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Archive for the ‘Norway’ Category

The group of friends behind Bådin Brewery shows that in this age, you can run a successful brewery just about anywhere.

The town of Bodø is the second largest in Northern Norway, that means a population of 50.000. A group of childhood friends had the wild plan of setting up a brewery there back in 2012. The timing was close to perfect. They now have two full time brewers, with the other pitching in when needed. And it was all hands on deck when they arranged their second beer festival in the brewery last weekend.

A merry crow of breweries were invited, most of the Norwegian, but Ugly Duck (Denmark), Hawkshead (UK). Birra del Borgo (Italy) and De Glazen Toren (Belgium) contributed very well to the occasion.

Matt from Hawkshead serving his brews

Bådin has become a pride of the town, with their beers available in most supermarkets and bars. It should come as no surprise that their beers have a high drinkablility, the local market is too small for the more sour and wild end of the spectrum.

And this was what the festival was all about, too. Drinkable beers and good conversations, the brewers themselves serving their brews to a public still finding out what this beer trend is all about. There was a good mix of guests, the large majority of them local. Young and old, men and women.

A dozen breweries or so means you can get around the most interesting beers in a session; or maybe two.

I had the pleasure of interviewing most of the brewers from a small stage, an informal chat of around ten minutes each, which I felt worked very well.

The highlight of the weekend for me was having breakfast in the hotel with the amazing Jef Van den Steen from Glazen Toren with him telling anecdotes from the beer world, including his friendship with pioneering beer writer Michael Jackson.

Bodø is above the Arctic circle, meaning the sun was away for just a few hours in the night. It’s a great starting point for exploring the area, including the Lofoten islands. You can go on boat trips or hike in the mountains. I hope they will make the effort to have a festival next May as well.

There are good air connections, and the organizers can probably help you find moderately prized accommodation. See you in Bodø?

Jef explains what Belgian beers are all about

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The line up:

Bådin

Bryggeri 13

Voss Bryggeri

Ugly Duck

Hawkshead Brewery

Salikatt Bryggeri

Wettre Bryggeri

Qvart Ølkompani

Aja Bryggeri

De Glazen Toren

Grünerløkka Brygghus

Birra del Borgo

E.C. Dahls Bryggeri

 

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Wonderful view at Lindheim

 

It’s been quite a year!
I’m hardly blogging, but that does not mean I’m not busy doing beer things. 2017 has been very rewarding.
I have attended a number of festivals, done tastings and speeches, visited breweries – and written a lot.

My beer travelling has mostly been in Norway, with a few exceptions. I was once again invited by Visit Flanders to Belgium for a beer tour. We had some very busy days, meeting brewers and visiting cafes and restaurants. The highlight of the tour was a visit to Westmalle, attending mass with the monks followed by a tour behind the walls, ending up at the brewery. I have since published an article on beer tourism in Belgium, but I hope to go deeper into this material.

Westmalle

The walls of Westmalle

A Tripel with cheese,
in Café Trppisten

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This autumn I was travelling for work to Helsinki, and used the opportunity to catch up on the beer scene there. Helsinki is a very convenient two hour ferry ride from Tallinn, which I have to admit I had not visited before. I made a day trip to get a glimpse of the beer scene, and it is a town I definitely will get back to. A weekend in Stockholm included a splendid meal at Akkurat, which still stands out among the very best places for beer and food in the known universe.

I have not visited as many new Norwegian breweries as earlier years, but at least I can tick off Skumbag in Oslo, Gøtt in Nesbyen, Yeastside in Stavanger and Lilland Bryggerihotell in Tau on the list. But a real highlight vas getting an invitation to join beer people from around the world for a weekend at Lindheim Ølkompani this summer. I have met Ingeborg and Eivin many times over the years, but I was very happy to finally get to visit their brewery, set among the orchards of Telemark.

There are new bars opening up in Oslo, some of them take beer very seriously. Instant favorites of mine are BRUS Oslo, Occulus (Cervisiam brewery tap) and Røør, but Brygg Oslo and Håndslag also look very promising.

I have been doing beer tastings and book promos across the country this year as well, starting with an event at Gulating Trondheim. I cooperate with Håndverkerstuene on beer and food tastings, the first event for 2018 has already sold out! I did a very successful beer quiz for the annual meeting of the The Norwegian Beer and Soft Drinks Producers.

A number of Norwegian beer festivals, of which I really want to point to Ølfestivalen at Nærbø, south of Stavanger. Well organized, very laid back and friendly. They have been doing this every other year since 2009, and they keep it down to earth and local – earning money for the local sports club.

Not just one book this year, but two! A new edition of the Norwegian Beer Guide, which keeps selling well, both in book and magazine formats. Fun and interesting to do a collaboration, as I did a Beer Quiz book with Sammy Myklebust. Phone, Dropbox and one weekend of sitting down together over a few beers. A thousand beer questions, plus some about other beverages with and without alcohol. And we are still open for engagements, solo perfomances or as a duo!

The Norwegian Beer Guide is also published in magazine format in cooperation with the newspaper VG, with print run of 40.000. I also had several pieces printed in the food magazine Godt from the same publisher.

Sorry to see two good breweries give up, Grim & Gryt and To Tårn. Good beer and good people, too bad that is not enough in today’s fiercely competitive market.

Too bad To Tårn had to close

2018?

I plan to do a hardcover book presenting all Norwegian breweries again. I’d love to make more out of the quiz material, too. This could be reused in other countries, and I also hope to do more live quizzes. And the ambition is to cover the Norwegian beer scene in English a bit more again. Not much, but a bit more.

A visit to Berlin in early January. And I definitely need to visit the UK. Not to speak of Belgium. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all beer people out there.

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Back in 2013, beer historian Martyn Cornell told the fascinating story about The Flying Pubs. After the invasion in Normandy, the British soldiers grew tired of the local cider. The solution was to fly in beer from England.

One of the RAF pilots involved in this was a Norwegian, Rolf Arne Berg, who was killed in action in early 1945.

I briefly summarized the story in Norwegian some time ago, challenging the Norwegian breweries to make a beer to honor Berg. His 100th anniversary was last month.

I am happy to tell that this idea was picked up by Øystein Kvåle, who lives in Orkanger, Berg’s home town. Øystein is involved in several beer and aquavit projects, and he brewed this beer in cooperation with Røros Bryggeri.

The beer is an amber ale with 4.7% alcohol. It has a lovely amber color, malty sweetness and a discreet bitterness that gives a good balance.  Nutty flavor. This would not be out of place in an English pub – in England or Normandy! A fine homage for a hero – and it is his photo on the label.

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Fugl 1

Oslo is no longer just a place to escape from, it is a destination in itself. The cheap direct flights to Central and Southern Europe are not all filled with Norwegians, we get a fair amount of weekend trippers who want to visit us, too.

The newly developed area Tjuvholmen was buzzing with Italian, Catalan and German in addition to us natives and the Swedes who live and work among us. In the low winter sun the views of the city and the fjord were spectacular. Particularly around the Astrup Fearnley Museum, which displays spectacular pieces of modern art, one of the very few private institutions of its kind in Norway.

Steel, concrete and glass meets wood and water, you don’t have to buy a ticket to enjoy the spectacular architecture.

A museum needs a café, and Vingen has a splendid view. To my surprise it even has a decent beer list.

Fugl 4

Of course there is a long list of coffee drinks to be had, and there is a food menu very much in the New Nordic style. But you also find beers from Dronebrygg, Oslo Brewing Company, Lervig, Oosterrijsen and Eiker Ølfabrikk. There is even a local cider.

Dronebrygg is closely associated with art, they are even located in the basement of Kunsternes hus, a foundation for promotin contemporary art. Some of their beers are connected to art events, others more mainstream.

On tap at Vingen was Dronebrygg Tennissball IPA. A hazy NEIPA at 6%. Lovely flavor of freshly squeezed grapefruit, refreshing and moreish. Nothing highly sophisticated here, just simple pleasure. Long bitter finish.

With temperatures below freezing, it is easy to find outside seating. Come summer, I’d grab a chair when they open. There is even a small public beach just around the corner.

Fugl 3

 

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julequadNorwegian Christmas beers have traditionally been sweet, malty beers, a relation to German Bock beers brewed for the same time of the year.

December is a month when we tend to buy a lot of beer, meaning there is now a broad spectrum of Christmas beers, covering lots of styles.

Some of my favorite seasonal brews from Norwegian breweries are in the strong Belgian style. Kinn has brewed Tomasmesse for several years, and Austmann offers Stille Natt. This year there is also an excellent quad from St. Hallvards. A newcomer is also this gem, Nøgne Ø Julequad. I don’t know if it is available in other countries.

If you want to pair this with food, a rich and mature cheese and some walnuts should do the trick.

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stromper

Stockings and socks could mean two things around Christmas – stockings to be filled with candies and toys or stockings instead of more creative gifts.

The one on the left is a Stocking Stuffer from Little Brother brewery here in Oslo. It is a spiced red ale. The spice is prominent enough to make it most suitable for puddings and cakes. Available from their beers shop and growler fill Growleriet.

The one of the right is to be put under the tree. I found it in a bookshop in Berlin. A fun gift, though I have a suspicion the Little Brother beer is far better! And if you want spend a little more, order a growler with fresh beer to be picked up just before Christmas. There are a number of growler fills around the country now, including brewery outlets at Qvart, Graff, Lindheim and Voss.

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gummibaren

I did a book promotion at Gummibaren in Drammen last night. No standing ovations, but a good conversation with those in attendance.

Drammen is half an hour from Oslo by train. The town itself has a population of about 65000, but if you count the surrounding communities you could double that. A sizeable town in the Norwegian scale of things.

Gummibaren has a fine range of beers to offer – all of them local. On tap you find local lager brewer Aass, the oldest brewery in the country. They have established their own micro brewery, and three of those beers are available, including a lager brewed with fresh spruce shots.

Additionally you find beers from Eiker Ølfabrikk, Hegg Ølkompani and Haandbryggeriet.

There is a good selection of beers from Aja Bryggeri, too. I really enjoyed this brand new IPA, really fresh and brewed with a liberal dose of lingonberries. Would be splendid with Norwegian Christmas fare.

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kietz

I found this sign in Berlin – a Kietzkneipe is a local pub in Berlin slang. Sometimes that’s what you need. With your standard beer, some local heroes to hang out with. And if you ask them politely, you might convince them to order some bottles of your favorite brews. Ask some brewery reps to deliver a few samples.

I’m afraid I don’t have any local pubs in the neighborhood. But there  is one close to work I should step by more often. With a fine range of bottled beers and sidewalk seating in the summer.

That’s a new year’s resolution for me.

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gull

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

We all know this, of course. And Norwegian craft brewery Færder Mikrobryggeri decided to brew one beer named after all the three gifts as their seasonal offering. Gull, Røkelse and Myrra in Norwegian.

Røkelse, frankincense, has a Norwegian name with association to smoke, so this beer had to have some smoke malt. It ended up at the top of the list at the most comprehensive Christmas beer tasting, hosted by regional newspaper Adresseavisen.

Færder Mikrobryggeri is a family business, with Mathias Krüger as head brewer. He is educated as a medical doctor, put has put his career on hold to follow his passion for brewing. His parents are also very involved in the business.

You’d be very lucky to find a set of these beers now, but other Færder beers are broadly available in Norway and on the Color Line ferries between Norway and Denmark. And during  the summer moths, they have a pub in the back yard of the brewery in Tønsberg, a town about an hour by train from Oslo. And it’s right by the railway station.

faerder

 

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9788202517465

 

There is no lack of beer books, even in Norwegian. Some retell the old tales, some are national versions of multilingual books. But, once in a while, something genuinely unique comes along.

Author Lars Marius Garshol (disclaimer: I am proud to call him my friend, even though I have not been involved in this project) is a well-known name in beer circles. He has been blogging in English for a dozen years, illustrated with his excellent photos, sharing intelligent journalism and analysis.

He has also done an amazing job documenting Lithuanian traditional brewing, in spite of linguistic challenges, resulting in a self-published book in English – Lithuanian Beer – A Rough Guide.

But now he has looked closer to home, where there are other treasures to be documented. The result is just out: the book Gårdsøl –literally Farmhouse Ale.

Some of his source material has been published before, but mostly in obscure and long out of print publications. More important, he manages to tell the story both on the micro and the macro level. This is done by alternating the style of the chapters of the book between journalism/participant observation and historical or other scientific overviews.

Lars Marius manages to convey his great enthusiasm for the brewers he meets and the traditions they share with him. And while the broader picture is well written and educational, it is the living tradition, often spiced with local dialect words that illustrate the process, that makes this book really shine.

The book gives an overview of brewing in various parts of the country, climatic conditions and traditions vary widely. Norway has a tough climate, and wheat was never an important crop until very recently. That means that barley and oats were important for food in most of the country, and in lean times there was not much left for brewing.

The book is richly illustrated, both by diagrams of brewing processes and the author’s photographs. This visualizes both what he observes today and it gives the opportunity to show old brew houses, beautiful drinking vessels and more.

If you want to try brewing in the traditional way, or at least get inspired by it, there is plenty of documentation for that as well.

Two important aspects of Norwegian traditional brewing have been kept alive in different parts of the country, both described in detail in the book.

One of them can be found in the fjords and valleys of the Western coast, with a epicenter at Voss – kveik. These are local yeast strains, some of them in symbiosis with bacteria, which behave in mysterious ways. They work at high temperatures and give complex aromas in the beer.

The other is the malt of the Stjørdal region. Farmers grow their own barley and malt them in small scale malt houses. The malting takes place using smoke and heat from local alder wood, giving a pronounced smoky flavor to the beer.

Could I ask for more? The original manuscript was much longer than the published book, so perhaps a directors cut as an e-book sometime in the future?

And yes, this important part of the Norwegian brewing heritage also calls for an English edition. But, knowing the author, he probably wouldn’t want anyone else to translate it. We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, check out his blog, where there is a lot of information to be found in English.

And maybe we’ll do a blog collab about the commercially available beers using stjørdalsmalt or kveik, Lars Marius?

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