20 Jun 2012

Två Bryggare Kåseberga Färsköl and Kåseberga

The beer

Kåseberga Färsköl appears to be brewed by Två Bryggare, but I'm not entirely sure.
















'Färsköl' literally translates as 'fresh beer'. I'm not clear what the British equivalent of that is.

There's some chat on the label about Reinheitsgebot. I've no idea why.

Some real investigative journalism going on right here.

I'm sure this beer would look unimpressive hidden away in a dark corner of a shabby pub, but outside in the blazing sunlight it shimmers and sparkles, with flashes of dynamic yellow and vivacious golden orange dancing across its translucent body.

It's difficult to accurately identify what it smells like – the overpowering whiff of saltiness from the sea that's less than a metre away won't allow that – but a slight honey sweetness is detectable.

It could well smell of salt and fish too. I kinda hope it does for authenticity's sake.

That salt-obscured sweet aroma is carried through to the flavour. It's slightly cloying and there's not much else going on.

I don't really care.


The fishing village

Kåseberga is a tiny little village (no, I don't know the Swedish for village – see earlier journalism comment) in Skåne, not far from Ystad.
















The cluster of  buildings nestle just down the hill from the utterly epic Ale's Stones. If you are into megalithic monuments – which I most certainly am – I suggest a visit.

It's not just the stones themselves that are impressive – their jaw-dropping, imperious position looking out across the Baltic Sea demands contemplation and reverence.


The match

This kind of match is easy

It's intuitive. It's because I'm on holiday.

Pretty much everyone does it to some extent.

The quality of the beer doesn't really matter in these situations.

It's why Mythos only tastes good in Greece.

I'm in Sweden in May and it is incredibly sunny.

So sunny I get sunburnt, but I think I am the only man alive who can achieve this state of being in Sweden in May.

After being completely awestruck by the majesty of Ales stenar, and the intensity of the contrast between the deep blue of the Baltic and the plush greens and rapeseed-yellows of the Skåne countryside, we wander down a steep path to a seafront fish bar.

I try to hide my excitement when I see they sell a beer unique to this setting.

We eat what is undoubtedly the freshest, tastiest salmon I have ever consumed at a table by the water.

The slightly suspect sweetness of the beer actually compliments the saltiness of the fish, and I dream of it being being brewed by a retired fisherman in the village behind us.

If I ever drink this beer again I hope it evokes the sense of calm and blissful peace I feel as I listen to the waves gently lapping against the coastline.

Here's to holiday beers.


17 Jun 2012

Svaneke Bryghus In Your Pale Face IPA and The Bishops Arms

The beer

Svaneke Bryghus is a brewery in the small town of Svaneke, on  the eastern coast of a Danish island called Bornholm.

An island that’s actually closer to Sweden than it is Denmark, but as far as I can tell there’s no Falklands-level tension about this.

In Your Pale Face IPA has the word pale in its name. Twice.

















So when you find yourself staring at a deep mahogany red beer with flashes of orange haze and a quivering, luxuriant, ice cream-like head, there is a certain sense of cognitive dissonance.

Until the moment of revelation when you understand that they are obviously doing something clever with the name and this was all on purpose.

Red IPA. Red face. Not pale. I get it.

For a beer that is so visually striking, so vivid in its colour, its scent is remarkably subdued.

Damp cereal grain and a waft of hot cross bun.

There’s an instant hit of sweetness as you begin to drink: intensely caramel at first, then Victoria sponge as jammy, cake-like flavours develop.

Custard, icing sugar and raspberry are all referenced somewhere in there too.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a beer that has so much complexity at the sweeter end of the scale.

Eventually, a gentle Satsuma bitterness emerges – just enough to make sure it never gets anywhere near cloying and forcing you to dive back in for more.



The pub

The Bishops Arms (sic – and that missing apostrophe actually makes me feel a little bit sick) is a chain of pubs in Sweden.

















And they are most definitely pubs as you and I understand them. If you are from where I am from that is.

The decor in the Malmö, Gustav Adolf Square branch is very much based on the British pub, but it’s tastefully done. This is no theme park.

Except there are pictures of the UK’s constitutional monarch fucking everywhere.

If this was Britain, it would be a Loyalist pub – the sort where you’d get glassed if you didn’t cheers Her Majesty.

Any points this place lost based on that bit of oddness are won back by what is a mind-blowing selection of quality beer.

The bottle list is almost beyond comprehension. USA, Belgium, UK, Scandinavia all covered to a ridiculous extent.

Seriously, it makes some ‘craft beer bars’ in London look like a fucking joke.

There’s approximately thirty taps along the bar, weighted towards keg – though some of those are given over to the likes of Carlsberg and Staropramen.

The whisky list is also nuts, and there’s some kind of limited edition cask sitting at one end of the bar. I wish I was into whisky. It just hasn’t happened for me.


The match

Even when confronted with an overwhelming, enticing beer list, I think it’s important to go local and go draught.

Because despite the scarcity of some of the other beers on the menu, you know that the local beers out of those taps should be at the peak of their powers – the best you will ever have them.

I’d seen Svaneke beers knocking about in Copenhagen, but I hadn’t got involved due to the tidal wave of incredible beer that washed over me there.

Maybe I should have gone Swedish first – don’t want to get into geo-politics here – but In Your Pale Face IPA’s bizarre hand-drawn / Word Art pump clip mash up immediately caught my eye.

I’d also done a bit of reading around the brewery; its location fascinated me.

It seemed outsider, isolationist, at the edge of various worlds. I want to visit.

Swedish people told me it’s where they went to ride their bikes on school trips. Don’t shatter my dreams Swedish people, I’m not listening.

Regardless of quaint reality, the fact that a brewery as removed from cosmopolitan cool – geographically-speaking – as Svaneke Bryghus is can produce a beer of such innovative individuality and quality fills me with such incredulous glee that I almost break down and weep.

The 89 krona I’ve been charged for the privilege seems cheap.

12 Jun 2012

Magic Rock Brewing High Wire and the 2012 European Beer Bloggers Conference


The beer

If you’re into your beer, and from the UK, I would imagine you may have heard of Magic Rock.

Like a vampire responds to the opening of curtains at dawn, I recoil at exposure to reverent hype or rampant admiration.

It’s based on a scientific fact I made up that 80% of people are complete idiots with no taste, and therefore anything popular has to be pretty crap.

This means I miss out on a lot of really good stuff, making me a complete idiot and thus unequivocally proving the rule.

With Magic Rock I made a fundamental error in my calculations: people who like good beer generally have good taste when it comes to beer. D’uh.

So I had really not devoted much mind or mouth space to this Huddersfield brewery.

Until, that is, I arrived at their premises and poured myself a complimentary (thereby completely inhibiting my ability to critically appraise it) glass of High Wire straight from a waiting keg, as fresh as I will ever get it.

















In the hazy, mid-morning Yorkshire sun (seriously), its slightly-muddied-yet-vibrant orange constitution screams ‘consume me instantly’.

An assault of combined fruit aromas – as if you’d just peeled back the film on a supermarket-bought tropical fruit salad selection– hit you the moment you even think about raising it to your face.

Most prominent is grapefruit, which is great, as it’s still kinda breakfast time.

That sensory build-up play pays off as it makes physical contact, deftly dribbling through your midfield with mango and lychee panache, nut-megging your central defender with smooth, brown sugar sweetness, before placing a crisp finish beyond the reach of your keeper.

And I’ve just wasted my football allegory ahead of impending Euro 2012 posts.

Great.


The event

I’m not going to explain what the Beer Bloggers Conference is.

















There is a whole website dedicated to it.

I assume that if you are reading this text, you are connected to the internet.

Helpfully, I’ve even hyperlinked the words ‘beer’, ‘blogger’ and ‘conference’ above to said website.

I am a web usability guru.

Or lazy.

Based on the fact that it happened almost a month ago in Leeds and I am only writing about it now, I know which option I’d go for.


The match

I agree with anyone who says that calling this event a conference is a bit misleading.

If I was to get all semantic up in this bitch I reckon ‘convention’ would be more accurate.

But then I don’t actually care what the organisers call it, as it’s a great time, and I have better things to think about.

I attend for one reason: to drink and talk about interesting beer in the company of those that appreciate it.

A tiny handful of my friends and acquaintances actually care about beer (and why should they?), and therefore my opportunities to rant incessantly about it are limited –so a weekend doing mainly that is really appealing.

I don’t necessarily feel part of a movement, I don’t feel it is my duty to educate or actively promote good beer and this blog is nothing more than a self-indulgent journal of beer drinking experiences.

If anyone happens to read it, then great.

If it then inspires them to go out and drink exceptional beer, fine, but it is really of no consequence to me.

Maybe that’s why the beer I enjoyed the most over the course of the event was free from the constraints of trying to crowbar any agenda around my consumption of beer.

No, that would be unfair. I was actually engaged by most of the programme content.

Adrian Tierney-Jones’s chat around the freedom from editorial constraints particularly resonated, Stuart Howe brought his A-game as usual, and Paul Corbett, Managing Director of Charles Faram, pitched his hop talk at precisely the right level for the audience (i.e. me).

No, High Wire was the beer I enjoyed most over the course of the weekend simply because it was stunning.

P.S.

The Grove is the best pub in the UK by a huge margin.

2 Jun 2012

Jacobsen Original Dark Lager and Kødbyen

The beer

Jacobsen Original Dark Lager is the only beer brewed  by Carlsberg I will ever write about.

Probably.

















Don't expect any 'big brewer in great beer shocker' here though.

It looks okay.

Bit of red. Smattering of orange. Kinda cool copper richness.

Non-existent head, however, and little visible carbonation – which is a bit weird for a 'lager'.

Damp oats and synthetic sugar substitutes are all I can smell.

It tastes like the cheapest honey in the supermarket and Calpol.

Nice.


The hip part of town

Kødbyen is a bit weird.















It feels like it's in a transitional phase: from 'meatpacking district' to hyper-cool urban hangout.

There's still a considerable number of butchery-based companies here.

But the slaughterhouses are being squeezed out by creative industries, fashionable restaurants and trendy bars.

Dead animals snuggling up against hipsters.

The smell of rotting flesh cultivating sneering cynicism.


The match

I'm chilling in Karriere.

Yes. Chilling.

I quite like it. It does stripped-down industrial minimalism way better than any UK attempt at a similar vibe.

Though I believe I'm basing this mainly on the fact it still has those plastic strips hanging down in the doorway that you will have only encountered if you've shopped at a lost-in-time butchers in the north of England.

Considering Copenhagen's rep as one of Europe's coolest beer destinations, I expect the menu options to be better.

I know what Jacobsen is.

It's Carlsberg's response to Denmark's craft beer / microbrewery explosion of the early- to mid-2000s.

*cough* cash-in *cough*

Part of me feels this is a good thing.

Yeah, you should be investing your massive resources in creating more interesting beers.

Unfortunately, this Dark Lager is dogshit, and completely misses the point, feeling more like a branding exercise than a genuine attempt to do something to engage a more sophisticated palate.

Talking to the locals there's a real feeling the craft beer movement peaked circa 2005–7 around here and has been in decline ever since.

Did Carlsberg's meat headedness contribute to its demise?

No, I don't believe so.

As evidenced by the inaugural Copenhagen Beer Celebration 2012.

Here's to next year.

1 Jun 2012

Green Flash Brewing Co. West Coast IPA and Ølbutikken

The beer

At sunset, rays of light from the sun have a longer distance to travel through the atmosphere.

This journey is too long for the shorter wavelengths of green and blue, and these colours are stripped almost entirely from the spectrum seen by the observer, leaving only deep red and orange hues, the likes of which are replicated almost exactly in Green Flash Brewing Co. West Coast IPA.

















The head is off-white, motioning vaguely in the direction of brown in a way that's not dissimilar to toffee ice-cream.

Which pretty much puts an end to the evening sky analogy I was working up.

Oh well, the science is probably wrong anyway – it's half-remembered from a lesson at a rubbish school circa 1996.

I can run with the toffee comparison though, as the cara-malt aromas here suggest you've had a Toffee Dodger smashed into your face.

Wiping that biscuity debris away, there's a significant amount of fruit here too – a familiar triumvirate of grapefruit, melon and pineapple.

Do they still make Lilt? If not, sniff this for a reminder.

There is caramel sweetness in the preliminary taste encounters, but this sugar vibe is thin and light, rather than heavy and syrupy, dissipating at pace to reveal more bitter flavours.

At first, you think the bitterness is going to be brutal and way too much, as it accelerates quickly from 0 to 100 in nanoseconds, building intensity as it hurtles you towards oblivion.

Just as you brace yourself for palate ruination, it plateaus, and you realise West Coast IPA is a beautifully balanced, smooth yet exceptionally complex beer, that's as easy to knock back as it is to saviour.

Alongside familiar tropical fruit flavours, there's a real wine grape undercurrent which blows me away every time I drink it.

This beer vies for top spot in my US IPA Greatest Of All Time List, alongside Odell IPA and Sierra Nevada Torpedo.

It wears its West Coast nomenclature proudly.

This is who we are, this is what we do.

A perfect example of the style and a wonderful beer.


The bottle shop

I just spent way too much of my word count allocation on the beer, so I'm a keep this brief.

Ølbutikken is a cool little basement store just round the corner from the Mikkeller bar in Copenhagen, with a few fridges and a scattering of shelves.

















Those shelves aren't bulging – though perhaps that's because of the locust swarm of craft beer lovers that made the pilgrimage to Denmark's capital the week I visited – but the range is focused and tight.

There is no dead weight.

Plenty of Mikkeller, a few other Scandis, some incredible US names and the best of the Belgians.

There's a table and a few chairs near the window where you can hang out and drink the beer you've just bought.

If you leave here without buying anything, you're in the wrong place.


The match

As soon as I walk in there's a supremely-chilled, friendly vibe that reminds me instantly of the De Struise store in Bruges.

There is a lot of good beer down here.

I refer to my purchase criteria. There are some restrictions.

One large bottle to go in the suitcase, two smaller ones for drinking at the apartment.

I know what the large bottle is going to be.

I knew before I got here.

Because Ølbutikken stocks AleSmith.

Every AleSmith beer I've ever had has been great, and they are scarce enough in the UK that I long to cradle them in my arms.

Wee Heavy gets yoinked from the shelf. Because it's incredible. And may have fared better on its travels than some of the others.

After seconds of deliberation I grab Green Flash Brewing Co. West Coast IPA. Because I love them. And love this beer.

The satisfaction I feel drinking it later back at the apartment is overwhelming.

I almost weep.

Weep because it is truly astonishing, but also because of its rarity in my homeland.

Please, someone distribute Green Flash and AleSmith more widely in the UK.

Please.

Otherwise I'll have to go back to Copenhagen...