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Posts Tagged ‘Norwegian micro breweries’

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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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Furuhaugli 1

Visiting Norwegian breweries does not only mean downtown brewpubs and drab industrial areas. Some of them are in idyllic surroundings – and the smallest ones combine brewing with rather exotic activities. I wanted to visit Furuhaugli Turisthytter this summer, and sent off an e-mail. The reply came fast, asking me to please call ahead, as the owner might be out guiding on a muskox safari.

My wife and I were in the Dovre National Park last year, and got quite close to the animals. We saw the through a bus window, but this safari offered a chance to get closer to them. So we decided that  instead of just stopping for a few beers, we included dinner, a night in one of their cabins and a muskox safari the next day.

When we checked in, we were made very welcome.

  • So, you are the author? We have your book right here!

Inger-Lise and Stein runs the establishment now, they are the third generation to rent out cabins in the mountains – Inger-Lise’s grandmother started this in 1930.

You can make your own meals in the cabins, but you should really try their food. Excellent home cooking, we had pan-fried Arctic char, which Stein and their children had caught themselves, but there are other options as well.

Furuhaugli 4

Stein claims to have the smallest commercial brewery in Norway, and I am sure he is right, his 25 and 50 liter batches are unlikely to wipe out the competition. He likes to brew a wider range of beers and to keep them fresh. The beers are not for sale off the premises, they are only available in the restaurant.

I try the Blonde at 4.5 % ABV. It is dry and fruity. Light and drinkable, with moderate amounts of American hops. The Red Ale is stronger, at 5.9%. It is a rich, malty beer, with just enough hop bitterness to make a pleasant balance.  A true to type Wit (5%) has lemon, camomille and coriander, while the Amber X at 5.8% is malty with notes of nuts, toffee and roasted grain.

The beer labels do not hide the inspiration for the brews, Stein has used several of the recipes from Gahr Smith-Gahrsen, which are freely shared both through 7 Fjell Bryggeri and via the book Den norske ølrevolusjonen.

This is not the place to go for extreme beers – but for beers to enjoy after a day’s hike in the mountains and to go with the wholesome food.

Furu

In addition to large mammals like muskox and elk, the Fokstumyra nature reserve is very close, giving excellent opportunities for birdwatching if that is your thing.

The muskox safari takes place on foot in the Dovre National Park, a short drive from Furuhaugli Turisthytter.

We were in a group with various nationalities setting out on the safari the next morning. Expect a hike of about five hours – obviously depending on where the animals are. They tend to be closer to the road and railway in spring and autumn. The guides are experienced, and as these walks are arranged every day in the summer, they know the animals well, know where to find them – and know how close to them you can get and still be on the safe side.  They are big enough to be dangerous if you provoke them.

We were able to get very close to a young bull, who did not seem to mind us watching while he was grazing. An experience well worth the time and money involved.

Noet that you are free to hike in these mountains on your own, a guide is not required. There is a network of well-marked trails and a number of hostels within a day’s walk of each other. In the winter you can go skiing instead. But if you do this on your own, you should be careful to stay well away from the animals.

Furuhuagli Turisthytter and the muskox safari are easy to access – both just off the main road – E6 – between Oslo and Trondheim. You could make arrangements to be picked up at Dombås or Hjerkinn Railway station as well.

Thanks to my wife Astrid for the photo below!

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Furuhaugli is not the only Norwegian micro-brewery to offer a good combo with outdoor activities.Here are some more:

At Ansnes Brygger, Hitra, you can go hunting, diving or fishing.

You can bike the spectacular road along the railway line from the 1223 Micro Brewery at DNT Finsehytta (at 1223 meters above sea level) to the Ægir brewpub in Flåm (at the end of a fjord offering boat connections.)

You can go rafting, explore glaciers or do some serious mountaineering at Espedalen Mikrobryggeri, which is located in Ruten Fjellstue.

You can hunt for small game, go skiing or fishing at Tuddal Høyfjellshotel, the new home of Fjellbryggeriet.

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There have been some newspaper reports lately about the beer prices at Oslo airport, which are the highest in the land. This should not coame as a surprise to anyone. The beer prices at the airport is always more expensive than in town. A plass of Pilsener Urquell at Prague airport is astronomical if you compare it to a baskstreet cafe in town.

The Director General of the Norwegian Competition Authority is interviewed in the major business daily Dagens Næringsliv. She, unsurprisingly, wants more competition.  

I wrote a letter to the editor in Dagens Næringsliv, quoting Evan Lewis, forunder and head brewer at Ægir brewery. He sais a few days ago that there is one term in the Norwegian language he strongly dislikes. It is en halvliter, literally half a liter. (The English equivalent  obviously a pint. In Sweden they call it en stor stark, a big strong)

It is the generic term for a beer. If you walk into a pub, you traditionally ask for en halvliter. What you get is the standard pale lager available on tap in the establishment. (If it is noisy, you just signal with your fingers how many halvlitere you want, so no conversation need to take place.

Evan asked the question: Would you go into a restaurant and ask for one food?

His point is that things are changing. Many consumers go for quality, not for quantity.

When the Director General of the Competiton Authority raises the question of  how to increase competiton to get lower beer prices, what she discusses is wether we sould pay niney or one hundred kroner for a halvliter of Carlsberg. Real competiton would mean that we could choose between a broad range of beers, domestic and imported.

And if the beer is good, we don’t mind paying premium prices.

You know what? They printed it yesterday.

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Back in my old home town again, a few hours to spare. Two new beers at Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri, both of them keeping the high standard that they have those days, hoppy and well crafted. Later, I will have a chat with the guys running the pub and micro brewery at Studentersamfundet.

But I have heard rumours about beers from a new brewery available in a pub I’ve never visited. Though the place is very familiar. This building used to house a temperance hotel and cafeteria on one of the busiest street corners in town, Prinsenkrysset. Those days are gone, and it makes perfect sense to have a pub here, a very convenient place to meet.

Irish theme pubs is not an endangered species, and at first sight Cafe Dublin is no different. Pub grub, which seemed a bit pricey, beer engines with the usual suspects.

But when I talk to the man behind the bar, I recognise that he sim more committed than most. He has some bottles from the Rein brewery in the fridge, he has the O’haras Leann Follain from Carlow, an excellent Irish stout I’ve never spotted anywhere in Norway before. Austmann beers in bottles and on tap, too. The temperatures in the fridges have even been turend up for the more interesting beers.

It is not my favourite beer bar in Trondheim. But it is certainly worth looking in if you are passing by. Live music in the evening.

I haven’t learned to use my new camera yet, so no decent photos of the facilities.

The Reins beer? Not quite there. Going organic is not enough.

Reins Ale No 23

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I’m going through a period when the blog posts are more infrequent, but that does not mean that the Norwegian micro breweries are slowing down.

There are newcomers every month, my current estimate is 80 active breweries before Easter. Some are doing very well, their main headache is how to expand their capacity. Others are more a paid hobby, but they are cheered on by their local communities and newspapers. Even the supermarket chains allow more local products on their shelves in places where there were no outlets.

I am not terribly impressed by all the new ones. I think we will reach a saturation point for pale ales at 4.7% ABV at 50 kroner per bottle very soon. Yes, there is a segment in the market willing to pay a premium price for premium beer. But, frankly, everything out there is not of premium quality. Some have serious quality problems. Others are bland. And even the industrial brewers are waking up, launching top fermented ales.

But there are some rising stars, too. I would particularly point to Lindheim, a farmhouse brewery located in rural Telemark. So far I have only seen their beers on tap, but I assume they go for a broader distribution. They have already made collaboration brews with big names like Port Brewing and Lost Abbey, som they are definitely aiming for the big league.

Speaking of collaborations, they are happening everywhere. Haand/Närke, Lervig/Magic Rock, Austmann/Amundsen, Amundsen/Crowbar….

But the most important trend now is going back to the roots of Norwegian brewing. The key word is local malt, particularly from the Stjørdal region. There are already a few beers out, expect more to come during the year. These will cover a broad range from mild ales with just a hint of smoked malt added to robust ales filled with smoke and tar. Beers to look out for are Alstadberger, brewed in cooperation with Klostergården, Bøkerøkt form Larvik, Ørderøl from To Tårn and beers to be launched this week by Stjørdalsbryggeriet.

We are talking about beers with a pedigree going back through the centuries, when farmers grew their own barley and processed this into beer for Christmas, for funerals, weddings and baptisms. We have been lucky that a handful of farmers have kept this tradition alive.

Larvik To Taarn bottles

As smoky as it gets

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(English summary at the end)

Nu klinger igjennem den gamle stad på nye en studentersang

Og alle man alle i rekke og rad stemmer opp under begerets klang

foto.samfundet.no

Jeg vet ikke om Smørekoppens visebok fremdeles er i hevd i det runde hus på Elgeseter i Trondheim. Det som er sikkert er at man fremdeles har et stort hus som rommer mange aktiviteter, basert på ildsjeler som gjerne ofrer et semester eller to på det som skjer i Studentersamfundet.

Dette var en viktig del av min ungdom, og omfattet både polariserte politiske debatter, konserter med de beste navnene man klarte å få lokket så langt unna allfarvei (Edgar Broughton Band, anyone?) og rett og slett rangling. Stort sett med EC Dahls pils.

Det rangles nok fremdeles, men i dag har man enda flere skjenkesteder, og med et ølutvalg man virkelig kan være stolt av. I forbindelse med UKA pusser man opp ulike deler av huset, og denne gang var tiden kommet til puben i Daglighallen, som nå fremstår i lekker engelsk pubstil med en øltavle som rommer det meste av det interessante som er å skaffe på det norske markedet.

UKA er over, og det er eksamenstid, men bryggmester Ulrik Bjerkeli har likevel tatt seg tid til en prat, og ikke minst å fortelle om høstens tilvekst, Daglighallens eget mikrobryggeri.

Og her snakker vi om et virkelig mikrobryggeri, det er snakk om et oppskalert hjemmebryggeri. Det brygges 120 liter av gangen, og de første seks batchene solgte ut på tre uker, men det var i forbindelse med UKA. Man har nå kommet til batch 14, og har hatt en APA, en Black IPA, en English Brown, en Ordinary Bitter og en Saison på programmet. En liten smak på det som befinner seg i tankene viser at her har man kommet godt i gang.

Ulrik kan fortelle at han også tenker på å brygge lagerøl. Samfundet har åpent noen måneder hvert semester, men er stengt både rundt nyttår og på sommeren. Da har man jo gode muligheter til å prøve seg på lagerøl som kan være klart tils ervering når aktivitetene tar seg opp igjen. Det er tradisjonelt solgt mye bayer i huset, og man kunne jo prøve å ha et hjemmebrygget alternativ til det som leveres fra Ringnes.

Samfundet er i stor grad basert på frivillig innsats, og det gjør jo at det ølet som brygges i huset også kommer svært gunstig ut økonomisk i forhold til øl som kjøpes inn.

I tillegg til egne øl, har Daglighallen også en imponerende tavle med mye fristende fra både inn- og utland.

The Student Society in Trondheim is owned and run by ilts members, currently almost 9000 of them. They own a house close to the biggest university campus, which is host to a broad specter of cultural activities. There is also a number of cafes and bars in the building, and one of these, Daglighallen, has evolved into a beer pub with an impressive list. This autumn they have even started a micro brewery.

It is a very small scale operation, brewing 120 liter batches, covering a number of ale types. There are also plans to brew lagers, and the ambitions are there to brew stronger beers and letting them age before serving them.

The head brewer, Ulrik Bjerkeli, has a background as a home brewer, but he has also worked a bit for Austmann Bryggeri, getting a feeling of how things are done on a larger scale.

The brewery is run by volunteers, meaning that the profit margin for their home brews is much nicer than for the beers they buy from the outside. Something to consider for voluntary organsiations elsewhere?

I sampled a few of the beers, and I particularly liked their Saison. I hope to be back in the new year to try a full glass of each of the beers in their range.

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(English text at the end)

Vest for Trondheim sentrum går Bynesveien langs fjorden forbi gamle oljetankanlegg og andre industribygg. Dette har nok vært et naturskjønt område, men nå er det preget av mange tiår med nyttefunksjoner som ikke setter et så vakkert stempel på omgivelsene.

Skal du besøke Austmann bryggeri, er det lurt å ha gjort en avtale på forhånd. En litt dårlig merket avkjørsel ned mot fjorden ender i to stengte porter.

Jeg blir tatt godt imot av Anders Cooper og  Vinko Lien Sindelar.

Ved inngangen er det lager for flasker og fat, ved mitt besøk er det et svært begrenset utvalg. I begynnelsen av desember er det meningen at ølet skal være ute i hyller, kjøleskap og på kraner.

I neste rom står ølet og godgjør seg på 900-liters tanker, og innerst finner vi de tre åpne gjæringskarene. Utstyret er kjøpt fra Kinn, men er tilpasset en del. Gjæren høstes og brukes på nytt, og blir i stadig bedre form. Det blir naturligvis et overskudd av gjær, så her har trønderske hjemmebryggere gode muligheter.

Selv om Austmann bare har vært i drift siden i sommer, er det brygget et titall øl, og de fleste av dem er allerede å finne på polets bestillingsliste. Det er ikke sikkert at alle øltypene blir videreført, samtidig mangler det ikke på planer for neste år. Det finnes en kjelleretasje der det står noen kegs med imperial stout, og der vil det komme trefat av ulike slag for å lage surøl og annet spennende.  

De meste populære øltypene så langt har vært en belgisk ale, Tre gamle damer og Northumberland, en brown ale. For egen del vil jeg vel trekke frem Bastogne (saison) og Blåbærstout.

Så langt har salget gått bra, og med et etterlengtet flaskeanlegg (installert etter mitt besøk) vil det bli mindre slitsomt å dekke etterspørselen. Det er selvfølgelig vanskelig å beregne markedet før man setter i gang, og man er jo i stor grad låst til det utstyret man investerer i, i alle fall på kort sikt. Dagens lokaler har en del å gå på når det gjelder lagerplass, og utstyret gir mulighet for kontinuerlig brygging, eventuelt ved å dele uken i to skift.

Jeg skrev innledningsvis om at industriområdet ikke nødvendigvis er det mest idylliske. Samtidig er det et potensiale for å sette opp bord og benker og ha servering nede på kaien. Og derfra er det en praktfull utsikt mot Munkholmen og byen. Hvem vet, kanskje det kan gjøre som på the Kernel i London, der man møtes på mandag formiddag for å ta en øl og spise frokost?

Selv om du ikke har veien innom Trondheim, er det vel verdt å prøve øl fra Austmann. De fleste ølene deres er å få på polet, og det er bare å be din favorittpub om å ta inn fatøl fra dem også. Jeg tror dette er en av nykommerne som vil klare seg i et stadig tøffere marked.

Many of the new breweries in Norway start on a very small scale, peddling their beers to local shops or bars. Austmann bryggeri in Trondheim, established this summer, have bigger ambitions. With loans from family and friends and a distribution deal with Beer Enthusiast, they managed to get a number of their beers listed with the state Vinmonopolet,  meaning that they have a full national distribution.

The brewery is located in an industrial area not far from Central Trondheim with a nice view of the Trondheim fjord.

The beer range includes Belgian ales, a saison, a blueberry stout, two IPAs, an amber ale, a wheat ale and three Christmas beers. The best sellers will stay on, others will be replaced with new beers.

The bottled beers are vital for distribution in the Vinmonopolet shops, but key kegs are important for the pub market.

The beers are brewed in open vessels bought from Kinn brewery, and they are well worth trying out. As Beer Enthisiast are now establishing themselves in several other coutnries, that might mean that some of their beers could turn up, at least in Sweden.

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