Archive for the ‘barrel aged beer’ Category

Maturing bottles

For the years to come

On arrival in Brussels, I met most of my fellow travellers at the Cantillion brewery. We were not given any special tour, and I will not  waste your time retelling the information in their brochures. But if your are seriously interested in beer, this is a place you need to visit once. It is a living brewery museum, where lambic, the spontaneously fermented beer of the Brussels region, is brewed the way it used to be. If you want to see the active process, you need to turn up during the winter, as this beer can not be brewed during the warm months. There are open brewing days when you can participate more actively, too. Check their web site for details.

After finishing your trip, taking in the aromas of the beer alchemy taking place in the oak casks, there are two beer samples waiting for you. But there are also some special bottles you are unlikely to find anywhere else. We shared a bottle of the Zwanze 2012 Geuze with rhubarb. A fresh, well-balanced geuze with a hint of sweetness. Some rhubarb in this blend, but, while there is some fruitiness, it is impossible to detect any particular flavour from that.

Since my last visit – about seven years ago, I suppose, they have rearranged the reception area, expanding the shop and adding a sit down bar area. There used to be just a very basic counter and a few empty barrels, now there’s a lot of blond wood and a place where you could actually hang out and sample some beers.

But that was not for us. We had places to go. Many places.

Cantillon glasses

As real as they come

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I had serious ambitions about doing live blogging while in Belgium, but the schedule did not really allow for that. It was only on the plane back that I really felt able to sit down and think through it all. So, yes, there will be some impressions from our brewery visits, less on the beer cafés, a bit about beer tourism and so on.

And to make this perfectly clear once again, I travelled to Belgium with seven other Scandinavian beer writers. We were guests of Visit Flanders, the Flemish tourist promotion office. I am not obliged to praise everything I experienced,  and I will give my honest impressions to the best of my abilities. But it was really an adventure. So stay tuned.

What we saw were contrasts, even among the small scale breweries we visited. The deeply traditional, the passionately local, the exclusively organic, the scientifially based, the beers that came back from the dead and the rock ‘n’ roll brewers that take their show on the road. And these people have stories to tell. Maybe traditional television goes the way of printed newspapers. But I hope someone records the thoughts of the people we met on this trip, it would be another way of protecting the heritage.

A side note: If you want to visit Belgium, do it now. If they had figured out what to do with Brussels, the Belgian state would probably be gone already.

 If you want to see the coverage my colleagues have from the trip, you will find them here:









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A nap on the plane, a coffee on the train, ready for some sponanous fermentation. First stop of the Grand Tour of Belgium: Brasserie Cantillon.

As they say on their web site: A time machine. Back to beers from another age. Saved from extinction by a handful of enthusiasts. A museum, but a living, working museum.

We share a bottle of Swanze 2012, if there were rhubarbs involved in this they are hard to detect now.


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In addition to visiting two lambic breweries, Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen,  our visit to Belgium also incluces a beer festival for hardcore fans of spontanously fermented beers. The Night of The Great Thist takes place in the tiny village of Eizeringen, organized by the Geuze Society. As you can see, there is even an American brewery on the list. But they are owned by Belgians, I believe.

The problem will be how to pick just a few of these in the time available. The preliminary list:

Boon (Lembeek)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Geuze
Geuze Mariage Parfait 2009
Oude Kriek
Kriek Mariage Parfait 2009

Geuzestekerij De Cam (Gooik)
Oude kriek

Brouwerij Cantillon (Anderlecht)
Rosé de Gambrinus
Lambic Bruocsella

De Troch (Wambeek)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Geuze

Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen (Beersel)
Oude Geuze
Oude Gueuze Vintage
Oude Kriek
Schaarbeekse kriek 2005

Brouwerij Girardin (Sint-Ulriks-Kapelle)
Oude Lambiek

Geuzestekerij Hanssens Artisanaal (Dworp)
Oude gueuze
Oude kriek

Hoge Raad voor Ambachtelijke Lambikbieren
HORAL Megablend 2013

Brouwerij Lindemans (Vlezenbeek)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Kriek Cuvée Rene
Oude Gueuze Cuvée Rene

Moriau (Sint-Pieters-Leeuw)
Oude Geuze

Brouwerij Mort Subite (Kobbegem)
Oude Gueuze
Oude Kriek Oogst

Brouwerij Oud Beersel (Beersel)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Gueuze
Oude Kriek

Gueuzerie Tilquin (Bierghes)
Oude Lambiek
Oude Gueuze

Brouwerij Timmermans (Itterbeek)

Oude Lambiek
Oude Gueuze
Oude Kriek

Allagash Brewery (Portland, Maine USA)
Coolship Resurgam (assemblage van twee spontane gistingsbieren van twee verschillende jaren)
Coolship Red (bier van spontane gisting waaraan frambozen werden toegevoegd)
Coolship Cerise (bier van spontane gisting waaraan krieken werden toegevoegd)


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Belgian flag

I had to rearrange the schedule of my day job this Easter. In Norway, this is serious vacation time. Many take the whole week off, going skiing on the last patches of snow or opening their summer houses for the season.

I’ll be home most of the week. I was supposed to be on duty the week after Easter, but I received an email that made me change my plans.

Visit Flanders, the tourist promotion body for the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, has invited 8 Scandinavian beer writers for a four day visit from 24 April.  Four Swedes, two Danes, two Norwegians.

We will be visiting cafes and restaurants, breweries and beer festivals.

Here are the breweries where we will make a stop:

  • Cantillon
  • Brasserie de la Senne
  • De Halve Maan
  • De Struise Brouwers
  • Brewery 3 Fonteinen
  • Brewery De Kroon
  • Hof Ten Dormaal
  • Domus


Full coverage here on the blog, but also on twitter, @KnutAl, and Facebook.

This is a part of what looks like a general push for Belgian beer tourism. The craft beer explosion has swept the globe, but Belgium has the whole range from historical styles saved in the nick of time to daring newcomers pushing the boundaries. In my nine years of beer blogging, I haven’t given Belgium its fair share of coverage – I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to remedy that.

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The Grand Old Man of the Norwegian micro brewers is doing well. But that does not mean that Nøgne Ø slow down their innovation.

Nøgne Ø has been through some tough times during their ten years of existence, but at last they are enjoying the fruit of their labors. They have actually reduced their exports, and no longer have the capacity of brewing for Mikkeller.

This could mean leaning back a bit, concentrating on their core of commercial successes. But that would not be Nøgne Ø.

There is a steady trickle of new beers arriving on the market now, I got some samples recently which really show the range they are operating in.

Well, one of them is not brewed at Nøgne Ø, it is a collaboration between them and the Saint-Germain brewery in France. The Rhub’IPA is brewed with rhubarb, a frist one for me. Incredible floral and fruity nose. Hazy yellow, do not go for this because of the looks. Light beer base, wonderful rhubarb flavour, refreshing.

Horizon Tokyo Black is another collaboration, this time with BrewDog and Mikkeller. An imperial stout based on their extreme beers with the same names, this one is many steps removed from your everyday session beer. Black, some fizz when you open, then an oily feel. Very inviting complex aroma, tar, treacle, wood, smoke and coffee. Warming alcohol. Somehow, they have managed to make a bittersweet balance, this is drinkable and not overpowering. But it is to be taken seriously.
The Kriek of Telemark is a sour beer with sour cherries from the county of Telemark. It pours a glowing read with a pink head. Sour and sweet aroma, lovely fresh cherry favour.

Almonds, cherries, it balances on the fine line between fruity and sour. The fresh cherry juice comes through in an amazing way. There is much to be said about the aged krieks of Belgium – but this interpretation has really won me over. I find it hard to believe that this will improve with time.

To celebrate the brewing of batch # 1000, they have brewed not one, but two beers.
Both with 10 percent alcohol, both brewed with spices. The beers are sold in sets of two, meaning you get a lovely little box including #1000 and #1001, both inspired by One Thousand and One Nights.

#1000 has a warm, spicy nose. It is dark gold, and has lazy bubbles. Cinnamon and ginger. Apricots and sweet apples. Sweet, but well-balanced, mature. The alcohol is well hidden. Elegant, but it lacks a wow factor. It leaves a dry mouth feel, probably a combination of the spices and hops.

#1001, though, is the one they need to launch on its own. Dark, soft, inviting. Cinnamon, cardamom, feels like the Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout as a starting point, with some extra sweetness this is a splendid host for the spices. Coffee, molasses, tar, oreo biscuits, To be served at midnight by the fire with some home-made gingerbread.

Not enough?

This year’s Christmas beers have been released, too.

For the record, I bought the rhubarb IPA myself, the other beers I got from the brewery.

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The city where I was born and grew up, Trondheim, has lagged behind when it comes to beer. The scene is dominated by Carlsberg subsidiary E.C. Dahls bryggeri, and they have not shown any signs of innovation for decades (if ever?). I am happy to report that things are rapidly changing.

There is an annual food festival in Trondheim at the beginning of August, showcasing regional produce, including fish and game, fruit and vegetables, cheeses and preserves. I have blogged briefly about this before, suggesting that beer should be included as a part of the festival. A few of the micro breweries in the region are brewed on farms, so they fit very well in, and they are finding their way into some of the stalls, both Inderøy and Klostergården beers are to be found in the main festival area.

New this year is a separate beer festival, Trondheim Bryggerifestival. In a separate tent and with a 100 kroner entrance fee, you get to sample a fine range of beers, most of them Norwegian. Nøgne Ø, Haandbryggeriet, Ægir and Kinn are there, so you get the best of the established national craft breweries. But there are two others that merit special attention.

I blogged about Klostergården Håndbryggeri after my visit there in May. They have brought along a splendid range of brews for the festival, from a highly refreshing summer beer at 4.5% ABV to a barley wine aged in bourbon barrels at 12.5%. My current favourite among Norwegian breweries.

There is also a brand new micro in Trondheim, who will have national distribution from the very start. Austmann Bryggeri go for sessionable beers with a moderate alcohol level. They had two different saisons and a brown ale on tap yesterday, all very respectable.

The festival is staffed by volunteers, but several of the breweries are presnt, giving talks and hanging out to talk to the drinkers.

Some minor details could be adjusted. I’d like a souvernir glass instead of plastic samples, and a full beer list with descriptions would also be welcome. But the important thing is that the festival is there to promote craft beer in the region, I hope they draw enogh people to make this an annual event.



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There is, a bit hidden and out of sight, a craft beer scene in Munich. And there is one place to go. The Red Hot Bar and Chophouse.

It is worth noting that this is not a place that you stumble over by accident. It is not directly on the street. And it is not in the first courtyard. It is in the inner courtyard. Once there, you are warmly welcomed. In English, if you prefer so.

A beer bar is not much of a novelty in Munich, I hear you say. A beer bar, surely not. A craft beer bar is, though.

A hand picked beer list, which might change from day to day. Food as well, pulled pork, burgers etc.

Red Ale at the Red Hot

If you really must have a Helles or a Weissen, you can find it, but there are pale ales, smoked beers, bocks, IPAs and lambics, too.

Pleasant patio at the back if the weather is nice, cozy and compact inside. Very friendly service, particularly from Tibor the bartender, who recommends beer as well as mixing drinks at the speed of light.

After som days with the standard Bavarian beers, it was a relief to find  a good range of hoppy beers. My favourite among the ones I tried was the Braufactum Progusta IPA. Lovely glowing amber, with the hops bringing a smile on my face. Herbs, dryness, the IPA mouth fee. Not the most extreme, just a perfect summer beer.

If you are seriously interested in beer, you should not miss this when you visit Munich. Five minutes away from the Universität U-bahn stop. Amalienhof, Amalienstrasse 89.  Open from 17.00, closed Sundays.

The entrance is just opposite the back door to the splendidly restored main building of the Universityof Munich. Have a look inside if it’s open.


It can get very crowded, so it might be wise to go early. And the light behind the bar is so dim it is hopeless to get good photos.

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(English summary at the end)

Alle mikrobryggerier er ikke velsignet med en flott beliggenhet, selv om det ikke nødvendigvis har betydning for kvaliteten på ølet. Det brygges mye godt øl i anonyme industriområder der det er lite aktuelt å innrede et lokale for skjenking av brygget.

Samtidig er det en utfordring å skille seg ut. Det er mange som brygger de samme øltypene, og selv om original design på etiketten og lokal oppslutning kan bidra til salget, er det jo flott om man har en historie å fortelle og kan knytte øl til historie, tradisjoner og lokal mat.

Klostergården Håndbryggeri fyller alle kriterier for hvordan disse faktorene bidrar til å skape unike produkter.

Beliggenheten er øya Tautra, som har broforbindelse med Frosta, Trøndelags kjøkkenhage. På eiendommen er det til og med en klosterruin som viser forhistorien for dette kulturlandskapet. Ved siden av gårdsdrift konserverer man frukt, bær og grønnsaker. Det tilbys overnatting, og det er servering av mat og drikke både innendørs og utendørs.

 Brygger Jørn Andersen kan by på en rekke ølsorter i butikkstyrke som man kan kjøpe med hjem. Wit, porter, pale ale, bitter og blond. Flotte øl, som kan måle seg med det beste av øl med denne styrkegraden.

Norsk alkohollovgivning gjør det ikke mulig å kjøpe med de mest spennede ølene – så de må man smake på stedet. En imperial stout hadde en flott lakriskarakter. En Dobbel IPA var velbalansert og forførende lettdrikkelig.

Men det som var verdt turen alene var en flaske Sorn, hentet opp fra kjelleren slik at den ikke skulle være kjøleskapskald. Jeg har ventet lenge på at noen skulle gjøre øl brygget på stjørdalsmalt mer tilgjengelig, og her er det endelig et slikt eksempel. 25% av malten i dette brygget er altså røykmalt fra Stjørdal. Det er klart at det setter sitt preg på ølet, men samtidig er det balansert. Røyk, sot og sødme gir en spesiell smaksprofil – håper at tilgangen på malt gir mulighet for å brygge dette i kvanta store nok til å tilby dette både til polutsalg og serveringssteder i regionen. Sorn er brygget i samarbeid med Inderøy Gårdsbryggeri. 

Den største utfordringen i dag er å få brygget nok øl til å få dekket etterspørselen. Nytt utstyr gjør at man kommer opp i batcher på 1000 liter mot dagens 350. Og for den tålmodige kan det opplyses at man også er i gang med eget brenneri, som planlegger lansering av whisky om tre år. Og innkjøp av eikefat gjør også at vi kan glede oss til fatlagrete øl i tiden fremover.

Jeg spiste ikke middag på stedet, men den nylagde fiskballen som raust ble servert som en smakebit fra kjøkkenet gjør at det absolutt står på programmet neste gang.



At the most scenic spot you can imagine, in the middel of the Trondheim fjord, with green meadows and monastery ruins, you find Klostergården Håndbryggeri. Besides farming and brewing, there is also a café, a shop with local food, including beer, and some rooms for rent.

Brewer Jørn Andersen offers a broad range of beers. The ones below 4.7 % ABV are available in the shop, the stronger beers have to be consumed on the premises.

This region has a long tradition of farmers brewing their own beers, malting barley grown on their own farm, smoking the malt to give a unique flavour. Klostergården brews their won version of this, adding 25% of this smoked malt in the Sorn beer. The result is, of course, a compromise – you do not get an over the top smoked beer, but a balanced, quite sweet brew with lots of character with plenty of smoke and soot both in aroma and palate.

Klostergården is approximately a one hour drive from the main North-South road between Trondheim and Northern Norway. It is well worth the time, and the accommodation is reasonably priced if you want to indulge in the stronger beers. Expanded capacity will hopefully give at least a regional distribution for the beers. And if you want something truly exotic, their first batch of whisky is maturing in oak barrels, due to be released in April 2016.


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In addition to the Berlin U-bahn, which is an underground network, there is also the S-bahn, which in the central areas of the city is elevated above street level, giving splendid views . Well, there is not much time to enjoy the view from Hauptbahnhof to Bellevue, it’s the next stop. Cross the bridge and walk up a short street, and you find the Berlin Bier Shop.

Bier jenseits des Mainstreams is the motto on their web page. Sure, you can stock up on all the bocks, helles, pils etc.  you’d want. But the reason to go here is for the more sophisticated stuff.
They cater for two types of customers: Germans who want interesting imports and tourists who want interesting German beers.  The imports include the big names from Denmark and the US.  Mikkeller sells well, the customers have often visited Copenhagen and know the price level. Slightly lower alcohol taxes and VAT equals more or less the cost of distribution, meaning you pay more or less the same for a bottle of Mikkeller as you would in Denmark. Students from the brewing college are eager to get new stuff coming in, particularly on-offs like the new yeast series.
For foreign visitors you are able to get some real treats. New beers from Berlin gypsy brewer Schoppe Bräu. Craft beers from the Czech Republic. I had some serious problems making up my mind. My suitcase was already bulging, and I knew I was in for a scolding from the Lufthansa check-in staff.
But I could not resist a barrel aged dark Gose. And a Berliner Weisse brewed with smoked malt. How is that for innovation?

Friendly and polite service. Once again my apologies for my German. The vocabulary is coming along fine, thank you. But the nuances of grammar and the use of the polite Sie instead of du leaves a lot to be desired. Other visitors don’t need to worry. They even use English on their web pages.

This is a must stop on a Berlin beer tour. A serious beer shop. Like Johnny’s Off Licence in Rome or Ølbutikken in Copenhagen.


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