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Archive for the ‘craft beer’ Category

Events that did not have anything to do with beer led me to the medium-sized Swedish town Lund in the early days of the new year. This is not the best time to judge the beer range of pubs and shops, so this is by no means a comprehensive guide to the watering holes of Lund.

Lund has, according to Wikipedia, 82000 inhabitants, but it is also the home of the oldest university in Scandinavia, meaning there is a large number of students in term. There are commuter trains to Malmö and Copenhagen (less than an hour), but time did not allow for any excursions this time.

When you plan to visit a Swedish town of some size, it is worth checking out if it has a pub in the Bishops Arms chain. You are likely to find a decent number of domestic and imported craft beer, a dozen of them on tap, the rest of them in fridges.

On 3 January, Bishops Arms Lund was not exactly crowded. I found a seat at the bar and ordered a Highnose Brew Snow from the Höganäs (enough Umlaut to start a heavy metal band)Brewery. The beer had nothing much  snowy and seasonal about it, but it was a pleasant session APA/IPA with malt, herbs and fruit.

The barman asked if a playlist of classic Who songs was appropriate, and several of us nodded our assent. This led to a conversation about agricultural machinery, motor sports etc with one of the regulars, though I had to admit my part of the discussion consisted mainly of nodding.

There was another interesting beer on tap, Dugges Barrel Aged Winter Warmer. A rather sweet, malty beer as the style calls for, with a nice touch of wood and vanilla from the barrel. Balanced, smooth and very likeable.

I made my excuses, as I had heard that the beer range at the Inferno right up the street was rather good. This is a cozy  bar and restaurant in a building that looks very old. A quiet evening there as well, with polite and attentive service. 10 beers on tap, hundreds of bottles. Extra points for a printed beer list to browse while you make up your mind. Lost of both domestic and import beers. The range was especially good from the Gotlands Bryggeri. This is a fairly small brewery set up by lager brewer Spendrup to make more specialized beers – a macro aiming for the craft beer market. This seems to work rather well, I’ve been quite pleased with several of their beers. I went for one on tap, the Shogun Jipa. The tongue-in-cheek reference to Japan is easy to explain, as this is a single hop IPA brewed with Sorachi Ace. Sweet malty body, delicate notes of peaches and apples. Slightly medical, but a very nice beer.

Inviting lights at the Inferno

I’m sure there are plenty of good bars in Lund, most of them hidden from general view. A university town like this probably has some vaulted cellars with a good beer range and reasonable prices, more or less licensed. But that’s not for me for find out.

A few notes to round up: The local branches of Systembolaget are quite small, but  good if you want to try the beers of the local Lundabryggeriet, not so for also quite local Brekeriet, the rising star of Southern Sweden. If you want a really good range, you need to jump on a train to Malmö.

And some Gotland beers were available at my hotel, too, the Park Inn. A Sleepy Bulldog on tap, a Frosty Bulldog winter beer in bottles. Neither of them extreme, just nice, highly drinkable beers, offering a low threshold to the ever-present pale lagers.

Lund Cathedral

Make sure you visit the Lund Cathedral as well!

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Mosaic Single Hop IPA

Single hop IPA from Kolonihagen

 

There are several companies who claim to be the first organic (økologisk) brewery in Norway. Reins Kloster in Rissa, an hour’s drive from Trondheim is probably the winner. Their beers have a growing distribution in restaurants, bars and shops in the region, check their web site for a list. Close behind is Kolonihagen in Oslo. They have sold beers in their cafes/restaurants since last summer, and they have now signed an agreement for supermarket sales. Kolonihagen is opening a new restaurant in Hamar in a few days, which will also feature a micro brewery. Their brewery is not set up yet, but they aim to have their own pilsener on tap.

There are two more making their first brews right now – Eiker ølfabrikk in Mjøndalen, near Drammen and Grim & Gryt in Hareid on the western coast.

This has not been a major trend in Norway so far. Our farming is small scale compared to the rest of Europe, and most consumers (myself included) feel that the food generally available in the shops is healthy enough.

But this is a niche market, and I think there is a potential here. And, if you insist on buying organic food, it makes more sense that it is produced regionally, or, at least, nationally and not sent halfway around the globe.

Barley field

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The Godfather of beer blogging, Alan in Canada, has asked the question:

What beer book which has yet to be written would you like to see published?

And the question is a good one. This is a part of The Session. The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry.

So the host of Session 95 is Alan, go to his blog to see a round up of all contributions this month.

He also wants to know what books we’d like to write. Well, there might be something happening over here, but it’s early days yet. I’ll let you know if and when things get moving.

So I need more beer books? Well. There are beer books silently staring at med from the shelves. Some have been gifts or review copies, some seemed more promising at amazon or in the bookshop than they turned out to be. So I tend to limit my beer book purchases, and I find it very convenient when I can buy an e-book from Evan Rail, ready to digest in one sitting.

But I digress.  There are many beer books waiting to be written. And I have at least three books I’d like to see published.

First of all, my friend the beer scholar Lars Marius Garshol has done some really impressive writing about farmhouse beers in Norway and in Lithuania. He should be given a scholarship to write about the history of small-scale brewing in The Nordic countries and the Baltic countries, including Finland and Russian Karelia. That’s probably too ambitious. But a book on Norwegian traditional beers would be most welcome. too!

 

On an even broader scale, I’d like a book on European beer brewing history. Starting with historical and archeological sources, painting the broad strokes of the major players.

  • How empires, was and legislation have given the background for clever entrepreneurs.
  • The contribution of Weihenstephan and other centers of brewery education.
  • The emergence of a science of brewing.
  • Family brewers growing into multinationals. Dreher, Carnegie, Jacobsen, Guinness, Heineken.
  • Did the Russian court really drink stout? If so, where was the beer brewed?
  • European beer in other corners of the world.
  • Intra-European beer trade. How much stout did the czars really drink?

There could be lots of tables and figures in such a book, but I’d prefer the good stories, the anecdotes and how beer history fits into the broader history. And I would like lots of maps, old ads and photos.

But there is another book waiting to be written, too. About the emergence of a company that defied all established wisdom within the industry. A company that has used social media, reached out to bloggers, provoked regulating authorities and getting plenty of press coverage without buying ads.

If I was given some months’ salary and freedom to write a book on a beer related theme, I would write the story of BrewDog. And I’d focus on the beer. Unlike the book by the founders of Brooklyn Brewery. That book is not about beer at all, it could have been a chronicling a chewing gum factory.

The Beer Book for Punks could be sold in pubs and bars, bottle shops – and the bookshops of business schools around the globe. Not to mention airports.

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I have looked into the crystal ball. I see 50 new Norwegian breweries in 2015.

There are around 120 active breweries in Norway today, I guess about 20 of them established during 2014. But things are not slowing down. My guess there will be 50 new breweries with a public licence to sell their beers in 2015.

 

I have gone through public records, newspaper clipping, Facebook pages etc. Here are 38 new breweries who are likely to start brewing in 2015, listed by county. As usual, they are scattered around the country, most of them starting up as very small scale brewpub ventures. I welcome all corrections to the list, and hope there is a fair number of omissions, too..

 

Some of these have a local licence to sell beer in-house only, others have a national permit and may sell their beers through shops, bars and restaurants. Note that there are a few destilleries starting up, too, they are not included, neither are cider makers. Nedre Foss Gård in Oslo will , as far as I know, have both a brewery and a distillery.

 

Daglighallen Mikrobryggeri in Trondheim. Already open!

Akershus

Ale by Alex, Fet

Wettre Bryggeri, Asker

 

Buskerud

Aja Bryggeri, Tranby

Eiker Ølfabrikk, Mjøndalen

Skjenkestua pub Drammen

Svensefjøset, Lier

Nøsterud Gård, Svelvik

Låven Mikrobryggeri, Sylling

 

Hedmark

Kolonihagen, Hamar

Ølkjillarn, Folldal

 

Hordaland

Inside Voss Rock Cafe, Voss

Bergen Mikrobryggeri/Fribryggerlogen

Nøsteboden, Bergen

Modalen Ølbryggjarlag anno 2014, Modalen

 

Møre og Romsdal

Korn Bryggeri, Eresfjord, Nesset kommune

Bjørkavåg Brygg, Fiskarstrand,

Smøla Mikrobryggeri, Smøla

 

Nordland

Mormors Hus, Bøstad, Vestvågøy

 

Nord-Trøndelag

Eldhuset, Haugum Gård, Overhalla

Berg Gård, Inderøy kommune

Winkelmann Bryggeri, Hegra

 

Oppland

Villtotningen, Kolbu

Sve Gard, Vågå kommune 

Oslo

Nedre Foss gård, . ”Bellonahuset”

St. Hallvard

 

Sogn og Fjordane

Tya Bryggeri, Øvre Årdal

 

Sør-Trøndelag

Moe Nedre, Leinstrand, Trondheim

Kystbryggeriet Frøya, Dyrvik

 

Troms

Senja Handbryggeri

Stangnes bryggeri Tranøy

 

Vest-Agder

Hunsfos Bryggeri, Vennesla kommune

Farsund Brewing Company, Farsund

Bryggerhuset (Bekkereinan), Kvinesdal

 

Østfold

MikroMeyer, Spydeberg

Mølla Brygghus, Fredrikstad

Taraldrud gård, Marker kommune

 

Svalbard

Svalbard Bryggeri, Longyearbyen

Trappers Brewhouse, Longyearbyen

 

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Those of you who have followed this blog from the early days know that I have been a friend of Haandbryggeriet from their very early days. Established in 2005, four home brewing friends started up in a few tiny rooms in what used to be a stocking factory. They moved to larger premises in 2011, but they have already outgrown them, so they have set up a spanking new brewery, but they still stay in their home town Drammen. This is an area with a rich industrial heritage, so there is no big surprise that they once again occupy a building with a history of other activity.

Room for a few pints

They have come quite a long way in less than ten years!

There was an opening party for the new brewery this week, they are ready to take on the huge domestic demand, particularly from the supermarkets. It’s good to see that the first generation of Norwegian micro breweries have managed to expand and thrive. Everything looks sunny now, but there have been lean years as well.

The investment in the new brewery is about 14 million kroner, while their turnover in 2013 was 22 million.

More room for barrel aging, too.

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Ego brygghus is one of the many new breweries established in Norway this year, and they have established themselves with high quality beers from the very start. I visited some months ago, and head brewer Christer was very clear that he would not compromise on quality – they will only sell beers they can really stand behind.

 

Halvor Lindrupsen and Christer Edvartsen at Ego Brygghus

Ego is located in Fredrikstad, Østfold, the southeastern corner of Norway.

 

Their first batches showed the scope, two IPAs, a rye IPA, a pale ale, a stout and a wheat ale. They brew 500-700 liter batches.

The production in 2014, with only six months of actual brewing, will end up at around 20000 liters, while the aim for 2015 is at least to double that. The best sellers so far have been A Damn Fine Coffee IPA and Reign in Citra – a single hop pale ale. The number of beers is approaching 20, so it is a challenge to follow this as long as they have a limited distribution.

 

The plan was to aim for the pub restaurant market with both kegs and bottles, but Ego is now ready to move into both supermarkets and Vinmonopolet – the state monopoly stores. The first supermarket beer is a saison. They had plans for an unfiltered pilsener as well, but they were not happy with the first batch, so we’ll probably have to wait until the new year for that one. They have a new distribution deal with Strag, which has a number of solid brand names in their portfolio, including the Erdinger beers. I think both sides can profit from a partnership with a Norwegian craft brewery.

 

The Ego beers do not aim for the extreme, they are drinkable and accessible. This does not mean bland beers, there is plenty of flavor and bitterness, My current favourite is their Black Chocolate IPA. Dark brown, with very inviting aroma, berries and a hint of cocoa. Bittersweet flavor, roasted grain and herbal hops. The chocolate or cocoa is there, but not in an intrusive way.

A spotless brewery

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IMG_1003

Ingeborg, Dag and Jeanette with Gustav Jørgensen

 

I had the pleasure of attending a beer event earlier this week – another case showing how much the scene has developed and matured. This was held at Cafe Sara, which has established itself as one of the very best beer bars in Oslo. The promotion had been fairly low-key, you are not supposed to do much in the way of beer promotion around here. I was really surprised that there was a long line outside when the door opened, and they managed to squeeze in about eighty of us. And we’re not talking big national or global names in the beer world. On the opposite, we were invited to a tasting with two fairly new breweries, who do not even have bottling plants, Voss Bryggeri and Lindheim Ølkompani.

Picking these two was a very good choice, as they both have stories to tell – and the voices to tell those stories. They both brew on a fairly modest scale – around 1000-1100 liter batches, and they are situated in rural areas with small local markets.

Ingeborg Lindheim  told the story of how she went to San Diego to buy their brewing plant, and how she was told by those who sold it to get in touch with a restaurant owner. This turned out to be one of the owners of the Lost Abbey/Pizza Port group of breweries. They struck up a friendship, and they have been doing collaborations with their brewers ever since. Not bad midwives for a small Norwegian company!

Lindheim is a family farm with fruit-growing as its main income. The turnover is too small to give an income for two people,  so they came up with the idea of starting a brewery as a sideline.

This has been very successful, and their most interesting beers use fruit from the farm. They have a Gose brewed with plums, but the most interesting beer of the evening was their Surt Jubileum. Jubileum is a type of plums, and the beer is a Berliner Weisse. Sort of. There is a fresh, clean sourness laced with the plums. Stronger than the usual Berliner Weisse at about 4.5%, yet a feathery light body. They didn’t just buy lactic bacteria from a brewery supply shop, they used live yogurt as a starter.

Lindheim and Voss back to back at Grünerløkka beer fest this summer

 

Voss was represented by Jeanette Lillås and Dag Jørgensen, two fo the three who run the brewery. They have kept their day jobs, meaning they have hired people to do the brewing. They are still very much hands on, however, developing new beers and marketing what they have to offer. Voss is one of the rural communities where home brewing has been kept alive, and they use the local yeast kveik in several of their beers. The yeast has been tweaked a bit, and it now gives a more flavourful beer than when they first tried it out. Their Vossing beer has even more of the traditional, it is brewed with an infusion of juniper twigs, adding a wooden dryness to the beer. (For more on kveik and traditional brewing in Voss, check out Lars Marius Garshol’s fantastic blog. )

Voss also have an Eldhus series of beers. Eldhus are small buildings used for smoking meat, sausages etc, particularly mutton. Dag has another use for the Eldhus, he smokes hops. To make this even more exotic, they pick wild hops for this. A delicate smoky aroma is then transferred to the beer, much more discreet than when the malt is given the same treatment.

The beers from Lindheim and Voss are hard to find, in Oslo Cafe Sara is the most likely place, but Grünerløkka Brygghus or Crowbar have also had their beers. They do not bottle any of their beers today, Lindheim plan to start bottling next year. But they both have been successful in introducing growlers, meaning you can pop in on thursday or friday afternoon and have your growler filled with beers blow 4.7%, fresh from the tank. The rest of the beer is kegged, and this has turned out to be a good format for distribution.

The second wave of Norwegian craft brewing is starting to come of age. I’m happy to see that some of them develop a clear profile. I think that will be needed in a market when everyone with a garage move from home brewing to selling their IPAs. You need a clear identity to survive. And I hope this identity will be mostly connected to unique beers, not just graphic profiles and good networking abilities.

And watch out for a Voss beer brewed with smalahove next year. That is cured and smoked sheep’s head. Extreme beers just got a new dimension.

The Voss growler

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