Archive for May, 2011

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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So, I had, once again, a great time in Berlin. Good food, good company, interesting things to see and do. And I am sure most citizens and visitors find the city rewarding.

But the united city is still a city of contrasts. It is a city where you find discreet elegance and stark poverty. It is a city where you find lots of mouth-watering organic cafes and restaurants, even at the airports you find fresh and healthy food. At the same time every other person seems to smoke, it is like Scandinavia several decades ago.

And it is a city that is not in balance when it comes to intoxicants, be they legal or illegal. The tattooed and black clad youth living their hedonistic lifestyle are probably recruited from across Europe and beyond, but it seems like Berlin is a magnet.

A 7 in the morning, as the Slavic-sounding tramps line up at the steps of the supermarket to recycle bottles for deposits, the kebab shop serves breakfast to the last guests of the grim and industrial slab of concrete called a beer garden that has been open all night down by the rail road tracks.

The corner shops claim to sell Lebensmittel according to their signs, but it’s mostly booze. The drinking seems to start at the sidewalks mid-morning and then go on until you stagger off to sleep somewhere. The early evening trams are moveable parties.

I try not to be too grumpy, and it is largely up to people to decide for themselves how to live. At the same time it will not, in the long run, be healthy for a community like Friedrichschain to be dominated by a hard-drinking culture without any regard for tomorrow.

If you choose to stay in one of the flashier areas of town, you will not see this reality at all. But with an area with low rents and squats you cannot help reflecting over it.

I would certainly not want to raise kids in an area like that.

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Airports. Some of them have adjusted to modern times, and if the airlines let you check in beforehand and they don’t make a fuzz about your suitcase being a wee bit heavy, they can be all right. Some are wastelands for beer – Oslo is a prime example, some are pretty decent. Munich has a brewpub in the middle of the airport, Edinburgh ( among a number of UK airports) has Wetherspoons pubs both before and after security with several hand pumps with decent ales.

I have flown through Berlin a number of times over the last few years, always through Tegel airport. The shops after security there has a few canned beers, but nothing worth taking home.

There was a pleasant surprise in store when we arrived at Schönefeld airport for our flight back home. Security went smoothly, there was a lovely organic takeaway/café for sandwiches and snacks, there was a duty free with perfume and upmarket German wine.

And there were two kiosks with newspapers, sweets, tinned sauerkraut, over-priced souvernirs – and beer.  Beers from Bavaria, beers from Mecleburg-Vorpommern, beers from Berlin. A fridge full of beers from the outstanding Berlin micro Brewbaker. 3 liter bottles of bath beer from the Neuzeller Kloster-Bräu. 5  liter party kegs of Berliner Kindl Pils and Schwartzbier.

I’m sure the airlines hate it.

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Apost I forgot to publish – but hardly the most significant one from Berlin.

Just around the corner from the Hirsch pub is Ambrosius Bier Club, which have 3-4 beers contract brewed for them. I tried their Schwarzbier, which was a bit too sweet for my liking, but the prices are decent, the service is friendly and the locals don’t mind chatting to strangers.

Outside tables for warm weather, unpretentious.

I promise to pay a more lengthy visit next time.

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KaDeWe Kaufhof des Westens – a department store that used to be a temple of luxury goods in the heart of West Berlin. Sure, it is still a place for serious shopping if your credit card is up to it, I did not bother to explore in any detail, but they claim to be the largest department store on the European Continent. Think Harrods.

The top floors are dedicated to gastronomy, and there is surely something there to drool over, from grand display for fish and seafood to vintage wines going back for more than a century. Lots of small (and expensive) food bars as well as a buffet on the top floor.

And a beer department, too. Well stocked, but not dazzling. Belgian trappists, if you need them. Lots of German beers, most of them mainstream. Global lagers for tickers. And their own KaDeWe Pils, brewed by Berliner Kindl. No need to buy that, find a Kellerbier from a more obscure brewery instead.

The rule applies to this as to many other places: No need to make a detour for the beer. But if you are there, you are likely to find something interesting. Cold beers in the fridge if you suffer from shopping fatigue, too.

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