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Archive for the ‘beer’ Category

As well as blogging, I also hang around various other beer sites. In Scandinavia, we tend to go for RateBeer rather than Beer Advocate, and I am approaching Norwegian beer rating number 1000 on RB. I am not much of a ticker any more, but I enjoy following the Norwegian scene.

There are new beers every week now, and I do not pay good money for beers from breweries that tend to let me down. So I could have reached this milestone before.

But which one to pick for the big number?

It could have been a beer from one of the forerunners of the Norwegian craft scene. Nøgne Ø, Haandbryggeriet, Ægir, Kinn or Lervig. One of the stars rapidly building a name like Austmann, Voss or Lindheim. A beer from one of my favourite brewpubs, Trondhjems Mikrobryggeri, Crowbar or Schouskjelleren.

But I picked Fjellbryggeriet Lun, a brown ale from a newcomer. They have made things even more difficult by going for the supermarket segment, staying below 4.7% ABV.

Lovely notes of roasted grain. Nuts, malt, coffee and chocolate. Clean and elegant. A most impressive beer from a new kid on the block. Well, they are new as commercial brewers. But their home page tells the story – 13 years as home brewers. So this is probably more than just beginner’s luck…

And located in the middle of the moutnains of Southern Norway, they also  fill in one of the blanks of the Norwegian beer map.

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Once is funny, when you find it is widespread, I get annoyed.

Jørn, the brewer at Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri, has pointed out that he has found my photo at yet another website. At Mozzarella’s Grill & Bar. It’s one of a number of photos rotating at their front page.

 

Mozzarellas

It might be that the restaurant chain, this time located in various locations in Connecticut and Rhode Island, is innocent. But they could have asked for photos actually originating from their own restaurants. And they claim the copyright for their website.

My main suspect is, once again, the company behind the website. This time it is called Zevon Media. According to  their own pages, they have social media skills. We’ll see about that.

For the record, here is my photo of the beer samples in Trondheim again.  Little did they know they would conquer the globe.

 Trondhjemsamples

I await a response. This time I will not settle for dimes. I know a beer blogger lawyer.

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I got a transfer from the web design company via PayPal last night, with the following message:

Apologies for the misue of your photo. It was for placement only during early production and was supposed to be swapped out with actual photos of this brewery’s beer — but that task fell through the cracks. Please accept this gift to buy yourself some beer. We have already replaced the photo.

So. No grudges. But I’d still like to try the beers from the Hopvine brewery.

Meanwhile – a crappy photo of a grilled Gorgonzola sandwich and a beer. At the Chelsea Pub in Parma, Italy. It is highlyunlikely that anyone will steal this.

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Someone stole my beer photo.

There have been some weird sites that has taken whole blog posts and republished them, but there have been many years since I have discovered unauthorized use of my photos.

When I look back, there is a strong possibility that I have a general crappy level of photo quality, meaning there are far better sources for nicking beer pictures than this site.

But one of my readers is a brewer at Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri. And he must have a very good memory of photos. Photographic memory?  Because he spotted a photo of his beers. That had appeared in my blog post from last year. But he found it on the web site of the Hopvine Brewery in Aurora, Illinois.

 

Your beers?

Your beers?

 

This is my original photo:

 

 

Trondhjemsamples

 What’s wrong with their own beers? Don’t they look good enough?

I think someone in Aurora, Il. owes me a beer. Either the Hopvine guys. or the ones in IPC, who set up their website.

 You will find our friendly, no-nonsense method of doing business quite refreshing, says IPC.

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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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There are (far too) many books, museum exhibitions, concerts and performances connected to the bicentenary of the Norwegian constitution this year, a process that led to our total independence – if there is such a thing – in 1905.

The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History has a temporary exhibition in cooperation with Frederiksborg Slot in Denmark, compact enough to walk through in an hour or two, focusing on how Denmark and Norway was interwoven until the Napoleonic wars split the union.  The exhibition will also be shown in Copenhagen in the autumn, it is very much recommended, even if the web page in English tell next to nothing about it. Try a google translation of the Norwegian text  instead.

A traditional item at all Norwegian farms around 1800 was the beer bowl, passed around from man to man as they sat by the table. This one was painted by one of the members of the constitutional assembly, Eivind Lande, who represented Råbygdelaget in Aust-Agder, not far away from the present location of Nøgne Ø.

 

beer bowl

Cheers for the constitution!

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Håndverkerstuene has gone through some changes of management, but the kitchen is still very good – and the beer range is better than ever. Some of the imports, particularly the Belgians and Americans, are gone, what you find is an outstanding range of Norwegian and Nordic beers. 12 craft beers on tap a few days ago, 10 of them Norwegian, the other two also Scandinavian.

Handverkerstuene taps

This year they are challenging Norwegian breweries to come up with the best beer matches for various menus. Eight breweries are taking part in the quarter finals, Austmann vs Aass, Ringnes vs Nøgne Ø, Lervig vs Haandbryggeriet and Ægir vs Kinn. 

 

The two best meet in the final 22 September. The juries are the paying guests on the evening of each round. The loser of the final will brew a special brew for the winner.

Details about the challenge, the menus and tickets at the Bryggeribråk web site.

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Over the years, I have written about the beer scene in many European countries, but I haven’t written very much about Belgium. Sure, I covered some places in Brussels and Brugges, but I am a novice compared to those who make annual visits and know both the back streets of Antwerp and the green country lanes of Payottenland.
I am happy to tell that I belong to a group of eight Scandinavian beer writers invited to a four-day visit to Belgium next month. More about the itinerary later.
I like to plan ahead, so I have already spent some time with google maps, guide books and other sources.  My guides to Belgium were a few years old, so I thought I’d check what’s available.
There are guide books of all shapes and sizes. With 3D drawings of palaces and museums, with pull out or fold-out-and-never-able-to-fold-back-again-maps. And there is a peculiar tradition among the guidebook publishers – they hide the publication date of the book as well as they can, fearing that they will be considered past their sell-by date.
But there are some real gems out there. On Amazon, there are scans of old and out of print books, I stumbled across Peeps at Many Lands: Belgium by George W. T.  Omond, published in 1909 and now in the public domain.
According to Wikipedia, the author was awarded the Order of the Crown for his books about Belgium. I have a nagging feeling that the Belgians did not read the books before giving him the award.
A few highlights:
…..This seems a dull and hard life, but the Flemings do not find it so. Like all Belgians, they are fond of amusement, and there is a great deal of dancing and singing, especially on holidays. Sunday is the chief holiday. They all go to church in the morning, and the rest of the day is given up to play. Unfortunately many of the older people drink too much. There are far too many public-houses. Any person who likes can open one on payment of a small sum of money to the Government. The result is that in many quite small villages, where very few people live, there are ten or twelve public-houses, where a large glass of beer is sold for less than a penny, and a glass of coarse spirits for about the same price. Most of the drinking is done on Sunday, and on Monday morning it is often difficult to get men to work. There are many, especially in the towns, who never work on Mondays. This is quite understood in Belgium, and people who know the country are pleased, and rather surprised, if an artisan who has promised to come and do something on a Monday morning keeps his word. Of course there are many sober work-people, and it is a rare thing to see a tipsy woman, much rarer than in England; but there is a great deal of drunkenness in Belgium.
…………………….
The rooms in these public-houses are pretty large, but they get dreadfully hot and stuffy. The constant laughing and talking, the music, and the scraping of feet on the sanded floor make an awful din. Then there are sometimes disputes, and the Flemings have a nasty habit of using knives when they are angry, so the dancing, which often goes on till two or three in the morning, is the least pleasant thing about these gatherings.

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And who is Ivar Aasen, you may wonder. There might be the occasional linguist outside the borders of Norway that will recognize the name, but otherwise, this is strictly a national figure. But hang on, this has some significance.

This is a new beer from Kinn bryggeri, located in a small town on the west coast of Norway. The beer is a barley wine or  byggvin in Norwegian, the first brew of this marked batch # 500 from the brewery.

The beer was brewed for the 200th anniversary of Ivar Aasens birth in 2013. Just a few decades ago, there would have been a wave of protests against using his name for anything associated with alcohol.

This year we are looking back at 200 years of Norway as a modern nation-state. In a union with Sweden at first, but with a parliament of our own and a constitution inspired by the revolutions in America and in France.

Building a national identity was a challenge for a poor country on the periphery of Europe. There were, basically two schools of thought. One wanted to develop things step by step, keeping Danish as a written language. Our most important contributor to modern world literature, Henrik Ibsen, wrote his plays in Danish, many decades later.

The alternative was to search for something uniquely Norwegian. This included painting, handicrafts, traditional music, national costumes, fairy tales and all that.

Ivar Aasen travelled through the country , collecting words and grammar from local dialects which made the basis for what is presently one of the two official written languages of Norway, nynorsk.

Nynorsk is traditionally connected with a broader movement of counter-culture in Norway. This also included religious associations and, particularly, the temperance movement.

This meant that social events in the areas dominated by this broad counterculture meant that nothing stronger than coffee would be served. The local communities traditionally dominated by these ideas were traditionally dry, some went to extreme measures allowing hotels to serve alcohol to tourists, but not to the local population.

Gradually, this has eroded. And even if nynorsk still has a stronghold in Sogn og Fjordane, the county where Kinn is brewing, they now expect the same worldly luxuries as the rest of us. Including alcohol. Which means that, 200 years later, Ivar Aasen gets his own beer.  There is even an oil field named after him.

So, how about the beer?

I got a taste of it from the brewer a year ago, but he did not feel that it was ready for release at the time. It is now available in the Vinmonopolet stores in the trade mark 0,7 liter bottles. This is a clear amber brew with a pearly carbonation, though I have heard rumours that the carbonation is a bit lower in one of the batches.

The beer is malty sweet, and it packs quite a punch at 10.5% ABV. It is a very complex beverage, with grass, nuts, basil and nutmeg. I even find notes of chocolate and strawberry jam. IT is lovely now, and will probably keep for many years in a good cellar.

Tis is a perfect match for a really mature cheese. Some Stilton or unpasteurized brie, perhaps. Or, here in Norway, Kraftkar.

 

Ivar Aasen bottle and glass

Skål for Ivar!

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Back in my old home town again, a few hours to spare. Two new beers at Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri, both of them keeping the high standard that they have those days, hoppy and well crafted. Later, I will have a chat with the guys running the pub and micro brewery at Studentersamfundet.

But I have heard rumours about beers from a new brewery available in a pub I’ve never visited. Though the place is very familiar. This building used to house a temperance hotel and cafeteria on one of the busiest street corners in town, Prinsenkrysset. Those days are gone, and it makes perfect sense to have a pub here, a very convenient place to meet.

Irish theme pubs is not an endangered species, and at first sight Cafe Dublin is no different. Pub grub, which seemed a bit pricey, beer engines with the usual suspects.

But when I talk to the man behind the bar, I recognise that he sim more committed than most. He has some bottles from the Rein brewery in the fridge, he has the O’haras Leann Follain from Carlow, an excellent Irish stout I’ve never spotted anywhere in Norway before. Austmann beers in bottles and on tap, too. The temperatures in the fridges have even been turend up for the more interesting beers.

It is not my favourite beer bar in Trondheim. But it is certainly worth looking in if you are passing by. Live music in the evening.

I haven’t learned to use my new camera yet, so no decent photos of the facilities.

The Reins beer? Not quite there. Going organic is not enough.

Reins Ale No 23

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