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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Bråk 1

Restaurant Håndverkerstuene in Oslo has specialized in Nordic Food and Nordic beer (as well as aquavit). This is reflected in their seasonal menu, and you will also find a dozen craft beers on tap, most of them Norwegian, but the other Nordic countries are also represented.

This year is the third time they are running Bryggeribråk or Brewery Brawl. The concept is simple – every Monday the restaurant sets up a three course menu. Two breweries try to match the dishes with beer. Up to 60 diners then vote for the best match for each dish. The winning brewery goes on to the next round. Most of the breweries are Norwegian, but they have also invited participants from Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden.

It’s a great way to get people interested in beer and food combinations, it’s a nice opportunity for the breweries to promote themselves, and it fills the restaurant on a Monday evening.

Disclaimer: I have been invited twice as a guest to the event. But I would not recommend it if I didn’t enjoy it. And, compared to many beer tastings, it is excellent value for money.

Bråk 2

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Ten minutes walk from the centre of Horten you cross a Canal and enter the old fortress Karljohansvern. Next time I’ll spend some time exploring the area, which is now a museum, now I went straight for a large wooden building, home to Sjømilitære Samfund. This is a building belonging to a voluntary organisation, freely translated as The Naval Society, built in 1883 and retaining the old charm.

The house is now run as a hotel/restaurant by Stig Thorsen and his wife Torill. They do a lot of business functions, and they are now expanding, there is a side building under construction with more hotel rooms and conference facilities. With a central location surrounded by a beautiful park, this should have a great potential. The main building is to a large part restored to its former splendor, well worth a visit in itself.

But Stig also brews beers to be enjoyed by his guests. He only has a municipal licence, and the restaurant does not have regular opening hours for the public, this means that his beers  have been under the radar, even for most beer geeks.

The beer is brewed on a Speidel in 50 liter batches, then bottled. I was happy to be presented with a broad spectrum of brews, all with a consistent high quality.

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I particularly enjoyed two of his beers:

Biblioteks, a Belgian Dubbel With oak chips in the boil. It has lots of sweetness, yet, there is enough hops to keep this in check.

Tordenskiolds Porter is well hopped, giving a complex beer. Asphalt, liquorice, molasses – and bitterness.

But the most interesting was the Vestfold Ale, brewed with floor malted grain grown in the area. This is discreetly hopped, letting the delicate maltiness be in focus. Elegant. I am very happy to see small-scale malting in Norway, I think there is a great potential that taps right into the current interest in real local food.

The overall quality of Stig’s beers impressed me, they should be available to more serious beer drinkers. Perhaps an annual beer and food event during a quiet period with advance ticket sales could be an idea? A beer festival is not a serious option with the present capacity of the operation.

Local malt

 

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I am still an optimist. I think there is room for more breweries in Norway. But most of the should be brewpubs. Like the one in Horten.

On Saturday, I was home alone, except for the cat. Nothing wrong with the cat, but as I have ambitions about visiting a fair number of Norwegian micro breweries this year, I looked at my list. One town stood out, with two breweries, and as they both responded positively to my e-mails, I set out.

The old naval town Horten is not far from Oslo as the crow flies. There is no railway station in town, but a short ferry ride from Moss gets you there comfortably.

Horten is no metropolis, it has around 25 000 inhabitants, including the rural areas and smaller towns in the municipality.

Horten Mikrobryggeri is a newcomer, it opened in October 2015. The story is fairly typical – some home brewing friends deciding to go professional. This is done in close cooperation with BorreBrygg, a homebrewing supplier that’s been around for some years.

Horten Mikrobryggeri is a brewpub. I met up with Elisabeth, who is the Manager of the place, who found time for a chat, despite this being her day off.

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This place has become very popular over its six months of operation. There were the usual startup challenges of having the right amount of beer at the right time, but the timing must have been just right. When I visited, they had eight of their own beers on tap at the same time, a first, they usually have one or two guest beers. They have a kitchen, although it’s not a full scale restaurant – excpect upmarket pub Food with ingredients from small  local producers.

This is no replica of a British pub, there is a modern interior playing on the maritime history of the town with a lot of wood and brass.

The beers on tap were a wheat beer, two pale ales (one of which I’d call a bitter), a pils, an IPA, an amber, a blonde and a stout. The overall quality was fine. Of course there are low treshold beers to appeal to a broad public, and there is nothing wrong with that.But there were Three beers that stood out. The Torpedo Stout, with fine notes of coffee and roasted grain. The Løs Kanon Pale Ale, with liberal amounts of Citra hops. And my favourite, the Fulle Seil Amber, with a nice malty body and sweetness properly balanced by a piney bitterness.

They have applied for a national licence, meaning that there will be a few bottled beers available in the shop they run in cooperation with BorreBrygg just around the corner. But to get the full range, you’ll have to go to the brewpub. Which is well worth the effort. If you plan to go on a Friday or Saturday evening, you should probably book a table. Best of all, go when the weather gets warmer and get a table on the pavement outside.

But, as readers of my book will know, there is another brewery in town as well. More about that next time.

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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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I knew there were Portuguese craft breweries. They have Facebook pages. They are in the ratebeer data base. But they all seem to be located between Lisbon and Porto.

And I was nowhere near Lisbon or Porto, but on the southern Algarve coast. There was nothing in the immediate area, so I had to cast my net a bit wider.

An exchange of e-mails with the Mean Sardine brewery informed me that they had only one outlet in the south, a place called Algarve and friends in the town of Alvor. I tried to google this establishment, but with no result.

Anyway. I needed to rest my skin a bit from the sun, and Alvor was just 40 minutes away on an air conditioned bus. If I did not find the place, I could surely have lunch there before returning.

Alvor seemed like a fairly typical holiday resort, quiet at midday, but offering plenty of options in the evening. When the bus approached the town, a banner proclaimed the All day 90 cent pint, while a more classy place across the road was charging a Euro. A brief survey revealed a fair number of Irish pubs with and without resident troubadours.

After a stroll through town I found the Praca de Republica, and Algarve and company turned out to be a cafe/delicatessen, promoting craft produce. Cheese, sausages, wine, honey, tinned tuna and sardines … and a number of beers.

I order a (very nice ) cup of coffee and looked around. The beers are from two Portuguese Micros,  Sovina and Mean Sardine.

Nuno Miguel Vieira Dos Santos runs the shop. I tell him that I tried to look it up on the web. He apologizes, and tells me the reason is that he has been far to busy. He actually opened the same week I visited. That also explains why there is a steady traffic of people with various foodstuff, handing over samples for him to try out.

I try an amber ale from Sovina. Hazy amber, lively carbonation. Malty aroma, some funk and barnyard, Belgian yeast character.  Cereals and sweetness, very pleasant.

My lunch is a plate of assorted cheeses and cured sausages, which  are all very good. Some are chorizo-style with paprika, but the pepper is not very strong. I get an extra side dish of two types of blood sausage, one of them made with rice. A rich sweetness which show how honest food does not need to taste of more than its ingredients. With this I try a Mean Sardine Amura, an American pale ale. This is clear amber, with a fluffy head and a flowery aroma. The flavor is bittersweet. Malt and bitter herbs, some eucalyptus. Well crafted, by no means extreme.

I fill my backpack with sea salt, honey, almond cakes, beer, tinned sardines and anchovies.

Surely a place to return to. Easy to find, across the street from the Alvor tourist office.

If you want to explore the wonderful world of Portuguese craft beer further, here is a list of Cerveja Artesanal Portuguesa.

 

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Man in the Moon

Visting Stockholm a few weeks ago, I had a long list of places on my “maybe” list. It was an oval weekend for many, as it included Ascension day, meaning that some places were closed. I managed, however, to try two bars very close to each other. Together they mirror the diversity of today’s beer scene. Ten years ago, I was overjoyed with a diverse beer list and would overlook everything else. Now there is the option of finding the place that suits you most.

We arrived at the Man in the Moon in Vasastan, to the North of the city center, in the late afternoon. This establishment has the decor of an upmarket English pub, or, rather, gentleman’s club. Leather and wood, lots of lamps in different styles. A large room with plenty of space between the tables. Quiet conversation, polite service.

The menu included a numberof aspargus dishes, as they were in season, we both went for the entrecote with asparagus. Not cheap, but a great meal, cooked to perfection.

The beer list was staggering, the bottled list would have been plenty. But, additionally, they are marking their twentieth anniversary this year. This means a special list of draft beers brewed especially for them from the best of the Scandinavian craft breweries:

Amager Bryghus
Beer Here
Beerbliotek
Brekeriet
CAP
Dugges Ale- och Porterbryggeri
Eskilstuna Ölkultur
Mikkeller
Nynäshamns Ångbryggeri
Nøgne
Stronzo
Ängö Kvartersbryggeri

I had to limit myself to a glass each of the Beerbliotek Double IPA and the Nøgne Ø Barrel Aged Imperial Brown Ale, no less. The double IPA was good, the Nøgne Ø beer was great.

Across the street: Mikkeller & Friends Stockholm. Welcome to Hipsterville. True to the original concept in squeezing everything into what must have been a tobacconist or another type of shop with a modest need for space. Afternoon was giving way to early evening. the front room was filling up, but there was still seating in the back , where you feel like you are a part of a art installation and graying beer geeks struggle to . The usual blackboard with Mikkeller beers and a few of their collaborators. The house geuze is rebranded as Vasastan Spontanale. The beer is served in small glasses – encouraging the customers to go for quality rather than quantity. Their crowd is young and beautiful.

I have to say that this does not appeal much to me – but then I’m not in their target group, either. That does not mean there is anything wrong with the bar or the concept. This is the flavor of the month, where people in their twenties can brag with their newly acquired knowledge about beer styles. But I don’t think anyone has any illusions about this becoming an institution on the Stockholm beer scene. This is a place that will stay open and popular for a year or two, there is no big investment involved. No kitchen, barely a fridge. They did not even have ice cubes when I asked for a glass of tap water. But the gueze was fine, so was the Omnipollo double IPA.

I think the Man in the Moon will be there for its thirtieth anniversary, too. But for craft beer to continue to grow, there has to be beer spots that appeal to other groups than the grumpy men past fifty. Concepts will come and go. I will look in, have a (small, if that’s the only option) glass of their most interesting beer before I walk on to somewhere else.

But we adapt. London pubs that were gutted and redecorated in Scandinavian pine and large windows seem almost cozy now. We’ll get used to the bare brick, steel and concrete, too. If we don’t get too grumpy.

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Freddy Delvaux

Professor Delvaux guides in the old brewery

Zigzagging our way through the Flemish countryside, a lunchtime stop was at the Brouwerij de Kroon, where we were welcomed by Freddy Delvaux, head of the family that owns and runs the brewery.

But this is more than a brewery. A bar/restaurant, a museum and a laboratory. They call it a multifunctional centre of brewing and taste, no less.

 Let’s start with the lab part, which is where Freddy has his background. He was appointed head of the laboratory at the Artois brewery in 1973, and continued in this position for many years as the brewery merged many times over.  He also established a lab at Leuven University, which he ran for decades.

When the university told him he was approaching retirement age, he decided to set up on his own together with his sons, and they have established a lab doing services for 25 Belgian breweries. They also have a yeast bank, and they develop new beers for a number of breweries.

The facilities they use today was opened only last year, but in the same building as the historical de Kroon brewery, which closed down in the nineteen eighties  but is remarkably well-preserved – showing brewing methods going back many decades. The equipment and the recipe books show that the beers used to be brewed with mixed fermentation, among the beers they made was the lost style of Leuven beers. A modern beer inspired by this is brewed today, the Super Kroon.  The highest volume was lambic-like table beers with alcohol content between one and three per cent.

The modern brewery is next door to the old one, and this is where they make their own beers as well as developing and testing new ones for other breweries.

The brewery tap also reflects the activities in the lab. There is one beer here from each of the 25 breweries that de Kroon does the lab work for, in addition to the three house beers.

There is an enclosed courtyard in the center of it all, a sun trap even on a slightly chilly spring day. I did not really study the menu, but they have some really nice salads if you want to tend to your lunchtime hunger.

 

Of their beers, the mentioned Super Kroon was the most interesting. The tap line goes directly from the unfiltered tank in the brewhouse, the beer is a hazy amber. It is bittersweet and fruity, with an elegant lemon-like sourness.

De Kroon is reachable by bus from Leuven station, it takes about 25 minutes. You could do worse on a sunny day.

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