Posts Tagged ‘beer’

Easter offerings

Here in Norway we tend to take a long Easter break, starting this weekend. Some people go skiing in the mountains, where you can get a really nice tan from the sun and snow if the weather permits. Others go to the coast to greet the spring. Some go to Sweden and try to smuggle 758 liters of pale lager and get caught by the customs. Boys will be boys…

Lots of people prefer city life, the tempo slows down, and if you are lucky you can find a watering hole with a sun trap where you may enjoy a pint. Come to think of it, the heaters for the smoking areas have taken some of the thrill out of having the first al fresco beer of the season.

But there are offerings in the evenings as well. We used to have legislation which gave special restrictions on the sale of booze during the holidays, but that’s history.

If you are in Oslo, there will be some special events.  Bar & Cigar will have some special American beer imports on Thursday and Friday, and Dr. Jekyll’s will have a tutored tasting on Saturday.

If you are on the other side of the globe, the Verdugo Bar in Los Angeles seems like the place to be. They showcase the He’Brew/Shmaltz beers:

Enjoy one of the few kegs of Coney Island Human Blockhead as well as the very special, and very rare Lenny on Rye (Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A. aged in Rittenhouse 100 Kentucky Rye Whiskey Barrels).

I would’t mind one (or two) of these…

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I check out of my Milan hotel, drag my suitcase to the nearest Metro station and emerge at Lambrate, slightly to the east of the centre. My research has shown a direct train from here to Parma. A slow train, for sure, but changing to other means of transport in big cities will always take longer than intended, so it will be more efficient after all.

I buy my ticket, and, as I am early for my next scheduled stop, find a bakery where I buy an espresso and something to munch on while I find a park bench to enjoy the spring-like sun.

I wait across the street from the Birrificio Lambrate when they open the shutters for the day, as I have an hour and a half before my train, I intend to get the most of it. I find a stool at the end of the bar, and order a pint of the newest addition to their range, a cask American Pale Ale named Ligéra.  The beer is cloudy brown, and is packed with flowery and bitter hops with a fine malty body underneath. Too bitter for some, perhaps, but I order another when I’ve finished the first. The   is not working properly, so it’s hard work to fill my glass.

The pub is filling up fast, most of them seem to be regular customers, greeting the staff and the other patrons. A large group of students have to find somewhere else to have lunch, there is no room for them.

The menu lists about ten dishes, pasta starters at 4 Euros, main dishes cost 6. The orders come in swiftly for both food and beer, and it is a show in itself to watch the glasses being filled, there are separate glasses for each of the six beer types.

I have a small glass of their smoked beer, the Ghisa, which was my favourite on my last visit. I have some pasta, too, tasty food without any gimmicks.

The atmosphere is jovial and friendly, but I must be on my way. I am invited to have a look at the brewery, and I just have time for that.

Birrificio Lambrate brews 2600 hl annually in 20 hl batches. Half of the beer is sold in-house, the rest by other restaurants and pubs.

There is a lot of red tape for breweries in Italy, and local regulations vary a lot. There are separate applications for brewpubs, for selling beer to other pubs, for bottling etc.

The aim is to establish a bottling line and aim for the American market, hopefully doubling the output.

I am offered a sample of their new beer, a pils that will be launched at the Rimini beer fair later in the month. It is brewed with German malt and hops, and it has a strong, dry hoppiness that can compete with my favourite German lagers like Jever.

This pub concept could not work in Norway, where lunchtime drinking is frowned upon. But here it is a great success, with fresh beer, homemade food and a warm atmosphere. It is not a fake English or American bar, but it is meeting the locals’ need for high quality food and drink. 

The next time I’m in town I’ll go for their evening buffet, I’m not doing justice to this establishment by popping in for an hour or so. A perfect pub? For Milan it probably is. But there is a nice place waiting in Parma as well…

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On cask ale

Stonch has a blog post on how to make sure cask ale is served in optimal condition. Read the comments thread as well.

For us Norwegians this discussion is almost like observing a parallel universe. But things are changing, slowly, here, too. Nøgne ø and Haandbryggeriet are offering cask ale to pubs now, let’s hope their customers know how to treat it properly.

Even having keg versions of some of the Nøgne ø beers is quite a change, both their Porter and the Imperial Brown Ale are great on tap.

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There will be beer festivals in Denmark this year as well, but not on the massive scale of last year’s event at the old Carlsberg brewery. They will return to Valbyhallen, a venue that has been used often over the years.

The dates are 15-17 May, which is not convenient for me, but I’m sure there are beer lovers across Europe who are booking their flights and hotels already. Check www.ale.dk.

Tickets are on sale next week. And, in case you were worried that the recession has taken its toll, there should be plenty of beer. There are already 150 new Danish beers launched in 2009!

And if you cannot make Copenhagen, there is a smaller event in Esbjerg in October.

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If you want a look into the perspectives of the Scandinavian beer industry, check out the web pages of the Scandinavian Brewer’s Review, where a number of their articles now are available online.

Thanks to beerticker.dk for making me aware of this.

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I subscribe to a number of beer-related e-mail lists. Sometimes I think I do this just to torment myself. This just in from the Blind Tiger, NYC:

This Wednesday Feb. 25th at 12:00PM, the Blind Tiger is very proud to be hosting our dear friends from Stone Brewing Company.  This is one of our favorite times of the year…

On tap:

  • Stone Collaboration (with Alesmith & Mikkeller)
  • Stone Cali-Belgique IPA
  • Stone Old Guardian 2007
  • Stone Old Guardian 2006
  • Stone Double Bastard 2007
  • Stone Vertical Epic 08.08.08
  • Stone Imperial Russian Stout 2007
  • Stone Pale Ale
  • Stone IPA
  • Stone Ruination IPA
  • Stone Smoked Porter
  • Stone Arrogant Bastard
  • Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard


  • Stone Holiday
  • Stone 12th Anniversary Ale Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout

And they offer free cheese, too. And free wireless. While I am sitting here in the snow with my pale lagers. Arrogant Bastard indeed!

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Good new from the British Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA):


In marked contrast to the decline in volumes reported by national and global brewers, the local brewing sector grew by a total of 10 per cent in 2008. Of this, three per cent was contributed by new brewers not operational throughout all of 2007, leaving ‘like for like’ volumes up by an impressive seven per cent.


The growth of the local brewery industry has been achieved through both increased distribution  – the average number of pub customers per brewer grew from 79 to 94 last year – and increased rate of sale –  throughput of local beers grew by an average of nine per cent over the last two years. While draught ale, through the pub, is the mainstay of the local brewer, accounting for 86 per cent of volumes, bottled beer is growing fast. Last year, bottled beer volumes increased by over 50 per cent, which helped to grow total sales turnover by an average of 20 per cent.


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The best in Norway

The Norwegian beer drinkers organisation NORØL is not very active, though they publish a magazine and has a fine electronic newsletter.

They recently published the result of their annual beer poll – percentages in parenthesis.

Best new Norwegian beer:

Nøgne Ø Dark Horizon 2nd Edition  (15,8)
Nøgne Ø Dobbel IPA   (9,8)
Haandbryggeriet Haandbakk (9,2)
Aass Bryggeri Juleøl Premium (6,7)

Brewery of the year:

Nøgne Ø (42,9)
Haandbryggeriet (23,3)
Aass (10,8)

Brewpub of the year:

Ægir Bryggeri (36,3)
Oslo Mikrobryggeri (23,8)
Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri (16,3 )

Best imported beer:

Raasted Imperial Stout (11,3)
Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast  (9,4)
Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter (7,5)
Rochefort 10 (7,5)

As you see, the craft beers are dominating the scene, which is really encouraging. Now, if I could find an excuse for getting to the Ægir brewery on the West coast…

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Nice to read about BrewDog in the Scotsman, where they reveal that they sell about 200.000 bottles per month. Most breweries would only dream of figures like that a few years after starting a business. And, remember, these are premium beers that fetch premium prices. The next move is to make more beers available in casks and kegs.

I was at a combined beer shop and pub in Italy last week, and their stocks were low after the Christmas season. They had filled up the shelves with BrewDog beers, though.

-They are very expensive, said the landlord.

-But they are so good, I have to have them.


I  liked the way they are using the Scotsman interview to say hello to the hardcore fans:

For the drinkers, bloggers and others who follow and support us, rest assured that beer world domination is very much still on the agenda.

Cheers to that!

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Pump clips, BQ

Pump clips, BQ

I cannot claim that I know Milan at all. It is a city that I’ve been passing through a few times over the years, more recently I have travelled through its airports quite often.

My 16 hours or so in Milan last year were focused on the beer scene, so when my schedule allowed it last week, I decided to spend the night there before going on to Parma.

I had done my homework as usual, and the hotel I had booked on hotels.com was excellent value at 60 Euro or so for four star lodging including breakfast. Five minutes’ walk from the central station and tne minutes from a tutta Birra, the only thing lacking was a good beer bar in the basement. You’d have to go to Belgium for that, I assume.

There have been positive reports about two related beer bars in the Northwestern part of the city, both by Evan and, more comprehensively, by legendary scooper Gazza. I even managed to find the schedule for a combination of Metro and tram for the BQ bar, but the airport bus in from Malpensa took forever, so I walked up to the station and found a taxi instead.

I arrived at BQ shortly after 9 in the evening, and it was empty. Two smiling young people behind the bar, happy that a foreigner has found his way to their place.

A modern pace in an old area, white walls, high ceiling. The music and choir from the mass in the church next door is competing with David Bowie and other 70’s music. But the main attraction: 20 beer on tap. Half of them Italian craft beers, the rest imports from Belgium, the US, Germany and Ireland. Note that even the Irish beer is a Carlow’s stout, not the usual black stuff.

The Italian beers come from a range of breweries – Birrificio  Italiano, Del Ducato, Baüscia (with the same owner as the bar), Bi-Du, White Dog, Freccia Fenicia, del Borgo…

My mouth waters. I start with the softer pilseners and wheat beers and move through the list. There is always a danger when it comes to places like this – you end up being too full, intoxicated or a combination of the two that you miss out on the last ones. This place offers an alternative. You can order 3 degustazioni glasses of 10cl at the modest sum of  4 Euros. A tickers dream.

I won’t give you notes of everything, but a few of the highlights:

Tipopils, one of the most famous of the Italian craft brews. Lots of hoppy dryness, almost oaky. Complex, yet very drinkable beer. A benchmark pilsener.

ReAle Extra had a fantastic aroma sowing off its liberal use of hops. Round and full mouth fee, piney dry finish. Lovely.

Birrificio Baüscha is owned by the same guy that runs the bar, but he does not promote his own beers on the expense of others. The Mattia Speciale at 7%ABV is clearly inspired by Belgian Abbey ales. Cloudy brown. Rich, malty, yet well balanced. Some spice, including nutmeg and pepper.

I have had a few beers from White Dog before, a brewery set up by an English expat in Northern Italy. I have not been too impress by all of them, though there is a very decent porter.  On offer tonight was the Boot Hill APA at 5.8%. Pronounced hoppy aroma, but not overwhelming. A bit yeasty, fine resin bitterness, full body. This beer grows on you, but this is a style with too many competitiors for me to call it outstanding. It well deserves its place on tap here, though.

Some snack food on the menu, ham, cheese, paté etc.  I order a slice of bread with a mixture of Stilton and Baladin’s vintage Xyaiu beer. Everything is freshly made, and this is truly a good match for fine beers. I’ve had enough of the samplers, and order a full glass of the ReAle Extra.

Customers drift in, a number seem to be regulars, and while it is not full on this Wednesday evening, business seems to be all right. The staff tells me that many Italians are wary about brying craft beer, and it is easier to sell the imports than the domestic beer. The mixed clientele order food and beer, there is quiet conversation, attentive service and polite customers.

I bid farewell and walk into the relatively mild Italian night. The perfect pub? Perhaps . I’ll come back to that in a few days. For a ticker, it is close to heaven, though! But then, there is a bar around the corner, too!

BQ interior and guests

BQ interior and guests

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