Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brown island

Brown Ales can be very good beers. I have had my share of Newcastle Brown Ale, so I was expecting something entirely different when I found a bottle of Nøgne Ø's Brown Ale at a supermarket. Many of the Nøgne Ø beers have been to my liking, and I was looking forward to trying it.

In the glass the Brown Ale is a dark beer with a medium sized tanned head. There is nearly no carbonation. In the nose there are burnt notes and also some caramel. The burnt notes are distinct in the mouth, while the caramel more or less steps to the side. There is also some bitterness before coffee leads off in the aftertaste.

I liked this medium bodied beer, and I feel it is one of the better beers among Nøgne Ø's offers with a lower alcohol content.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Norwegian brewpub

Although the Bryggerikaia brewpub in Bodø is not brewing beers at the moment, there are other brewpubs in Norway. Not too many, but if you visit the biggest cities you should have a chance to find one. Oslo has Oslo Mikrobryggeri and Bergen has Kalfaret brygghus. There are among others also brewpubs at Lillehammer and in the little village Flåm in the fjord district.

This month I visited Trondheim, and in the city centre Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri can be found. Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri has the same owners as Oslo Mikrobryggeri. Outside there are possibilities for outdoors seating, but the freezing Norwegian Winter temperatures makes this not tempting. Inside, Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri has a large room on the ground floor with a large bar in the middle of the room.

Nearly all beers sold at Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri are brewed at the premises. The day I visited the most popular beer was the brewery's pale lager, Trondhjemspils, which is unfortunately a quite ordinary beer. In addition to this the brewpub also sold a porter, a bitter, a stout, an amber, a bayer and an IPA. Beers are sold in several measures, but they are also available in taster glasses which cost 15 NOK for 0.1 litre.

I decided to take a taster glass of all available beers, and after five minutes I was served seven glasses of beers in several colours. The first beer I tasted was the porter. It was upper fermented and black in colour. In the nose there were hints of coffee, and in the mouth the coffee was still there. The beer was thin bodied and felt watery. It had some caramel in the aftertaste. The beer had 4.5% alcohol and all in all I felt it was somewhat boring.

Next beer out was the bitter. It had very little aroma, but I liked the consistence of the beer. Tastewise it did not impress me. There was not much flavour except for some hops in the aftertaste. Another boring beer, unfortunately.

I then tried the stout, It was black with a small head. The nose had some coffee and roastedness. In the mouth the coffee was to the fore, but it felt somewhat watery. A good beer, but at 5.5% alcohol I had hoped for more taste in it.

Then it was time for the amber. It had a great, amber (sic!) colour and nice aromas of fruit. In the mouth the fruit was kicking with tastes of apples and peaches dominating. The aftertaste was somewhat bitter, but in all a balanced beer that I liked a lot. This beer had 5.5% alcohol.

Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri's Baviarian style beer, Bayer, had a nice copper colour. In the glass there was nearly no head, but a lot of carbonation. I felt the beer was watery and with little taste. Another boring beer.

The last beer I tried was the IPA. It was a pale beer with little aroma. In the mouth it was something else. Hops and bitterness gave it a nice bite, but an exciting feeling of pears followed by more hops in the aftertaste made this IPA a nice experience. I liked this beer best of all the beers I had at Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri, so I enjoyed an American pint of it afterwards. The 0.45 litre of IPA was priced at 57 NOK, which is nearly 7 EUR or slightly more than 6 GBP.

It liked being able to visit Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri, and I will be back if I return to Trondheim. The beers were nice, but I felt that other Norwegian breweries have better beers to offer. The IPA is beaten by the IPAs from both Haandbryggeriet and Ægir, and Hansa and Aass make better bayers than Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri. But the beers here are better than most of what is brewed at the local macro brewery in Trondheim, E. C. Dahl.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Anniversary beer

The Norwegian Nøgne Ø brewery has several styles among the brewery's various beers. One of them is the anniversary beer, Nøgne Ø #100. This was a beer brewed as their batch number 100.

Nøgne Ø #100 has a deep, dark colour. It is nearly black. There is little carbonation and it builds a little and tanned head. In the nose there is some sweetness. I also find some hops, prunes and hints of chocolate.

In the mouth the prunes and bitterness fight with a touch of coffee. Lovely! In the aftertaste Nøgne Ø #100 stands out as a tasty and balanced beer.

Nøgne Ø #100 is a great beer, but I would love it more fullbodied. It is also strong with 10% alcohol.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Back on the quay

If you want to have beer in the city centre of Bodø, there are several bars and restaurants to visit. One of them is Bryggerikaia, which is perfectly located next to the wharf. Bryggerikaia used to advert that it was the only brewery in Bodø. In June I was at the brewpub twice to check out the beers brewed there. When I visited, there were no beers available in the brewpub. I was therefore hoping for a new chance to check out Bryggerikaia's beers when I was in Bodø earlier this month.

Once again I was disappointed. The cute and friendly waitress could tell me that the brewer has moved from Bodø and that all the brewery equipment is not in use at the moment. She then showed me a corner of the pub where I could see some of the brewing tanks.

According to the waitress, the management at Bryggerikaia hope to start brewing again, but they do not know when. In the meantime Bryggerikaia sells draughted beers from the Mack brewery of Tromsø. Mack is according to their advertising the most northern brewery in the world, and on tap I could see their Arctic Beer, a pilsner, a Bayer, Haakon special beer and a seasonal beer. I like Arctic Beer, so I used the opportunity to try it again.

Mack's Arctic Beer is a pale lager. It was served with much carbonation and a medium sized head. The beer has a flowery aroma with some malts. In the mouth the malt takes the lead with some hops and grains in the aftertaste. Arctic Beer is a very good lager, and I would like to recommend it among Norwegian pale lagers. The price at Bryggerikaia is 69 NOK, slightly more than 6.50 EUR or 6 GBP. If you want bottled beers, Bryggerikaia also sells Corona, Grolsch or Carlsberg.

I hope Bryggerikaia will get back to brewing their own beers. The pub is a very nice place to visit, and I would like to return there.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Even more airport beers

North of the Arctic circle, you will find Bodø. Bodø is one of the largest cities in the northern part of Norway, but with slightly more than 46,000 inhabitants it is not a large town. Bodø is home to the largest air force base in Norway, and the Norwegian armed forces and Bodø University College just outside the city centre are the biggest employers in the area.

In addition to the Bodø Main Air Station, there is also an airport in Bodø next to the airforce base. Bodø airport is located five minutes by taxi from the city centre, and it has a nice little terminal building.

Inside the building the departure area is on the ground floor. Here you can check in and drop your baggage. Up the stairs from departures, you can go through the security control. But, if you want to have a beer, you might wait for a while. Alcoholic beverages are not sold in the waiting hall after the security control, so if you want a beer you need to turn right after the stairs and enter Bodø Aktiebryggeri.

Bodø Aktiebryggeri means Bodø Brewery Ltd, but it is not a brewery pub. Instead it is a normal pub serving beverages and some light snacks. I had a large portion of nachos with salsa and sour cream. Nice stuff, but not very filling. The name Bodø Aktiebryggeri comes from a brewery that once existed in Bodø.

Among the beers available from tap you can find Guinness and Ringnes Lite. Ringnes Lite is not to be confused with lettøl (light beer), which is a Norwegian beer with low alcohol content. Instead Ringnes Lite is a beer with a lower calory count. In my opinion, this is also a beer with lower taste as well. If you want a diet drink, then Ringnes Lite might be an alternative. But so is also water.

There is also draughted lager beers like Carlsberg and Nordlandspils at Bodø Aktiebryggeri. Carlsberg is brewed on licence in Norway by Ringnes, and it is not among my favorite beers available in Norway. Nordlandspils used to be Bodø's own beer, but after Nordlandsbryggeriet brewery was bought by Ringnes, the production was moved from Bodø to Trondheim.

Nordlandspils is served in a 0.6 litre glass at 89 NOK. The beer is a pale lager with some carbonation and a small head. The nose is flowery with hints of fruit. In the mouth there is a hint of sweetness, malts and more flowers in a thinbodied beer. The aftertaste is bittery, but it balances the sweetness very well. I feel it is an OK Norwegian lager, and it is better from tap than from cans.

I liked Bodø Aktiebryggeri, but I feel that the airport needs a pub also on the other side of the security check. The way it is now, you can only find a Narvesen stand with books, magazines, soft drinks and snacks. If my flight was postponed, I would hate to have gone through the security check and not being able to have a beer or two while waiting for my plane to departure.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

More airport beers

If you travel to Norway on a plane, most visitors enter the country through Oslo's airport Gardermoen. Gardermoen is the largest airport in Norway, and the second largest in Scandinavia.

Gardermoen's terminal building is built nearly as a long in-door street with gates on both sides along the way. There are several shops in the building as well. The airport is divided into an international and a domestic section.

All passengers have access to the domestic section, but you need to go through the duty free shop to get to the international section. This shop is by the way the largest tax free shop in Europe.

There are twenty restaurants or eateries on the airport. Among others you can find sausage stands, a seafood restaurant, an Italian restaurant and a Pizza Hut.

In the domestic section you can find O'Learys. O'Learys calls itself a "real American sportsbar", and is part of a Swedish chain with franchises in Scandinavia and Singapore. It is a typical bar with various beverages available with various American snacks and courses. I can recommend their large hamburgers and fries.

O'Learys have five different beers on tap. Like in most Norwegian airports Ringnes and Carlsberg are available. Here these pale lager beers are supplemented by draughted Kilkenny and Guinness. There is also Stella Artois on tap, and they also sell various bottled beers.

Guinness is still one of my favourite stouts. It was the first stout I ever tasted, and it is widely available in cans all over Norway. I am very fond of its creamy textures and coffee notes, and I really enjoy drinking it as a draught beer. Sure, there are better stouts out there, but Guinness is still a very good stout in my opinion. I do not remember the price at O'Learys, but I believe a pint costs around 80 NOK. That is nearly 9 GBP or 10 EUR.

I have also had my share of Kilkenny the last ten years. Suddenly in the nineties Kilkenny was easy to find in Norwegian shops and bars, and I have taken the odd pint now and then. Kilkenny is a good ale, but I feel it is a bit watery. The texture is nearly as creamy as in Guinness, but I feel Kilkenny is not as tempting as Guinness if both beers are available in the same bar. The price for Kilkenny is about the same as for Guinness at O'Learys.

When I visited Gardermoen lately I was in the mood for a lager beer. Ringnes and Carlsberg was not tempting, so I had my first draughted Stella Artois since my visit to Avignon. The Belgian pale lager was served in a 0.6 glass and was priced at 89 NOK, which is around 10 GBP or nearly 11 EUR. The glass looked worn with stripes on it. It was not branded, but looked like a often used (but clean!) Carlsberg glass.

There was a lot of carbonation, but nearly no head. The nose had some malts, but otherwise nothing. In the mouth there is more malts, some sweetness, a hint of hops and a watery aftertaste. Stella Artois is completely drinkable. It is far from my favourite lager, but I feel it is OK to have a glass of this beer from tap when the competition is Carlsberg or Ringnes.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Airport beers

I like travelling by plane. The view from the air is unbeatable, and chance encounters with new people can be interesting - especially when they lead into conversations. I also like being on airports. While people who travel a lot often find airports boring, I feel airports are exciting. Watching people and looking at the shops and restaurants are nice. Essentially I like finding the local groove while being in an international environment.

Bergen's airport Flesland is the second largest in Norway. It is not big compared to international airports in Europe, and it therefore has an intimate and cozy atmosphere. There are only 11 gates in the terminal, and there are not many shops and restaurants. Like in all Norwegian airports, there is a duty free shop, and international travellers can find perfume, chocolates, tobacco and alcoholic beverages there. For beer interested people there is a very limited selection. If you want Ringnes or Carlsberg pale lager from cans, they sell it there together with the German Holsten beer.

The cafes and restaurants are equally boring in their beer selection. There is one in the arrivals hall, and it sells Ringnes from tap. Inside the international terminal there is a cafeteria, which also sells Ringnes. Next to the cafeteria, you can find a bar which has more to offer.

Not that much, actually. From tap there is Ringnes and Carlsberg, but they also sell bottles and cans with beers like Guinness, Kilkenny, Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois.

I had a glass of Ringnes pale lager while waiting for a plane recently. It is sold in 0.4 or 0.6 litre glasses. If you go for a 0.6 litre glass the price is 84 NOK, which is around 9 GBP or 10 EUR. If you prefer a 0.6 litre glass of Carlsberg, you must pay slightly more at 89 NOK. A 0.33 litre bottle of Stella Artois or Corona will set you back 73 NOK.

The Ringnes beer is the most common beer in Norway. I like it better draughted than from cans or bottles, but in all it is a boring lager beer. There is some sweetness, a bitter twist with a hint of hops and some watery feeling. You can make better beer choices in Norway than Ringnes, but at this airport this is the better offer from draught.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Two from Nøgne Ø

I am tasting myself through the sortiment of the Norwegian craft brewery Nøgne Ø these days. Nøgne Ø has several beers on the market, and although I have written about some beers earlier, there are many left to be covered.

First out is Nøgne Ø's Pale Ale, which I tried from bottle. In the glass there is a little head but there is much carbonation. The colour is cloudy amber. In the nose I can find some sweet flowers. There are some hops and straw in the mouth. The aftertaste gives a balanced bitterness where the sweetness and hops meet.

I feel that Nøgne Ø's Pale Ale is an interesting beer, but it I guess that it is probably better from tap than from bottle.

Nøgne Ø has also a Bitter, and it can be found at well stocked supermarkets here in Norway. The Bitter is a cloudy, golden beer. It has a flowery nose, and there are also some yeast present. Tastewise oranges take the lead combined with bitterness. There is also a hoppy bite in the aftertaste.

Nøgne Ø's Bitter is a nice beer, but it is not my favourite from the Norwegian cult brewery. But I can imagine drinking it again a sunny day instead of a wheat beer or a Belgian wit like Hoegaarden.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Last Christmas

Christmas is only a memory, as the Winter of 2010 lingers on. I had my share of Christmas beers in 2009, and here are three examples of the stronger beers sold at Vinonopolet and some bars and restaurants:

Hansa Juleøl was a boring beer also this Christmas. Like in 2008 it was dull and dark with a little head and nearly no carbonation. The body was thinnish, and I felt it was too sweet although there was some bitterness in the finish. Perhaps next time around?

Mack Juleøl Sterkøl was one of the better Norwegian Christmas beers this season. It was a dark amber beer with little carbonation and foam. In the mouth sweetness and bitterness collided in maltiness and hints of raisins, coffee and chocolate. The beer was a rather enjoyable effort from the world's most northern brewery.

My favourite Christmas beer from a Norwegian macro brewer in 2009 was Aass Premium Juleøl. Actually, this was one of the few topfermented beers from Norway this Christmas with a brownish colour, small head and nearly no carbonation. In the nose fruits were to the fore, and in the mouth a delightful fullbodiness pleased me with hints of plums and apricots. It was a truly great beer that I hope there is more of in the shelves of Vinmonopolet.

Finally: A little regret. I never tried Nøgne Ø's God Jul from tap. But I should...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Draughted wheat

Finding wheat beer in Norway is easy if you go for bottles. There are few brands available, but both Paulaner and Erdinger wheat beers are sold at most Vinmonopolet outlets. Finding wheat beers as draught beers is another case, but recently I found two places in Bergen selling Erdinger weissbier from tap.

Across the road from Henrik in the Vaskerelven street of Bergen, you can find Elefanten. Elefanten is a trendy, little cafebar with many students frequently enjoying their drinks there. From tap there is the local macro's Hansa pils at 52 NOK for 0.4 litres of beer, which is slightly more than 5 GBP or around 6 EUR. There is also Erdinger weissbier at 71 NOK for a half litre.

I was served a cloudy, golden beer with a large head. There seemed to be more aroma in the nose from this draugted beer than from the Erdinger bottled wheat beers that I have tried earlier. The nose had both yeast and some sweetness. In the mouth there was little taste, but the yeast was still present with hints of banana. I enjoyed this draught beer more than the bottled beers from Erdinger, but wheat beers from the German breweries Paulaner and Franziskaner are better and more tasty offers than this beer. The same goes for the Czech weizen from Primator.

In one of the side streets from Vaskerelven, my favourite Norwegian bar of 2009, Naboen, is located. Across the street from Naboen you can find Biskopen. I have only been to Biskopen once. On my way to Naboen I stepped in to see what Biskopen was like. There were few people in the bar, so I took a look to find out what beers that were for sale. Bingo! This was another place for draughted wheat beers, and just like Elefanten, they sold Erdinger weissbier at Biskopen.

The Erdinger looked a little bit more cloudy in the glass, but otherwise it was the same beer. It was also served with more beer in the glass and less foam.

I prefer Naboen and Henrik as beer drinking places to both Biskopen and Naboen, but I like being able to drink draughted wheat beers in Bergen. Erdinger is not my favourite, but an OK wheat beer is better than no wheat beer when I want to taste the beer style.