Sunday, January 30, 2011

Four Norwegians

The craft beer scene in Norway has been getting more and more exciting during the last few years. These days it is easy to find craft beers in well stocked supermarkets and of course at the state owned Vinonopolet outlets.

The leading breweries are Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet, and both breweries also have a big name abroad. Due to the heavy Norwegian taxation on alcohol their beers are usually cheaper outside Norway.

Ægir is in my opinion the number 3 brewery on the craft beer scene in Norway at the moment. The brewery, which is based in Flåm in the midst of the West Norwegian fjords, has an onsite pub that has been recommended by many beer experts. If things go well, I will do a beer trek there later this year. I am very fond of Ægir's IPA, but these days several of Ægir's beers are found at both Vinmonopolet and in some shops.

If you find Ægir beers at a Norwegian supermarket, it is probably Bøyla and/or Sumbel. Sumbel is a porter with an alcohol content of 4.7%. This is a black beer with little carbobation, but with a large head. The nose is dominated by dark chocolate, while the beer tastes with an even more touch of the chocolate. The finish has some cold coffee. I liked this porter, but I prefer other beers in the same style to it.

Ægir Harvest Ale was a new beer at Vinmonopolet last Autumn. This is a beer with a deep golden colour that built a large head in the glass. In the mouth there was grapefruit, yeast and some malts. In the mouth I felt grapefruit and orange peels before a semibitter and hoppy finish. I liked this beer, but it is not better than Ægir's IPA or their Easter beer, Påskesol.

Haandbryggeriet has released some beers based on classical Norwegian brewing recipes lately. One of these beers is Farewell Ale, based on the Norwegian gravøl tradition. After a funeral, the nearest family and friends met to mourn, and part of the meeting was drinking funeral beer to light up the mourners. Haandbryggeriet's Farewell Ale is a dark beer with a large head. In the nose coffee is present, while in the mouth the coffee is blended with a sugary sweetness before a bitter finish. I felt this beer was much too sweet for me, and it will never become a favourite.

Nøgne Ø's batch number 500 is an Imperial IPA. The beer is called #500, and it is a strong beer with 10% alcohol. In the glass this is an unclear coppery beer with some carbonation and a little head. The aromas of the beer are very hoppy with a touch of grapefruit. In the mouth there is grapefruit, toffee and a touch of cyrup. This is a lovely full bodied beer, and it is the best of these four Norwegian beers. Try it if you find it!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wheat and more

Kinn brewery from Florø is one of the smaller craft breweries making themselves a name in Norway right now. In Bergen some Kinn beers are always available as draught beers at Naboen. Last week I found a new beer there, Kinn Jubileum.

This was a wheat beer brewed after Belgian traditions. In the glass this was an unclear beer with a nearly golden colour. The nose was fruity with a hint of orange peels, while the mouth feeling made the orange peels take the lead. This was a lovely wit, but I would love to try it in Summer in the sun. In that case, Naboen is not the right place as it lacks outdoor seeting.

Outdoor seating can be found at Henrik, where you now and then have exciting beers from tap. In December the Danish Mikkeler brewery was present on the taps with their Beer Geek Bacon. This was a dark beer with nearly no head. In the nose I felt coffee and a touch of yeast, while it tasted coffee, tobacco and dark chocolate. A lovely beer.

Earlier this week a beer from BrewDog could be found on one of Henrik's taps. I had some bottles of 77 lager in Sweden last year and liked the beer quite a lot. It was also very good as a draught beer with a nose of grapefruit and straw. In the mouth there was orange, malts and a touch of grapefruit before a nice and not too bitter finish. Another lovely beer.

During the last two weeks I have visited Kontoret several times to try some of the Ægir beers. They have not been available due to weather conditions near the brewery, and the management at the pub has decided not to make other beers available on the taps. Thus I ended up with a glass of Old Speckeled Hen this week. This beer with a toffee based nose is OK, but I prefer the Ægir beers to it. In the mouth Old Speckeled Hen is creamy with toffee and malts dominating. It is a nice ale, but nothing more than that.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beer tasting round-up

Looking through my tasting notes, I see that there are many beers I have tasted that I have not written about on this blog. Therefore this post will focus on six of those beers.

Hansa Premium is one of the most popular pale lagers from the Norwegian brewery. This is a fizzy beer that builds a large head that dissolves quickly. It has aromas of grass and wheat, where the wheat malt dominates. In the mouth it is watery with a wheaty touch before a somewhat hoppy finish. This is a nice session beer, but I would prefer it with a fuller body.

Beck's is one of Germany's best selling pale lagers. I have had it earlier both from bottle or tap, but this was the first time tasting Beck's from can. It is an inoffensive pale lager with an aroma of malts and sugar. In the mouth hints of sweetness and some malts dominate the palate before a semibitter finish with some hoppiness. This is an average pale lager that I feel is on the boring side.

The pale lager Småland from Sweden is a much more interesting beer. This is a beer that has tastes of toffee, biscuit and bread. It is a lovely lager, and I feel it is the best Swedish produced lager I have tasted.

Zeunert is also a very good Swedish pale lager. In the mouth it is a malty beer with a touch of hops before a partly bitter finish. The spirit based taste found in several Swedish starköl beers if fortunately not to be found in Zeunert.

Fuller's ESB is one of the British bitters available at Vinmonopolet in Norway. It is a very good beer with a nose of fruits, lemon and some yeast. The beer has not much carbonation and builds a medium sized head. In the mouth there is some caramel and some citrus before a finish with toffee taking the lead. Lovely!

Innis & Gunn is also British. This is a pale beer with little carbonation and a medium sized head. There is toffee in the nose, while the beer has a distinct taste of caramel and toffee. I liked this beer for a while, but then I got bored of it. A bottle is more than enough, as the taste tells me that this is no session beer.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Christmas beers revisited

When we reached 20 December, most Christmas beers were already sold out in Norwegian shops and the state owned alcohol outlets, Vinmonopolet. Especially the Christmas beers from craft breweries like Nøgne Ø, Haandbryggeriet and Ægir were sold out at Vinmonopolet early in December. If you want to be sure to have those Christmas beers at Christmas this year, it is a good idea buying them in November.

In early January I had three Christmas beers left in my fridge. One of them was Hansa Julebrygg. At 6.5% alcohol, this is the version sold at Vinmonopolet and not in shops. In the glass this was a dark and nearly black beer. It had very little carbonation and hardly a head. In the nose there was some toffee, while it tasted caramel and some cold coffee. It was an average Christmas beer, but it was the best Christmas beer from the Bergen based brewery.

Frydenlund Juleøl was the supermarket version with 4.7% alcohol. In the glass it had an amber colour and very much carbonation. It built a large head in the glass, and the beer had aromas of pears and malts. Tastewise this was a very good beer. In the mouth I felt a combination of apples, caramel and sweetness. Lovely!

From the little Atna brewery hails Atna øl til julemat. This is a beer brewed to be combined with Christmas food. In the glass this was an unclear beer with a brownish colour. There was a little carbonation, but nearly no head. In the nose there was some roastedness with a hint of toffee. The flavours were of caramel and yeast. This was a different Christmas beer, but I felt it was OK except for a watery finish.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bergen odds and ends

During December and January I have had several bar visits in Bergen tasting some beers for the first time. Some of these beers were seasonal beers, while others are available now and then at Norwegian taprooms. This post is a collection of tasting notes and beer photos.

At Kontoret you can find two Ægir taps at the moment. Ægir is a small craft brewery based in Flåm. Among the Ægir beers sold in December, were the Christmas beer, Rallar and IPA. Rallar is an amber ale named after the Scandinavian word for railroad workers. In the glass at Kontoret it had a small head and little carbonation. In the mouth I felt some toffee before a partly bitter finish with some caramel. This was a nice beer from Ægir brewery, and I am looking forward to trying it at home from a bottle.

Draught beers from the little Kinn brewery in Florø are always available at Naboen. In December one of the offers was Kinn Julefred. This was a seasonal beer with a name which translated into English means Christmas peace.

Kinn Julefred was sold as a cask beer with a coppery colour. In the glass it had little carbonation and a solid head. The beer had aromas of malts and sweetness. In the mouth I felt this was a boring beer with a strange taste combining some coffee, cloves and a sugary touch. The finish was partly bitter with a hoppy flavour. I did not feel this was worth 84 NOK or about 8.50 GBP for a pint. Other beers from Kinn are better and more interesting than this Christmas beer.

Also available in December at Naboen was Ægir's Julebrygg, which was another Christmas beer. This was a copper coloured beer with some carbionation and nearly no head. The beer had an aroma with a touch of toffee. Otherwise there was nothing in the nose. I felt the beer was very sweet with a dominating taste of syrup and cardamum together with a flavour of glögg, a Scandinavian winter drink. The beer was OK, but nowhere near the greatness of Nøgne Ø's God Jul, which was my favourite Christmas beer in 2010.

Haandbryggeriet's Pale Ale is a main stay at Naboen. I had a glass a December afternoon of the somewhat unclear coppery coloured beer. In the nose there were apples, while malts and apples danced around in the mouth before a semibitter finish. This was a lovely beer, and it is much better than Kinn's Austkyst, which is another pale ale often available on tap at Naboen.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Best beer selection in Bergen?

Back in Bergen I had a walk through the Nygårdsgaten street. On a corner I found a bar I had not noticed earlier. A sign said that Cafe Baran was established in 2002, and through the windows I could see several beer taps.

Inside, I was really impressed. Baran could offer no less than 16 taps. One was for Magner's cider, while the rest had draught beers. The selection was rather interesting being a Norwegian bar except for the local Hansa pale lager.

At Baran you can drink draught beers from breweries like Pilsner Urquell, Erdinger, Old Speckeled Hen, Marston, Newcastle Brown Ale, Murphy's, Bitburger, Haandbryggeriet and Ægir. In all this is the best selection of draught beers in Bergen, and I can see myself visiting this bar now and then to check out the beer line-up on the taps.

There was time for a beer, so I ordered a Marston's Oyster Stout. The beer was black with a solid head. There was a hint of dark chocolate in the nose, and the beer had a lovely, creamy texture. In the mouth I felt some coffee, a hint of roasted nuts, a touch of dark chocolate and a finish with more coffee and some pines. I liked it, and I am happy to know there is an alternative to Guinness and Murphy's stout in Bergen.

Baran was a small bar room with old furniture an a cozy atmosphere. The Swedish speaking bartender was helpful and did a good job. I am sure to be back trying some of the other beers very soon.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year!

We are already a few days into 2011, and I would like to wish all of you a Happy New Year!

This post will be a different post. Instead of presenting something new, I will go into the archive and present some of my favourite posts here on Beer Sagas. If you have not read them before, there is hopefully some interesting information or travel tips to be found here.

The Trans-Norwegian Railway
Have you ever wanted to take a train ride through Norway? Here is my trip report from June 2009 taking me from Bergen to Oslo, Trondheim and Bodø.

Bergen beer scene
Naboen, Kontoret and Henrik are the best pubs I have tried in the West Norwegian city. Here is my post from November 2010 where I among others visit those places.

Bryggerikaia in Bodø
If you ever get to Bodø in Northern Norway, the former brewpub Bryggerikaia is the place to be.

Five good taprooms in Prague
In this post from September 2009 I describe my visits to five pubs recommended by my friend and Prague based beer blogger Pivní Filosof.

A Prague beer crawl

This post from January 2009 presents what I consider an interesting pub crawl in the Prague district of Žižkov.

Belgian beer is not neccessarily the best
I tried a Belgian draught beer in France that is probably best forgotten.

A brewpub in Brno, Czech Republic
Good brewpubs can also be found in Moravia. Here is a post from November 2009 describing my visit to Pegas.

Amsterdam airport
Many visit Schiphol airport in Holland. Here are my thoughts about the beers found there.

Beers in Copenhagen
This posts from July 2010 presents some of the craft beer alternatives in the Danish capital.

The Green Lion Inn in Malmö
The best pub in Southern Sweden. Period!