11 May 2009

Those surprising Danes

For most people Danish beer means only Carlsberg, Tuborg perhaps. Fortunately for the good beer lovers in Denmark, and the world over, there is much, much more to choose from.

In fact, Denmark has become one of the most interesting countries in the world when it comes to beer. There has been an enormous growth in the number of commercial craft breweries, there is innovation, there are people recreating ancient recipes, there is experimentation, there is something for everyone.

According to Knut Albert, the number of new beers presented during 2008 was 647! So you get an idea of what this means, in 1999 only 17 new beers were presented. Calculate percentages if you want.

But all this is just interesting statistics, but what about the beer themselves? What are they like?

I've recently tasted 5 samples, which add to the ones I already enjoyed at last year's Christmas Beer Festival and during the Christmas celebrations.

Three of the new samples got to my hands thanks to Olle, one of my Danish fans, with whom I had a great afternoon drinking beers and chatting about everything and nothing.

I started with the one I was most curious about. Beer Here Påske, an Easter beer brewed by, according to Olle, one of the best young craft brewers in Denmark (who unfortunately, isn't so goot when it comes to business, so now he has resnt capacity at other breweries to make his own stuff) with, besides the usual ingredients, grapes and honey. A fantastic beer, I must say, perhaps the best I've had so far this year. Pours amber with a generous head. The nose is full of pipe pinapple, with a herbal and floral background. What a refreshing bouquet it's got! The taste is at the same time mild and complex, a lot of sweet fruit (pineapple, apricot) and as much dry herbs that in their fight to take charge of the flavour the only winner is the palate. It's 7%ABV is so well integrated that it's a bit hard to believe that this is such a strong beer. Perhaps more summer than Easter beer, but a lovely thing anyway.
It was followed by Mikkeler Stateside IPA. The name is enough to figure out that in front of us we have a IPA inspired by the American model. In fact, according to their web page, many of Mikkeler's beers are inspired by American crafts. This one in particular pours amber, looks very similar to Påske, and like that one, it's got a very generous and lasting head. In the nose predominate tropical fruit with a subtle caramel touch. I really like it when there is a contrast between aromas and taste in a beer, and Stateside IPA does that great. The flavour is really citrusy, very American, the tropical fruits show up for an instant only to, after a quick nutty note, leave room for a finish that becomes drier as the glass goes down. Very nice beer that, also with 7%ABV, goes down very easily.
Last of that lot was Hr. Frederisen from Amager Bryghus. Olle warned me that this was a bit of a monster. Brewed with 8 kinds of malt (I couldn't confirm which kinds because the web page is only in Danish), 10.5%ABV and 80IBU, those numbers alone tell us that this is not a beer for beginners. I opened it with a "let's see how tough you are" attitude. I poured that very black liquid with the same stance. I was surprised by how long the sandy head lasts despite the high ABV. I started to doubt my attitude when getting the bouquet, a very complex one indeed, brandy, wood, grapes, very bitter chocolate. I regretted having understimated it once I started drinking. There was tobacco, fruity acidity, whisky, nuts, all at the same time, all dancing a perfect choreography. As the glass went down chocolate notes show up, as if anything else was needed. The finish is surprisingly short, very dry and with a spicy touch. It's not an easy beer to drink, it's quite sticky. A half a litre bottle is definetively for sharing. I can see it as a pefect pairing for a very cured cheese platter or one of those curries that will make your eyes sweat. Alone, better in small doses.
These three beers gave me the excuse I was needing to open the two beers from Nørrebro Bryghus that I had in my cellar. Nørrebro Bryghus is a brewpub (or rather a pretty posh restaurant - brewery) in Copenhague that bottles its beers in 600ml bottles with very nice labels, the presentation is flawless. I'd already tasted La Granja Stout y the Christmas beer Julebryg, I had liked both a lot. Now it was the turn of the other two that you can find in Prague. Bombay Pale Ale and North Bridge Extreme.

Bombay Pale Ale is, as you can imagine, and IPA. Pours an almost orange amber, nice head, very finy bubbles. There are tropical fruit and some caramel in the nose. So far, very similar to Mikkeler's Stateside. There is bit more body in this one though and the hops are more subdued. The taste is tropical with notes of green apples and flowers. The finish is very dry, but quite short. A very nice summer beer. Ideal to drink at the end of a very warm day, perhaps paired with grilled veggies or seafood.
North Bridge Extreme is another thing. 9.5%ABV, dark amber, a bit cloudy. In the nose there is cinammon, gingerbread and citrus, that despite their different characters they integrate really well. It tastes of spice, with some vanilla and tobacco notes. The finish is tremendously dry and the alcohol shows up without having been called, though is not a big issue. More of a winter beer this one, but a nice one nonetheless.
I liked all of these beers, each of them with its personality, with something different to say. It is really remarkable what is happening in Denmark, not only because of just these five samples, but because of the great number of beers of apparently great quality that are brewed in that small Scandinavian country. It's about time for me to start paying a bit more attention to my roots.

Na Zdraví!

Choose your preferred Prague hotels and get free transport.

4 comments:

  1. The Norrebro beers are lovely, I very much enjoyed the North Bridge Extreme when I polished off a bottle while the wife was in Berlin. Have a bottle of La Granja sitting around the flat as well - looking forward to indulging again in that particular delight.

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  2. Good to read that you enjoyed the Danish beers! I was pretty sure about that.
    I grew up with Carlsberg and Tuborg which totally controlled the beer market in Denmark. Now it´s a beer lovers paradise. Every week new beers to try. Many excellent small breweries. The only problem is the high price level. That's why you are lucky living in Prague with the fantastic tradition for high class lager for a small amount of money. Ole.

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  3. Dear Pivni Filiosof.

    So glad you liked the the beers we selected with Ole. Especially I am happy that you like Beer Here’s Påske. Just recently it got hammered in Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende, the reviewer who’s very respected on his primarily wine- but also beer reviews, called it “bizarre and unbalanced”. We think it is brilliant.

    Tommorrow the Danish Beer Festival kicks off. Mikkeller will premiere his version of the Chezch Pilsner, called “Tjekket Pilsner”, it’s rumoured to be very hoppy indeed. So we look forward to that, and we will make shure that Ole will bring you that next time.

    I just returned from Prague the other day, and highlights on my trip was the “Mother Road” as I ended up calling it. First Hotel Victor and their nice Chyne selection. Not as good as sitting in that rocking chair at the brewery itself I think, but still brilliant, then to U Slovanske Lipy. What a nice place, friendly service and a top brew from Kout Na Sumave, I was looking most forward to the dark one but truly enjoyed the whole repetoir from the 10¤ to the 18¤ special. Finally to U Radnice Zizkov with Krakonos, Kout na Sumave and other top brews.

    Its almost to good to be true that those three places lies that close !!!

    Na Zdravi :-)

    Martin,
    Allbeer

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  4. I loved Beer Here Påske! I found it really well balanced and, though it's not mainstream, I've had more bizzare beers. But then again, many wine reviewers are not so good at reviewing beers (and the other way round).

    An yeah. Žižkov is great! I'm preparing a visit to a couple places to write a pub crawl there.

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