the last of them ready, doing their magic to produce the classic sounds and colors.

But there is beer, too, lots of it. Draft beer from Haandbryggeriet and Danish micro Svaneke, as well as taps with Old Speckled Hen, Erdinger and Paulaner.

The bottled range has a mix of lagers from faraway places and really good stuff. Smoked beer from Bamberg, Anchor Stream, Duvel, BrewDog. More Danish micros, too. If they top up this with the best of the Norwegian micros, they will have at leas one loyal customer!

The guys behind the counter know their stuff  and have their background from Parkteatret and other places with serious beer selections.

A had a glass of Haandbryggeriets new Blondie, a Belgian style ale that is only available on draft in selected bars. Layers of fruit and malt, a hint of yeast. A bit short finish, perhaps, but compared to the industrial lagers that is standard fare in Norway this is great stuff!

Tilt 007

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My little black book of beer notes covering the summer months has disappeared, meaning that my last post about Sardinia is a bit shorter than planned.

I went to the historical centre of Alghero on my own one evening, looking for pubs and beer bars. There are a few nice places in the small streets and alleys, some more pretentious, some probably springing into life around midnight. The prices fluctuate quite a bit, but some of the bars with more expensive German beers on tap tend to serve quite substantial bar snacks, almost like tapas, at least early in the evening.

I had been in touch with the most renown micro brewer of the island, Nicola Perra, who runs the Barley brewery. He recommended that I’d visit Al Refettorio, a restaurant int he heart of the old town. Sure, they had one of the Barley beers on offer, as well as a mystery beer.



The mystery beer first – Men Hir. This must be brewed with a wild yeast strain, with associations to lambic and cider. Pale yellow, low carbonation, crisp citrus dryness without ending up as vinegar. The label proclaims that this is a Birra Artiginale, the back label informs me that it is brewed on malted barley, hops and water.

And that’s it. No info about the brewery at all.

The other beer on the menu was Friska, which proudly states that is brewed by Barley. This is a wheat beer. This also has  some citrus, peaches. Fine balance between the fruity and the sour. Lemon sorbet finish. Well balanced, not falling into the banana trap some other wheat beers tend to do.

Sardinia 811And there was splendid food on offer, too. I had an outstanding tuna carpaccio with herbs and strawberries, followed by a pasta dish with ragù of lamb with peas and basil. It was so good I brought my family the next evening to try out more of the inventive menu, including paella and local fish.

The restaurant is not too hard to find, but a word of advice. If you sit outside, the benches are hard and uncomfortable – much better to go inside and be seated properly.

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The prize for most beer bloggers per capita must go to Sweden. 15  28 Swedish beer blogs is pretty impressive. There is still room for a Swede to beer blog in English, though!

Good beers to blog about

Good beers to blog about

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