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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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I had planned to visit 50 Norwegian micro breweries in 2016. I havent’t told you before now, and I’ve decided to modify the aim slightly.

Because there are people brewing without having the bricks, mortar and brewing vessels. And talking to these breweries is also important. I’ll come back to Cerivisam later, today I look at Kolonihagen.

Kolonihagen is a brand that includes home delivery of organic food, a bakery, cafes/restaurants and beer. And we are talking serious food here, the three-Michelin-star Maaemo has the partly the same ownership.

They use to have a very small brewery in their restaurant at Grünerløkka in Oslo, which has later closed down. The beers, however, live on.

Brewer Arnt Ove Dalebø has moved the production to Færder Mikrobryggeri in Tønsberg, but he is still in charge of the beers. What’s new is that he has secured national distribution of the beers through the Meny supermarket chain.

 

There are so far two beers available, an IPA and a Hefeweissen, both at 4.7% ABV.

The IPA is a Cascade single hop. The aroma has apricots, blood oranges and grapefruit. The body is light. A little malt, tones of mango. The finish is dry and refreshing without going to extremes. A great session beer.

The Weissbier is also a single hop beer with Bavarian Tetnanger. It is soft and sweet, with a lot of banana. Proper soft mouth fee, a little citrus. This is not my favorite beer style, but it is true to type, and many wil welcome a good Norwegian Hefeweisse.

I only have one objection: The place of brewing should be printed clearly at the labels. There is full disclosure on the Kolonihagen web page, but the consumers are unlikely to look it up.

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When I was invited to do a few promotional events for my book in Bergen, I welcomed the opportunity. This meant some hours in a shopping mall signing books, but also taking part in a beer tasting with an additional opportunity for book sales.

Arriving at Bergen airport, I was picked up by Sammy, who kindly drove me to my first stop, the Gulating beer shop, located in a shopping mall some distance from the city center. But we made a short detour, allowing me a brief visit to 7 Fjell, one of the craft breweries being successful, also on a national scale. No price for the scenery, they are located on a no nonsense industrial estate, but the beer they brew is impeccable. They are taking over a larger slice of the building than they are using today, so there will be a tasting room and other facilities in the future.

Helge gave me the ten minute tour. 7 Fjell is doing very well, right now the fermentation tanks are the bottlenecks of the brewing.

Helge at 7 Fjell

Helge at 7 Fjell

Onwards to Gulating, where I spent three hours signing books. Not a huge success, but a trickle of customers. The shop, however, sold a respectable amount of beer  while I was there. The emergence of at first good beer shelves in Norwegian supermarkets and then specialist beer shops selling beers below the legal limit of 4.7% is way beyond what I had expected a few years ago. The Gulating shops buy their beers directly from the breweries, meaning they can offer lower prices to the customer than supermarkets. They also have a great range of beers from the smallest breweries, which are hard to find without extensive travelling.

Gulating bottle shop

Gulating Bergen

A quick check in at my hotel before arrival at UNA bar and restaurant, where I was invited to present my book at a tasting of vintage Christmas beers. This was hosted by Stefan, who has a good routine of doing events like this, I tried to add my bit to the proceedings.

UNA is the place with the most impressive tap list in Bergen, of particular interest when I visited was that they had a home brew on tap. They have their own brewing permit, but so far they just have a tiny setup in the basement. Their first beer is a Light Stout – as opposed to a Dark Stout. Highly drinkable with some coffee and cocoa notes, slightly sweet. Brewed to have a broad appeal, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Across the street to the next brewpub, Bryggeriet, a part of the huge bar/restaurant complex Zachariasbryggen.  I was visiting briefly this summer, with a serious case of bad timing, it was a week before the first beers were due to be released, and none of them were ready.  I had better luck this time, even finding brewer Gareth behind the bar and ready for a chat.

Juleøl tap

Bryggeriets Christmas beer

The original idea was to have a range of four fairly standard regular beers, this has evolved into six of their own beers on tap most of the time, and a wish to be more playful. I sampled Snøwit, a fairly strong wit, which I enjoyed, particularly since it was low on the coriander scale. Their Juleøl is a spiced porter.  My favourite was the Flagship IPA -a great allrounder that would work well both with food and as refreshment.  Grass, citrus and discreet maltiness.

My last stop was the third brewpub, Baran Café, where I had a nice chat with Ali. Well, technically it is not a brewpub, since the brewing is done elsewhere, but he brews his own beer and sells it in his café.  I had a beer, but I’m afraid there are no notes from its consumption. It is a quiet place to hang out, make sure you visit if you are in town.

These rambling notes do not do justice to the Bergen beer scene, but I hope it might inspire tickers and drinkers to make a visit. Bergen has established itself firmly on the Norwegian beer map.

Note: The trip was paid by my publisher, and I did not receive any compensation from the establishments mentioned apart from some beer samples.

Baran sign

A logo appropriate for Bergen

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