Monday, November 22, 2010

Two from Atna

Atna Øl is one of Norway's smaller breweries. Until lately, I had never tried any of their beers. Atna's beers from bottles are often available in Norwegian pubs with a wide beer selection, but they are not very often found as draught beers.

Recently I came across some Atna beers at a supermarket for the first time. I wanted to try some new Norwegian beers, so both Atna Nakenbad and Atna Stabbursøl found their way into my trolley. Both beers are ecological beers.

First out was Atna Nakenbad, which translated into English means nude bathing. The label says that this is a beer with traces of wilderness. From the nose I found nothing wild except for a fruity aroma with a hint of strawberry. The beer was cloudy with a small head and nearly no carbonation. In the mouth there was very little taste before a finish with grains and some bitterness. I felt it was a different beer than what I am used to, but it will not become a favourite.

Atna Stabbursøl (English: grainary beer) was another cloudy beer with a small head. There was some carbonation, though. This beer is brewed by using only malts and hops, according to the bottle label. There was very little taste from the beer. I felt hint of hops, but otherwise this was a watery beer that I did not enjoy.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Time for juleøl

The weather is colder, the days are shorter. It is almost the end of November, and juleøl (Christmas beers) are once again available in Norwegian supermarkets and at Vinmonopolet, if you prefer stronger beers. Most macro breweries have several Christmas beers available at various strengths. In addition to these breweries craft brewers like Nøgne Ø, Haandbryggeriet and Ægir also brew juleøl.

I have tried some of the different Christmas beers during the last week. During the next weeks there will be reviews of juleøl now and then here on this beer blog, but first we will take a look at three Christmas beers available at Vinmonopolet.

Last year I felt that Nøgne Ø's Special Holiday Ale was the best Christmas beer. This year I was a little bit disappointed. The Special Holiday Ale is a very good beer, but I remember it as better in 2009. The beer is nearly black, has nearly no carbonation but builds a thick and lasting head. In the nose there are spices, malts and a hint of coffee. The beer has a nice body. There are many spices dancing around in the mouth before a bitter finish with coffee and a hint of dark chocolate.

Nøgne Ø's second juleøl is called God jul (Merry Christmas). This is even better than Special Holiday Ale this year. In the nose there is malt, hops and a touch of toffee. In the mouth dark chocolate takes the lead with a hint of coffee before a half bitter finish.

Haandbryggeriet's Nissefar is another very good juleøl. It is nearly black with very little carbonation and a little head. There are aromas of cold coffee, prunes and some malts. In the mouth the prunes lead on with tastes of raisins, cold coffee and some sweetness.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Svyturys - round 2

I received many comments after my review of Svyturys Ekstra pale lager. I felt the beer was very sweet, and several comments from blog readers told me that the Lithuanian lager had a different taste profile than the beer I had described.

Finally I found a new bottle of Svyturys Ekstra, and therefore I was ready to do a new tasting. In the glass, this was a beer with a large head and some carbonation. The aromas were of malts and grains. In the mouth I felt bread, some bitterness and a hint of sweetness before a grainy finish.

This beer was less sweet this time around, but it will not be a common guest in my fridge. I prefer other pale lagers. The price is also high. At about 45 NOK, which is 4.50 GBP, I prefer buying for instance Czech lagers like Pilsner Urquell, Bernard or Budvar. These beers are usually priced below 30 NOK for a half litre can or bottle.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Czech pub guides

Last week two new pub guides to the Czech Republic were released. Both are e-books, and one is a guide to pubs and bars in Prague, while the other presents watering holes for beer drinkers in Brno.

Alistair Reece used to live in Prague. These days the man behind the beer blog Fuggled has moved to the United States. In his Pocket Pub Guide to Prague, Velky Al presents his 40 best places to get a beer in the Czech capital. The e-book is available through, and more information can be found on the guide's own web page.
Brno Now is a web page in English commited to the largest city in Moravia. Now the Brno Now people have published what they call a guide to beer, pubs and alehouses in Brno. You can find more information about the guide here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oktoberfest beers

Oktoberfest has been tempting me for years. I have wanted to go to Munich to be part of the festivities, but so far it has not been possible. Next year there will be a new opportunity, and if everything goes well I can sit in one of the tents at Theresienwiese enjoying schweinehaxe with sauerkraut and a Oktoberfestbier or three.

Fortunately the Oktoberfest beers are available outside Germany, so it is possible for us not attending to try the different beers. Here in Norway well stocked bars can have some of the beers available, but you will not find them in supermarkets and shops. Due to their strength at about 6% alcohol, these beers could only be sold at the state owned Vinmonopolet outlets. This year I have not seen any bottles in the Vinmonopolet shops I visit, and Oktoberfest beers are not among the 15 German beers in the web catalogue.

A short trip to Sweden made several Oktoberfest beers available to me, as the Swedish alcohol outlet Systembolaget sells several of them during Autumn. Here I will review some of these beers.

Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier was sold with several cartoony labels. In the glass this was a pale lager with some carbonation and a large head. There was fruit and yeast in the nose, while the taste was malty with hints of bread and yeast before a fruity finish. I liked this beer quite a lot, but with a strength of over 6% alcohol it could never become a session beer.

I liked Spaten Oktoberfestbier even more. In the nose there was fruit and sweetness, and the fruitiness was also present in the mouth. It had notes of apple and biscuit before a nice finish with a hint of hops. This was another pale lager that felt sessionable, but at 5.8% alcohol I can see that it would be better to stop after a litre glass or two. Spaten's Oktoberfestbier was also fullbodied and a nice treat.

Weltenburger Kloster Festbier had a coppery look. It had a large head and some carbonation. The aromas were of fruit and burntness. In taste this was a typical Baviarian style beer with a combination of caramel, a hint of toffee and the burnt notes. I liked this beer as well, but Spaten's effort was my favourite among these beers.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Some beers in Bergen

This week I ended up doing a pub crawl in Bergen. My plan was to start at one of the bars I usually never attend. Not far from Torgallmenningen I found Scotsman. This is British themed pub with a young following. If you want to see a football game, Scotsman is a place that always will show Premier League or Champions League.

There were no beers for me that evening at Scotsman. The pub had not opened yet, so I walked on. It was probably a good thing to do. The Heineken tap I saw through the window did not tempt me.

About a hundred metres from Scotsman, an Irish themed pub is located. Straight across the Bergen theatre Den nationale Scene, you will find Finnegan's. Inside this is a typical pub, but there is also outdoor seeting. Due to the ban on smoking indoors at Norwegian bars and restaurants, this is where you find the smokers. Usually this is a great place to sit down. Blankets are available to keep yourself warm, and there are also outdoor ovens.

I went in to have a beer, but turned around and walked on. From tap there was Hansa lager, Guinness, Kilkenny and Murphy's Red. I like a pint of stout now and then, but I was not in the mood that night.

From Finnegan's you can see towards Henrik, which is a must for people interested in beer. Sure, you can drink draughted Kilkenny, Guinness or pale lagers like Carlsberg or Frydenlund there, but what lures me in are several Nøgne Ø beers on tap. This week you could drink Nøgne Ø's Christmas beer Special Holiday Ale. This was one of my favourites last year, but I tried another beer from the Nøgne Ø taps. It was marked with a Friends of Nøgne Ø label, and there I found BrewDog's Punk IPA. I liked it in the beginning, and enjoyed the scents of grapefruit. In the mouth there was more grapefruit and a hint of pepper before a bitter finish. I liked the first sips better than the last ones, but in the end I felt this was a much too bitter beer for me.

After Henrik I went to another of my favourite haunts in Bergen, Naboen.

At Naboen there is a good selection of draught beers, and I set my eyes on a new addition to the beer lineup: A metallic plate introducing Oppigårds from Sweden.

Oppigårds Indian Tribute was a nice IPA. In the nose there was lemon. The beer had a full body with tastes of lemon, toffee and a hint of bread. This was a lovely beer with some lovely bitterness. I liked it! I also tried Kinn's Austkyst, which is a British styled IPA. It was not a good experience with a lousy aroma and a dominant taste of pine. The Vestkyst IPA from Kinn is a much better beer.

The evening had a final stop at Kontoret. I enjoyed draught beers from Ægir there. I did not make any tasting notes, but Ægir's Rallarøl was an excellent night cap.

Monday, November 8, 2010

At the pharmacy

In some countries the best bars and pubs are often found outside the city centres. A special pub with a spectacular atomosphere and great beers can be placed in the suburban neighbourhoods where many people live. In Norway it is not like that. Because of the strict Norwegian alcohol laws, bars and pubs are found in the city centres, and very seldom you can find a place where alcohol is sold in the suburbs.

If you take the Bergen Light Rail southwards to the the Danmarks plass tram stop, you are in the outskirts of the city centre of Bergen. There are two bars in the area. One of them, Krohns, used to be called Danmarkskroen and was then a real boozer. Today it is just another bar with no atmosphere, bland local Hansa lager, TV screens and the occational football game. My advice would be to walk around the block to Bien.

Once upon a time Bien was a pharmacy. These days the pharmacy interior is kept, and the owners have made the place into a bar. It is interesting to sit there looking at the old shelves and the odd medicine bottles. Bien is a bar with soul, and I like sitting there enjoying myself.

There is also a kitchen, so lunch and dinner can be bought at moderate prices for a Norwegian eatery. And if you like quizzes in Norwegian, there is a quiz evening once a week.

Unfortunately, the available beers at Bien leave something to desire. From tap there are only beers from Hansa brewery. You can have Hansa's pale lager or the bayer (Bavarian style). There are also various Erdinger wheat beers from bottles, but these beers are not among the better weissbier beers nor best from bottle. If the proprietors at Bien would listen to me, I would tell them to get a bigger and more interesting draught beer selection. The room and the atmosphere is very good, but the beers are not top notch.

I have reviewed Hansa's bayer before, and it is still one of the Bergen brewery's better beers. At Bien it is served in 0.4 litre glasses at 58 NOK, which is about 6 GBP. In the glass the bayer has a tiny head but an average amount of carbonation. There are some caramel aromas from the beer, and in the mouth there is a combination of caramel, toffee and a touch of malt before a bitter and watery finish. This is a nice beer compared to most Norwegian macro beers.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Kontoret news

If you are looking for craft beer on tap in Bergen, Kontoret is one of the pubs to be considered. It is placed in the city centre more or less next to the Den blå steinen sculpture, and it is therefore easy to find. Kontoret has a large selection of bottled beers, and for the last year it has also offered beers from the little Ægir brewery on tap.

In addition to draughted Ægir, it is also possible to drink the local Hansa pale lager, Murphy's stout and Old Speckeled Hen from tap. Of the last three mentioned, I prefer the latter. Old Speckeled Hen has a nice creamy texture, and I like its hints of caramel and toffee.

Lately Kontoret has introduced another tap. It is supposed to be a rotating tap, so customers will never know which beer to find. On my last visits I have been drinking both BrewDog's 5 AM Saint and Ægir's Rakfiskøl. As far as I know, this is the first bar in Bergen to offer a beer from BrewDog on tap. 5 AM Saint was a red beer with a nice aroma of hops and peaches. In the mouth there were more peaches before a bitter finish. I liked this beer, but I felt Ægir's Rakfiskøl was more interesting. It is an altbier made to go with the traditional Norwegian rakfisk dish. It is a copper coloured beer with a fruity aroma. In the mouth there is pear before a watery finish with a hint of apple. This was a great session beer, and I feel it would be a nice companion to other fish courses like smoked salmon or mackerel.

Kontoret is a pub that is not to be forgotten in Bergen. Although Naboen and Henrik have more taps and a bigger selection in draught beers, a special and interesting beer on Kontoret's rotating tap will make it a place to be checked out now and then.