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Posts Tagged ‘Kinn’

I was sipping a beer ( a very nice brown ale, since you ask) at Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri, one of the Oslo brewpubs, some days ago. Their blackboard shows their range of beers on tap, six of their own, the rest hand picked from around the globe. Wheat or wit, IPAs, pale ales, usually at least a sour ale, an imperial stout, maybe a barley wine.

But, for the last six months or so, they also have their own pilsener. They have always had Hansa pils, but it is not promoted in any way. An industrial alternative for those who get too scared of all this craft stuff. The Hansa pils is not selling much, though. The regulars want the home brews or the hand picked imports on the blackboard. Their own lager is another story. The barman told me they have pulled it form the menu at times to stimulate the sale of their other beers.

If you want Norwegian craft lager to take home, there are a few really good ones available from micros like Lillehammer Bryggeri and Sundbytunet, but they have a very small distribution.

Lervig started out as a lager brewery, way before Mike Murphy arrived to start making top fermented beers. Their pilsener varieties did not impress anyone back then. I’ve been told that they are much improved now. I will give them a try, but there is a lot of marketing work to be done as well, perhaps integrating a pilsnener and a few other lager varieties into their series of well designed bottles and cans.

But the one to look out for is further north on the west coast. Kinn has announced that they are reducing their range of beers to concentrate on a core range. But among those core beers, there will also be a pilsener. Knowing the quality of Espen’s beers,  I’m sure this will be a winner. But they might have to consider the price level. I’m not sure how much the Norwegian consumers are willing to pay for a bottle of pils, however good it is. We are used to drinking our pale lagers in larger quantities than the darker and stronger beers, so it’s a matter of keeping the price of a six-pack down to a reasonable level.

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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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