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Posts Tagged ‘Haandbryggeriet’

Those of you who have followed this blog from the early days know that I have been a friend of Haandbryggeriet from their very early days. Established in 2005, four home brewing friends started up in a few tiny rooms in what used to be a stocking factory. They moved to larger premises in 2011, but they have already outgrown them, so they have set up a spanking new brewery, but they still stay in their home town Drammen. This is an area with a rich industrial heritage, so there is no big surprise that they once again occupy a building with a history of other activity.

Room for a few pints

They have come quite a long way in less than ten years!

There was an opening party for the new brewery this week, they are ready to take on the huge domestic demand, particularly from the supermarkets. It’s good to see that the first generation of Norwegian micro breweries have managed to expand and thrive. Everything looks sunny now, but there have been lean years as well.

The investment in the new brewery is about 14 million kroner, while their turnover in 2013 was 22 million.

More room for barrel aging, too.

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I’ve lost count. We all have. There are new Norwegian breweries popping up every week or so, in the most unlikely places. The beers? The good, the bad and the bland. Don’t get me wrong, there is room for both the good and the bland.

I rarely write about the truly bad breweries. There are a few, usually there are people who wanted a novelty for their pub without any interest, let alone passion, for the styles, the nuances and the flavors of beer. This is a place where your are likely to find someone behind the bar who do not actually like beer, but they would happily down a Kopparberg alcopop or two.

Then you have breweries who aim for a local market, and who don’t want to alienate their public. But that is no excuse for being lazy. You can still aim for flavourful and balanced beers with more character than the industrials, who taste of summer meadows and amber grain. Beers that leave refreshment at the bottom of your half liter glass, yet leaves enough bitterness on your tongue to make you consider another round.

And I have respect for those who have ambitions. Who dare to take up a second mortgage on their house to expand production, who dare to quit their day job to follow their dream. There are a few in the second tier of the Norwegian craft breweries. Not up to the volume and experience of Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet, Ægir, Kinn or Lervig. But some of them will soon be snapping at their heels.

Austmann, Lindheim, Nøisom, Ego, Balder, Voss, 7 Fjell and Veholt are the names I want to mention. Scattered around the coast, each with their own profile, which I hope they will continue to develop. Right now the supermarkets are eager for local beers, I also hope there will be enough outlets in pubs, bars and restaurants for these quality brews. It would probably make sense for some of them to cooperate on distribution,

Then we have another category where I find it hard to have much enthusiasm. These are beers that claim to have local or national identity, but where, like the industrial giants, the marketing is more important than the beer and the brewing. I have no membership in any nostalgic organisations condemning giant corporations, and I have no ill feelings towards those who drink their Stellas (as long as they don’t beat their wives). But I have some resentment towards those who take me for a fool.

There are several companies who are riding the crest of the beer boom right now who claim to be breweries, but are not. Local journalists write, starry-eyed, about local lads make good without asking where the beers actually come from. One of these companies was launched in the summer of 2012. The uncompromised nature of Norway in a bottle is their slogan. The problem? The beers are brewed in England.

Then there is a newcomer claiming allegiance to a gentrified but traditional industrial area of Oslo, launching industrial lagers in supermarkets and aiming for a slice of Carlsberg’s market. At last, Oslo gets its own beer, they boast. Christmas beer brewed with local ingredients, says one of the local newspapers.

Two problems. One: There are several breweries in Oslo, two of them have bottling lines and already distribute a range of beers. Two: They beers are, for the time being, not brewed in Oslo, but in Arendal, on the southern coast. Sure, they are building a brewery. But if they are half as successful as they hope to, they will not have the capacity to brew on a large-scale on the premises. So the local connection is dubious.

Carlsberg has a half-hearted attempt to cash in on the local card as well. They bought up a number of breweries around the country decades ago and closed them down, while keeping some of the brand names. They have the nerve to market beers like Nordlandspils or Tou as ”local beers”, overlooking the fact that they are all brewed in Oslo.

I don’t mind contract brewing. I don’t mind gypsy brewers. But when I buy food and drink I want honesty about where it is produced. Particularly when geography is a major part of the marketing campaign.

Bu maybe I’m old fashioned.

The real thing (at Austmann)

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There were lean years when there were no beer festivals in Norway whatsoever. Now it’s difficult to keep track of them all, and I do not have the time or resources to visit more than a few.

Luckily my old home town Trondheim has one of the most interesting events. Trondheim beer festival, or Bryggerifestivalen i Trondheim to use its official name, has established itself as a great place to visit  in just a few years. It is a part of a bigger regional food festival taking place in the first weekend in August, showcasing fruit and vegetables, game and fish, cheese and sweets. This far north, this is when the vegetables are in their prime, the berries and fruit are beginning to ripen.

And in the middle of this, the beer festival is evolving. This year they had a custom built long wooden bar, plenty of seating both in the sun and the shade – and loads of good beer. Some of the national breweries are there, Kinn, Haand and Nøgne Ø – but most interesting are the beers form the smaller producers.

The brewer from Røros

Røros Bryggeri

They were close to cancelling the beer part of the festival just a month ago, as an official in the city administration refused to give them the necessary license to buy in the strongest beers. When this was know, there were several politicians from both the local and the regional level cutting through the red tape. This has become an integrated part of the annual celebration of the regional food culture – beer is finding its proper place alongside other food and drink.

Several breweries manned their own parts of the bar, meaning this was a great possibility for the public to talk the the brewers – and for the brewers to get spontaneous feedback.

Alongside the professional brewers there were volunteers with ample knowledge of beers.  And they had a splendid range to choose from. Along the medium strength beers there were a few barley wines, but, showing how the low alcohol trend continues,  also a number of milds. Two types of traditional Stjørdalsøl made with home made smoked malt. Very appropriate in the sunny weather were some very refreshing saisons from Klostergården and Namdalsbryggeriet. There were also authors of beer books promoting their publications.

Klostergården (To Tårn in the background)

New breweries were present, most prominently Namdalsbryggeriet, started just before Christmas. To say something about the speedy changes, Austmann, who made their debut last summer, is now one of the established breweries in the region. To Tårn has been around a bit longer, but they did not attend the festival last year, so they made their debut in this context. Røros Bryggeri has focused on beers with a broad appeal – they sold out their special oaked festival beers very fast. Rein Drikke were also newcomers with highly drinkable session beers.

Add sunny weather, no entrance fee, moderate prices for most beers. A dozen Norwegian breweries represented, half of them from the region. I was happy to meet new people from the breweries, I hope to get back to some of them on the blog later.

Haandbryggeriet and To Tårn

I am sure there are ways to develop the concept even further, and I have no idea about the economical side of the event. But I will do what I can to attend next year as well. Maybe I’ll even volunteer for a session behind the bar.

Austmann

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As well as blogging, I also hang around various other beer sites. In Scandinavia, we tend to go for RateBeer rather than Beer Advocate, and I am approaching Norwegian beer rating number 1000 on RB. I am not much of a ticker any more, but I enjoy following the Norwegian scene.

There are new beers every week now, and I do not pay good money for beers from breweries that tend to let me down. So I could have reached this milestone before.

But which one to pick for the big number?

It could have been a beer from one of the forerunners of the Norwegian craft scene. Nøgne Ø, Haandbryggeriet, Ægir, Kinn or Lervig. One of the stars rapidly building a name like Austmann, Voss or Lindheim. A beer from one of my favourite brewpubs, Trondhjems Mikrobryggeri, Crowbar or Schouskjelleren.

But I picked Fjellbryggeriet Lun, a brown ale from a newcomer. They have made things even more difficult by going for the supermarket segment, staying below 4.7% ABV.

Lovely notes of roasted grain. Nuts, malt, coffee and chocolate. Clean and elegant. A most impressive beer from a new kid on the block. Well, they are new as commercial brewers. But their home page tells the story – 13 years as home brewers. So this is probably more than just beginner’s luck…

And located in the middle of the moutnains of Southern Norway, they also  fill in one of the blanks of the Norwegian beer map.

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Håndverkerstuene has gone through some changes of management, but the kitchen is still very good – and the beer range is better than ever. Some of the imports, particularly the Belgians and Americans, are gone, what you find is an outstanding range of Norwegian and Nordic beers. 12 craft beers on tap a few days ago, 10 of them Norwegian, the other two also Scandinavian.

Handverkerstuene taps

This year they are challenging Norwegian breweries to come up with the best beer matches for various menus. Eight breweries are taking part in the quarter finals, Austmann vs Aass, Ringnes vs Nøgne Ø, Lervig vs Haandbryggeriet and Ægir vs Kinn. 

 

The two best meet in the final 22 September. The juries are the paying guests on the evening of each round. The loser of the final will brew a special brew for the winner.

Details about the challenge, the menus and tickets at the Bryggeribråk web site.

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In a nation in a bubble outside most effects of the crisis in Europe, the Norwegian micro breweries also enjoy the general affluence. Articles in several newspapers shows good figures for most of the professional micro breweries.

Nøgne Ø is, of course, the most important, with a significant part of their turnover from exports. They sold 700 000 liters of beer last year, and expect a 40% increase in 2012.
Their success does not make them go just for the safe and profitable, Nøgne Ø keeps on experimenting and collaborating around the globe. Some of the projects, like brewing a range of sake, show that there still is passion and innovation.

Haandbryggeriet and Ægir are not quite as big, but they are also doing fine, according to the accounts for 2011. Ægir expects a deficit in 2012 due to their building a new brewery and distillery, on the other hand it gives them a capacity of brewing 2 million liters per year. Haandbryggeriet moved and expanded earlier this year, and expect to brew 400 000 liters this year. They both have a broad range of beers, and Haandbryggeriet exports a significant part of their output.

Kinn is a relative newcomer that also is doing well. Their distribution is growing steadily, and they expect to double their turnover in 2012.

Lervig is also growing, but they have been losing money every year since they were established eight years ago. They started as a lager brewery, challenging Carlsberg who closed down their  local brewery in Stavanger. With star brewer Mike Murphy in residence, they deliver both more challenging beers as well as session beers in supermarket strength that hopefully can find their niche in the market.

Another brewery to watch out for is Union. They reestablished themselves a few years ago in Skien, offering a few boring pale lagers. There are good reasons to hope that this will change for the better, as they have recruited Anders Kissmeyer, one of the real innovators behind the Danish beer revolution, as their head brewer.

All of the above mainly bottle their beers, and have something resembling a national distribution. The same, obviously, goes for the industrial players. Carlsberg, Hansa/Borg, Aass and Mack. They share the main bulk of the market, but I won’t bother you with any analysis of their products.

But there is also an undergrowth of smaller micro breweries that is below any radar showing market shares. I’ll try to cover them all over the coming months. I just have to figure out how to do that.

Beer barrels

Barrel aging at Haandbryggeriet

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The Haandbryggeriet beer festival sold 1200 tickets in total on the Friday and Saturday, the budget was 1000. This means a new festival next year, I will keep you posted.

But back to this years event. I have praised the setup, but how were the beers?

First of all, I was only present at the Friday session, meaning I cannot do justice to all breweries present. I did not go through the range of beers from the hosts, for example, as I hope I will be able to taste them later.

Prestesonen is a new porter from the Norwegian Kinn brewery. Not trying to be too pretentious, this dark brown beer has a smoky nose and a fairly light palate. Roasted grain and coffee, fine balance.

The Oaked Sunturnbrew from Nøgne Ø has not been barrel aged, but is a special order that’s been aged with oak chips. I feel there is some extra dryness compared to the regular version, maybe some vanilla, too. This is one of my favourites among the Nøgne Ø beers, but I’m not sure if the extra treatment really lifted it.

A legend in European beer circles is the Stormaktsporter from Närke in Sweden. The version available here was aged in Cognac barrels, adding an intense aroma that was very much to my liking. The Närke stand was probably the hit of the festival, both for the eccentric range of beers and for the great visual presentation.

De Molen from the Netherlands had brought a wide range of brews along, some of the will probably turn up in Copenhagen this week as well. The had a brand new Flemish sour ale in two versions, one aged with cherries. I preferred the variety without the cherries, having a cleaner sour flavour which I really enjoyed. We’re talking Rodenbach territory here.

But the brewery which really made my day was Magic Rock from Huddersfield, England. Lovely keg versions of ales available on cask closer to home. This small-scale operation is inspired by American craft beers, meaning a far more liberal use of hops than the standard British fare.

Their Amber ale, Rapture, had a stong, refreshing herbal bitterness. Low in alcohol, intense in flavour, this would make great drinking for the summer months ahead. Honorable mention for their High Wire and Cannonball beers, too, but my highest praise is reserved for their imperial stout, the Bearded Lady. The regular version come in bottled form, and is a smooth and deceivingly soft tipple with fine chocolate tones. The barrel aged version has a lovely bourbon character, smooth beer given extra dimensions. Sweet and dry, charcoal, some sour smoke in the background. Oak and smoke in the tail. All these served by two friendly brewers.

The rest of my notes are blurry. I hope the good people from Emelisse and Alvinne come back next year, so I can do justice to their beers.

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