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.
Skål for Ivar!
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