Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Meeting Betty Brown

During the last week I have presented some of the beers from Stavanger's Lervig brewery. The last one out in this series of blog posts is Betty Brown. Betty Brown is presented on the label as a Norwegian Brown Ale. But what is the beer like?

In the glass this is a dark copper coloured beer. It has a medium sized head and some carbonation. In the nose I feel some burnt malts and touches of caramel. I feel caramel and some bitter hops before a finish with some cold coffee. This was a really good beer, and I enjoyed its hoppyness. Betty Brown will be my partner now and then. That is for sure!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lervig's best

My favourite beer from Lervig brewery is Rye IPA. This is one of the best Norwegian beers at the moment, and lately I have been drinking it frequently both from bottle and from tap.

Recently, Henrik in Bergen expanded its selection of draught beers. There are now more than 40 taps at the bar, and this means that Henrik probably has the best offer of draught beers in Norway. It is difficult to choose what to drink at Henrik, but during the visit I had this week I chose the Rye IPA from Lervig.

In the glass the Rye IPA was cloudy with a brownish colour. It had some carbonation and a medium sized head. The beer had a hoppy nose with loads of grapefruit. In the mouth grapefruit ruled with some grass. The finish was bitter and fruity with an assertive touch of citrus. A lovely beer!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More from Lervig

After tasting one of Lervig's pale lagers at a hotel bar in Stavanger, it was time to move on to bottled beers. Lervig has several beers in its line-up, and I decided to try out some of them. First out was Lucky Jack. Lucky Jack is an American Pale Ale, and it has a beautiful label. Like many of Lervig's other beers, the bottles have beer labels inspired by labels from old sardine wrappings. Once Stavanger was the sardine capital of Norway, and this is a way of commemorating that period of time.

In the glass Lucky Jack was a cloudy, nearly copper coloured beer. It had a large head and some carbonation. I felt hops and grapefruit in the nose, while grapefruit and toffee had a dance in the mouth before a finish with a watery feeling. This was a delicious beer that I enjoyed, but I would have preferred a more hoppy touch in the finish.

Then I bought a bottle of Lervig's Norwegian wheat beer, White Dog. This was a cloudy, nearly pale beer. It had some carbonation, but a small head. In the nose I felt some Belgian yeast and some spices I could not pinpoint. I tasted grass, spices and hints of toffee. The finish was watery with some toffee. This beer was nice, but I would prefer Hoegaarden if both beers were available at the same time.

It was closing time, so it was time to move on. But there were more Lervig beers waiting for me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A true Stavanger beer

After Ringnes decided to buy the local Tou brewery in Stavanger, the production of the Tou beers were moved to Eastern Norway. At the same time, local patriots decided to start a new brewery in the West Norwegian town. The result was Lervig brewery. The first beers were brewed for Lervig by Northern Norwegian Mack brewery, but after a few years Lervig started brewing their own beers in Stavanger. These days Lervig is considered the local brewery, and the product line consists of beers of many beer styles including IPA, brown ale and wheat beer.

Recently I tried a Lervig draught beer for the first time. At a hotel in the city centre of Stavanger, Herlige Lervig Pilsner was available from tap. I was thirsty, and drinking a lager beer was a fine way of getting rid of the thirst. The pale beer had nearly no head nor carbonation. The nose was malty with a touch of grass, while I felt malts and some grains in the mouth before a partly bitter finish. This was just an average pale lager, but it was better than the Tou Pilsner.

I felt a bit disappointed after drinking this beer, but that was to change. There were more Lervig beers available from the hotel bar, and they were much more interesting than this pale lager.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A piece of Stavanger?

Once Tou brewery was one of the prides of the Stavanger district. Because of the regional system in Norway, Tou more or less had a monopoly in its area. The locals drank their Tou pale lager and were content. It was just like football teams. You support the local team, and you drink the local beer.

Times changed, and the regional system disappeared. Now it was possible for Norwegians to buy beer brewed outside of the area in the local supermarkets. Tou was no longer king of its mountain, and people from the Stavanger district had more choices. But things went even worse. Tou was bought by the Norwegian market leader, Ringnes brewery. The brass looked at the bottom line and decided that the brewing in Stavanger had to be stopped. Instead, Tou suddenly was one of many brands brewed by Ringnes.

As I was sitting at Barometer bar at Stavanger's airport Sola, I decided it was time to try Tou Pilsener. The pale lager had some carbonation and a small head. I felt some sweetness and malts in the nose. The beer was sweet with some grains and a finish with a hint of hoppy bitterness. This was a boring lager that can be counted among the many average ones of its style.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Two Czechs

There are so many Czech breweries. There is no doubt that tourists will feel a bit confused over all the brand names in the market.

Radegast is one of the bigger beer companies in the Czech Republic. The Radegast pale lager can be enjoyed aboard the Czech airlines flights, but you will also find it in supermarkets. I drank the beer from can. In the nose I felt grass, while grass and hops had a dance in the finish. It was a nice beer that felt better than expected.

The Pilsner Urquell brewery extended its product line with the Master beers a few years ago. One of them is the polotmave, or half dark beer. That was a disappointing beer. I drank it from bottle, and there were nearly no aromas. The beer had a metallic taste with some toffee and malts present. It was extremely boring, and I believe that my bottle had a bad beer sample. I will know the next time Master is to be tasted.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Black delight

Schwarzbier is one of Germany's traditional beers. One of the most traditional Schwarzbiere is made by the Köstritzer brewery in Thuringia. It is a beer that has been brewed by the brewery based in Bad Köstritz since 1543. During the cold war, Schwarzbier was even more popular than pale lagers in East Germany, and the beer style is still very popular among Germans.

In the glass, the Köstritzer Schwarzbier is black with a small head and some carbonation. I feel some coffee aromas, but in the mouth cold coffee meets some sweetness and malts before a nice, crisp finish. I liked this black beer a lot, and it is a beer to be recommended.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Leaving Berlin

The easiest way to get to Berlin's Schönefeld airport from the city centre is of course by taxi. It is a long and expensive ride, so I preferred using public transportation. And it is also very affordable. A day ticket costs less than 7 EUR, and you can use it on buses, trams, trains and the metro system in the German capital.

The main railwaystation in Berlin, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, is an impressive sight. This modern piece of architecture is more than worth a visit. For myself, the railway station was the first step towards the flight back home. First you must take a train to Berlin Südkreuz station, where you catch a direct train to the Schönefeld airport. There is a brewpub on the Hauptbahnhof, but I did not know where to find it. Sure, I could have asked someone, but as I saw a train with the Czech ČD logo going to Berlin Südkreuz, I decided to board the train and sat down in the restaurant car.

A Czech restaurant car meant that it might be possible to find Czech draught beer. And so it was. I ordered a glass and was served Pilsner Urquell from tap. The golden lager had that beautiful aroma of grass and Saaz hops, and the excellent combination of malt, hints of fruits and tasty, bitter Saaz hops was once again a treat. Pilsner Urquell is a wonderful beer.

It was barely time to finish my Urquell before the train arrived at Berlin Südkreuz. I left the Czech restaurant car and had a walk through the station. I had some time before the train to the airport left, so I visited the little supermarket downstairs to get a water bottle and some snacks. Then it was back to the platform to get on the next train.

It was dark when I arrived at Berlin Schönefeld airport. It is probably the last time I am there, as the airport is to close later this year. Then some of the area will become part of the new Berlin Brandenburg airport. Check-in was fast and easy, and suddenly I was through security.

The departures area of the airport was very crowded. Many Brits were waiting for their Easyjet flight home, and they had turned that part of the building into a party zone. All benches and chairs were taken, so most people were sitting on the floor. The crowdiest part of departures was the little Irish pub. After a long wait, the friendly bartender gave me a Berliner Kindl Jubiläums Pilsener. It is a nice pale lager, but it pales compared to Pilsner Urquell.

There were also some kiosks in the departures area. I bought some beer to take home, and as I was given information that my flight home would be late I opened one of them. Flensburger Pilsener is an old acquaintance. I have been drinking it several times during visits to Germany. It is sold in nostalgic swing top bottles, and I am very fond of the label with the cog.

I drank the beer straight from the bottle. The nose was malty, and a combination of malts, hops and grass had a dance in the mouth before a partly bitter finish. Another fine pale lager that I felt was better than Berliner Kindl, but still average compared to Pilsner Urquell.

My visit to Berlin had come to an end, and I entered the airplane. I will be back in Berlin some day. I liked the city, and I would like to see more of Berlin's taprooms as well. In the meantime I can recommend Ronald Pattinson's Berlin Pub Guide. Fellow Norwegian beer blogger Knut Albert also has some interesting posts about the German capital. Here you can find his posts that are tagged with Berlin. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nearly no room at Zum Nußbaum

There are some interesting restaurants and bierstubes in Berlin's Nikolaiviertel quarter. One of them is Zum Nußbaum, which is one of the oldest pubs in Berlin. It used to be somewhere else in the German capital, but the house was moved to the current location next to the Nikolaikirche church by the East German authorities in the 1980s.

Zum Nußbaum seems to be a popular place. The afternoon I visited the bierstube, there were no available tables. I therefore found a place at the bar and had an excellent view to the beer taps. Four draught beers were available, and I could choose between two pale lagers, a schwarzbier and a wheat beer. I had already tried the Berliner Kindl Jubiläums Pilsener, and the two other beers sounded more interesting than Rex Pilsener. My first choice was therefore the schwarzbier.

Märkischer Landmann from the Berliner Kindl brewery was as expected black in colour. It had a small head and nearly no carbonation. There was barely any aromas, but I felt some coffee. The coffee took the lead with a touch of nuts before a semi bitter finish. Fortunately there was not any of the sweetness that in my opinion ruins some Czech dark lagers. This schwarzbier was refreshing and a nice treat.

I went on to try Schöfferhofer Weizen from the Binding brewery in the Hesse region. The wheat beer was cloudy in the glass, had a large head and not much carbonation. In the nose there was banana and cloves. I felt banana and tutti frutti bubble gum in the mouth before a finish with some peaches. Lovely! This is one of the best wheat beers I have ever tasted.

As I was drinking my two beers, I noticed that the female barkeeper received several phone calls. It looked as if these were table reservations for the evening and the day after. I liked Zum Nußbaum, and I feel that its atmosphere was excellent. But after my visit I have a tip for other tourists: Reserve a table in advance if you want to go there. There is not much space at the bar.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A visit to Brauhaus Mitte

Just across the street from the TV tower at Alexanderplatz, you can find one of Berlin's brewpubs. Brauhaus Mitte is based in a mall, but it has its own entrance on a street corner.

I walked the stairs into the large brewpub. I sat down at one of the tables and was given a menu by a friendly waitress. At that moment I was not hungry, so I scanned the beer menu. There were four beers available that were brewed on the premises. I ordered a taster glass of every beer and decided to buy a half liter afterwards of the beer I liked the most.

First out was the Pils. It was a pale lager with a small head and nearly no carbonation. In the nose I felt grass, and the grass was joined by some malts in the mouth. The finish had some caramel and a pinch of bitterness. I liked it!

Then it was time for the Dunkel. The copper coloured beer also had a small head and barely any carbonation. This beer had an intense aroma of coffee. In the mouth there was a fine combination of coffee and some hoppy bitterness. This was an even better beer.

The Hefeweizen was a cloudy beer without carbonation. In the nose I felt banana and some sweetness. The banana was assertive in the mouth with some spices I could not pinpoint before a sweet finish. This was another good wheat beer.

Last out was the Zwickel. This was also a cloudy beer with a nearly brownish colour. There was no carbonation, and the beer had a small head. I felt caramel and yeast in the nose and was not surprised when the beer tasted the same. This was a nice beer that actually reminded me of Old Speckeled Hen from bottle.

The best of the four beers was the Dunkel, in my opinion. I ordered another glass of it and enjoyed the atmosphere. The brewpub was not exactly crowded, and the heimat music was a touch that gave the place an extra German feeling. It was also interesting watching the S-Bahn trains travelling on the railway bridge not far from the pub.

Refreshed, I went into the Berlin dusk. In the semi darkness the TV tower was suddenly even more impressive!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Time for Berliner Weisse

Berlin has its own traditional beer. Berliner Weisse is supposed to have been brewed since the 16th century, and was in the 19th century the most popular alcoholic drink in the Prussian capital. This wheat beer is a sour beer with a low alcohol content. Normally it has around 3% alcohol. The beer is often drunk with a flavoured syrup like raspberry or woodruff. The added syrup is called schuss, so make sure you order weisse "ohne schuss" to get the beer in its original form.

Being in Berlin, I had to try out some Berliner Weisse. As I was walking towards Alexanderplatz I found a natural place to do so. A restaurant called Alt-Berliner Weißbierstube in Rathausstraße promised both the right beer style and the right environment. I liked the restaurant, and from the moment I stepped inside until I left everything was great. Attentive and smiling waiters did their part, and the bierstube also had a fine atmosphere.

Sure, I went for the wheat beer first. I was given some Schultheiss Berliner Weisse in the traditional bowl-shaped glass. The beer was cloudy. It had a small head and barely any carbonation. I felt that the nose was refreshing with some citrus and yeast. In the mouth sourness took the lead with some lemon. The finish was watery, but it felt fitting for this beer. This is something I would really like to drink outdoors a warm and sunny Summer day.

There were more draught beers on the menu at Alt-Berliner Weißbierstube. I decided to try out Berliner Pilsener from Schultheiss. This is one of the palest lagers I have ever seen, and it was served with a medium sized head and nearly no carbonation. Berliner Pilsener had a malty aroma. In the mouth I felt malts, grass and some hops before a partly bitter finish. This was another fine pale lager that would probably be a nice session beer.

Alt-Berliner Weißbierstube was a great restaurant, and I recommend it to every visitor to Berlin. I know I will return.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Another macro beer

Berlin is a fantastic place to visit. As a tourist, the sights are many and interesting.

Like Checkpoint Charlie.

Or Brandenburger Tor.

After a long walk through Berlin in rainy and windy weather, it was time to find a watering hole. Berlin Pavillon was the place I chose. Perhaps I should have gone to another bar or restaurant. Berlin Pavillon felt like a large school canteen with some available draught beers.

I ordered a half litre of Krombacher Pils. I should have taken some Paulaner wheat beer instead. That is a much better beer.

Krombacher was a pale lager with nearly no carbonation and a small head. In the nose I felt malts and sweetness, The beer was sweet with some malts and a touch of hops. I felt this was another average pale lager. In a way mirroring Berlin Pavillon. Just another average canteen.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Schultheiss time

I like trying new beers when I travel, and for me it is also interesting tasting beers from macro breweries. After walking in the area near Stadtmitte U-Bahn station, I passed Hotel M68 by chance. The hotel had a cafe on the ground floor, and I thought that I would find wifi possibilities on the premises. I was right, and after ordering a local beer from Berlin I was given the wifi password by the friendly waitress/receptionist.

Schultheiss Pilsener was a typical pale lager with some carbonation and a medium sized head. For some reason, I was given a San Miguel glass to drink the Schultheiss beer from. Strange. I would have believed that a hotel at least had branded glasses from a local brewery. The beer's aromas were malty with some sweetness and grass. The sweetness led on in the mouth with some grass and flowers. The beer was nice, but average. Still, it was sweeter than I would prefer. Perhaps an extra touch of hops would have been a good way of enhancing the taste experience?

One half litre of Schultheiss Pilsener was enough at M68 this time around. I was ready for the tourist part of the day. Checkpoint Charlie, Unter den Linden and Brandenburger Tor were my next stops.