The West Coast means the Norwegian West Coast today.
While I have given a fair amount of coverage to the established craft breweries in Norway, I have not written much about Lervig from Stavanger. This is a brewery that is making its mark,
Lervig was established in 2003, when Ringnes/Carlsberg decided to close down the Tou brewery, which had supplied the Stavanger region with their pale lagers for many years. And to begin with, they mainly produced pale lagers. Nor very impressive lagers, I have to say.
Fast forward to 2010. The arrival of Mike Murphy. An american brewer with the most impressive CV. Ha had brewed in the US, in Italy and in Denmark, with a reputation both for quality and for innovation. Just what Lervig needed. For an interview with Mike Murphy, check out the Die by the Beer blog.
Since the, there has been a wide spectrum of beers released on the Norwegian market. Some of them have been strong and serious beers aimed at the more discerning beer drinker. Others have been aimed at the supermarkets, giving us fresh and hoppy everyday beers which have really filled a domestic niche.
They have some new beers out, among them two in their new Art Collection series, where they let artist design labels for limited edition runs of beers. I asked them to send me some, and here is my verdict:
The Scull and Cross Blades Belgian Black Ale pours a very dark brown with a lovely beige head.
Chocolate, prunes and liquorice. The beer is velvety smooth. They could have called this a foreign stout if they wanted, but there is a Belgian funky element in the background that adds a dimension and lift this above the ordinary.
The Funky Moi Rye Saison has a hazy brass color with a lively carbonation. I tried this on tap, too, and seem to recall that it was slightly lighter in color, but never mind. A saison with a deeper flavour spectrum than most. Oranges, cherries, some funk and a distinct rye sourness. A great beer.
But the beer that will make its mark is a more humble one, Johnny Low. This is a grassy, well hopped beer at only 2.5% ABV, meaning there is something decent to drink even if you have to drive or have other reasons to avoid the alcohol. The low alcohol beers in Norway have barely been drinkable, this is like a fresh breeze giving hopes for the summer season. It is also being launched in cans, which I think will give a boost in the market.