Friday, December 30, 2011

Stopover in Frankfurt

Two hours at Frankfurt airport should be more than enough for buying a book and some newspapers in German, having a meal and checking out some local draught beers. That was what I thought in advance, but as my flight to Frankfurt was late, I suddenly had barely an hour in Germany.

After getting hold of the reading material, I sat down on a stool at Beyond in Terminal 1. There were several draught beers on offer, but I wanted to try a local one.

Instead of a pale lager and the excellent Paulaner Hefeweizen, I chose Licher's take on a wheat beer. Licher is a brewery based in the Hesse region near Frankfurt.

Licher Hefeweizen was served in a Paulaner wheatbeer glass. It was a cloudy beer with nearly no carbonation and a thick, medium sized head. I felt banana and yeast in the nose. The beer had a very fruity taste with some sweetness and tutti frutti bubble gum in the lead. I also felt some banana and bread before a yeasty finish. This was a delicious wheat beer.

I was ready to order my first glass ever of the Paulaner Kristallweizen, when I noticed that my next flight had a gate change. Unfortunately that gate was on the other side of the terminal. I therefore chose to leave Beyond and walk to my airplane thinking that Frankfurt airport is not the worst place to have a stopover. Next time around I hope it will be a longer one.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of 2011

Just like earlier years I will present my favourites from 2011. This year I will do the same as in 2010 and present all my winners in one post.

This year has also been very nice beerwise, and I have tasted many interesting beers. On my travels I have been drinking beer in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Austria. As always my best of 2011 list is highly subjective, and I have only included beers I have been drinking this year.

Best pale lager
Pilsner Urquell (unfiltered version)

The last two years Kout na Šumave 12° golden lager has been my favourite beer in this category. It is still among the best lager beers, but I feel the unfiltered version of Pilsner Urquell was an even better beer. I have not been tasting the two beers head to head, and I hope that is something I will do some time in 2012. Kudos also to Brooklyn Lager, Kout na Šumave 10° golden lager and the 11° Zlatý Kun svetlý ležák from the Berounský Medved brewery.

Best dark lager
Budvar Černý

This dark lager from Budvar in the Czech Republic is a fantastic beer, and it is my winner also this year. Runners up in 2011 are Kout na Šumave's dark lager and Krušovice Cerný.

Best wheat beer
Primátor Weizen

Primátor Weizen is back in the lead this year. Runners up are Paulaner Hefeweizen, Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen and Velen from the Czech Cerná Hora brewery.

Best ale
Kinn Vestkyst IPA

The Norwegian craft brewery Kinn produces the Vestkyst IPA. It has overtaken Ægir IPA as my favourite ale. Among my other favourites from 2011 are Primátor Stout, Nøgne Ø's 100 and Haandbryggeriet's Pale Ale.

Best Norwegian bar
Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri (Oslo)

This was a no-brainer. Schouskjelleren Mikrobryggeri brewpub combines a great location with a fine beer hall environment and an excellent atmosphere. The draught beer selection is very good, and among the beers are several brewed on location. Worth mentioning this year are also Grünerløkka Brygghus in Oslo, Henrik and Naboen in Bergen as well as Den gode nabo in Trondheim.

Best beer blog
Shut Up About Barclay Perkins

For the third year in a row Ronald Pattinson's blog is my favorite. I can also recommend these blogs: Pivní Filosof, Fuggled, The Beer Nut and Boak & Bailey. One of my favourite bloggers, Cooking Lager, unfortunately stopped blogging in 2011.

Best Norwegian beer blog
Det står en-og-førti øl

Anders Christensen knows a lot about beers and his blog is a good read - especially when it comes to beer philosophy and Norwegian alcohol politics. Try reading it with Google Translate! Runners up are Kjempetorskens ølblogg and Det gyldne øls kommandørskap.

Best beer experience in 2011
Visiting Austria and drinking craft beers from Salm Bräu outdoors on a very warm Spring day. A few days earlier I had experienced snow in Norway.

Worth mentioning are also my visit to Pegas in Brno and a day in Prague where I drank Ježek svetlý ležák with Czech friends the whole evening. Just a lovely night!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A taste of Kout na Šumavě

I am not the only one who has commented that Kout na Šumavě's lagers are among the top of the crop. The American beer writer Evan Rail has even said that the brewery's 12° golden lager might be one of the best lager beers in the world. I like that beer quite a lot and have spent several evenings in Prague drinking it both in filtered and unfiltered versions at U Slovanské Lípy in Žižkov.

But it is possible to drink the Kout na Šumavě 12° golden lager also in the city centre of Prague. The café Kávovarna at Pasáž Lucerna just off Wenceslas Square has the filtered beer on tap. I wandered into Kávovarna to have a half litre of the wonderful beer. On my way I enjoyed David Černý's statue inside the little mall. It shows St. Wenceslas riding an upside-down horse.

Inside the café I sat down at a table overlooking the bar and ordered a Kout na Šumavě lager. While waiting for the cute waitress to tap my beer, I enjoyed listening to the classical music from the loudspeakers. Kávovarna was a great place to just enjoy life. I found my book and had a wonderful time.

The beer arrived, and I felt the joyous aromas of flowers and grass from the golden lager. There was nearly no carbonation and the beer had a large head. The delicious beer was full bodied and a fabulous combination of grass, flowers and yeast before a fine, hoppy bite in the finish was a treat. I really like this beer!

Kávovarna in Pasáž Lucerna is a more expensive place to drink Kout na Šumavě beers than U Slovanské Lípy. I paid 50 CZK for my half litre of beer. In Žižkov you pay 35 CZK. Still, I enjoyed the atmosphere of Kávovarna, and compared to the local beer prices in Norway 50 CZK is quite a bargain.

UPDATE 5 APRIL 2012: I have been contacted by the management of Kávovarna. The price I quote in my post is wrong. According to the menu, a half litre of Kout na Šumavě golden lager costs 37 CZK at Kávovarna. I am sorry for the mistake.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Finally Primátor Stout

U Prince Miroslava is a pub I try to visit while in Prague. It offers 19 different draught beers, and usually some of the available beers are from lesser known Czech breweries.

When visiting U Prince Miroslava, do not order beer after taking a look at the tap towers. Although there is a plate indicating that for instance Svijanská Kněžna is on a special tap, it might not be the case. Instead there is a special beer menu showing what is on the taps at the moment. U Prince Miroslava's website also has an updated beer menu.

Earlier this year I was disappointed when I found no Primátor Stout at U Prince Miroslava. Now in December the excellent Czech stout was back on the menu. It has been a while since I have been drinking it as a draught beer, and I was not disappointed this time either.

Primátor Stout is a black beer with nearly no carbonation and a medium sized head. In the nose there is cold coffee and a touch of malts. The beer tastes of coffee with some caramel before an excellent finish with some more coffee. This is a delicious beer that I really enjoy.

After the stout, it was time for another Primátor beer. This time I went for the pale ale. Primátor Pale Ale was a copper coloured beer more or less without carbonation and a medium sized head. I felt toffee in the nose, while the toffee had a dance with yeast in the mouth before a watery finish. Another lovely beer from Primátor that would have been better with a less watery touch.

I had a look at the beer menu, and I was disappointed that there were no beers from Únětický Pivovar there. These are beers that are recommended by Czech beer enthusiasts. Instead I ordered Telčský Zachariáš from the Ježek brewery in Jihlava. Telčský Zachariáš is a 14° pale lager. In the glass it had some carbonation and a medium sized head. There was nearly no aromas from the beer, but I felt some caramel. In the mouth there was sweetness and caramel before a boring finish with some toffee. This was not a good way to end my visit to U Prince Miroslava, so I ordered another pint of Primátor Stout.

I left U Prince Miroslava in a very good mood, and while walking the few meters to the nearby Laurova tram stop I knew I would be back the next time I am in Prague.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A sorcerer and a hedgehog

The restaurant Poja is based in Seifertova street in Prague. Not far from the soccer team Viktoria Žižkov's homeground, Poja is a fine place to sit down for a meal or a few beers. Some years ago Poja was a pizza restaurant selling beers from Budweiser Bürgerbräu, but now there is a varied Czech and international menu with Merlin and Ježek draught beers on tap.

I started with a half litre of Merlin. The black beer was nearly without carbonation and had a large head. In the nose there was cold coffee and some sweetness. I felt coffee, malts and a touch of sweetness in the mouth. The finish was very good with an assertive taste of worts. This was a nice black lager that I really liked.

The 11° Ježek golden lager from the Jihlava brewery is always a treat, and the hedgehog makes a simple and beautiful logo. At Poja it was served with nearly no carbonation and a medium sized head. There were nearly no aromas from the beer, but I felt some grass. In the mouth there was more grass and a touch of hops before a fine, partly bitter finish. This is a lovely lager that is very suitable as a session beer.

I left Poja very content thinking that Merlin and Ježek on tap is better than the Budweiser Bürgerbräu they used to sell. But I can not say if Poja is a better restaurant now than earlier. I never tasted the pizzas sold there before.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

I want to wish all you readers of the Beer Sagas blog a very Merry Christmas. The travelogues from Prague continue tomorrow, but here on Christmas Day I will publish a review of a Norwegian seasonal beer.

Lervigs Jul is a Christmas beer with 6.8% alcohol. In the glass, this is a cloudy coppercoloured beer. There is a medium sized head, but nearly no carbonation. In the nose I feel toffee and grapes. The beer has as sweet taste with some toffee and a touch of tutti frutti bubble gum. The finish is boring, as the tastes more or less disappear. Lervigs Jul is a fine Christmas beer, but it is not among this season's best.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Time for Březňák and Zlatopramen

When I am in Prague, I usually stay at a hotel in the Žižkov neighbourhood. The rates are usually very good, and there are several nice hotels in the area. It is also easy to get into the city centre by tram or bus. In addition to this, there are several great pubs and taprooms nearby. It is great staying in walking distance from beer temples like U Slovanské Lípy, U Sadu or Království.

In Štítného street there is a fine little pub specializing in beers from the Zlatopramen brewery. Unfortunately, U Tomáše Štítného was out of Zlatopramen the December day I was there, but that was no problem. The pub also had draught beers from the Březňák and Krušovice breweries.

Březňák pale lager is a fine beer, and I have been drinking it now and then from 2 litre PET bottles that are great to take home from the Czech Republic. As a draught beer, Březňák was a new experience. The golden beer had some carbonation and a medium sized head. I felt grass and malts in the nose, while the grass was assertive in the mouth. The finish was a little bit watery with some caramel. I liked this beer, and I feel that it would be a wonderful session beer.

My short visit to the U Tomáše Štítného pub was over, but back at the hotel I treated myself to a bottle of 11° Zlatopramen. The golden lager had some carbonation and a large head in the glass. In the nose I felt flowers and grass, and the taste was very alike to the aroma. The finish had a hoppy touch, but there was also a hint of cardboard. Zlatopramen is another great Czech lager, and on my next visit to Prague I will be back at U Tomáše Štítného to try it as a draught beer.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Prague's oldest new brewpub

December brought me back to Prague for the third time this year. Strolling around the Czech capital was strange, as the calender said it was Winter and there was no snow to be seen. The Christmas markets can be found all over the city, and the Old Town Square is very beautiful this time of year with the Christmas tree and various decoration.

As I was walking through Vodičkova street, I suddenly found myself in front of a brewpub. Novoměstský pivovar was the first brewpub to be opened in Prague after the Velvet Revolution, and it is supposed to be very popular among tourists. I had never been to this pub, so I felt I needed to visit it.

It was lunch time, and all tables in the cavernous restaurant were occupied. I asked to sit down with a group of Czechs who probably were work colleagues. I ordered a klobasa and a Novoměstský kvasnicový světlý ležák to go with the sausage. It was also possible to order a dark beer brewed on the premises, but that will have to wait for a later visit. Beers can also be bought to be taken away in bottles or growlers.

The světlý ležák was a pale, cloudy beer with some carbonation and a medium sized head. It had a grassy aroma with a touch of sweetness. In the mouth I felt yeast, grass and some citrus. The finish was boring and nearly tasteless, but with a feeling of cardboard. Novoměstský kvasnicový světlý ležák is a fine lager beer, but in the Czech Republic this is an average pale lager. I only need to mention Pilsner Urquell, Kout na Šumavě, Budvar and Černá Hora. These four Czech breweries make pale lagers with very distinct and different taste profiles that are much better than the beer from Novoměstský pivovar.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best beer in Norway?

Norway's best beer has been announced. After qualifying rounds and blind tastings by a jury during the finals, Borg Bokkøl has been awarded the prize. You can read more about the announcement in this Norwegian newspaper article, but my piece of advice is that you read it using Google Translate.

Borg Bokkøl is a Norwegian Bockbier, and it beat for instance Nøgne Ø IPA, Frydenlund Bayer, Ægir IPA, Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout and Haandbryggeriet Dark Force to be awarded the title. Myself, I was quite surprised of the award winner, as I had never tasted that beer.

But that has changed. Borg Bokkøl has been evaluated and tasted by me, and here are my thoughts: This is a black beer with nearly no carbonation nor head. In the nose there is some sweetness, black coffee and a touch of prunes. I feel raisins and coffee with a pinch of chocolate in the mouth. The finish is partly bitter with some dark chocolate. I really enjoyed this beer, but it is hardly the best in Norway. Without a doubt both Ægir and Kinn have better beers in their line-up, and the same goes for Haandbryggeriet and Nøgne Ø. I would even prefer Frydenlund Bayer to Borg Bokkøl. Still, it is a fine beer, and visitors to Norway could do worse than trying out this year's award winner.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Start of a tap race?

Henrik in Bergen has for years been one of the better places to enjoy beers in that city. The bottle selection is very good, and there have been nine taps with draught beers for a very long time. Three of these taps have been exclusive for Nøgne Ø or beers imported by the Norwegian cult brewery.

A few weeks ago I posted on the Beer Sagas Facebook page that 15 new taps had been installed at Henrik. At that time the new taps were not in use, but that had changed at my visit last week. Nearly all of the 15 taps were now in use, and my first beer from one of them was a Danish red ale from Beer Here brewery.

Beer Here Fat Cat was a cloudy beer with nearly no carbonation and a small head. In the nose I felt grapefruit and grass, while the beer tasted some citrus I could not pinpoint with a touch of sweetness and wood. The finish was lovely with a nice taste of grapefruit that never became bitter. A delicious beer!

According to the beer menu, there might be 40 draught beers to choose from in the near future. I guess this from the special numbering on the menu. In that case Henrik will be the bar in Norway with the most beer taps. Cudos to Henrik, but will other bars follow up?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Report from a near beer desert

I have visited some Norwegian airports during the last few weeks. I am not satisfied of the draught beer selection I have seen. The restaurants and bars are tied to the Ringnes brewery group in beverages. This means that Ringnes pale lager is found on tap more or less everywhere. In addition to Ringnes, you will often find Carlsberg pale lager, Kilkenny and Guinness and here and there a local pale lager from the Ringnes sortiment or a seasonal special.

There are also bottles available. Ringnes distributes Brooklyn brewery in Norway, and where available these are usually the most interesting offers. Otherwise there are bottled pale lagers like Ringnes, Carlsberg and Stella Artois on offer together with even more Guinness. Unfortunately no Norwegian craft beers are to be found on any of the airports I have been to, and that is really a shame. A tourist ought to find a Norwegian speciality also in an airport bar.

I recently had a 0.6 litre of Ringnes Pilsner at Bergen's airport Flesland. The pale lager had nearly no head and a lot of carbonation. In the nose there was sweetness and malts. I felt sweet malts and a touch of yeast in the mouth before a bitter finish with some wort and a touch of grains. This is a boring, average pale lager. The price was 94 NOK, which is nearly 11 GBP.

At Oslo's airport Gardermoen I tried Ringnes' Christmas beer. Ringnes Juleøl was a coppery beer with nearly no carbonation nor head. In the nose there was some caramel and cold coffee, and the beer tasted the same. I have tasted several better Christmas beers from Norway this year, and Ringnes Juleøl must be considered another boring beer.

I want to appeal to the bar and restaurant owners at Norwegian airports: If you have to sell beers from the Ringnes group, use your imagination and find some more interesting beers. A selection from Brooklyn brewery on tap would be a great beginning.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rakfisk and Christmas

Berentsens and Atna are two of the smaller Norwegian breweries. I have not been very fond of the Atna beers I have tasted so far, and beers from Berentsens are new acquaintances for me.

I started out with a Christmas special from Berentsens. Berentsens Jule Avec is a black beer with 9% alcohol. In the glass it has some carbonation and a medium sized head. In the nose I feel coffee and roasted nuts. The beer tastes of coffee, dark chocolate and some tobacco. This was a really good beer, and it is one of the best Christmas beer I have tasted this season.

In a Norwegian newspaper Atna's Øl til rakfisk was reviewed together with the ordinary Christmas beers. This is a beer brewed to be eaten with rakfisk, which is a Norwegian fish speciality. This is a cloudy beer with loads of carbonation. In the nose I felt yeast and pine. The beer had a watery taste with some yeast. The finish had a pinch of caramel and cold coffee. Unfortunately this was another boring beer from Atna.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Three tastes of Christmas

There are many Christmas beers on the Norwegian market. One of them, Tuborg Juleøl, is brewed on licence by Ringnes. In Denmark the original Tuborg Juleøl is a traditional beer, and the release day every year is marked with big festivities.

The Norwegian version of Tuborg Juleøl looks nice in the glass with a coppery colour, some carbonation and a medium sized head. In the nose I feel caramel and figs. The taste is malty with some sweetness, caramel and a touch of dates before a watery finish. This was a nice Christmas beer for its alcohol strength. It has 4.6% alcohol and is available in supermarkets.

Also available in supermarkets is Ringnes Juleøl. This is a beer with 4.6% alcohol with a coppery colour as well. There is not much carbonation, but the beer builds a medium sized head. I feel caramel and malts in the nose. In the mouth I feel toffee, sweetness and some coffee. The finish is watery. This is an average beer, and I would prefer the Tuborg Juleøl.

From Vinmonopolet you can get Kinn Julefred. This is a Christmas beer with a darker colour than the other two. In the glass this is a beer with some carbonation and a medium sized head. I feel caramel and cold coffee in the nose. The beer is full of tastes. I feel both toffee, various spices like cloves and cinnamon and a touch of gingerbread. The finish is sweet with some dates. This is a very good Christmas beer, and it is among the better ones I have tried this season.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas in Trondheim

There are several fine places to drink beer in Trondheim. For a beer ticker, the city's only brewpub is a must. Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri can be found at Prinsens gate street in the city centre.

Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri brews various beer styles. I have visited the pub several times, and I must confess that most beers are average. This time I was eager to try out the seasonal Christmas beer, Juleøl.

At 8% alcohol Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri's Juleøl is a strong beer. It was a cloudy copper coloured beer with nearly no carbonation nor head. In the nose I felt toffee, while the Juleøl tasted of caramel and licorace before a finish with some cold coffee. This was an enjoyable beer, and it is one of the best I have tasted at this brewpub. It is also one of the better Norwegian Christmas beers I have had so far this season.

At my other visits I have liked the brewpub's IPA the most. This time I was a little bit disappointed. The cloudy beer had a small head and as good as no carbonation. I felt some grapefruit and toffee in the nose. In the mouth I felt some grapefruit and caramel before a watery finish with a touch of hoppy bitterness. It is a fine IPA, but I expected a beer with more taste and a less watery feeling.

I know I will be back at Trondhjem Mikrobryggeri. I like the relaxed atmosphere in the afternoon, and there are several fine snacks on the menu. The brewpub has a good concept, and it would be interesting to see more places like this in other Norwegian towns.