Saturday, November 17, 2012

christmas beer, the media and the frenzy

The time is here, Christmas beers are out and people are flocking into the wine stores like ants to a Doritos chip. Everything is completely crazy this weekend, people are buying them by the case and every newspaper and media in town has a section devoted to them.
I was lucky enough to be on the panel for Vínótek and I think we did a pretty good job off being fair to everybody. That is not something that applies to everybody but more on that later.
This year I thought there were two domestic standouts. The obvious winner is of course Borg´s triumphant Barley Wine, Giljagaur. A massive hop monster weighing in at about 10% abv, it´s not a beer for weak palates. Like every Borg seasonal, it´s released maybe a tad too early but still, at this fresh level it is still a massive massive beer and incredibly tasty. Dry hoppy finish with tons of dried fruits. It´s something to savior, and something to enjoy slowly by the fireplace.
The other one is slightly more devoted to the average palate but still very tasty and Christmas-y. It´s the first new beer from Ölvisholt (Iceland´s first micro in my opinion and the one that has stayed close to the concept since it´s start) in I think over 2 years and a really good one. It does not demand much, it´s quite easy but ticks all the boxes for a seasonal Christmas brew. Spices dominate the palate, with cloves and orange bark being the stand outs. It´s a bit lacking in the hop department but still the First Gold hops are obvious in the finish. It is maybe the only thing that this beer is lacking, more bitterness to compliment the spices. But still, an easy choice for the mass as this year´s Christmas beer.

The other Icelandic beers are nothing to rave about, but I was a bit impressed by the Steðji Christmas Lager. A well balanced lager, blended with liquorice. A very foul concept but still easily drinkable.

And now to the media debate. Nonsence like the one picture above is ridiculous. A long time ago writers for the Icelandic newspapers forget the number one rule of journalism, to stay neutral and write an honest opinion about things.

If you´re only intent is to score free beer and keep everybody happy, you should not be writing about beer. Everybody has their opinion but an article like this that is so biased is not only unfair but also incredibly unprofessional. The panel behind this reviews were a group of homebrewers and journalists for this particular newspaper. I refuse to believe that the result was something that everybody agreed on.

I think I know plenty about beer, taste and I know my palate pretty well. In my opinion the Víking Jólabock was incredibly foul, and has nothing to do with christmas or craft brew. The doppelbock pictured in this picture (from the same brewery) was better but in no means something that deserves 93 points. A friend from the craft beer community here once told me that this newspaper adds extra 50 points to every rate and is maybe not doing the sampling session as a blind rating session. If that is true, why the hell write an article? You could just have a whole page with an add from the Víking brewery if you want to make them happy and promote them. I´m not a fan of Kaldi either, the beer that is in this picture elected as the "crowd´s favorite", but each to their own. Other papers have same kind of review, with a panel of people that are famous but know nothing about beer or good taste.

This is not me being bitter, but simply saying my opinion on what a review should be like. I am very proud of my reviews for Vínotek and the panel that rated for them. I think that the final review was very fair to everybody. We did not slate beers but also we did not say they were something that they are not. We did a blind tasting of about 14 beers. Some were very surprising. Icelandic brewing industry is still focusing on the idea that a Christmas beer is something for the binge drinkers. I do not agree and by the look of things, Borg and Ölvisholt have the same idea as me.

And if this particular newspaper do not agree with my opinion and want me to take this picture down, then fine.

But do drink responsibly people, and think more of Christmas beer as something to enjoy and not something to abuse!

Friday, November 9, 2012

international stout day

here in the background is also an amazing barley wine, more on that later

Oh, fun! International Stout day was yesterday, and I visited the dark side of course.

First all, I have a weird relationship with stouts and porters. I like them, I like them a lot. They are, if well made, very rich of flavors, and incredibly satisfying. But every time I visit a liquor store I always head towards the bitter and funky stuff.

Things are on and upwards at Borg as usual. Their latest brew just hit the shelves and it is a rich and robust porter. It´s not a stout per se but we all know just how vague the line between a stout and a porter is. And it´s a discussion I will not go into in this post. Added to all richness of a base porter, Borg have added specially roasted coffee beans to this ale, imported from Colombia. It adds more depths of flavors and the final product is incredibly tasty and holds up well compared to the signature porters of both England and the USA. I have had this brew with a nice steak and it was truly awesome!

The second beer of the night was more true to what the day was all about. A crazy imperial stout! De Molen are one of those brewers that have incredible hype around them. They are brewing 100´s of beers (a la Mikkeller) and the beer nerds are going crazy. I was so lucky to have a visitor from Holland (Hi Martinus!) that brought along a few De Molen bottles for me to sample. I sampled the "regular" Hel & Verdoemenis a few nights ago and it was a bit of an anti climax. Sure it was good but a bit unbalanced. So my hopes for the 666 version had dampened a bit I still knew that I was in for a really special beer. And boy, what a beer, what a beer experience and what nirvana of beer gods! Massive complex aroma, where the cognac truly shines, along with some funk, dust and oak. First a bit acidic on the tongue but then you are brutally hit by the fist of this beer. It slaps you around and calls you "Susan" again and again and by the time you finish the glass you have no clue what just hit you. What hit me was an almost perfect imperial stout.

I hope you all did wonder outside your tiny little box and sampled some stouts and dark beers yesterday. It´s an awesome day, and it is always fun to have an excuse to try something new.

Monday, October 8, 2012

staleness reprise

A few weeks ago I wrote an article called "Staleness". It raised some eyebrows and was just my private thoughts on micro beer in Iceland. I decided to delete it because I did not really back up my opinions with facts, and also, because of the abuse that was building up. Maybe it was the correct call, maybe it was not..

It´s a fact that over here the micro beer boom was not something that spurred out of the home brewing culture. It was about people that wanted to get into the beer business apart maybe from Ölvisholt that were quite creative in their early days and are planning new releases this winter.

For me, not everything has to revolve around double IPA´s and imperial stouts, but in my opinion people need to up their game or decide what market they want to be a part of. Does icelandic micro belong competing against the two macro giants, or should they try to capture the mind and wallet of the beer nerd? For me, it´s the latter. There is no romanticism in going on and brewing 9 different types of pilsner. If you are doing that, you are competing with the two macros and you want to be a part of their market (I´m not naming any names but frequent readers should guess who I am talking about). And if you want to compete with them, you should not go to the papers and talk about how unfair the market is, especially if you are selling more than them in the bottle market.

There is also another micro, one that I will not name either, but they pride themselves of having done 11 styles of beer in little under a year. For me, they deserve cudos for that and I think they are trying harder and harder to push a good product out and trying to get the beer nerds to like them. I almost like their beer, I dont find it offensive although the first batches were little more than almost repulsive. Quality control is better and the pale ale is pretty tasty. And with their downtown location in Reykjavik, they are surviving in a market that is pretty tough to begin with.

Some people say that I have absolutely no patience for this industry but this weird culture here is getting to the point that I don´t have a clue what is going on. The newest micro, Steðji in Borgarfjörður, allegedly bought the equipment that Jökull brewery (the worst brewery in the history of brewing in my opinion) and also hired Jökull´s head brewmaster. It did not surprise me that the first beer out of that place was a lager beer in a green bottle with a repulsive label design.

Some people also slag me because of my pro-Borg writing. Let me explain a little bit why I have a love affair with them. At this point in my beer writing and beer rating adventures, I dont care where the beer comes from. I care about taste, quality and if my palate is satisfied or not. I´m not for buying beer that I dont like simply because it is a small family owned business. If I like it I will buy it, if I dont, I wont buy it. Simple as that.

That being said, I´m almost come to the point of not caring any more about the domestic industry. At least I wont write about it until I taste something that I find personally good. Call me selfish or inpatient. I dont care, the year is 2012. Maybe things are slow here because we are so used to binge drinking, dont know and I´ve given up on the fact that something special will happen here. Sure, I am excited for Borg and what Ölvisholt will offer in the coming months and years. Others, please prove me wrong. Also bare in mind, I´m not saying that the beer that the people here are brewing is bad, but I think personally that people are taking the wrong approach.

Here is a bold statement that I think people should think about:

Craft beer is about introducing different types of flavors, challenge the taste of others, brewing proper beer styles, doing high quality beers that are packed with flavor. Trying something new, going out of the norm and thinking outside the box. Craft beer is a movement, it´s about honesty and quality.

I am going into home brewing, at least then I will only have myself to whine and bitch about..

Monday, September 24, 2012

US brewery spotlight: Oskar Blues

If it was something that I was looking forward to during my recent trip stateside, it was to sample some of the Oskar Blues brews, mostly and mainly Dale´s Pale Ale. I am a hop lover, I love bitter brews, being a pale ale, ipa or dipa, I dont care, if it is bitter and demanding I will probably like it. I must confess that hopes were pretty high. Oskar Blues pretty ticks every box on my agenda, they are based in Colorado, environmental friendly with their canning policy, relate their products to mountain biking and are pretty well known for awesome beers. I had scouted which bars in DC carried Oskar Blues and I was pleasantly surprised to see Dale´s Pale Ale on the menu at Proof in DC´s Chinatown. It was a rainy day and we had walked along the memorials all day in the rain and I was pretty thirsty. Dale´s Pale Ale did not disappoint. Delicious and hoppy, but also well balanced with an obvious malt tone but not too overpowering. Weighing in at 6.5% abv, this was almost a perfect pale ale. I went through my trip not finding a single can of Oskar Blues, until in Durham North Carolina on my way to the airport. We had scheduled a lunch stop in Durham and I had checked what was the best place to buy beer in Durham. With almost no time to spare until our flight we visited Sam´s Quik Shop and behold, countless Oskar Blues cans (among a very good selection) and I was able to stock up on both the IPA and the IIPA. It was also the perfect travel beer, because aluminum does not weigh shit.
The Goubna Imperial IPA was simply out of this world, and perhaps the best double ipa I have tasted. Big big palate and a hop bite of 100 ibu´s it is a joy to drink. It´s not as sweet as some of the dipa´s I´ve tasted but was well balanced nonetheless. It´s a single hop dipa, loaded with Summit hops, a variety you don´t see everyday in a DIPA. Along with rye malt this fantastic brew is highly drinkable and ranks up with the very best.
The regular IPA is an oddball. Deviant Dale´s IPA is much more then a session ipa. At 8% abv and a whopping 85 IBU, it can almost be ranked as a dipa. Sweeter than the Goubna, this bad boy does deliver the punch. I will do anything I can to get some Ten Fidy´s for the coming winter. I dream of heaven and heaven must be Colorado... note: my own pics for this post are pending

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

US brewery spotlight : New Glarus

Back in 2004 I was so lucky to taste a great cherry beer called New Glarus Belgian Red. If my memory serves me right I got this bottle along with a fantastic Tripel from the same brewery from a Ratebeerian in Wisconsin after winning the NCAA pool that year. Little did I know of this special brew he sent me. Since then I have not found a Kriek or a fruit beer that matched that beer, and has since that day been one of the best beers I´ve sampled in my lifetime.

Fast forward to 2012. A fellow blogger is visiting Iceland and contacts me. After meeting him in downtown Reykjavik for a few drinks he informs that he is born and raised in Wisconsin and rates this brewery pretty highly, and also tells me that their beer is almost impossible to get outside of Wisconsin. So he made a promise that if I would ever visit him he would hook me up with some more of their stuff.

So when I met him 2 weeks ago in Washington he did just that! Gave me more of the amazing elixir that New Glarus brew to sample during my trip in the south.

Like with the Belgian Red, I had another amazing experience and a stand out in a certain style of beer. This time around it was the smoked. The Unplugged Smoked Rye Ale is simply an artwork of a beer, deep smokiness, and very big and sugary. Simply awesome. They are doing something very right over there in Wisconsin.

The Black IPA was very complex and delicate. I also got to sample the Very Naked and Spotted Cow, both low gravity beers but share a certain character. Both complex and unusual.

New Glarus have been around for some quite some time. Founded in 1993 by the Careys, Dan and Deborah, Deborah became the first woman to open up a brewery. Quite remarkebly, they also are one of the most rewarded brewery in the states, which is a fine achievement considering they only distribute within the state of Wisconsins.

The US is full of fantastic little micro breweries and it seems that New Glarus stands out among them. Big shout out to Skye over at Beer Fellows for the New Glarus hook up!

I will be writing more short segments on fantastic little and big breweries that are getting me excited..

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

from the middle of the atlantic ocean

If you thought that Iceland was in the middle of nowhere, check again. Just south of the Island, towards the coast of Scotland are small islands called the Faroe Islands. A very small country with a delightful language and proud people.

When I received this as a gift at work I was surprised but also happy, because although the Faroe islands are not far away, this is something I dont see every day and is rather hard to get hands over.

What I gather is that Okkara started out as a microbrewery in an abandoned chicken farm in Tórshavn. They have only been operating since 2010 and export to Denmark as well as trying to battle the other Faroe brewery, Foroya, at their home ground.

Looking over their catalogue of beer nothing seems out of the norm, typical northern European brewery brewing mainly lager beers, but nothing is as it appears. They are trying something different, they have an imperial porter as their flagship export beer and their last christmas beer was a barley wine.

Out of these five that I got I could not wait to get my hands on two of them, the very interesting Okkara Rinkusteinar and the Okkara Brendan, a 2,500 bottle batch of a hoppy quad.

They did not disappoint. Of Okkara Rinkusteina I was not expecting much, it´s an ale that has been filtered with hot rocks, something that is a bit cliché and touristy when you think about but the beer was a bit special. It had this dry hoppy bitterness without the floral and fruity aspect of the hops. A fine ale that would accommodate every dish of Scandinavian cuisine very well. A fun experience and definitely something out of the norm.

The quad was something else and it also brings me to the never ending discussion of over hyped Belgian beers. I swear to you, if this had the Rochefort label or of some other famous Belgian this would be thought as one of the most sought after beers in the world.

Dark brown, cloudy with a small film of a head. Massive aroma of spices, candy, sugar, caramel and sweets. Very yeasty but perfectly balanced by the hops as they leave you with a fantastic aftertaste of rock sugar, yeast and caramel. The only downfall is that the beer is maybe a bit too young but oh boy, will this be massive if aged for a year or two. I liked the fact that this was a big Belgian, and it was very well masked and it also did not leave you with an overly sweet palate after each sip.

The porter sits now in my fridge waiting to battle an all new Iceland porter coming soon, more on that later

Sunday, August 12, 2012

best bar in Iceland, Micro Bar

what if I told you that in downtown Reykjavík is small place, a really small place, a hole in the wall kind of place just off the main square, and in that tiny little bar you can have most of the Icelandic micros on tap and about 80-100 foreign craft and rare bottles? Impressive danish import and belgian stuff, most of the BrewDog line, and many more. Yes, this magical place exists, and is a love child of Gæðingur in the north of Iceland, and they have formed a flawless relationship with the best beer importer in Iceland, Járn og Gler.

The interiors are industrial and good looking, same artist that designed the label has designed the wall art, and what makes this place even more interesting is that this is a hotel bar, and belongs to City Hotel in downtown Reykjavík. Imagine all those trips you took as a beer nerd and in almost every country and every town the hotel bar served you up with a bottle of Heineken or the local macro swill.

The staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgeable but foremost they really care about the bar and the business which is a rare thing nowadays.

Being the number one outlet that Gæðingur has in the capital, they are mostly focused on them on draft, which is a good thing, because Gæðingur brew really good beers, and to have them on tap is fantastic. They also serve the other micros, Ölvisholt and Kaldi, and rotate some of the taps. The main concept was to open up a bar that did not serve any macros, after Gæðingur was simply bullied out of the bar market in Reykjavik, a market dominated by the two big macros, Vífilfell and Egils. The only downfall of this is that Micro will probably never serve Borg beers, because Egils are the owners, but hey, Gæðingur brew pretty decent stuff and the Pale Ale, the IPA´s and the Stout are simply world class!

They are now brewing two IPA´s which they rotate and tap. Tumi Humall, a 65 IBU 6.5% big session and a smaller one, 50 IBU 5.6% Humallína which I have yet to sample. Their Pale Ale is simply world class, an unfiltered cloudy glass of hoppy goodness which packs a punch considering the very low alcohol percentage.

A visit to this small but remarkable place is a must if you are in town

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Icelandic ale

The birth of a new style maybe?

Borg´s latest offering is Snorri, which is labelled as an Icelandic ale. Don´t know what the base is, but this feels a lot like a subtle saison or bier de garde with it´s very dry finish. This is the latest "testing-the-boundaries" brew that Stulli and Valli brew and the main selling point is the addition of arctic thyme in this beer. The final product is quite lovely, I sampled this when it was in production and found it incredibly interesting, sampled it again very fresh when it was newly bottled, did not think it was that great then but now, a few weeks later, this is another brew. Slightly acidic with a fine and subtle floral bite. Bone sucking dry! Very nice and ethnic!

This must be welcoming new to any beerlover that is visiting Iceland because this beer is only> available in the duty free at Keflavík airport..

Monday, July 2, 2012

summer beers!

The summer is here and we have had an exceptional good month of july, almost 60 degrees every day (that´s hot in Iceland) and weather like that calls for something refreshing..

The saddest thing about all this is that only three breweries have summer beers, and only 2 of them are widely available.

Borg Sumarliði

I love Borg, although not technically a micro brewery, they are simply awesome! Boasting the most talent in the brewing industry around these parts, they are always coming up with interesting ideas and beers. Sumarliði is both incredibly interesting and also very refreshing! Before I go into details I must state that wheat beers bore me, I think they are overrated and the style cannot expand. Borg proofed my wrong. Sumarliði bags a kick that you might not expect, being a German wheat beer at around 6% abv. Very yeasty but with a slight hop character, murky with a big nose of bananas, yeast and some tiny hints of clove. Full palate and very tasty and very good considering the style, a bit of a cross between a being a fully fledged German but has some American influence

Víking Sumaröl

I said that I dont like wheat beers, I especially dislike Belgian wits. I think they are boring and like the German version, done to bits! I do like the occasional Hoegaarden once in a while but if it says wit and not brewed in the States, I will not buy it.
I remember I had this wit in the early stages, it packed a bit more punch then the final version and I remember almost liking it! The final version is a bit toned down, but it does have the Belgian character. I cant slate this brew, since it is fairly well brewed, but wit´s in general...? nahh! This is a big seller though, since craft beer is getting quite popular. Although there is nothing craft or micro about Viking, it is a bit out of the ordinary for the regular drinker and women seem to like this (obviously!).

There is a third summer beer which is also a wheat beer. When this is written I have not dragged my ass down to the very awesome Micro Bar to try it but it is from maybe the smallest brewery in Scandinavia, in the north of Iceland, in a fjord called Skagafjörður, namely Gæðingur Hveiti. Since I like almost every beer they pull out (session-wise, they have not been into extreme brewing, at least not yet) I have quite high hopes for it..

More on that and Micro Bar later.. until then, cheers!

Monday, June 18, 2012

canned craft beer

I must confess, I like the concept of craft beer in cans. I know people that think that bottles are the perfect vessel for a fine brew. This is not entirely correct, although I will prefer my Belgians bottled, as it´s nice and elegant for storage purpose..

On the other hand, an IPA in can is just genius. IPA is the sort of brew that is best enjoyed as fresh as possible, since the hops are a bit sensitive for time, light and long exposure to oxygen. The can is completely airtight, and there is no chance in hell that light or sunshine will ever hit the beer. The can also chills extremely fast compared to a bottle and is much much lighter. Hell, next time I´ll travel to the states, I´ll buy only cans for the trip home, it´ll will save me from overweight luggage! And here is the punch if you are still doubting me.. If you have any decency or taste buds that are not completely ruined by yellow piss, you will know, or at least think that beer from draft is the best, the tastiest and the preferred way to enjoy a cold brew. A can, an aluminum can, is just a mini keg! Huh, imagine that, a beer snob telling you about the wonders of canned beer! And also, the raisin in the end of the hot dog (an Icelandic saying) is that cans are environmentally friendlier than the glass bottle!

A lot of microbreweries in the states are canning their beer, namely big ones such as Sierra Nevada and Fat Tire, two giants that are an integral part of the craft beer boom and how craft beer transformed from the nerds garage into the hands of the average Joe. This DC Brau Corruption IPA was simply stunning, cloudy amber, delightfully piney aroma, big finish. Yummy! I was so lucky to get this can from a fellow blogger, Skye at Beer Fellows (which is an amazing blog btw) who was so kind to bring me a few and couple of amazing bottles. More on that later..

Don´t get me wrong though, I have nothing against bottles, as I love big brews in bombers or in 750ml corked bottles, but for fresh ales that are sensitive to light and are best when they are as fresh as a spring river, the can is the way to go.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Borg Brugghús released this beast over the easter. I was not that impressed, maybe I was too much of a style-nazi. Dry hopped Belgian should sound good, and taste equally good. I was not having that, thought it was more of a big american pale ale, or a belgian brother of an american IPA, which also would not be bad.. (remind me again why I did not like this beer when it came out!?)
I came across a bottle at my uncles house this weekend and brought home. Thought it would be interesting to sample when it had aged a bit. And whoa.. what a glorious brew! The hop character was still there but very nice balanced with malt and sweetness. Very sweet hop infused belgian. Loved it! Borg are beginning to make quite a name for themselves when it comes to seasonal brews, having made the god almighty one of the best imperial stouts in the world last January.. More of this please

Saturday, April 21, 2012

bigger beers

The beer landscape is changing over here. Taking small baby steps from time to time, towards a brighter and more hoppier future. Beer geeks have started importing beer which is a good thing. Until now we have been bound by decisions by importers that favor lager beers or dont want to invest in bigger beers for the smaller audience.

A new line of beers will soon be made available over here, namely BrewDog beers. For those who dont know, a couple of 24 year old geeks in Scotland decided to open up a brewery back in 2007, to try to make bold beers with taste in a market dominated by poor lager beer. The persistence paid off and few years later they have expanded and have 7 beers in the UK. Not so shabby... and the beer is fantastic.

Last night I tried 3 of them and rating are as followed

BrewDog 5 am Saint

An Amber ale really bursting with fruity and hoppy flavors. Perfect balance between malt and hop give this beer exquisite taste and not such a bad hop bite for those not used to it. Both explosive and subtle, really fantastic.

BrewDog Punk IPA

A really good entry-level/session IPA. Floral citrus aroma, some sweetness and grass on the tongue. Long lasting bitter citrus aftertaste. Nice session beer!

BrewDog Hardcore IPA

Double/Imperial IPA and the first we see here in Iceland. Weighting at about 150 IBU´s I was expecting a monster. The sweetness balances well with the bitterness, leaving this beer as the perfect desert. Exceptional!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Einstök White Ale

Einstök White Ale, I think I´ve never blogged about the strange but fun concept that Einstök is. Basically, Americans with great taste are brewing beer in the north of Iceland, or contract brewing to be exact. Which is a very good thing...

This is my favorite of the bunch, but so far they have put out a porter, pale ale and a chistmas double bock (which was kind of amazing).

Einstök White Ale is an unfiltered Belgian whitbier, huge coriander and orange aroma and very easy on the palate. Although the label is a bit cold, here you have the perfect summer beer, and my word how good this must taste on a hot summer day right after doing the lawn.

One thing about the hugely filtered picture I took on my S II of this beer. I think that whitbier is the hardest beer to pair with a good glass. You cant drink it out of a tulip since it destroys the head and generally makes it look worse than it actually is. The Blance De Namur glass is sublime for belgian whit. Narrow but beautiful, makes this look very good, and fun how the yeast that was in the bottom makes the beer very cloudy.

There has been a bit of a wheat beer craze brewing for some time here in Iceland. Ölvisholt have been brewing Freyja (a filtered whit) for some years and gotten good appraisal from Icelandic beer drinkers. Now we have this and two on the way, one from Viking and one from Borg. I think lager drinkers over here are developing better palates..

Also, if you are reading this stateside, Einstök should be available widely in California and in some states on the east coast!

Beware, this is HUGELY drinkable...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

being brilliant

So what happens when two of the greatest beer minds born in Iceland meet? Extraordinary beer is born!

Being a brewer at Borg must not be easy. You are free to brew fantastic beer but somebody else than you has to green-light it. But luckily, it seems that the owners of Egils understand what is happening at Borg and what fans expect.

Tonight was a special night at Kex Hostel in downtown Reykjavik. The brewmasters presented their prototypes and test brews, and regular brews were paired together with excellent dishes of food. Although having had excellent food paired with excellent beer, this post will dwell on the fact just how fantastic the beer were..

pic above: prototype for Surtur Imperial Stout.

They had 5 experimental brews on hand. All excellent! While I´m fresh and have pretty muched nailed down the pros and cons in my mind, here´s my verdict:

Test Brew #1 : Dunkel Weizen

At least that was the idea. This went down well, yeast was very obvious, and along with the malt this packed a punch. An excellent session brew which I sincerely hope that will get the go ahead..

Test Brew #2 : Weizen

Or perhaps it was a wit? Anyway, I´m sure the brewmasters will comment if this is not right. Very easy but full bodied. Maybe the least of the brews but good nonetheless, and surely the best wheat beer to come out of Iceland so far..

Test Brew #3 : Belgian Ale

Surely this has to be a Tripel! A bit American, with obvious hop notes but EXTREMELY well balanced. Sweet finish but maintains that perfect balance between all ingredients. Extraordinary brew, and an easy 4.5 on the Ratebeer scale.

Test Brew #4 : Imperial Stout

The prototype for the amazing Surtur. An all malt imperial stout, weighing in at about 8%. This is what I would like to call a perfect brewer´s beer, the aroma is simply to die for, overwhelming malt aroma packed with a huge body to compliment it. Extremely nice

Test Brew #5 Double/Imperial IPA

This was THE stuff! Pictured below, having matured in 18 months, this was a world class IPA! Huge citrus, piney Cascade aroma, firm head. A very beautiful beer to say the least. Huge body, well masked, very bitter finish with sugary notes. This is one of the best beers I have ever tasted, and something that could compete with the very best in the states. Bravo!

Amazing night, which also broadened my horizon. It was a joy to see fellow beer enthusiast and also how much this scene has grown in Iceland for the past years. We have people like Valgeir and Sturla to thank for that. This was hopefully a sign of things to come, and if we can take this night and learn something from it, one thing is sure, the future is bright.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

lager time

Like the rest of the beer nerd society, I hate lagers. I think that the standard euro lager is piss which sometimes can be an alternative choice to Vodka when the sole purpose of consuming alcahol is to get drunk.

I had not tried this in over a year, it has become one of those beers that I often think about buying but never do, due to the fact that it is a lager. Big mistake! This could easily the best lager in the world. Although I´m not entirely sure why this is a lager and not a pale ale, I´m going with it nonetheless. This is delightfully crispy, beautifully balanced as the malt amount blends perfectly with Cascade and First Gold. Back in 2006 I said that this was the hoppiest beers ever produced in Iceland. Back then, it probably was, but much has happened since then. There is no doubt that this beer paved the way.

The brewery is a bit mysterious these days. It went (I think!) bankrupt a few years ago, was then taken over and these days I´m not quite sure who actually owns it. It lost their main brewmaster to Borg Brugghús and I have no clue who is the brewmaster these days. Whoever he is now, he´s doing an excellent job, and the quality remains. They still brew a fantastic imperial stout and some exclusives for Sweden and Canada, I will feature more from this brewery in the coming weeks, until then, skál!

PS I´ve blogged about Ölvisholt in the past, a rant that features the awesome Suttungasumbl (now retired) and the controversy behind the label of their Easter beer a few years back..

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

feeling nostalgic... or almost

Anchor Old Foghorn was the very first Barley Wine I ever tasted, back in 2002. It might not count as nostalgia but every time I have this delicious brew it takes me down the road, and makes me truly appreciate it. It´s not for the faint of heart, three times the malt as in a regular brew, heavily hopped and high on gravity. In my opinion, there is something old school about this brew, something I can´t quite put my finger on. It´s deeply complex, thick and heavy, but also quite quaffable. It is also the beer that got me hooked on "big" American craft beers.

It´s not something that comes cheap here in Iceland, about 7-8$ a pop. I told a friend a while ago that I could live by having only Anchor beers, they have a decent session beer (Steam), an outstanding pale ale (Liberty Ale), and an extraordinary porter. Anchor also proofs the fact that you don´t have to dig deep to get a decent craft beer, it is widely available, not only in the states but also in some places in northern Europe. On a dark and cold winter night, almost nothing is better than a glas of this elixir of the Gods..

"Gamli Þokulúður", I salute you!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

doing things right

living in Iceland is a privilege. Untouched nature at your doorstep, clean air, hot water, being hip and having Björk. But not everything is great. If you have been reading this blog you will know that the beer industry has moved in a right direction since mid last decade. But recession hit, left wing government came, super taxes were born (highest VAT in the world), no new jobs and company generally finding it hard to cope with the current business envirement. So, new innovative beers are not something that you could expect.

But behold, in this snowy winter, during the darkest of the hours a giant is born. A massive imperial stout, and only roughly around 3000 bottles produced. They were sold out within a week, and the few people on this icy rock who actually like beer were in heaven for those few days. Brewed by Borg, a somewhat of a concept brewery owned and operated by Egils, which have not done decent beers since the dawn of time. Things are changing, and when the public were turning more and more to micros and privately owned breweries, they were forced to meet the demand of creative craft beers. Borg was born and have been doing pretty decent things since.

I´ve sampled quite a few imperial stouts during my stay on this earth and this is up there with the very best. A very smooth and complex brew, some notes of wood, anis, attic, soft carbonation with some oak flavors. A great brew, that hopefully we will see again mid winter 2013.