With the new influx of beers in Norway, there are also occasional promotional tastings. With more mundane brews, this is all right, you get a general feeling of the quality level and the flavours. At the same time this speed dating does not do justice to more sophisticated brews.
At the launch of new specialist importers and distributors Beer Enthusiasts, I was pleased to see a more general distribution from domestic Sundbytunet plus imports from breweries like Midtfyn and Hornbeer.
A small sample of St Austell’s Smugglers Gran Cru caught my interest, but this was one that deserved drinking in a more quiet environment. I hinted that if a bottle could be made available, I would try to give it a proper review. A few days later, I was invited to come over and pick up a bottle.
This beer is aged in whisky casks before refermentation in champagne bottles. I have a suspicion this is fairly expensive in both the Norwegian market and closer to its English origins, but I honestly don’t know. I think you have to head to one of the serious beer bars to find it in Norway.
OK. I pop the cork, which reveals a very vinous aroma. Lots of dark berries, with the whisky whispering in the background. The carbonation is quite lively at first, but it quiets down, some pearly bubbles keep coming through the hazy red’/brown beer.
The flavour reminds me of an oaky red wine, the barrel aging giving a dry tannin character. Old leather, rich maltiness underneath. Raisins, prunes, vanilla.
The whisky is not overpowering, there is some delicate fruit laced with caramel underneath.
No Stilton in the house, but I found a piece of Gorgonzola in the fridge to match it.
No need for a port to go with the cheese board if you have one of these.
A minor complaint – they could have gone for smaller bottles. A beer of this strength and character should be enjoyed in moderation.