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I spent some days in Cyprus earlier this month. There are good beers to be found, but don’t expect much of the local brews.

This was no beer trip as such, but obviously I kept my eyes open for interesting beers. I last visited ten years ago, and what I found was a brewpub in Limassol brewing just one pale lager .

I’m sorry the photos in the old post are no longer visible, Photobucket is charging a stiff yearly fee for sharing photos which are not worthwhile.

This year I stayed in Larnaca – with a one day excursion to Nicosia. I start with my apologies to the brewpub Pivo in Nicosia, it was way above 40 degrees the day I came to town, so I had to return to the coast before opening time. I have every reason to believe they have good beers.

So. The 1900 Art Café Bar has a bar downstairs and a restaurant upstairs, crammed with posters and paintings. A fairly typical Cyprus menu, I had a very nice lamb and spinach stew. A good selection of Belgian beers, some other imports, but the only domestic beer was KEO. A fine place, I hope they can encourage some domestic breweries to make beer for them in the future.

Cyprus 1

The main beer bar in Larnaca is the Barrel House, tucked away in a courtyard off the pedestrianized Ermou street. A quiet spot in the afternoon and early evening, getting more noisy later. A well curated beer list, including a few Greek craft beers.  De Molen, Flying Dog, Kaapse, Kees, Thornbridge and De Dolle are among the breweries in the menu. And they are quite explicit: Please note we do not serve beers such as Amstel, Budweiser, Carlsberg, Corona, Fix, Heineken, Keo, Leon, Stella Artois etc. I hav a Viven Master IPA, brewed at De Proef for Beer Development Viven. A light, fruity beer, quite sweet. They could have called this a Belgian Blond instead, but it’s a nice beer.

Free snacks on one of our visits, a deli counter with meat and cheese if you want to eat more. Very good service. Ask if they have something new that’s not in the beer list.

A few yards away is the wine shop Cava Spiritology, which also carries some beer. There are splendid Belgians like Westmalle Tripe and Roedenbach Grand Cru, but also some Cyprus craft beers. I tried a few, but they were not too impressive. The brewery is called True Ale, they have five beers, of which I tried their Blonde Ale at 2,5% and  their Pale Ale at 3%. It is difficult to brew good low alcohol beers, I think they would be better off going for stronger beers. The shelf life of this Ale is virtually limited It says on their bottles. It is most certainly not, especially not in this climate.

Cyprus 3

Nevertheless, there are good beers to be found here, including a premium, well hopped lager from the Greek Delphi brewery. It is a very good shop for wine also, ask for recommendations. I bought a few bottles of an excellent Lebanese wine we had earlier at a seafront restaurant – the meze at Maquam al Sultan was the best meal in town.

Then to the big disappointment – The Brewery. Presenting itself as a brewpub in a prime spot in town, they even offer a sushi/Thai buffet once a week. I was very disappointed by both the food and the drink.

There is what looks like brewing equipment on the first floor, but on closer examination it is fake and dusty. It turns out they have never brewed beer on the premises at all. Our waitress tells us they buy the beer from Germany. On the plus side you get a sampler set of the beers for free, but the beers were all very dull. Pretending to have a range of nine beers, and pricing those at three times the going rate of domestic brews is not acceptable. The buffet was not up to much, either, even when the restaurant was half full, the cooks struggled to keep up with demand, and the cooking was very basic.

Cyprus 2

I can recommend Larnaca as a holiday destination. The beaches are clean, the service is generally very good, the food is of high quality (though there is a tendency to deep fry similar to Scotland) and people speak good English. And the widely available national lagers, KEO and Leon, are pretty good, I found that Leon had a bit more flavor. There are import beers, too, including some cans with pretentions. Like in Italy, some people think that a German-looking Omlaut is a sign of quality. Insëlbrau was the local example.

Cyprus 4

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This winter has seen a heated discussion about the acess to Norwegian supermarket shelves for small producers of beer and food. We are down to three groups of retailers controlling 99% of the market, and I would not be surprised if we end up with just two within five years or so. A major reason for this is the customs barriers, particularly for meat and diary products, which makes it impossible for European retail chains to establish themselves in Norway and enjoying the benefits of low costs for Pan-European products. LIDL gave it a try, but gave up after a few years.

The smallest of the three, REMA 1000, has, to a lot of ridicule, decided to cut down on the number of breweries they want to give access to their shelves. The big acror benefiting from this move, Carlberg, is sitting very quietly, hoping no-one will notice the elephant in the room.

This has, of course, been discussed a lot on Facebook, and I agreed to chair an event celebrating the diversity of Norwegian beer as a contrast. This was arranged by Gulating Trondheim, one of a chain of specialist beer shops who now number almost 20 outlets.

We decided to focus on beer for  the Trondheim region, Trøndelag, and ended up with beers from 21 breweries. We could have included more, but 22 samples was probably enough. (There were two beers from both To Tårn and Røros).

 

These were the breweries:

Austmann
Bryggeriet Frøya
Fjord Bryggeriet
Hognabrygg
Inederøy Gårdsbryggeri

Kolbanussen Mikrobryggeri
Klostergården
Lierne Øl
Moe Gårdsbryggeri
Namdals Øl
Reins Kloster
Rodebak
Røros Bryggeri
Røros Bryggeri
Stjørdalsbryggeriet
Stokkøy Bryggeri
Storm Brygghus
To Tårn
Valset Gårdsbryggeri
Ølve på Egge

Tommy at Gulating was the one really doing the job here, and it was a great afternoon. Børge Barlindhaug, head brewer at To Tårn brewery was also present, bringing samples of his most exclusive beer. This was a beer brewed with the bacteria culture used for the blue mould cheese Selbu blå, which turned out great.

Just a few days before the event, it was announced that Mathallen, the food hall where the Gulating shop is situated, have to move out of their premises to make way for a discount store. In fact, out beer tasting was the last evenet taking place at Mathalle. Too bad, but a nice way to say farewell.

And if you know of somewhere in Trondheim that could be suitable for a beer shop, pleas get in touch with Tommy!

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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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milan-2

 

The big events you plan for might turn out splendid. But it’s the beer bars you stumble upon that are some of the real gems. Here is one in Milan.

 

The day before had been very eventful. I had been up bright and early, caught a flight to Milan and attending the opening of the new Baladin brewery. The next day involved transport back to Milan before we went home, but some of us had time to spare.

We started off with lunch at an offshoot of the Birrificio Lambrate, their Golgi restaurant. It is similar to their brewpub I visited some years ago, for lunch there are good rustic dishes, and they have a good selection of tasty beers on tap as well as some bottles. With me for this session were two proper beer writers, Adrian Tierney-Jones and Martyn Cornell, as well as fellow Norwegian beer writer Ove Haugland Jakobsen, who has a day job as I do. We had a merry time sampling some of the beers available, including a very tasty bock and their Quarantot Double IPA.

Beer writers

The merry beer writers enjoying a liquid lunch at Lambrate.

By 2:30, the restaurant was closing for the afternoon and Adrian and Martyn were off to the airport. Ove had the sense to ask the waiter if there was another bar in the neighborhood that might be open.

  • Sure, just continue down the main street, and there is one on your right.

Six hundred meters or so along the boulevard we found the place, Au Vieux Strasbourg. What looked like a pleasant beer bar when we looked at the beers on tap turned into an excellent beer bar when we looked through the bottle list. An well curated range of Belgian beers is the theme here, they could have named the place after a Belgian city instead. From the beer mats and glasses, there seems to be a wholesaler/importer involved here, meaning there could be similar places across Italy.

Never mind.  We got through quite a few in a few hours’ time, and while the barman had limited knowledge of English, a lady who seemed to be a regular helped with the translation.  A highlight for me was a bottle of Biere de Beloeil from Dupont. Fruity and funky, it had the splendid Belgian blend of fruit and stable, with tones of oranges and apricots.

milan-4

We were way behind schedule when we arrived at the airport for the check in. After all, we couldn’t possibly turn down the offer of a final glass of beer on the house. Sometimes, very rarely for me, you’re lucky your plane is delayed. This was one of those times.

If you are in the area and feels the urge to imbimbe, you are lucky. Au Vieux Strasbourg is open 07-02, which is more user friendly than most Italian places. More user friendly than most places in the known universe, come to think of it.

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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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Borg Brygghus brweres

Oli Runar and Valgeir from Borg Brugghus presenting their beers

 

The Icelandic brewery Borg Brugghus is looking for export markets, and they had an event at Haandverkerstuene here in Oslo just before Easter. Hans,  the manager of the restaurant, is also Icelandic, so he had them bring along some traditional Icelandic food to go with the beer.

Borg Brygghus har been around since 2010, and have brewed around 50 beer since then, of which six or seven are regulars. They have very decent IPAs of various strenght, but I’d like to pick out some of their more excotic stuff.

Leifur is what they call a Nordic Saison at 6.8% ABV. This is brewet With local heather and thyme, which blend well in without getting in the way. Fruity, Rich aroma, a little funk that should be present in all saisons. Fine beer.

Smugan is a 10% Wheat Wine, brewed with kaffir lime leaves, Norwegian salted and dried cod and juniper berries. Despite all this, it’s a very drinkable beer, the amount of fish involved must be very moderate.

The highlight was the Surtur, a 9% smoked imperial stout. It’s not just smoked. Iceland is a country withou any forests, so wood was hard to find. You could smoke your food over peat – or you could use sheep droppings as fuel. The beer has a smoky character, all right, but the shit does not give any pronounced flavor.

To go with these beverages, we were also served Icelandic food. Lovely tender smoked lamb. Ram testicles pickled in sour milk. And their famous raw shark, buried in the sand for months to be slightly more edible. I thought someone at my table had problems with their personal hygiene. I was wrong. It was the shark. Luckily we got a shot of Icelandic aquavit, affectionally called Black Death, to go with that.

Haikjøtt

The lamb and the shark.

 

Th

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