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Archive for the ‘Norway’ Category

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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The reluctant brewer

I’ve been seeking out small scale breweries across Northern Europe for a dozen years. Most of them are happy to open their doors, give me samples from their tanks and send me home with a bag of goodies. Sometimes we don’t find the time to meet, but we have a Messenger chat, exchange e-mails or have phone conversations.

I use the opportunities I have when I travel for business or leisure, and with close to 200 Norwegian breweries, there is a long list of microbreweries I want to visit in all parts of the country.

This summer I was able to seek out a few of them, and found eager brewers happy to tell me about their beers and how they fit in with food and other ways of making money.

But there is always a first. In Sømna, the gateway to Northern Norway, father and son Trond and Bård have started Nordgården Gårdsbryggeri. I get in touch with Bård, and he tells me his father is at the brewery the day we are driving by.

It’s a beautiful summer day, the brewery is located on an idyllic farm a few kilometers away from the main road, there is a nice beer garden in front of the house.

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I get a rather lukewarm greeting. I explain what I am doing, show a copy of my book, and tell him I try to keep a total overview of all Norwegian breweries, and I’d like to have photos and descriptions of his beers in my book.

  • I’d don’t want to be a part of your book, Trond tells me.
  • -But you have a license to brew, you sell your beers here and elsewhere, and even have a pub in your garden?
  • Sure. But the beers are not where I want them to be yet. If you print descriptions, they will be out of date too soon.
  • But this is an opportunity for publicity and I’m not charging you for this?

Trond makes it perfectly clear that he is in no way ready to present his beers in any book project in the foreseeable future. There is no point in stretching out my visit, he makes no gesture of putting the kettle on. He is in no way comfortable about my visit. But he allows me to take a few photos for web use. And I persuade him to trade a few bottles for a copy of last year’s book.

I’ve later tasted the beers, and I have to admit he has a point. The beers taste like home brew. Perfectly drinkable home brew, but nothing outstanding compared to other beers you find in Norwegian supermarkets. Maybe it’s right to wait a few years before I get back to him. Or at least until next summer…

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I often sing the praises of the tiniest breweries, and of course they make good stories. But the ones capable of taking a significant bite of the Norwegian market are the medium sized breweries, often with a strong regional standing. In Oslo there are now several breweries to be taken seriously – one of them is St. Hallvards Bryggeri.

A trio of beer enthusiasts with Anders Rohde as the key figure started brewing in 2015, just in time to get featured in my book. They have listed 17 beers available for a beer event next week – when you add special beers for restaurants and supermarkets and three new Christmas beers, the total adds up to about 25.

Several restaurants in Oslo are shareholders in St. Hallvards. The brewery was crowd funded, and they have 450 shareholders.

St Hallvards. does not aim for the extreme ends of the market, the focus is on high drinkability and lots of flavor. They have the usual range of British, Belgian and American styles. What has impressed me most are the beers brewed at 4,7%, allowing them under Norwegian legislation to be sold in supermarkets. There are lots of dull beers on the market because of this limit, St. Hallvards is one of the exceptions. Look out for their saisons and brown ales of various strength.

St. Hallvards Bryggeri is named after the patron saint of Oslo, and their beers are named after various colorful characters from the city’s history.

Look for their beers in the Meny supermarkets and in Vinmonopolet as well as well stocked bars and pubs and beer festivals. The last project they are involved in is a series of beer and aquavit glasses in cooperation with  Magnor Glassverk, Arcus and Sentralen restaurant.

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Furuhaugli 1

Visiting Norwegian breweries does not only mean downtown brewpubs and drab industrial areas. Some of them are in idyllic surroundings – and the smallest ones combine brewing with rather exotic activities. I wanted to visit Furuhaugli Turisthytter this summer, and sent off an e-mail. The reply came fast, asking me to please call ahead, as the owner might be out guiding on a muskox safari.

My wife and I were in the Dovre National Park last year, and got quite close to the animals. We saw the through a bus window, but this safari offered a chance to get closer to them. So we decided that  instead of just stopping for a few beers, we included dinner, a night in one of their cabins and a muskox safari the next day.

When we checked in, we were made very welcome.

  • So, you are the author? We have your book right here!

Inger-Lise and Stein runs the establishment now, they are the third generation to rent out cabins in the mountains – Inger-Lise’s grandmother started this in 1930.

You can make your own meals in the cabins, but you should really try their food. Excellent home cooking, we had pan-fried Arctic char, which Stein and their children had caught themselves, but there are other options as well.

Furuhaugli 4

Stein claims to have the smallest commercial brewery in Norway, and I am sure he is right, his 25 and 50 liter batches are unlikely to wipe out the competition. He likes to brew a wider range of beers and to keep them fresh. The beers are not for sale off the premises, they are only available in the restaurant.

I try the Blonde at 4.5 % ABV. It is dry and fruity. Light and drinkable, with moderate amounts of American hops. The Red Ale is stronger, at 5.9%. It is a rich, malty beer, with just enough hop bitterness to make a pleasant balance.  A true to type Wit (5%) has lemon, camomille and coriander, while the Amber X at 5.8% is malty with notes of nuts, toffee and roasted grain.

The beer labels do not hide the inspiration for the brews, Stein has used several of the recipes from Gahr Smith-Gahrsen, which are freely shared both through 7 Fjell Bryggeri and via the book Den norske ølrevolusjonen.

This is not the place to go for extreme beers – but for beers to enjoy after a day’s hike in the mountains and to go with the wholesome food.

Furu

In addition to large mammals like muskox and elk, the Fokstumyra nature reserve is very close, giving excellent opportunities for birdwatching if that is your thing.

The muskox safari takes place on foot in the Dovre National Park, a short drive from Furuhaugli Turisthytter.

We were in a group with various nationalities setting out on the safari the next morning. Expect a hike of about five hours – obviously depending on where the animals are. They tend to be closer to the road and railway in spring and autumn. The guides are experienced, and as these walks are arranged every day in the summer, they know the animals well, know where to find them – and know how close to them you can get and still be on the safe side.  They are big enough to be dangerous if you provoke them.

We were able to get very close to a young bull, who did not seem to mind us watching while he was grazing. An experience well worth the time and money involved.

Noet that you are free to hike in these mountains on your own, a guide is not required. There is a network of well-marked trails and a number of hostels within a day’s walk of each other. In the winter you can go skiing instead. But if you do this on your own, you should be careful to stay well away from the animals.

Furuhuagli Turisthytter and the muskox safari are easy to access – both just off the main road – E6 – between Oslo and Trondheim. You could make arrangements to be picked up at Dombås or Hjerkinn Railway station as well.

Thanks to my wife Astrid for the photo below!

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Furuhaugli is not the only Norwegian micro-brewery to offer a good combo with outdoor activities.Here are some more:

At Ansnes Brygger, Hitra, you can go hunting, diving or fishing.

You can bike the spectacular road along the railway line from the 1223 Micro Brewery at DNT Finsehytta (at 1223 meters above sea level) to the Ægir brewpub in Flåm (at the end of a fjord offering boat connections.)

You can go rafting, explore glaciers or do some serious mountaineering at Espedalen Mikrobryggeri, which is located in Ruten Fjellstue.

You can hunt for small game, go skiing or fishing at Tuddal Høyfjellshotel, the new home of Fjellbryggeriet.

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Talas

Jeremy presents his beers

 

Last weekend I invited myself to a beer festival. Talas is the house brewery at Basarene, the beautifully restored old covered market in Hamar, now an organic cafe/restaurant.

I knew about the brewery, they are in my book, but they don’t have any distribution ousdie their home town, so I found this a good opportunity. As Jonas from Eiker Ølfabrikk was driving, I even managed to hitch a ride.

The festival was a low key affair, with a few selected guest breweries. Some of them were local, all of them from Southern Norway.

The beers from Talas are not made for the beer geek market, aiming instead for a more broad appeal. The one I enjoyed most was the American style lager. Incredibly fruity and inviting aroma, yet light and easy to drink. In the basemanet there are a few wooden barrels with imperial stout – hope to get an opportunity to try it!

Saloon

Beer from the saloon

Other local breweries were Saloon 7null4 from Follebu. I visited them a few years ago, they have invested in New equipemnt and og for a broader distribution in the near future. I did not get to sample their beers, but as they now do bottling, I hope to fix that later.

Tingnes Spiseri is located in an island in lake Mjøsa, the easiest way to get there from Hamar is by boat. The brewery is a part of their family-owned and -run restaurant. My favourite of their beers was the IPA.

Tingnes

Try a beer from Tingnes!

Cervisiam brought their Jungle Juice and Toxic ALEvenger, and they seemed to be very popular – they sold out fast!

Hegg Ølkompani is the new name of the brewery at Svenkefjøset in Lier. They brought two New beers, a Vienna lager and a blonde ale, both a 4.7% ABV. We are talking about beers for a broad Public here, I would say they should aim for something with more caracter to stand out from the big players.

Eiker Ølfabrikk brought a colloboration with Cervisiam, a raspberry saison. Lovely berry flavour that blends in with the beer, will be out in bottles soon. I also enjoyed the linganberry wit, brewed with saison yeast. Lots of tart/sour character, would be nice to pair with food!

Hamar is perhaps not the epicenter of the Norwegian beer scene, but events like this really contribute to expose people the wide range of flavors available. It was sold out, so I hope there will be more festivals in the future!

Eiker

Why not try our lingonberry beer?

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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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