So the festival’s on! Numerous exhibitors and beers have made it to town. A lot of one-offs, festivals specials and other beers and breweries never seen before, line up in the interior of the fair out in Nacka Strand.
This is probably my 7th time at SBWF. Because of the serious over-dose of beer available I try each year to narrow my scope by abiding to a set of rules that I set up for myself. Previously that has meant constricting my focus on either Swedish, American, Scandinavian or European swill. This year I’ve had a different focus. Tastings.
I realized that I love them. Tastings are just the greatest thing. You get to take a seat and then in the tranquility of a secluded room, listen the brewer talk about the company and its beers, while you leisurely sample away. Awesome!
BrewDog/Boulevard Brewing Company
So last Thursday I found myself at a tasting lead by founders James Watt from BrewDog and John McDonald of Boulevard Brewing Company. Big thanks to Manker Beer and Patrik Strandberg at Cask Sweden for inviting and arranging this event. James and John took turns introducing one beer at a time of the following:
- BrewDog – Punk IPA
- BrewDog – Hardcore IPA
- BrewDog – Paradox Jura
- BrewDog/Ballast Point – San Diego Scotch Ale
- Boulevard – Pale Ale
- Boulevard – Single-Wide IPA
- Boulevard – Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (Smokestack Series)
- Boulevard – Double-Wide IPA (Smokestack Series)
- Boulevard – The Sixth Glass (Smokestack Series)
It being my first acquaintance with Boulevard’s beer I naturally did look forward these a little more than very much available BrewDog beers. Out of the beautifully designed and labeled Smokestack Series their Double-Wide IPA stood out the most, displaying a depth and character seldom seen in a DIPA. There was tonnes of dark fruit and raisins in there. Fabulous! Their farmhouse ale “Tank 7″ and quadrupel “Sixth Glass” were more than worthy representatives of their respective style but the Double Wide came out on top. With the memory of these beer left on my palate the Boulevard Pale Ale and IPA unfortunately didn’t make the same impression. Nothing wrong with them, not just as impressive.
What really surprised me though at this tasting was the comeback BrewDog provided when their Ballast Point collab beer San Diego Scotch Ale hit the glass. Oh my, what a beer. A rich and complex malt bomb with a smooth booze and fig/date/raisin profile. Their Paradox Jura was also a great beer, rich, deep and extremely dark. Note to self: Put your money on the expensive stuff from BD!
The second tasing of the evening was held by Swedish beer importers/brewers Brekeriet from Malmoe. Arrangement and invitations were only for SÖF (Skandinaviska Ölskribenters Förening/Swedish Beer Writers’ Guild) but I somehow talked my way in there with the help of beer buddy Manne of Mannes Brygglogg. In the past year, the three brothers Ek, have not only managed to keep up their business as importers of fine French and Belgian beer bit also built their own brewery and are now brewing their own product so to speak.
Christian Ek, the brew master at Brekeriet brought us the story and beer line-up of the brewery. In geek speak their philosophy is using microorganisms to induce flavor in all their beer. In plain speak that means that they use a yeast, in their case brettanomyces, imparting the beer with a distinct flavor. You who have had “brett beers” know what I mean.
Four beers were put on the table. Three black label beers available year-round and a limited release white label.
- Brekeriet – Saison
- Brekeriet/Pickener – Farmhouse Ale
- Brekeriet – Cassis
- Brekeriet – Roken
First off was Saison, the flagship brew. A farmer’s Saison laced with straw and a pinch of green fruits. I liked it, I liked it a whole lot.
Brekeriet Cassis, a majestic symphony of brett and black current that pours a dark maroon to grape brew. Frozen berries are used in the process producing a complex yet on point taste experience. Cassis has by many, including myself, been rated as the best Swedish beer at the festival, heck it might turn out to be the best Swedish beer in all of 2012 as a matter of fact. Do try if you the chance!
For their Farmhouse Ale, Brekeriet teamed up with Bavarian contract brewer Pickener. Mostly they let they yeast do the flavoring of their beers but on this one they added hops. Not the best in their line-up but still a decent beer.
Last and by no ways least was Roken, a rauchbier brewed with smoked whiskey malt. With a minty fresh and strong smokiness it crashed-landed on my palate. I’m not sure what I really think of it, but I urge you to give it a try if you want to go extreme. A week has gone by and I still recall the intensity of that particular beer.
Right after the tasting had ended I headed over to Brekeriets booth to sample their fifth beer, Brekeriet Brilliant, also a limited white label release. A beer that has the same base in malt as their Saison but with a different yeast strain imparting a somewhat dryer and deeper taste in my opinion.
I also got to speak to André, the youngest brother and the social media genius of the company. We sidetracked for a while, discussing social media as a way to market your products and company. He emphasized the importance on keeping up with new technologies as the perfect means when reaching out to their customers. Yep, these guys know and are the future.
So to sum it up, tastings are a creative and good way to experience beer festivals period. The last weekend of SBWF is starting tonight. Let’s reload and make the best out of it. Make sure to at least participate in one tasting, they’re worth it!
It’s midday Sunday and we’re to meet up with fellow beer geek and blogger Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting at Mariatorget in central Stockholm. We hadn’t really decided on a specific spot to meet, so we scramble around the park looking for Michael long and hard. From out of nowhere, we find him about half and hour later sitting on a park bench in the middle of the park.
Michael and his wife Hillary are spending their summer vacation in Sweden. Hillary, an avid Swedophile ever since her first visit to the country ten years back, convinced Michael to take the leap over the pond to visit the land of blondes and polar bears.
It all started when we stumbled upon Michael’s blog when doing research for a review on Michigan’s Dark Horse Tres Blueberry Stout. One thing lead to another, so last Sunday we met up in Södermalm to eat some sandwiches and share some beers.
Beers shared in the park. Michael brought along two classic American Imperial Stouts, Deschutes The Abyss. A vintage imperial stout limited to only 600 barrels. Founders KBS, Kentucky Breakfast Stout, brewed with coffee/vanilla and aged in oak bourbon barrels for a year. We brought a lighter offering to the picnic table, including Omnipollo / Evil Twin Russian Roulette (Black IPA), Oppigårds Summer Pale Ale, Nils Oscar India Pale Ale, Nils Oscar Jubileum 15 as well as another Swedish classic, the Carnegie Porter.
Meeting up at Mariatorget we took a short walk up the hill to Ivar Lo’s Park, a beautifully situated park with a spectacular panoramic view of Stockholm.
Michael had been to Systembolaget to pick up some local varieties. The Swedish Fem Komma Tvåan had a really hard time competing with the more sophisticated American KBS. In the end for obvious reasons, we chose to go with the Kentucky Bourbon Stout and boy was that a treat. Bourbon mixed with rich coffee and chocolatey notes.
Examining and talking about the Swedish selection of beers. Not expecting much from a government runned bottle shop Michael was pleasantly surpised in finding a great deal of both domestic and foreign craft beer at Systemolaget.
Time flew, as we sat throughout the whole afternoon discussing all about beer, design, photography, culture and everything in between.
The Abyss, a real golden nugget, from Portland’s very own Deschutes Brewery. Poured like thick black oil and tasted like nectar from the Gods.
Michael caressing his baby beer, minutes before we carved off the wax sealing and pried it open.
What better way of ending our sunny beer sharing get-together with a bottle of Omnipollo / Evil Twin Russian Roulette Black IPA. Check out the review we did on its twin brother, Russian Roulette IPA.
The slightly chaotic, yet beautiful artwork of the Russian Roulette label made by Karl Grandin and Martin Justesen.
Before heading back home, we popped into The Bishop Arms situated close by. There we were greeted by the ever so friendly bartender Roland, who gave us some solid recommendations.
Michael ended up having the Oppigårds Stout, which seems to be a seasonal, maybe temporary selection available at The Bishops Arms. A nice session-stout, with distinct roasted, some what sour, chocolatey and coffee like aroma and flavor.
Joao went for the Victory HopDevil India Pale Ale. A pleasant and well balanced American IPA, with a rich amber color and fruity aroma.
Hillary had the Oppigård Smithy Ale on-tap. An English Pale Ale at the sessionable alcohol level of 4.6%.
Tobias, enjoying a glass of Jontes Atgeir from Närke Kulturbryggeri. Jontes’ an American Pale Ale with a cookie dough tasting malt base and loaded with fresh citrus flavors.
You can’t spend a better afternoon than this. Talking about and sharing great beers with like-minded people. We had a great time meeting Michael and Hillary, and we look forward to see them again soon. Until then, Cheers!
Brewed by Omnipollo · Stockholm · Sweden
Read more www.omnipollo.com
Omnipollo had a release-party for it’s new beer Russian Roulette at Bishops Arms (Linnégatan) some time ago. I went with a friend of mine, Per Backtröm to check out the festivities and to talk to the brewer of Omnipollo, Henok Fentie. The beer in question, Russian Roulette is a collaboration between Omnipollo and Evil Twin Brewing and was brewed at Amager Bryghus, Denmark late January 2012.
They produced two slightly different brews but released it under one collective name. First you got a Pale India Pale Ale and second you got a Black India Pale Ale. The name, Russian Roulette, derives from the fact that you can’t tell which one you’re going to get when you order one. A beer with a twist as they say.
Fortunatly we had the opportunity to taste both of them that night, but for the sake of clarity, I’ve divided them up into two different reviews, since they differ in both taste and flavor. First up is Henok’s brew, the lighter one of the two.
Pours golden, slightly hazy, with a medium thick off-white layer of foam that settles pretty quickly, leaving a thin foam layer and lacing around the glass.
The aroma on this one is off the charts! Could be that it’s fresh from the brewery, but I’m getting loads of fruits, like passion fruit, pineapple, strawberry, citrus. Very flowery, getting a pleasant elderflower aroma. Also has some slight dank and earthy notes that balance the sweeter one well.
The taste is fruity, citrusy, grapefruit, herbal, grassy, in other words, very fresh flavor. Also has a fresh and crisp pilsner malt backbone, with some earthy and bready notes. It’s fairly dry with a moderate carbonation level and has a pretty strong bitterness that lingers on after a sip. But hey, that’s what you get with this much hops, right?
Light to medium body, very dry, feels very smooth. The carbonation is adequate, but could use some more to carry the many flavors.
Overall impression 8/10
This is a great summer IPA. Very light, clean, crisp, with loads of wonderful flavors. I can easily see myself enjoying a bottle of this beer at a bar with outdoor seating this summer. Just be sure to have the waiter bring out the bottle and hold it up towards the sun, so you know which one your getting.
We had a great time at Bishops, and were lucky enough to have the brewer himself Henok, give us the backstory of this beer and the brewing process he had together with Jeppe from Evil Twin, while we were enjoying it.
Too conclude a great summer (pale) IPA with loads of aroma and flavors.
Total Score 41/50
Excellent – Exemplifies style well, requires minor fine-tuning.
Brewed by Spendrups Bryggeri · Stockholm · Sweden
Read more www.spendrups.se
My lager lovin’ father gave me this can of Gold as I was leaving his apartment on my last visit there. That means alot to me since it’s his favorite brew and has been since its introduction in October 2005. My father doesn’t take beer lightly, neither do I. Although this may mean two completely different things they’re equally important to us.
A very pale crystal-clear golden yellow pours from the aluminum can. 1 ½ finger of creamy white head pops up only to dissipate almost instantly.
A very faint bouquet, if a bouquet at all. It’s acidic on the verge to citric, some yeast and malt with a sweetness that reminds me of corn.
Once again only vague outline in taste here. Definitely malty and syrupy sweetness, then an itsy-bitsy bitterness. Somewhere in there are some bready notes.
Bland and wet brew with a relative high level of carbonation.
Overall impression 5/10
This is not a bad beer, but it’s not an average one either. This is an OK, no roller-coaster type of lager that could do on a hot and sunny day when sitting by the lake in some remote part of the country without a car at hand. This does happen!
Total Score 22/50
Good – Misses the mark on style and/or minor flaws.
A Fills my pint glass with an amber almost copper in color, foamy bubbles in a 1/2 cm head sitting on top. It’s a fast dying head though, leaving scarce lacing clutching to the side.
S This one sails pass my nose in a light and fruity manner, making me dream of mangos, pineapple and bubble gum. Some soft and gentle hoppy undertones.
T Introduces itself as a malty and caramel sweet beer with flowery and piney flavors. There’s also a surypy sap like taste noticeable. Flavoring hops make an entrance in the middle somewhere only to disappear and make way for a sweet and clean finish.
M Light to medium body with ridiculously little carbonation. Enters and leaves very fast.
I’m a big hop and IPA fan and this brew really made my day (or evening rather). A fairly uncomplex IPA (some would say too simple), with a very gulpable blend of caramel sweetness and light stingy hop flavors. The only thing that put me off a bit is the mouthfeel which leaves a lot more to ask for. Perhaps it’s my batch of this beer but it lacked almost completely of carbonation, a crucial thing in a hoppy IPA. A great loner beer but I could see food pairings ranging from hearty vegetarian oven baked dishes to a spicy sausage or steak.
Brewery Sigtuna Bryghus, Stockholm, Sweden. http://www.sigtunabrygghus.se. Overall rating 3.6 out of 5