Archive for the ‘beer history’ Category

I’ve been challenged. By Magnus. Three beer memories from before I drank beer myself. This is a Scandinavian concept, so this post will be in Norwegian. I’m not sure if Google translate will be very helpful.

Jeg begynner å bli gammel. 55. Og jeg drakk min første øl da jeg var 15. Så mine minner må da handle om perioden rundt 1970.

Det var et annet Norge. Et Norge uten oljerikdom, som fremdeles var preget av gjenreisning etter krigen. Og øl var ikke på noe hverdagsbord.

– Mine foreldre drakk lite. Men på juleaften drakk de en pilsner og en akevitt eller to. Lysholm Linie. Ølet var E.C. Dahls Pils, av den enkle grunn at det var det eneste som var i salg i Trondheim. Privateiede bryggerier hadde delt landet i regioner der de hadde monopol.

– Det ble også brygget øl til jul. Men ikke ordentlig øl. Tomtebrygg var et malt- og sukkerbasert kit som ga et musserende, alkoholsvakt og søtt brygg som kunne drikkes av hele familien. Så kunne man sikkert tilsette annet gjær og få omdannet mer av sukkeret. Men det gjorde ikke vi.

– Men det mest spennende ølet har jeg bare hørt om i etterkant. Min fars familie kom fra Skatval, som fremdeles er kjerneområdet for gårdsbrygging i Norge. Da hans mormor og morfar kjøpte gård og flyttet tre-fire mil vestover til Strinda, til det som i dag ligger innenfor grensen til Trondheim kommune, tok de ikke bryggetradisjonene med seg. Det er her mine minner skulle ha vært. Om brygging til bryllup og slåttonn, jul og barnedåp. Om bingen med røykmalt på låven som var klar om det skulle være behov for å brygge til en begravelse – gravøl.


Stafetten går videre til et annet medlem av Skandinaviska Ölskribenters Förening- Stefan. Han skal skrive om Den perfekte ølpub.


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I thought I would stick to Norwegian beers this spring, book writing and all. I was wrong. When I got an e-mail telling me BrewDog wanted to fly me to Scotland to visit their brewery, I was not difficult to persuade.

So, last Thursday, as the pubs were opening, I found myself on Union Street, Aberdeen. One of the places on my list was just a few minutes from the hotel, and it came recommended by the taxi driver that took me in from the airport.

The Grill does not look like much from the outside. It probably had a more elaborate sign, perhaps windows with frosted glass and more trimmings some decades ago. Some details of hops and grapes shows that this was more upmarket in another age.

A look at their web page – I was surprised they had one, shows a long history, the name unchanged since it opened as a restaurant in 1870. Their claim to fame, however, is of another kind:

When the pub reopened after the 7-month long refurbishment, (in 1925) John Innes hung a sign in the window which said “ No Ladies, Please”. For nearly 50 years this remained the policy, despite an invasion by female delegates attending the Scottish Trades Union Congress at the Music Hall in April 1973. This demonstration made front page headlines in the national press and the police had to be called to disperse the thirsty ladies!

It wasn’t until December 1975 that women were officially served in The Grill, following the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. This was followed sometime after by the construction of a ladies toilet in 1998.

Going inside, it is a well kept pub. Nothing fancy, but tidy and clean. No signs of any food, let alone a grill, though, this is a place for drinking. A place dominated by regulars, good atmosphere, where people are greeted on their way in and their regular is poured right away. Local beers on several hand pumps.

I ask for an American APA from the Windswept brewery. The adult lady tending the bar asked if I had tried it before, and offered me a taster. This was apparently a bit outside the mainstream of their beers. It was pouted expertly, topped up and served with a fine head. The cask gives smoothness, but there was a fine bitter mouth feel, too. Malt, caramel, oranges, discreet pine. And APA? The cask treatment makes it difficult to say. An ESB with American hops is perhaps more correct.

A quite small bar, I looked in later, and it was more packed in the after work rush hour. Personal and attentive service. Some serious drinking old men, some reading their paper, some chatting. Not the cheapest place in town, but certainly not the most expensive.

I liked this place. No pretensions, polite service, well kept beer. But I would not be surprised if it was replaced by a fake Italian place with over priced coffee the next time around. I don’t know if Union Street will keep its name either, come to think of it. Go while you can.

Windswept APA

A proper pint

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Sure. I know a lot about Norwegian beers and Norwegian breweries. But there is still a lot of ground to cover if my book is to be under every Christmas tree.

This week I sent out a questionnaire to all the breweries on my list – a list it has taken quite some time to compile. Facebook, word of mouth, public registers, applications for licences…

The immediate response was very positive – particularly from the ones starting up this spring. A major challenge will be to have really up-to-date information about everyone actually brewing on the day of the deadline.

And I’ve called out for photos of bottles and glasses, for labels to use on the cover etc.

My main advantage? That there are very few opportunities to market beer in Norway. You cannot even have a brewery logo at a football stadium. A book giving telling the story about your brewery and your beer is a way around this.

The response has been very positive. There will be some technical things to adjust – getting the questionnaire available in various formats, setting up a dropbox account with the book designer etc. But the general message is that the initiative is very welcome.

And I already have two invites to come and visit breweries.

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I’m doing some research into Norwegian beer history. While the bulk of my book will be about the breweries alive and active in 20|5, there will also be some glimpses into the past. There is no Boak and Bailey quality about my work, but even at my level I can access some of the material available online.

The Norwegian National Library has, as these institutions tend to have, all printed publications from the last couple of centuries in its vaults. Increasingly, these publications are digitalized and searchable.

What popped up was the catalogue of the Norwegian pavilion at the World Fair in Paris in 1900. Among handicrafts and tool makers, whale oil and dried cod, there was also Norwegian beer to be had. The breweries had joined forces, 18 of them.

There is a story to be told, in a book of its own, about Norwegian brewing history. But, for now,  at least I can showcase some of the gems I stumble upon.






















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I did a public beer tasting last night here in an Oslo bar. The plan was initially to have a brewer come and present his beers, while I was asking questions to keep the words flowing. Well, the brewer couldn’t make it, so I had to run the show on my own, with a little assistance from Kenneth, the host of the event.

I was allowed to pick the beers, all from Little Brother Brewery, probably the smallest brewery in town to have a licence to sell their beers. They have a fine range of  beers, not being confined to the standard range of styles. Most of the audience had not tried any of their beers before, and I doubt if any had tried them all.

There was an audience of 40-50, the crowd was well-behaved – and I felt things went very well. Quite a few in the audience with more brewing knowledge than I have, but I was able to share some of the knowledge I have about the large number of new Norwegian breweries.

The beers were good, and my reflections were well received.

I do some talks for various audiences at work, but this is the first time I do this type of event. The feedback was very positive, so I could easily be convinced to do similar things in the future.

And the experience will also come in handy for a project I’ll tell you more about in the near future.

I was fairly busy, so I didn’t take any photos.

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When friend and fellow beer writer Lars Marius suggested an oval weekend in Vilnius, I did not need much encouragement to go along. In the end there were four of us traveling, a convenient crowd.


I have been to Vilnius before, but that was ages ago. I did a stint in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Mid Nineties and attended a meeting in Lithuania in 1997. I saw a country trying to get to it feet after many decades of oppression, and I did not envisage it as a tourist destination for a long time.


Fast forward to 2015. Two hours flight from Oslo to the capital of a NATO and European Union country. They even adopted the Euro on 1 January.


But we were not there for the politics, but for the beer. Lithuania has an unbroken tradition of farmhouse and other small-scale brewing. These beers used to be really hard to find, but now there is a fair number of dedicated beer bars across the city where you find a staggering number of beers.


And these beer bars come in a number of shapes and sizes. Some are industrial chic, some are really converted garages tucked inside courtyards. Some are just off the gleaming high street. Some serve rustic food, some serve seriously rustic snacks.


The most amazing bar must be Snekutis Uzupio. 20 minutes walk from the old town, this looks like a wooden shack somewhere in the countryside. Wooden interior with lots of dusty memorabilia, a dozen or so beers on tap and a fridge full of mysterious brews.


It is extremely convenient to travel with Lars Marius, who has even written a book on Lithuanian beer. He tells us what to order. We drink it.


The beer is far away from industrial lager, and it’s not a close relation to, say, Czech lagers, either. The beers tend to be full-bodied, with lots of grain and straw in the flavour. Some of them have notes of honey in the aroma, whether they are brewed with honey or not. We’re talking local yeast varieties here, which you won’t find anywhere on the planet.

I don’t take any serious notes, just enjoy the half liter jugs of beer and the good conversation.



To be continued….

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There are vintage ads. And there are vintage spoof ads. The Dangerous Minds has an article about the advertising parodies of MAD Magazine. The publication was able to survive without any outside ads – meaning they were free to make parodies. The tobacco industry was often the target, but there were some breweries among the victims as well.

This one is from September 1956. More ads on Jasperdo‘s Flickr account.

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