Thursday, December 31, 2009

New kid on the block

A new Norwegian craft brewery has been started in Florø in western Norway. The little Kinn brewery had its first batches of beer ready for sale earlier this month. According to the brewery's website, the first beers are two Christmas beers (Julefred 4.7% and 6.5%) and Pilegrim, a pale ale with 4.7% alcohol.

As I visited Naboen during the Christmas days, the excellent Bergen pub had started selling draughted Pilegrim. It is available on the new handpump replacing the Haandbryggeriet beers that were available there earlier this year. Of course, I had to try out this new beer.

Pilegrim Pale Ale is a cloudy amber beer with a lasting, medium sized head. In the nose there are hints of hops, but otherwise very little aroma. The beer is medium bodied, and the hoppyness follows through in the mouth. The aftertaste is very bitter, and I feel it should have been more balanced. Still, it is the first attempt from Kinn brewery, and it is a qualified effort. I am looking forward to trying more of the brewery's beers, but right now Norwegian craft brewers like Nøgne Ø, Haandbryggeriet and Ægir have better offers than Pilegrim from Kinn. And of course: Kudos to Naboen for making a new beer from a new brewery available.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best beer experience in 2009

This year has been a great year for beers. I have tasted many good brews, and I have been able to taste them in various European countries. There are several moments that stand out. Among others I had a very good time in Brno and Prague visiting many great pubs. The visit at Pegas in Brno was very special, and I also enjoyed spending a day with Pivní Filosof at U Medvidku in Prague trying great beers like X33 and OldGott Barique.

It was a hot summer in 2009, and drinking wheat beers and cold lager beers in France are good memories. Trying Haandbryggeriet's IPA from a hand pump at Naboen in Bergen, Norway was also a good experience. The same goes for the many visits I had at U Prince Miroslava in Prague tasting various excellent beers.

But in retrospect, I feel the best beer experience I had in 2009 was at my second visit to the Autumn Tasting (or Oktoberfest) in Prague. It was arranged in a beer tent near the Pankrac metro station.

The first visit was OK, although I did not like the way the band's music was played at high volume. The second time the band was replaced by a duo playing accordion and cornet. The atmosphere was much better, and it looked as if people really enjoyed themselves.

I had a couple of very good beers, but my main reason for feeling this was the best beer experience has to do with the people I were there with: Some nice Czech friends. We had a great evening together, and the social aspect with experiencing something with others, a nice ambience in the beer tent and good beer made it a great beer experience. I hope to repeat it next year at The Czech Beer Festival in May.

Best of 2009: Beer blogs

There are many beer blogs out there, and many of them gives me interesting reading. Week after week I find myself using some time reading what other beer bloggers have on their mind, and I really enjoy using this time.

Most beer blogs that I follow write about places and beers that I have possibilities to know better. Therefore there are a lot of good American beer blogs that I miss out on. But I read some of them now and then. But I like going to the Czech Republic, and bloggers like Velky Al and Evan Rail have given me information about beers and pubs that have made my Prague trips more interesting. Evan Rail's blog has been one of my favourites, as he is an knowledgable writer with interesting views. His blog has not been updated for nearly three months, and that unfortunately makes his blog slip out from my nominees.

Before I do the countdown, I would like to thank Knut Albert, Boak & Bailey, The Beer Nut, Velky Al and Seen Through A Glass for doing good work. I really like your blogs. I also send out a nod to Girl Likes Beer for her different form of blogging with videos.

Let's go to the nominees:

- Shut Up About Barclay Perkins
- Cooking Lager
- Pivní Filosof

Ronald Pattinson lives in Amsterdam and shares his knowledge about beers on Shut Up About Barclay Perkins by posting tasting notes, comments and most important of all: Extended tables with brewing records and recipes. His blog is a great source for such information, and it is also a great read.

Cooking Lager is the odd one out in the beer blogging community. This British based blogger shares his love for cheap brews while also sharing great knowledge in beers and beer styles. His blog can be read in many ways, and I see it as both a great parody of other beer blogs and as a salutation to beer as a drink. It is also something to drink while thirsty! Check out Cooking Lager's blog and get yourself some laughs.

Pivní Filosof posts from Prague, and he shares his love for Czech beers and food with beer reviews and the occational food recipe. He is also writing about various pubs and restaurants and pubs, and his website has become a major source on where to drink (and sometimes eat) while in Prague. This is an excellent blog, that also is available in Spanish.

And the winner is:

- Pivní Filosof

Monday, December 28, 2009

Best of 2009: Best Norwegian bar

This category will absolutely be based on the bars and restaurants I visited in 2009. Many Norwegian cities were not visited by me, so I will be very thankful for comments where I really should have gone. This especially goes for pubs in Oslo, as I only was in the Norwegian capital once in 2009.

But still it was not difficult finding three great places that ought to be able to compete for the best Norwegian bar in 2009. Let's have a drumroll for these three nominees:

- Bar Barista, Bergen
- Bryggerikaia, Bodø
- Naboen, Bergen

All places are great places to visit, but one place is really great and feels like an English local pub - but with a twist. The atmosphere was what hit me the first time I entered Bar Barista. It is a very enjoyable place to be, even though the place is small. At the first times, there were no draught beers at the pub, but Bar Barista offered various beers from the Bergen brewery Hansa in cans and bottles. These days Hansa is to be history at Bar Barista, and the bar sells the Spanish lager San Miguel from draught. There are also bottled beers from the Norwegian Ægir craft brewery. I would love to see some extra draught beers at Bar Barista, and it would be an even better place for beer interested people. The atmosphere is there, and I hope they will keep it.

It is not the atmosphere that is the big thing about Bryggerikaia in Bodø. The pub has its own microbrewery, and the beers brewed there are on the menu. I liked Bryggerikaia, and the location on the wharf was a big plus. This is a must for travellers to Bodø.

Naboen has been good at having a varied beer menu. This year they have installed more taps, and beers like Heineken and Newcastle Brown Ale have been replaced by interesting brews from Norwegian craft breweries like Haandbryggeriet, Nøgne Ø and Ægir. This is also a place with a nice atmosphere, and I enjoy visiting.

But which pub is my winner, then?

- Naboen

Best of 2009: Ales

There have been several ales on my menu both this year and earlier years. I went a lot to the UK in nineties, and have had my share of various bitters. I am also fond of stouts, and the occational pale ale also makes it way into my fridge at times.

Here in Norway it is easy to find Guinness, Kilkenny, Newcastle Brown Ale and Bombardier in ordinary supermarkets. Better stocked supermarkets and shops may also offer bottles of Brakspear, Spitfire, Old Speckeled Hen or Whitstable Bay. You can also find the occational bottle of Nøgne Ø's beers that have a alcohol content below 4.7%. At Vinomopolet the selection is better, and various ales from breweries like Nøgne Ø, Haandbryggeriet and Ægir is available. In my opinion, Vinmonopolet is the place to visit if you want to buy ales in Norway.

It was a difficult task choosing the three nominees in this category, but here goes:

- Primátor Stout
- Haandbryggeriet IPA
- Special Holiday Ale (Nøgne Ø)

The stout from the Czech Primátor brewery was a sensation when I first tried it on tap at the U Prince Miroslava pub in Prague. This is an excellent stout, and a great tasting beer that I hope will find its way out of the Czech Republic. I would really like to drink it here in Norway as well.

Haandbryggeriet's IPA was a great find when I tried it at Naboen in Bergen. It was draughted and served from a hand pump. The beer was delicious and had a fabulous taste with flavours of pears and apples.

Nøgne Ø's Special Holiday Ale was also a sensation. I have only tried it from bottles, and I liked the rich flavours, the balanced sweetness and fullbodiness of the beer. I hope I will find another bottle soon, as this was a beer I would love to try again.

But here is the winner:

- Haandbryggeriet IPA

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Best of 2009: Wheat beers

It is time to take a look at another beer style that I have been very fond of this year. Wheat beers taste different than lagers, but the richness in flavour in some of them give me something extra. In addition to this they are great thirst quenchers in warm weather.

I have had my share of the Belgian Hoegaarden this year, and while in The Netherlands I tried Wieckse Witte. Hoegaarden is a very good beer, and I appreciate the citrus notes. Here in Norway wheat beers like Erdinger and Paulaner is easily found at the state owned Vinmonopolet shops. I have also had my share of Paulaner, as I feel it is the best of the German wheat beers available over here.

OK, let's get to the nominees then:

- Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier
- Franziskaner Weissbier
- Primátor Weizen

I have written about Paulaner earlier on this blog, and it is a personal favourite. While in Spain I came across Franziskaner Weissbier in cans, and I liked it a lot. It is better than the Erdinger wheat beers, and I would like to try it again - and also as a draught beer. The Primátor Weizen is another personal favourite, and I have been drinking it in the Czech Republic both from bottles and from tap.

But which is the best Wheat beer of 2009? Well, I guess there is a Czech victor also in this category:

- Primátor Weizen

A great beer and a deserved winner!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Best of 2009: Dark lagers

I have tried some dark lagers this year, but far less than the amount of pale lagers. This category should normally include various German beers, but as I have not been to Germany in 2009 I believe that some major contenders are disqualified this time around. And that also includes one of my favourite dark lagers: The Czech Kout na Šumavě 18° dark lager that unfortunately was not available at U Slovanské Lípi when I visited Prague in October.

Still, I have found three nominees:

- Kout na Šumavě 14°
- Naboen Bayer
- Oldgott Barique

Naboen Bayer is a Norwegian beer sold at the Naboen pub in Bergen. This is brewed for Naboen at an undisclosed brewery from Naboen's own recipe. It is a great dark lager beer in the Bavarian style, and I am very fond of it. The two other nominees are Czech beers. Oldgott Barique is dark amber in colour and full of taste. It is best from tap, and as such it is only available from the U Medvídků restaurant in Prague. Kout na Šumavě 14° dark lager is also a great beer, and it is one of the better dark lagers I have tried. Compared to the widely available Czech Kozel beer, Kozel has more or less nothing to compete with.

And my winner is:

- Oldgott Barique

Best of 2009: Pale lagers

Inspired by other beer bloggers like Fuggled, Pivni Filosof and Knut Albert, I will also present my Best of 2009 lists. I have decided to use these categories:

Best Pale lager of 2009
Best Dark lager of 2009
Best Wheat beer of 2009
Best Ale of 2009
Best Norwegian bar of 2009
Best Blog of 2009
Best Beer Experience of 2009

All of this is highly subjective and the winners are of course based on what beers I actually drank in 2009. I have been to Norway, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, The Netherlands and Spain this year, and that will of course colour what beers I nominee. There will be no American IPAs from draught among my winners, nor will beer styles like kölsch or gose be represented. After this disclaimer, let's get started with the first category: Best pale lager of 2009.

Most of the beers I drink are pale lagers, and I get more quality based when I choose which lager to drink. Here in Norway I used to drink a lot of Hansa Pils, but these days I almost never buy it. Instead I go for imported lager beers, and usually these are Czech beers.

This year I have spent several weeks in the Czech Republic, and I have tried many pale lagers - both from tap and bottles. All my nominees are Czech lagers, as I feel that these are the best three pale lagers I have been drinking i 2009:

- Moravský Sklepní Nefiltrované (Černá Hora brewery)
- Pilsner Urquell (unpasteurized tankovna version)
- Kout na Šumavě 12° (unfiltered version)

I have tried all these three beers from tap, and my winner is:

Kout na Šumavě 12° (unfiltered version)

This is a delicious lager beer that I have tried time and time again at the U Slovanské Lípi hospoda in Prague. U Slovanské Lípi used to be the only place in Prague to sell beers from Kout na Šumavě, but these days you can drink them also at other places like the restaurant in The Dancing House or the U Sadu pub.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

It is Christmas Day, and here at Beer Sagas we would like to wish all readers of this blog a very Merry Christmas.

With Christmas there are also the traditional Christmas beers. Here in Norway the strongest beers are sold at the state owned liquor outlet, Vinmonopolet. There are also beers that are available in supermarkets and shops, but these beers have less than 4.7% alcohol. I have written about some of this year's weaker Christmas beers in this post.

Most Norwegian breweries make Christmas beers, and the beers from the largest breweries are usually available in 0.33 litre bottles. I have tried some of them, and my favourite among the Norwegian Christmas beers from the macros is Aass brewery's Premium Juleøl. This is a fullbodied, sweet delight with fruity aromas both in the nose and in the mouth. A great beer at 9% alcohol that made me think of the supreme X33 beer I tried at U Medvidku in Prague earlier this year.

The craft breweries also have their offerings available at Vinmonopolet. I have seen both Nissefar and Nissemor from Haandbryggeriet, and my bottle of Nissefar is waiting for consumption. Nøgne Ø has had several beers for sale this Christmas. The traditional Christmas beers God Jul and Underlig Jul have been supplemented by the Special Holiday Ale, which is a collaboration between Nøgne Ø and two American breweries. I have had two bottles of this beer in November, and it was a truly good beer.

Unfortunately I never made any tasting notes, and since late November this excellent beer has not been available in any of the Vinmonopolet outlets I have visited. Some outlets are also out of Underlig Jul and God Jul. I have tried a bottle of Underlig Jul. It was quite enjoyable, but it was not as good as Special Holiday Ale.

And what are my opinions on God Jul then? Well, it is also a good beer, but when I drank it head to head with Special Holiday Ale it fell through. That says a lot about Special Holiday Ale, as God Jul is an excellent beer as well. In the glass Nøgne Ø's God Jul is a very dark fullbodied beer with no carbonation. The head is offwhite and small. The beer has a sweet nose. There is some caramel and hints of coffee. In the mouth there is some cloves. The aftertaste makes the hops kick in, and it is somewhat bitter but also some sweetness. I really like this beer, but it is a beer to be enjoyed in small sips with its 8.5% alcohol.

Ægir brewery of Flåm is also supposed to be available at Vinmonopolet. I have not found it so far in bottles, but the Kontoret pub in Bergen sells it on tap right now together with among others Old Speckeled Hen. Ægir Juleøl has a cloudy amber colour in the glass. There is a large head, but there is very little carbonation. The beer feels balanced with some sweetness and bitterness in the aftertaste. It is a good beer, and in the mouth it also has hints of honey. I would not consider this a Christmas beer, but it is labelled as one. The price? 106 NOK at Kontoret, which is about 12 EUR or 12 GBP.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

More wheat

Erdinger's Dunkel Weissbier has been waiting for me at the local Vinmonopolet outlet for some time. It was time to try it out, so I took home a bottle. Poured into the glass, there was a lot of carbonation, and the beer got an enormous head. The colour was very brown, almost black.

Like the other Erdinger beers I have tried, the nose was really anonymous. This Dunkel had some malts, but otherwise there was nearly no aroma. In the mouth there are some burnt notes together with malt and hints of coffee. The aftertaste is watery. In all this is another boring beer from Erdinger. There is little taste and little to get excited about.

I also had a bottle of Paulaner's hefeweien. This is another cloudy wheat beer, but the head is smaller and there is no carbonation. It has a much more interesting nose with sweetness, yeast and a hint of bread. The bread and yeast are also in the mouth, but the sweetness is balanced by some bitterness. The body is much more solid than the three offerings from Erdinger, and this is the best of the four beer. And one more thing: This is the real thing! A tasty wheatbeer!

I am not sure if it is the best weizen I have tried. I liked the Franziskaner wheat beer I tried from can in Spain earlier this year, but I have not compared it head to head with Paulaner's hefeweizen. And then there is the excellent Primator weizen from the Czech Republic. A great beer as well!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

German wheat

There are several variants of Erdinger wheat beer available in Norway. Some supermarkets sell Erdinger Champ, while Erdinger Weissbier and Erdinger Schneeweisse is available at the state owned wine and spirits outlet, Vinmonopolet. I wanted to try some of the Erdinger beers at home and ended up buying two 0.33 litre bottles of Champ and a half litre bottle of Weissbier.

I started with Champ. It has a cloudy look. In the glass it comes with a small head that dissolvess quickly. There is nearly nothing to be felt in the nose - only a hint of yeast. In the mouth the beer is boring and feels thinbodied and watery. The yeasty notes are there together with hints of banana and malt, and the banana stays through the aftertaste. All in all this is an uninteresting beer. "Mild und pur" says the label. I can agree on the mild part. This beer is so mild that it is more or less bland.

The weissbier is as cloudy as Champ, but it looks a little more amber. The head is higher, and it also stays for a longer time than Champ's. The nose is more or less the same. There is some yeast, but that is all. The weissbier has a fuller body than Champ, but it is still quite thinbodied. There is a bready taste to it with notes of bananas. The beer is more interesting than Champ, but I feel that it is quite unremarkable.

I have been drinking some other wheat beers this year, and they were much more interesting than Erdinger Champ and Erdinger weissbier. The Czech Primator weizen comes immediately to mind, but also the Paulaner weissbier. I guess I will avoid these Erdinger beers in the future, but I am willing to give the weissbier a chance as a draught beer.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dutch intermezzo

It is not unusual to end up at Amsterdam's airport Schiphol. The Dutch KLM Airlines use Schiphol as a hub, and a lot of European flights go through this airport.

Earlier this year I had a stopover at Schiphol. The airport has its share of sights including a small branch of the Dutch national museum. The airport is always sizzling with people, so if you like cafe life and people watching, then this place is for you.

As always a bar is interesting for a beer interested person like me. Therefore I ended up at what seemed like a great place, Het Paleis.

Het Paleis has an impressing collection of bottles. One wall is full of them, and it would be an interesting task to taste all available beverages, but I was there to try some beers.

The main beer was something special: A 0 degree Heineken. This is a version of Heineken's pale lager that is supposed to be served and drunk at freezing temperatures in a glass taken directly from the freezer. I felt that the novelty was the big thing here. The beer itself was nearly tasteless. But I must confess something: It stopped my thirst.

Also on tap at Het Paleis was Palm, a Belgian ale. This was more to my liking. A coppery beer with a small whitish head was put it front of me. It tasted nice with malty notes, some caramel and hints of sweetness. Actually, it was so good that I ordered it again and left the Heineken lager behind. Both beers were priced at 5 EUR, and I also had a shot of oude genever, which cost 3.50 EUR.

Right before it was time to board my next flight, I noticed that there was a bar next to the gate. I sat down at this Constellation bar and ordered the witbier they had on tap.

Wieckse Witte was a cloudy beer with a medium sized head. The beer was full of citrus notes, and I felt it was refreshing. I have been drinking a lot of Hoegaarden this year, but I feel that Wieckse Witte can not beat the Belgian witbier. Instead it is a nice alternative if Hoegaarden is not to be found.

As I went to my flight I felt that Schiphol is not a bad airport, but I would like to see better beers available from tap in the bars. The tax free shops were not better in their offerings. The only beers available there were Heineken and Grolsch. But then again: I do not think people travel to Schiphol to drink beer.

Friday, December 4, 2009

December in Prague

Last December I spent nearly a week in Prague. I am very fond of the Czech capital, and being there right before Christmas was very special.

Christmas markets are a typical sight during Advent in Prague. I visited several markets, and there was a lot to be seen there. The markets at Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square and Andel seemed to be the biggest ones, but I also liked the smaller ones at Namesti Miru and Namesti Jiriho z Podebrad.

First of all you can find Christmas related merchandise. If you need mistletoe to your living room, it is easy to pick up at the markets together with various types of handicrafts.

There is no need to go around hungry at the Christmas markets.

Sausages can be bought more or less everywhere, and if you need something warm in the December cold, mulled wine is a great drink.

I also tried trdlo, which is a Czech pastry with cinnamon and sugar. Children are very fond of it, but I felt it was much too sweet.

And there were also beers to be found. I found the most interesting one at the Christmas market next to the Jiriho z Podebrad metro. There they had a beer tent where they sold excellent brew.

Which beer, then? None other than the fabulous Kout na Šumavě lager. If they have the beer tent in front of the church this year as well, check it out. If not, take the trip down the hill to Tachovske namesti and visit U Slovanske Lipy. This is one of the few pubs in Prague to offer this excellent lager beer. And the beer is worth the walk!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Christmas in Copenhagen

The calendar says December, and it is time for advent. Usually I spend at least one of the December weekends abroad, but this year there is no time for it. Therefore I will take you back two years in time to my pre-Christmas visit to Copenhagen.

Town Hall Square

The Danish capital is one of my favourite places to visit, and I was not disappointed from seeing Copenhagen in December. The place felt like December. Christmas decorations were more or less everywhere, and a chilly wind made an extra plus to the Winter feeling.

Christmas at Tivoli.

I started the day by having a Danish breakfast at one of the many pubs (or kro, as the Danish say). Eggs and bacon were great, and I also hade a draughted Tuborg pale lager to wash it down with. Tuborg tastes the best in Denmark, but these days I prefer other lager beers to it. A nice, little glass of Danish aquavit was also part of my breakfast.

I went the tourist route and walked through Strøget, the main shopping area. There are always something to look at there no matter what season it is.

A great advertisment for Tuborg beer. The text on the sign
means "kissing place". Note the mistletoe!

Here and there you can find stands where you can buy a fast snack. Care for some hot dogs or hot almonds? You can find it somewhere together with beer or some mulled wine.

If you walk from the town hall through Strøget, you end up at Nyhavn. On the harbour front you can find a traditional Christmas market.

Local food, handicraft, beers and more mulled wine are for sale. And there is even more to look at. Or perhaps you want to trek inside and have a beer there. No problem! The area around Nyhavn is full of pubs, bars and restaurants.

But tasting notes? Not this time around. But I hope the pictures give you an idea of Copenhagen in December. A nice place to be, but do not forget to bring a coat!