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Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

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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Back when I visited Italy several times a year, I had a couple of very pleasant visits to Birrificio Lambrate in Milan. There were plans at the time to expand internationally, but nothing much seemed to come of the ambitions.

It was therefore nice to see four of their beers on tap in front of the Trattoria Popolare, which is part of the same complex as Schouskjelleren here in Oslo.

Available on Thursday were Su De Doss, Saint Ambroeus, Gaina and Ghisa. I suppose you should run along if you want a taste.

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The lineup for this year’s event in Drammen (30 minutes from Oslo) is more or less ready.

This year it takes place on Friday, May 24 (16-22) and  Saturday, May 25,  (12-22).

Confirmed participants so far:

  • Aass Bryggeri (N)
  • Bierbrouwerij Emelisse (NL) @Rest_emelisse
  • Birrificio Toccalmatto (IT) @Toccalmatto
  • Brouwerij de Molen (NL) @molenbier
  • De Struise Brouwers (B)
  • Haand (N)
  • Lervig Aktiebryggeri (N)
  • LoverBeer (IT) @LoverBeerBrewer
  • Magic Rock (UK) @MagicRockBrewCo
  • Monks, Stockholm (SE) @Monksevent
  • Naparbier (ES) @Naparbier
  • Närke Kulturbryggeri (SE)
  • Partizan (UK) @partizanbrewing
  • Picobrouwerij Alvinne (B) @alvinnebeer
  • S:t Eriks Bryggeri (SE)
  • Ægir Bryggeri (N)

I particularly look forward to the return of Magic Rock, the new London brewery Partizan and Lervig from Stavanger, Norway. Not to mention Alvinne, Emelisse, de Molen and the rest of the stellar lineup.

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I don’t cover the European beer scene as comprehensively as I used to. There are several reasons for this – I don’t travel as much as before, there are others out there with local knowledge which does the job nowadays, and I don’t have the time to keep up with it all.

On the other hand, much of the best brews of the world are now available at my doorstep (Well, here in Oslo). The new wave of brewpubs are not afraid of letting the competition in, meaning we get access to Swedish, Danish, British and Italian beers along with their own offerings.

One of the relatively new stars on the European beer map is the Italian Revelation Cat. I first encountered them at the Copenhagen Beer Festival a few years ago, and their beers are now often available at Schouskjelleren in Oslo. They specialize in lambics, brewed in Belgium, barrel aged, blended and bottled in Rome. Lambics is perhaps using a term that is a bit too narrow, we are talking barrel aging a wide spectrum of beers, using barrels previously storing wines and spirits from around the globe.

Revelation Cat has so far been a contract/phantom brewery, meaning they don’t own their own plant, apart from a small pilot brewery in Italy. Their beers have been brewed in the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK.

They have recently bought brewing equipment in England, and they are currently launching a range of hoppy beers more inspired by American and British styles. When I was asked by owner Alex Liberati if I would be interested in sampling some of the beers from the new range, I did not hesitate.

To make  a long story short, a box of beers has been spending Christmas in the warehouse of FedEx, but yesterday it was delivered to my office. The box was not that big, but it was crammed full of beers. No possibilities of opening them this week – but I’ll tell you when I do.

The customs fees did not ruin me, either.

P1030031

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Brewing in South Tyrol

I’ve mentioned before that I had a wish to freshen up my German. The last time I had any formal lesson in that language was some time in the late Seventies, and I have rarely used it apart from touristic purposes. A number of visits to Germany and Austria over the last five years or so have, however, wet my appetite to get a better grasp of the language.

So I enrolled in a course at the Goethe Insititut here in Oslo. Back to school every Wednesday from five to quarter past eight. Plus homework. Grammar, vocabulary, the lot.

It is challenging, but it’s great fun.

I ahve even started ordering books from the German amazon shop. Short stories to begin with, but I decided to have a look at more beer related titles in German, too. Lots of home brew books, some German translations of English language books, crime novels set in hop yards or Kneipen.

Some beer history, too, like this book about brewing in South Tyrol, a German-speaking region in Italy. There were 27 breweries in the area in 1880, a number that dwindled down to just one during a century of war, closed borders and taxation that favoured other beverages. But the book also covers the birth of small scale brewing in recent years, with portraits of the new brewpubs.

No plans of a visit to there area for now, but I think I’ll try to ask for a review copy.

But there is more.

Amazon.com and amazon.co.uk will not surprise you by giving unorthodox suggestions when you search for beer books. They will recommend pub guides and atlases, Brew like a monk and How to Start a Brewery Even if You’re not interested in Beer.

Amazon.de has a broader approach.

Sure, you have a guide to the most beautiful beer gardens of Bavaria, but they also have the Dirndl Sexy Romance series. 

But even if I was tempted, these Kindle tales of lust during the Oktoberfest are only available in Germany. Maybe it’s for the best.

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I did not set up a list of favourites from the Copenhagen Beer Celebration, even though both the 20 year old sour ale from de Struise and the spontaneous blueberry from Mikkeller were standouts.

In the weeks after the events, I have particularly enjoyed two beers.

RyeKing from the Copenhagen brewery Amager Bryghus was one of the beers I picked up at Ølbutikken. It has an intense flavour of liquorice and liquid sour Russian rye bread, a little salt and a deep bitterness. There is a malty body that is able to cope with all of this and balance it in a strange way.

Charcoal in the dry finish. Mouth-watering, and a great candidate for further barrel aging.

The other one has mixed origins. Italian Gypsy brewery Revelation Cat brew their lambics in Belgium and then transport them to Italy for aging and blending. Their Islay lambic has a clean whisky aroma, and when you sip you find a lovely lambic laced with peaty smoke. Exciting – I won’t claim that his is a major trend for beer in 2012 (though I told you barrel aging would be the Big Thing), but this certainly shows that there still are new roads to explore. Nice sour tail and a smoke flavour I haven’t really felt since my last packet of John Player’s Special several decades ago.

Available at Schouskjelleren, Oslo, right now,  I’m sure it will also pop up in London, Copenhagen and Rome.

Revelation Cat Islay

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Baladin – a taste of Italy

Teo Musso

Baladin brewer Teo Musso

As regular readers will know, when I started this blog, I was a fairly regular visitor to Italy, giving me a unique opportunity to get som glimpses into the developments of the Italian craft beer scene. Since then, I have observed more from the outside, particularly noting the great things happening in Rome.

From the first craft brewery in Italy in the early Nineties, there is now 420 of them, and an estimate of 4000 restaurants with proper beer menus. These impressive facts come from a Meet the Brewer tasting with Teo Musso of the Baladin brewery, the true pioneer of Italian micro brewing, who visited Oslo last night on a whirlwind tour of Norway, invited by his Norwegian importers Beer Enthusiast.

We were introduced to five of his beers, what they have in common is a dedication to finding an Italian identity and unique flavours. The barley is, whenever possible, sourced locally or at least in Italy. The Birra NazionAle makes a particular point of this, having 100% Italian ingredients.

While all the beers have a high standard and are well suited both as refreshments and as food companions, the star of the show was the Riserva version of the Lune beer. This beer has been aged for one year in premium white wine casks, and, using a solera method known from fortified wines has a controlled oxidation that gives a Madeira.like color and flavour, well blended with okay overtones. Lots of fruit, deceiving light, you would not think this has 11.5 per cent alcohol.

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After the Easter break, there are a number of beer events crammed in over a few weeks. Two beer festivals in Copenhagen during the same week in May.  The Association of Small Swedish Breweries arrange the event Big Beers, Small Breweries next weekend, surely something worth attending. Come to think of it, I have never been to any of the Swedish beer festivals, big or small.

Today there is the launch of new beer import company Beer Enthusiast her in Oslo, promising 20 beers new to the Norwegian market. Breweries like St Austell, Midtfyns Bryghus, Sundbytunet and Bryggeriet Skands will be present, with additional beers from Baladin, Kinn, Sierra Nevada and Hornbeer.

I think I’ll pass the Norwegian cask festival during the weekend. There is the Haandbryggeriet festival in two weeks time, too. And there is a box from myBreweryTap at the Post Office.

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One phenomenon has caught my eye recently, and that is the increased availability of Norwegian beer in various European markets. And by this I mean Norwegian craft beer from small breweries – the major players seem very content with getting their slice of the pale lager market, possibly with some alcopops thrown in.

Brasserie 4:20 in Rome had a Halloween beer festival with more beers from Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet on tap than we have ever seen in Norway. The Nøgne Ø beers are readily available in the best beer bars in London. Haandbryggeriet is cooperating with De Molen, Nøgne Ø brews for Mikkeller. I even got a report from my friend Max in Prague that there are Nøgne Ø beers on tap at the Zubatý Pes pub in the Czech capital.

Add to this a sizeable export to the US, and we are talking serious money. Enough to make it possible for the breweries to slowly expand and pay their taxes and salaries.

I’m not very nationalistic, and I enjoy beers from around the globe. But the “local lads make success” factor has a value, and the fact that there is great beer brewed on our door step means that the threshold for Norwegian restaurants and bars to offer them is getting lower. Journalists and food writers find it more interesting to focus on national craft beers, too.

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Bon voyage!

One of the best beer bars I have ever visited is celebrating its 10th anniversary this summer – with a beer cruise!

Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa, also known as the Football Pub, in Rome is organizing what will probably be the beer event in Europe this year. The ship sails from Rome to Barcelona on Saturday 11 June, returning on the 14th. It will stay in Barcelona from Sunday afternoon until Monday evening, and there will be beer events in town, but, if you ask me, the big attractions will be at sea. The list of breweries is like a Who’s who:

  • Amiata (Italy)
  • Barley (Italy)
  •  Beer Here/Bierwerk (Denmark),
  •  Bi-Du (Italy)
  • Birrificio Italiano (Italy)
  • Brouwerij De Molen (The Netherlands)
  • Birrificio Ducato (Italy)
  • Brasserie Cantillon (Belgium)
  • De Dolle Brewers (Belgium)
  • Brasserie De La Senne (Belgium),
  • Del Borgo (Italy),
  • Evil Twin Brewing (Denmark),
  • Extraomnes (Italy),
  • Fanø Bryghus  (Denmark),
  • Freigeist Bierkultur (Germany)
  • Gaenstaller Braeu (Germany)
  • Grassroots Brewing (Denmark)
  • Hill Farmstead (USA)
  • Kissmeyer Brewing (Denmark)
  • Lervig (Mike Murphy) (Norway)
  • Loverbeer (Italy)
  • Montegioco (Italy)
  • Olmaia (Italy),
  • Orso Verde (Italy)
  • Birrificio Pasturana (Italy)
  • Rurale (Italy)
  • Steel City Brewing (England)
  • Stillwater Artisanal Ales (USA)
  • Toccalmatto (Italy)
  • Troll (Italy)

Many of the brewers will be on board, presenting  their own beers. Many of the breweries will be presenting beers created just and specifically for this event.

Booking from February 13.

I have no idea about the price. But I know if I didn’t have family obligations, I would be on board.

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