Archive for May, 2011

Sometimes you find examples of big gaps between cultures. (Don’t worry, I’m not going into any discussions about political Islam here.) I tend to have a fairly liberal outlook towards beer and beer drinking – if not I would have been blogging about something else. But I have to admit that there are regulations that I find sensible. Age limits for drinking. Regulation of aggressive advertising towards teenagers – usually more connected with alcopops than beer. The best is if the major players in the beer industry promote sensible drinking, and I feel most craft breweries appeal more to adult consumers.

But then there are countries where beer is looked upon as a staple food. It is their liquid bread, brewed in the village and sold next door to the local bakery and butcher’s shop.  I assume the children are poured a small glass with meals from a rather early age.

I try to respect this view of life and beer, but I feel that the promoters of the Munich Oktoberfest have gone too far this year. Along the other more or lass tasteful souvenirs, they have a  baby bottle shaped like a Bierkrug.

Now the little ones finally have their own beer mug. Looking just like a real beer mug, it comes along with teat so that Lederhosen and Dirndl stay clean, while the baby enjoys his “beer”, according to their web site.

It is just me being a grumpy old man?

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I like single hop series of beers, though the current Mikkeller lineup of 19 varieties is perhaps a bit too much.

For once, BrewDog is a bit more moderate. (Who thought I’d write that in the same sentence?) Four single hop beers, brewed to the same recipe. Sold as a set. Which is not allowed in Norway, for some reason. Actually it is not allowed in Sweden, either, but the Systembolaget decided to be a bit elastic for once. 

I picked up my four-pack in Ølbutikken, Copenhagen. Cheaper than begging the brewery for free samples and then paying hundreds of kroner in duties and fees.

The Sorachi Ace has loads of fruit aroma, peaches and apricots. Roses and perfume. amazing fruit punch flavour. Very sweet, though some earthy elements in the tail. No dryness to speak of.

The Bramling X has orange and almonds in the nose. this one is also quite sweet. Oranges, sweet malt, peculiar dryness in the tail. Not really impressive on its own.

The Citra has a mouthwatering fruity aroma, grapefruits are dominating. Grapefruit and orange palate, but this is also on the sweet side. Very seductive.

Nelson Sauvin also has grapefruit and sweet oranges. Ripe orange flavour, opening into more bitterness. Some bitter almonds. Great beer, the best of the four.

It is very educational to try oth these beers side by side, and it could be an idea for other types ob beer, too.

So, there isn’t much of a chance of seeing this on the Norwegian shelves. But there are other BrewDog beers on their way.

Expect a slightly weaker 77 Lager. In cans for the supermarket shelves.

And Alice, which has sold very well in Sweden, will be available here, though with another name.

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There is talk of a lawsuit over a brewery name. Ringnes (Carlsberg) is the result of a number of merges and aquisitions, and one of the brand names of old breweries in their portfolio is Schous. They have sold the real estate where the old brewery used to be, all that’s left is really the sign over the gate. But they are not too pleased that Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri uses a form of their old name, and they also claim that the logo is based on the old Schous logo. Let’s hope they can settle this before the lawyer’s fees get too high.

But the owners of Schouskjelleren, who also runs the highly successful beery restaurant Olympen, plans to brew more beer. According to a newspaper interview, they plan to start a brewery in Fredensborgveien, Oslo.

For those who plan to visit Oslo during the summer, note that Haandverkerstuene will close for some months during the summer, refurbishing their kitchen. But there is still time to pop in for a glass of Haandbryggeriets Costa Rica coffee beer.

Tilt, the bar with all the pinball machines, have sharpened their beer image. Expect to find a number of fine Norwegian micros on tap. Right now they have Ægir Maibock and Kinn Slåtteøl available.

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Denmark has been at the forefront of the beer revolution in Europe. They have a hundred micro breweries in a fairly small country, a consumer’s organisation with a large number of members and local associations, good shops and bars. There is even a broad press coverage of beer and brewing, probably because it is a major export industry.

Peter Myrup Olesen has been running the news site beerticker.dk for a few years, with an admirable coverage for a one man setup. I have quoted him many times over the years, and I have been happy to point out his site as one of the best in the beer world. It has been a tough job to finance this, but I was of the impression that he had managed to get funding from various sources.

The relationship between Peter and the Danish Beer Enthusiasts is the focus of a long post on his site today, where he accuses the organisation of not following up on promises of sponsorship and of stealing content from his site to use both online and in their printed magazine. He feels he have been tricked into compiling lists of new Danish beers for the organisation without any comopensation.

As this is published on the eve of the Copenhagen Beer Festival, organised by the same Danish Beer Enthusiasts, there is no doubt what the hot topic of the week will be in Copenhagen.

I’d not be surprised if there was a press release from the Danske Ølentuisaster soon.

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I try not to read too much of the advance buzz about the Copenhagen Beer Festival this weekend. Sure, I know that Three Floyds are in town. That there will be a Zillion new beers from Mikkeller. That Nøgne Ø have some real rarities.

But I’m not going this year.

but at least I can make a recommendation.

The new Ølbutikken store is open for business. They used to have a small kiosk that was filled when there were more than four customers at a time. Now they have bright and airy shop filled with fridges. The very best of Danish micros – plus a mind-blowing range of imports from Europe and the US. The best selection in Europe? At least one of the top 5.

For a small extra charge you can even sit down by the large table in the centre of the shop and enjoy a beer if the shopping exhausts you.

I am sure there will be special offers during the festival, and they will probably sell out of some beers. Better, perhaps, to visit during a hot day later in the year. Drink a bottle of their house brew, Istedgade Hipster Ale. Hoppy, refreshing, unpretentious. And then consider if you really need that huge Belgian bottle. You’ll never know if it’s the last time you’ll get the chance…

It is in Istedgade, just to the back of the Central Station. Don’t worry about the sex shops. This is Denmark, after all.

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I think I have mentioned before that the Swedish pub chain Bishops Arms (their spelling) were planning to expand to neighbouring countries.  I don’t know about Norway, but at least they are open for business in Copenhagen.

The interior is very much buy it by the yard and by the container type of English pub. The girl behind the bar was very helpful, explaining the rather intricate way of swiping your credit card in a charming way. Advice: Bring cash here!

A special hop bomb brewed by Mikkeller. Bredarö bitter on tap. Fuller’s range on keg. A lot of the beer taps were off at mid-week, but there seemed to plenty in the fridges to choose from as well.

The Mikkeller Snaphane looked unpleasantly murky brown, but had a lovely hoppy herbal palate. Light bodied and refreshing. Basil, grass and watercress.

I would not classify this bar as a goal in itself, but if you do a crawl in the area, it is well worth a stop. If you are more lucky than I were, there are probably more Swedish beers on tap as well.

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Byens Kro. The Inn of the Town. Copenhagen.

I have known about this pub for some time, as the Svaneke brewery used to brew a special beer for them. As I had business in the neighbourhood, I decided to visit, but it is not far from the main tourist drag anyway.

It is like entering a time warp. Not back to the Middle Ages or anything, but at least two or three decades. Worn wooden floors, walls, tables  and benches. Probably as authentic as it gets if you still want a decent beer selection.

10 beers on tap. Some Germans and Belgians, Mikkeller and Hancock being the Danish stars.

Students sovving philosophical problems over Chimays and German wheat beers. Regulars propping up the bar. The staff seems slightly bewildered about what beers they actually have on.

But the authenticity is has a dimension beyond the drinkers and the dark walls. It’s the smoke. Even in the early afternoon the room is filled with tobacco fumes, I can only imagine how it is when you approach midnight. It is one of the last sanctuaries for smokers, even in liberal Denmark.

I found my eyes reacting after half an hour. Some years ago, I would not have given it a thought.

Cheery atmosphere, I am sure this is a place for long evenings and swapping tall tales among the half liter glasses.  And for those of you who are nostalgic about the good old days when you could smoke in pubs, you should visit while you can!


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When Norwegian foodies travel abroad, we drool. When in Florence, the central food market is just as impressive as any works of Renaissance art. In London the main attraction is Borough Market. We envy our Swedish friends in Stockholm and Gothenburg who have well established food halls where they can stock up for the weekend.

There have been loose plans for several years to set up something in Oslo, but the question is how realistic this is. There is one butcher’s shop left in Oslo, and the fishmongers are few and far between. To my knowledge there are two cheese shops in what passes for a European capital.

There is good new, then that there are two food Emporia under construction on opposite sides of town.

Mathallen Vulkan is on the Eastern side of Oslo, but within walking distance of downtown. This is a recycled industrial building, and the sketches look really attractive. Due to open in the autumn of 2012. They are obviously aware of the present market trends, so beer will be prominently featured. 3500 square meters, according to the brochure.

On the other edge of town, at Skøyen, there is a new building rising, due to be finished in early 2012. This is also on an old industrial estate, filling in one of the last pieces of land wedged between the railway station and the main road to the West.  They aim for 1500 square meters of  food, spread over a dozen smaller shops and restaurants. The owners estimate that 100 000 people either live in the area or pass by on their way to and from work. They have invited one of the established Norwegian micro breweries to open a beer bar in the complex.

It seems to me that the concepts are quite similar. They aim for professionals and amateurs, for local shoppers and tourists. They will have conventional shops, take away and sit down dining. There will be product launches and events.

I wish both of them the best of luck, I hope the market is mature and ready enough. But two at the same time is possibly one too many.

As for the beery side of things, Norwegian legislation stops any take away sales for beer above 4.7%. The same goes for wine and cider. I think an outlet for the state Vinmonopolet stores is necessary for this concept to work.

A beer bar under construction?

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The British National Archives, which I wisited some eyars ago in connection of their display of printed material connected to beer, has a good range of podcasts. Some of them have pubs as their theme, like The pub and the people. Worth a download. This podcast was recorded in connection with a seminar of  the Pub History Society.

You can search for the National Archives on iTunes as well.

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If I were to dream up a perfect location for a brew pub, it would probably be where the Ægir brewery is already located. At the end of one of the most picturesque fjords in Norway. The last stop an a narrow gauge railway packed with tourists during the saison season. At the end of scenic walks and a mountain-to-fjord cycle route that gets more popular every year. At the core of the Norway in a nutshell concept, where you get what you came for crammed into a day or two. To have a brewpub, a restaurant and a hotel in such a spot sounds sensible.

They are now an integrated part of the marketing towards active tourism. If you have walked through the mountains for some days, the thought of high quality session beers on tap at the end of the trail is highly motivating. Visitrallarvegen, which, despite it’s name is in Norwegian only, shows how they are an integrated part. And they get a nice writeup in the last issue of Fjell og Vidde (not online), the magazine of the Norwegian Trekking Association, which has hundreds of thousands of members in Norway and abroad.

Sales of the Ægir beers were up 115% in 2010 compared to the previous year, which was far beyond their capacity. Most of the bottled beers are currently produced in Belgium. This is soon to change, a new brewery is under construction, meaning that they will brew all their beers in Flåm from January 2012. The present equipment will be used for one offs and special beers like today. The new facilities will even include a distillery, so a Ægir whiskey is probably being planned.

If you pass through Flåm, make sure you quench your thirst with a Rallar Amber Aleor one of the other session beers first. Then try a glass of the superb IPA. For the grand finale, you could do worse than the Natt Imperial Porter. Ask if they have any left of their limited edition that has been aged in bourbon barrels. You won’t regret it!

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