Friday, October 29, 2010

A Swedish local

Taking the number 4 bus from the city centre of Malmö, brings you to the neighbourhood of Slottsstaden. The Kronprinsen building stands like a beacon in Slottsstaden. It is the fifth tallest buildings in Sweden, and the high rise was the largest building in Malmö until the building of the Turning Torso skyscraper, which was completed in 2006.

The view from the top of Kronprinsen is great. You can see a lot of Scania, and it is easy to see Denmark and Copenhagen across the Öresund strait. I had been recommended the restaurant Översten at Kronprinsen, which is placed on the 26th floor. Översten is supposed to have good lunches, but I never got to try them. On my visit to the restaurant, the waiter asked me with a smile if I had ordered a table in advance. I had not, so I was asked to leave the restaurant. That was a shame, as there were many free tables.

On the street level, I asked a man if there were other restaurants in the area. I was not ready for Spanish, French, Japanese or Chinese food that day, so I ended up at Kvarterskrogen. Kvarterskrogen, which is also called Buffen, is like a local pub with a kitchen. They sell typical Swedish courses, and I liked the plankstek I ordered.

Kvarterskrogen can offer five beers on tap. The Swedish Pripps Blå is offered in two versions - both as a starköl and a lättöl. Then there is Carlsberg pale lager, Guinness stout and the Czech Staropramen pale lager. I chose the latter.

I have had some Staropramen lagers on my visits to Prague. It looks like Staropramen is a in-beer in Sweden these days, and many pubs and restaurants offer it on tap. It has never been one of my favourite beers, and I did not change my mind. The beer had some carbonation and a medium sized head. The nose was malty with a hint of hops. The hops took the lead in the mouth with a nasty bitterness combined with more hops, a hint of sugar and a touch of grains. This was not my cup of tea. But I liked Kvarterskrogen and stayed there for some time trying out some of the bottled beers.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Intermezzo in Denmark

Driving through the Danish island of Zealand is not a boring affair. Distances are short, as the island itself is not that big. I am in a car doing what many Swedes often do: Crossing the Öresund strait into Denmark to have a nice outing in another country. Sure, Germany could be even more tempting with its even lower prices than Denmark, but Zealand is not Sweden and it is nice getting out of Scania to see something else.

Copenhagen is the Danish capital and it is what many visitors see of Denmark. Zealand is both urban and countryside in one. The motorway cuts its path through Danish woods and fields, and the small hills here and there are a relief from the flat land.

We choose to stop at a Netto supermarket on our way back to Sweden. The beer section is mainly occupied by products from Tuborg and Carlsberg. Interestingly enough, those beers taste better from bottle in Denmark than anywhere else in the world.

Netto has an offer on Harboe pilsner this day: A crate of beer for less than 3 DKK a bottle. Sure, we will take along a crate. Harboe has not the best connotations. The brewery is known for mass brewing beer at low prices.

But my sceptic thoughts came quickly to an end. This Harboe pilsner was a positive surprise. In the glass it was a pale lager with some carbonation and a medium sized head. Then came the revelation as the nose showed scents of bread and banana. Lovely! In the mouth I felt malts and bread before a wheat based finish. This was a great beer and a bargain at such a price. It was more than worth the ride from Sweden to Denmark.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Choices, choices, choices

As I was walking from the railway station in Malmö towards the harbour, a house caught my eye. The Green Lion Inn looked like a typical English pub, so I went towards the building. I thought to myself that it was time for a draught bitter, and an English pub should have at least one tempting beer in that beer style.

Inside I was overwhelmed. The Green Lion Inn had a lot of taps. I read on Pivni Filosof's blog that the current tap race leader in Prague has 30 taps. I was therefore positively chocked to see 40 taps with various beers from all over the world.

It was time to choose something to drink, and that was difficult. Should I have something from Flying Dog, Fuller's, Kwak, Marston, Samual Adams, Weihenstephan, Twisted Thistle, Marston or a Swedish brewery?

I had time for only one beer, and I wanted to try something I had not tried before. After some thinking I ended up with a German beer, HB Original from Hofbräuhaus. I have been to Hofbräuhaus in Munich once without tasting any beers, so my choice was partly nostalgic.

The HB Original was a pale lager with a large head and little carbonation. In the nose I felt grains, while the taste was of citrus, a hint of bread, some butter and a nice and bitter finish. I liked this lager a lot. The price was 66 SEK for a pint of delightful German lager.

Do you like beers and are going to Malmö? Take the time to visit The Green Lion inn. It is a must!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Random beer tastings in Sweden

During my visit to Sweden there were opportunities to try out several beers. I had some nice days tasting some of the beers sold at the state owned alcohol stores, Systembolaget. I also tried some of the weaker lagers sold in ordinary shops and supermarkets. The prices are low for a Norwegian. Beers in Sweden are often nearly 50% cheaper than in Norway. That makes visits to Systembolaget very interesting as there are many different and enjoyable beers available at decent prices.

Here are some tasting notes about beers I tried in Sweden. A good advice for a beer tasting is to start with the weakest beer and proceed with the ones with a higher alcohol content later. I will present the beers that way although they were tasted on different days and in different settings. There were also some beers I tasted without doing tasting notes, but perhaps I can write about those beers the next time I come across them?

Falcon is one of Sweden's largest breweries, and the brewery has several beers on offer. Falcon 2.8 is a fizzy pale lager that builds a large but not lasting head. The nose is fruity with a hint of grains. In the mouth there is little taste, but I feel some malts and a touch of butter before a half bitter finish. This beer was a nice thirst quencher, but it is not a beer to be recommended.

In many European countries the German supermarket chain Lidl is represented. Lidl has several own beer brands brewed at disclosed locations, and one of them is called Nobelaner. I have heard of Alfred Nobel, but I do not know a European city or village called Nobel nor a Nobelaner brewery. Nobelaner 2.8 is another lager beer in the Swedish class 2, folköl. It is a pale lager with some carbonation and a medium sized head. The beer has very little aroma, and the taste is both malty and watery. This is a beer to be avoided!

Moving to a stronger beer, Spendrup Premium Gold 3.5 is also a folköl found in Swedish supermarkets. Spendrup is also a large Swedish brewery, and it has several products on the market. The Gold folköl is another pale lager. In the glass there is some carbonation and a medium sized head. The aromas are of malts and grains. In the mouth this beer feels sweet with a touch of malt before a watery finish with a hint of hoppy bitterness. There is also a metallic taste in the beer, but that could come from the can.

At Systembolaget there are some German lagers. One of them is König Pilsener, which is a fizzy pale lager. In the nose there is grains and fruit. König Pilsener is a more fullbodied beer than Spendrup Premium Gold 3.5, and it is also a sweeter beer. The finish is bitter, malty and watery. This is a nice lager, but I would have liked it less sweet.

Åbro is another Swedish brewery with several beers on the market. Åbro Bryggmästarens Premium Gold is also a pale lager, and with an alcohol strength of 5.7% it is considered a starköl. It has little carbonation and an aroma of fruits and grains. In the mouth there is malts, a hint of apricot and some sweetness before a bitter finish. This was a fine starköl, but there are other beers found at Systembolaget I would prefer.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Beer in Sweden

For a Swede beers are more or less pale lagers. More than 90% of all beers sold in Sweden er pale lagers, and usually the beer is sold in cans. In Sweden beer is sold in three alcohol classes. Class 1 is called lättöl and is beer with less than 2.25% alcohol. Folköl (class 2) is beer with an alcohol content between 2.25% and 3.5%. All beers with more than 3.5% alcohol are in Class 3, starköl. Only lättöl and folköl is sold in shops and grocery stores. Starköl can only be found at the stately outlets called Systembolaget. This monopoly system makes it a must for visitors to Sweden to visit Systembolaget if they want to buy beers they are used to drinking in their home country. Bars and restaurants normally offer draughted starköl to their customers, but here and there folköl and bottled international beers are available.

International brands in special 3.5% alcohol versions as sold in Sweden.

Systembolaget stores can be found all over Sweden, but in some parts of the country there is a long distance to the nearest outlet. In addition to this the Systembolaget outlets have shorter opening hours than ordinary shops. Therefore folköl is a very common beer type to be bought in Sweden, and breweries both inside and outside Sweden produce 3.5% beers especially for Sweden. A lot of international brands available in Sweden can be found in such a 3.5% variant. It is also common to sell beers in a 2.8% version due to taxation rules, which make these beers extra cheap compared to other beers in Sweden.

Bishops Fingers and Hobgoblin are among British ales
sold in Sweden in a version with 3.5% alcohol.

Swedish lagers are mostly of the eurolager type. They are thinbodied, fizzy pale lagers with little aroma and taste. Most 3.5% lagers sold in Sweden are like this, while the stronger lagers (starköl) are of more variety. The typical Swedish produced pale lager in Class 3 has an alcohol content around 5.3%. These are more tasteful beers than their 3.5% equivalent, but most of them have a sweeter edge and a pronounced alcoholic taste that some times make me think somebody has added a little vodka to the beer. A typical example of this is Pripps starköl.

One of the better Swedish starköl lagers is Norrlands Guld. This is a pale lager with a little head and some carbonation. In the nose there is a fresh aroma of grains and a hint of mint. In the mouth this is a more fullbodied beer than many Swedish lagers. It has some sweetness and some malts before a finish I would love to have somewhat hoppy and bitter. Norrlands Guld is not the first beer I would order at a bar, but it is a better example of the Swedish starköl lagers I have tried.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The better monopoly

I have spent some days in Sweden enjoying smörgåsar, köttbullar, plankbiff and a beer now and then. Just like Norway, Sweden has state owned outlets selling liquor, wine and beers. In Sweden you are able to buy beers with 3.5% alcohol or less in supermarkets and shops. Beers with a higher alcohol content must be bought at the alcohol monopoly shops, Systembolaget.

There are advantages with monopoly outlets like Systembolaget in Sweden, Vinmonopolet in Norway and Alko in Finland. The stores have a varied selection in beers compared to ordinary shops. Most Systembolaget outlets can offer several shelves with beers of different styles, nationalities and strengths - both from large and small breweries. Name an international brand, and you will probably find it at Systembolaget. In addition to this, there are several local, Swedish beers and some craft beers.

I am fond of lager beers, and at Systembolaget I found a very tasty American lager. I have never seen Brooklyn lager in Norwegian stores, but it is supposed to be found in various bars in the Oslo area.

In the glass, Brooklyn lager has an amber colour and a medium sized head. There is very little carbonation, and there is a fruity aroma. In the mouth I feel citrus, malts and a hint of toffee before it has a nice and bitter finish. This is a great beer that I hope will be videly available in Norway.

Also at Systembolaget, I found many Czech lagers. One that I have enjoyed in Prague as a draught beer, is Primator's premium lager. In Sweden it is sold in 0.33 litre bottles. Primator's premium lager is a golden beer with a lot of carbonation and a big head. In the nose there is malt and some fruitiness. The fruit is also found in the mouth before caramel and toffee joins in on a half bitter finish. This is another great lager to be recommended.