3 Cities, Mikkeller, Beer and a Birthday.

3 Cities, Mikkeller, Beer and a Birthday.

Once again I have circled this planet, and yet again, I spent my birthday drinking beers at Mikkellers wonderful beer celebration.

At the end of last year, my friend asked me if I wanted to go with him to the beer festival in Groningen in the Netherlands. I had sort of made my mind up I wanted to go to the Mikkeller beer festival in Copenhagen since I missed the one in 2017. But I thought, “well, it’s more than 6 months away, sodd it, I’ll do both!”. So, I did. The once in Groningen was wonderful, and you can read about here at Tvillingeriget, but now it’s the time for yet another beer journey to experience all things Mikkeller.

Beer 1
Mikkeller Odense.

I planned my vacation so I could first spend a few relaxing days in my home in Skagen, Denmark. One un-eventful ferry ride from Oslo later, and I got into my normal routines. However, after a cold winter, Scandinavia offered up a full summer in May, so truth be told, I did spend a bit more time going out in Skagen, drinking beers at Green’s and Skagen Bryghus. I also had a nice box of beers waiting for from Mikkeller, and I did a bit of field work, promoting the Nordic Brew Festival in October to some bars and places up north.

So my plan was to head to Copenhagen on Thursday, spend the first day going to some new places, and then head for the Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen 2018 extravaganza on the Friday and the Saturday (my birthday). But one thing has been bugging me over the years, I have never been to Odense! Denmark’s third city is a complete mystery to me. Now, Mikkeller recently opened a bar in down town Odense, so I thought “Let’s have one night there first!”. So Wednesday came and I was on my way to Odense.

Beer 2
Wonderful beers at Mikkeller Odense. I have since learned that we will get our own Mikkeller Bar in Oslo, Noway!

Avoiding the urge to jump train in the more familiar Aarhus, I arrived around 2 in the afternoon, got my luggage into my hotel and headed pretty much straight for Mikkeller Bar Odense. A brand-new bar in what used to be a bakery I think, it is cozy, bit more spacious than Victoriagade and you walk up a couple of steps. At the far end of the bar is a set of doors that leads to a tiny and very nice Mikkellers Bottle-shop.

As I always do, I told the people working here a little about myself, my journey and all, and they responded with curiosity and kindness, making me feel right at home. I was a bit late for recent tap-takeover, so the beers where perhaps a bit predictable, but I got plenty of beers that I had never had, and I was allowed to taste some beers they were trying and the off duty bartender had with him.

I had a really nice time.

So, I did walk around Odense for a while, not getting that much of an impression of the place, but enough to want to come back. I did have a burger at a place I was recommended called “Jagger” but it was rather tasteless, swimming in fat with french fries that tastes like the frozen bag we bring home, but after that I had some lovely beers at the townhall square, place called Bryggeriet Flakhaven and later on at Christian Firtal.

Odense was a great start to my beer safari.

The day after I headed towards Copenhagen with sort of a plan. I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to check-in to my hotel for another 4 hours on arrival, so I deposited my luggage at the central station, and then I headed out to Refshaleøen.

Beer 4
This is a place I’ve tried to go for these past 2 years. It is on the northern part of the islands and fortifications that once ringed Copenhagen and housed the bulk of the Danish-Norwegian and then after 1814 just Danish Navy. Now it has been abandoned and left to developers, culture, housing and one Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (Mikkeller). This is where Mikkeller Baghaven is.

Situated inside and old industrial building, this is where Mikkeller blends and develops his sour beers. An exciting place on paper, but a bit of a bitch to get to after a long train journey and maybe more so with a belly full of beer.

Beer 5So, I get there, and there’s this line. Now, I’ve never been here, and its Beer Week, so I dutifully get in line, like some British person, without knowing quite why and for what reason I am in line. I thought it was to get into the place itself. So, after half an hour it turns out I’m in line to buy some special American and Mikkeller beers off the back of a truck, and at this stage I’ve invested so much time to this, I don’t want to give up my place, even though it means standing around thirsty and hungry for what turns out to be 90 minutes. No one else seems to be on their own, so everyone gets drink and food for each other and I’m feeling somewhat miserable at this stage, as there are children here, and I don’t like them much, specially when I’m hungry and irritable in the heat.

The first 48 people got a special beer, I was number 56, fair enough, I did buy some aweseom beers and then…

I had to stand in line for 35 minutes to get a beer at the bar in Baghaven. I must say, this was a bit of a shambles. Someone needs to take charge at the bar, not let one American woman tie up 3 people with endless questions, if you don’t know the answer to every single question, let it go, don’t involve the other 3 who don’t seem to know how the cash register works, where things are and so on. The clearly drunk white dude with the Rastafari hair most likely doesn’t need to be shown every bottle of spirits you have, and the endless arrival of current and former Mikkellers employees who have a day off doesn’t mean you should drop everything and start hugging for minutes at a time when you have a huge line of customers!

So, ok, I’m a bit miffed at this experience, I order two beers straight away, drink them and go back to the center of Copenhagen.

Do I want to go back out here? Well, sort of, but perhaps find a slower day?

So, carrying lots of heavy beers, I get my luggage and find my way to the hotel. Once there I think I fell asleep for an hour and was a bit worried I lost time to go to all the Copenhagen place I wanted to get to when something inside me said, “do something no one else visiting Copenhagen Beer Week will do!” So, I got on a train and went to Malmö in Sweden.

What?!?

Yes, I decided to visit Malmö BrewDog Bar, get a stamp in my BrewDog visabook and eat some chicken wings over a beer!

Beer 7The BrewDog bar in Malmö was really nice. I liked the interior, and the bar a lot. Not least because it is alongside the one in Cardiff the most spacious one. And as is so often the case, the guys working here were really good people people. Lots of room outside, some really nice beers in the fridge, I wish I could have stayed longer.

I did the whole thing in just over 2 hours, and felt somehow that I had “beated the man”, whoever the man in the scenario is, and gotten my own back for all the time I stood in line at Baghaven. Most likely this cost me visits to other beer places in Copenhagen, but you know what, I do a lot of weird shit for beers anyhow.

Beer 3
As I said, I do weird shit for beer.

Once I was back in Copenhagen I had enough energy left over from the chicken wings to go for a walk, and I ended up a WarPigs. It was SO full of people, but lucky for me, I didn’t get into the wrong line again, the line for beer was perhaps 1/5 the line for food!

Spent a couple of hours here, music was loud and heavy, beers also loud and heavy (ha, ha), while waiting for some friends from Manchester. We finally met, exchanged some beers and I went to the hotel and fell asleep pretty damned fast!

The next two days were spent with thousands of beer geeks like myself at the Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen 2018.

Beer 18
Lots of good people, lots of great beer!

The lineup was very impressive, the set-up much like it was in 201. I did find the customers a little “better” this time around. There were less openly drunk people, and fewer “assholes”. I did miss being there with my friend, but I decided to not get too caught up in things, go at my own pace, and avoid standing in lines for those “whales”. For every “whale” someone drank, I had 3-4 other beers, a nice break, some fresh air and perhaps some food. I loved the food trucks this year btw. A good selection of “craft food”, it made it easier to go out and soak up some of the beers compared to how it was two years ago, well, in my opinion anyhow.

Beer 16
Wonderful burger from Kihoskh and beer from Rbabarrab!

 

I’m not sure I like the lay-out better or not this year. I felt like I kept walking from one end to another across a lot of “dead space” and placing some of the most popular breweries on the sides where the created long lines that cut through the entire hall might not have been a great move, but again I might have be annoyed from standing in line a lot the day before?

Beer 12
From South Africa, I wear in proudly!

One fun thing to do was pick out a couple of breweries and drink all their beers “no matter what”. This year I picked TRVE from Denver Colorado, Devils Peak from South Africa, Amager and Ebeltoft. Isn’t it wonderful to be weird? Hi hiii! The guys at Devils Peak was finally so impressed wit my insisting on drinking ever beer and greeting them on Afrikaans and when I knew about bands like Spring Bok Nudegirls and Fokofpolisikar, they gave me a pin, a cap and a t-shirt! Brewers are the nicest people, are the not? Or is it beer drinkers perhaps?

In the break between sessions I had a lovely time. On the Friday I went back to WarPigs (I love that place!) and had some more beer and met a lovely person I know in Copenhagen. I also check out another new Mikkeller venture, the Mikkeller General Store. Almost right next to WarPigs it offers up a place to bu some more beers, as well as food and merchandise. A fun store or “our kind”.

Beer 13
My kind of birthday present.

On my birthday (12th of May) I didn’t go straight for the festival. Instead I had breakfast at a Espresso House and then I headed to my favorite shop in Copenhagen, Faraos Cigarer. It is among other things and comic store, and I got the last of the Spirou et Fantasio books for my collection. Now that’s a birthday present to me!

Pleased by all of this and the rest of the beer festival, I also had time to go to Fermentoren, Kihoskh and Rbabarrab where I had some really excellent beers and burgers as well. At Fermenoren I met and spoke to a group of Irish lads. They were terrific, and I also met several set of British people on this trip that I spoke a lot. That almost always seems to case, I meet great people from the UK. Why are yo leaving us?
There were a fairly large group of Norwegians her as well, dressed in some pretty old Heavy Metal garb. As soon as I said I loved Saxon, I had people I coud speak to for hours. There even were some kids doing some cosplay!

I could go on about all the breweries present, all the nice talks I had at the festival and so on, but I think you get the drift. I went to Denmark for a nice vacation, and then to celebrate myself and my love of beer at one of the greatest beers festivals around.

 

Beer 9
Fermentoren never lets you down.

I managed to have my cake and eat it to, you know what I’m saying’?

Beer 17
As popular as ever, Mikkeller draws the crowds!
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Churchy Beer Dutch Style

Churchy Beer Dutch Style

A beer journey to Groningen in the Netherlands.

 

Groningen 3
Churchy Beer pt. II

A couple of years ago my friend Kjetil talked to me about a beer festival in the north of the Netherlands, taking place in a church in the city of Groningen. I couldn’t go with him at the time, but now, two years later he talked me into it, and on a Thursday in April, we left Norway for that flat land on the corner of Europe.

Now, I have never been to Holland (I may call it both several times, please excuse me) as an adult, so I was quite excited to be honest. Now, we did buy tickets to attend the entire Bierfestival Groningen, but along the way we thought “why not have one night in Amsterdam and see what we can see”. So, we booked a place not too far from the train station, and I researched some beer places in the neighbourhood.

 

Amsterdam 10
Our first beer in Amsterdam was a Lagerbier by Privatbrauerei Fässla Bamberg

I’m not too keen on flying, but KLM flew me safe and calm to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and we took the train into town. Having found our hotel, no thanks to map apps who were showing the wrong location, we decided to

head straight west until we found the place I had the highest hopes for. Bierproeflokaal In De Wildeman. A really well used, lovely bar, with loads of taps, great bottle list and everything you would want. As we are both Untappd nerds, we were very pleased to find that we got a cool badge for check in in as well (previously I’ve written about designing an Untappd badge for a bar in Oslo). we started off with a lovely lager beer, the kind you know has been made with a bit more though than all the shit out there, but also one that hits the right spot as the first beer after a long journey.

 

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The “Caveman” bar in Amsterdam.

 

 

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Canal near our second stop.

We did order about 4 beers each here, and something my friend thought he knew what was, but turned out not being quite that… We got some meatballs, he said it wasn’t what he had in mind, but hey, they were lovely and they came with mustard, the most important thing there is (to me). Well, we could’ve stayed here all night really, but we opted for the sensible, and walked for some 10 minutes or so finding our next “must see” bar. After what seemed like a lot of bridges, but was in fact 3, we found ourselves looking out on a nice canal, because it was directly in front of Proeflokaal Arendsnest .

Amsterdam 5
Love the old beer adds.

A narrow bar with a lovely bar, it sported a long list of taps, all of them dutch. So this would’ve have been a great opportunity to go nuts and drink our way through this country, if not for the fact that we had a beer festival to go to and were getting quite hungry. But before I go on I have to say this place was really quite something. The Eagles Nest is the translation, and as you can see it was featured on the bar itself. The bartenders were a bit more uniformed and perhaps not as buddy buddy with us as at the other place, but boy could they pour a glass of beer! We were very lucky to find some seats, but as soon as we did that half the people in the bar left, but it felt like liuck. The Dutch craft beer is really well made, I wish we had lots more time.

Arends
Photo of the Arendsnest taken by my friend Kjetil with his very cool camera.
Amsterdam 4
Debierkoning.

After this, and getting some quite good burgers served alongside bad music, we found a bottle shop called Debierkoning. An amazing little store I would have loved to have stayed a lot longer, but we couldn’t really walk around carring lots of beers and not least beer glasses. I got some American stuff and a Westvelteren 12.  We then went to the BeerTemple. Now, I had quite high hopes for this place, and it looked good, looked cool, seemed cool and was cool. But they seemed a bit in love with American breweries who are now all owned by ABInbev and the type, and I know this seems a bit harsh and snob like, but I felt a bit like I was in the past? Around 2012 maybe 2013 and it was a bit, “seen this, been there, American style”. Also, we didn’t play it safe and ordered some beer and mead that we really shouldn’t have, not at this stage of the day. This place did play, you know, music, so we really did enjoy ourselves.

 

Amsterdam2
The BeerTemple.

Then we walked to the hotel, very dull and proper 9 o’clock kind of thing actually.

 

Groningen stSo, it is Friday the 13th, and without any regard to said date, we venture forth into the wilds of Amsterdam, well, down a street across a bridge and then into the train station. We go our tickets to Groningen, and off we went. Double decker train, wehey, cool, crazy Dutch things, ja? Fine journey, odd country, seemed content with being very flat, I think they should’ve ordered some more features.

Groningen 12
Bitterballs.

Arriving in Groningen, I was very pleased. After the somewhat over stated “look how adult and crazy we are in Amsterdam” gefühl, I loved this smaller, provincial capital a lot. Lovely houses, lovely people, streets were nice, all I missed were trams really. We found our hotel, just next to the university, so it was so titled, and then we went to a student cafe were we had what Kjetil had wanted back in Amsterdam. They are called “bitterballs”. The look not unlike those balls you get with some cheese and jalapeño inside, but this was much nicer. Sort of a stew, inside a fried dumpling dipped in mustard. I really loved them.

After this we headed across the yard, as the bar next to the hotel now opened, and it was one I had picked out. It was great little Belgian bar in the north of Holland called De Pintelier.

Groningen 10
Now thats a beer bar!

Again, great service, happy cultured people drinking small strong beers. We had quite a few different, but we also found that they did have local beers (bottled) so we got some of those as well, and received a bit of praise for that. Everything was served in appropriate glasses, the jukebox was safely programmed to sometime in the 1980’s and we really enjoyed it here.

Groningen 9

After this we had a short break at the hotel, before we headed to our reason for being here, the Bierfestival Groeningen in the Martinikerk. We didn’t have a problem getting in or anything, but there were these girls walking around on the outside selling coins to the festival, and they presented us with what would be a continuing problem in Groningen for the next few days. Bank terminals that do NOT accept Visa or Mastercard. Seems a big proportion of the bank terminals outside the huge tourist traps in this country only works with local bank debit and Meastro. we did get ONE terminal inside the church who was wired and it accepted our cards, but again and again, we stood there frustrated trying to pay while we were here. Bit of a let-down in a modern EU country, in a World were were “striving” towards a cash free society?

 

Groningen 2
The beautiful church.

Anyhow, the church is BIG, so there were room for a lot of breweries here. Most of them standing next to another in corridors or rows, or up against the wall at the other end or in the middle on a built up part, those were mostly foreign beers brought by their Dutch importers. Very much a festival celebrating Dutch Craft Brewing, this was a great chance for us to experience this perhaps slightly forgotten European beer country in full bloom.

 

Groningen 5
My first beer of the festival.

There were clearly some Belgian influences here, Blonde, Double, Triple and such, but also a strong modern influence in all the types of IPA and even New England style beers served. But also, quite a few breweries offered up a variet of Barley Wines and quite heavy stouts. I wanted to drink more types like this, but I worried I’d get drunk too fast, because partly our “taster” glass, which was more like a small wineglass, was quite big and everyone poured very handsome amounts of beer.I wouldn’t say the festival had much of a international feel to it, and I’m happy for it, but there were some “heavy hitters” among the Dutch, like De Molen, Kees and Jopen. Also, English brewery Weird Beard was here, which was very nice (I’ve met them before in Cardiff).

 

Now a minus, on the Friday they let in far to many people. It was sold out, ok, but mabye don’t sell that many tickets? It was unpleasant how full the place was. We could’ve had many more beers, but we felt stressed and ended up leaving earlier than we wanted. But in a way, that served us well, as we managed to find a cool beer bar the next day and get much more out of the first session on the Saturday.

 

Groningen 4
Café De Toeter.

So, the Saturday started with some Starbucks coffee and food, and then we headed north in Groningen, just across the canal, where we found Café De Toeter (The honker or horn blower I assume). A great sort of neighbourhood bar, big list of beer, lots of whiskey, not too clean, or it wouldn’t smell like beer, walls full of old style beer adds, chalkboards telling us what they serce, trumpets hanging from the ceiling and walls and bartenders who like what they do. I asked politely if we could drink my Westvleteren there, offered him a taste too, and he said yes (declining to taste). I wanted my friend to have it in a glass somewhere, not in a plastic cup at the hotel. So, once again, a great experience all because beer makes people friendly and cultured (most places).

After this my friend headed to the hotel and I walked to the church, where just before I found that wonderful thing, a big record shop! Talked to the owner and ended up buying the new album by the Editors. I would’ve bought some vinyl, but again, travel and so on.

We met up at the church again, and like I said before, we had a much better session, there church was far from as cramped as before, and despite those pesky bank terminals, we had a whale of a time.

Groningen 8
Getting som beers from Jopen.

After the first session was over I asked if we could go to a beer shop we had seen on our way into town the day before. It was a lovely craft beer shop called Just In Beer. Yes, I know, we had just had lots of beers in the church, but there’s something about seeing shops like this for a Norwegian. It just seems like, and to some extent is, heaven.

We then had a lovely dinner at a place overlooking Grote Markt called Café Hooghoudt were I had a beef burger that can rival any hipster praised meat combo anywhere I’ve ever been.

We did attend the final session at the church for a while, but at this stage we were both getting a bit tired and I at least somewhat fed up with people, so we just found some soda and sweets at a good store across the street and headed to the hotel.

Day after it was the same journey in reverse, skipping out on Amsterdam, and we got back to Oslo safe and sound after another very smooth flight with KLM.

 

Groningen 7
Beautiful ceiling of the church.

Toot my horn part II

Toot my horn part II

Once again I would like to tell you about an achievement.

About a month ago the owner of the wonderful Røør (see previous blog), asked me if I would like to draw and design a badge for his Untappd page. See, he just linked Røør to Untappd as a Verified Venue, and as such you can also give the customers a special badge if they log in. So, of course I said “yes, I would love to!” And here it is, a badge on Untappd designed and drawn by me.

Unatppd 2
The badge as is appears on Untappd.

For those who do not know, Untappd is a social app for beer drinkers. It lets you “check-in” to beers, keeping track of what you’ve had before, what you liked, didn’t like, where to find beers, who of your friends have drunk it or are drinking it, where are they and so on.

 

Untappd 3
Work in progress.

 

A crafty beer day in Aalborg

A crafty beer day in Aalborg

As a part time Dane, I go home to Denmark as often as I can. Arriving from Oslo to the northern harbor town of Frederikshavn, my natural impulse is to go straight for the train and up to my hometown of Skagen. But, sometimes, the lure of the rest of Denmark becomes to strong… That and the lure of craft beer and Aalborg!

Aalborg 1
One of my favorite buildings in Aalborg.

Aalborg is not a strange exotic place to most Norwegians, but rather the nearest, big enough, big town in our beloved Denmark. Here we go to soak in all that wonderful Danish feeling of freedom and hygge (coziness). Sure, prices aren’t what they used to be on most products, the Danish krone now making most of us look twice at the receipts, but we can still drink a few beers and think “see, this is how civilized people live” when we pay perhaps a bit more than we realize for a pint or a håndbajer (hand held bottle of beer). For me, Aalborg is perhaps my favorite big Danish city. Having lived in Copenhagen, I do love the place, but it can get a bit “much” sometimes. Aarhus, I think is well worth a visit, but not really a place I ever felt attached to. Aalborg however is the place we went to get a bit of a “Big City” break from tiny Skagen, and when Frederikshavn just doesn’t hack it (and when does it?). So I feel somehow, at home when I go there.

Aalborg 8
Aalborg station.

Arriving at the wonderful train station in Aalborg, I usually go straight up towards Rantzhausgade. This is because I arrive quite early most times, and it is where I would shop craft beer. Used to, as the wonderful Ølkonsortiet now no longer exists. So I go to a nice place called Caféministeriet, where I tend to buy a sandwich, a big latte to go and sit down outside on the little square in front.

After this I will usually look up some sort of cultural site, like the city museum or go and sit in front of the wonderful cathedral and feel Danish life and civilization wash over me. It’s like I shake out those Norwegian cobwebs, my Danish tongue grows into place, and my accent starts singing and before I know it, I’ll talk to people in Aalborg with the comfort of a sometime Skawbo (as in, even more rural than the people of Aalborg). I love you Denmark!

Aalborg 7
Vinspecialisten A/S.

Well, I’m probably thirsty now, but in order to keep my cool a bit, I now go to Vingårdsgade and the excellent Vinspecialisten. Here they usually let me buy whatever I want and then allow me to leave my shopping there, thus minimizing the effort of having to schlep all that stuff around Aalborg, and not arriving in the shop tipsy ending up buying or rather, spending too much money.

They have a lot of the usual faire here, from Scandinavia, Europe and the states, which is great, but what I really like is how up to date they are with some of great, but not so “showy” Danish craft breweries like Amager, Det Lille Bryggeri and Ebeltoft, to name just a few. They know me when I arrive now, and often have a tip or two, which I love. Hey, I’m on holiday, let others do the thinking for me, right?

Aalborg 3
Aalborg Cathedral.

Aalborg is the 4th largest city in Denmark. But it feels bigger in some ways, and more important. It was for a long time the 2nd biggest, far more important than Aarhus. But when Denmark lost Norway in 1814 it lost its status as main hub for trade up north. It has of course grown with industrialization but has also been passed in size by Aarhus and Odense. Like the two former, there are a lot of students here, so it feels and looks like a young city. Arriving by ferry from either Oslo or Gothenburg, Aalborg is only 1 hour and 10 minutes away by trains, leaving hourly from Frederikshavn. Arriving by ferry at Hirtshals the travel time is about the same. It takes just over a hour by train from Aarhus, there’s Aalborg airport as well. Train from Copenhagen takes about 4 hours and 20 minutes.
From Vingårdsgade, I now usually head due north towards the Limfjord Bridge.

Just two blocks before the bridge lies Borgergade and the one place I HAVE to visit when I am in Aalborg, The Wharf.

Aalborg 2
The Wharf in Borgergade.

The Wharf, at first glance may look like a Værthus, or an English pub, you can just about make out some football type… stuff, when on the outside you see a number of old style metal beer signs. One of them proudly proclaiming the words Limfjords Porter, the beer of beers from Aalborg. But this is not why you go here, you go here because this is Scandinavias only cask pub!

Look at the wall behind the bartender and you will see a long row of metal casks, some of them waiting, some of them open. Here you get a wonderful set of proper, CAMRA certified ales from mostly England, but sometimes Wales and Ireland, you get ciders like you had never left Blighty and sometimes they even have Perry. And even though it is a bit dry and sometimes burnt, you can even get a Cornish Pasty or a pie. I seriously get a tear in my eye just thinking of this place.

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Excellent beers at wonderful The Wharf.

 

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Smagsplanke at Søgaards.

I may have spent 3 hours here when I float through town towards my next destination. This usually means a 5-10-minute walk back towards the Cathedral and Obels plads. This is where Søgaards Bryghus is located. A restaurant, pub and brewery, is recently changed its looks to a more, old days, English/Irish pub place, even renaming the pub part. The Søgaards beers are nice, they go well with the burgers, and there’s even the bonus of drinking beers from a brewery called Two Face. These beers are a side project of the guys who brew Søgaards own beers. At one time there used to be a lot of beer from Beer Here as well, but now those das seem to be over. The square outside is wonderful and if the guys working there get a hint that you’re really keen on craft beer and seem to enjoy the beers they brew, well, you might get a taste of something a little extra?

UrbanA side note to this beer safari is the story behind what many consider the best beer in Denmark. Back in the day, when any town in Denmark of a proper size had a big brewery, they had Urban in Aalborg. It is long gone. Back in the days when all the mid-sized and bigger regional breweries consolidated and ended up being ‘Royal UniBrew’ the Urban name was lost to history. So, while Aarhus, Odense and Randers still “have” their Ceres, Albani and Thors pilsners, Aarhus has nothing. Or, rather, the kind of do have one beer. The regional brewery called Thisted snapped up the recipe for one wonderful beer, and this beer can be enjoyed right here in Aalborg where it once came from. That beer is the sublime Limfjords Porter.

Well, if you can keep up, it is time to cross the shopping streets and head east. Past the big shopping centre in the middle of the city, there lies a real Craft Beer bar. So real, it seems, when you walk down the steps and up to the bar, it feels not so much like Aalborg anymore as a small slice of Copenhagen.

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Plenty to choose from at Basement Beer Bar.

This is Basement Beer Bar in Løkkegade. Just check out Untappd, it is a verified site, beer list continuously updated and you can even fill up crowlers here. The beers are top notch Danish, Scandinavian and from much further away. A lovely place with a great atmosphere, this is where I usually end my Aalborg journey with a few small glasses of fine faire.

Now I have to walk all the way back to the bottle shop and pick up my beers before I get the train home to Skagen… Oh well, usually works out ok.

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Aalborg Beer Walk

In Aalborg they have their very own Beer Walk. You can pick up a taster glass and vouchers for 6 samples at several of the places I mentioned here, the visitor centre, and some of the hotels in town. Its 125 DKK. I did it once, mostly because I wanted the glass, I was going to the same places anyhow, but if you want to check out some of the other places in Aalborg, that’s fine. The only other places I really like going to are Wildebeest Gastropub around the corner from Basement Beer Bar and John Bull Pub Aalborg, who has some good stuff on tap and a well-stocked fridge.

Aalborg 10
My imression of a beer-walk.

So, that was my Aalborg Beer Safari. Hope it inspires you to visit Aalborg.

 

Nanny-state

Nanny-state

Quick word on living in a nanny-state.

Heady
Might be a gift to you, but how dare you! Pay up you deviant!

Norway is a country populated by so-called Vikings. We pillage, we are rude, and we drink lots and lots of beer… Well, no.

We live in a state where the government wants to tell us what is good for us, and since it is bad for us to drink alcohol, they tax it beyond belief. We can brew beer, we are really god at it, but when we want to sell or buy it the state robs us blind. Because the know what is good for us. Buying a beer stronger than 4.7% ABV? You have to go to a state run shop for that. Want a beer with your dinner after eight in the evening on a weekday? Nope. A stronger beer after six? Nope. Buy some beers to bring home on a Sunday, perhaps after a working weekend? Nope.

What prompted this?

FocalMy friend Kasper in Denmark was a real mensch and sent me 3 beers from Denmark (the normal world). As you may know Heady Topper and Focal Banger from the Alchemist in Vermont are very sought after around the World, so he did me a solid and sent one of each, as well as a beer he brewed himself.

I know I had to pay some tax and some customs fee, but I had no idea it was this bad. For these 3 beers, one of them brewed by my friend and not sold commercially, I had to pay 456.- Norwegian Kroner! That is 58,- $ or 42,- £ I have to pay, because someone sent me a gift!

In addition, I could not pick up my beers from the post office at 4 in the afternoon on a Saturday because that is after the opening hours of the state run alcohol shops.

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Someone made a beer and sent it to you from a different country? We must punish you!

So, this is what it is like to live in a nanny-state. I could go on about the politics, why we put up with it and all that, but there is no use. Either you are rich enough to cope with it or you move.

Oh, and Kasper? I am beholden to you!

Cheers!

BREW!

BREW!

Craft beer scene in Oslo spawns a monster!

 

Sorry about the dramatics. This is a blog about yet another brand new craft beer bar, not a command. The bar in question is called Brygg in Norwegian, which means Brew.

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Artwork by Lars Fiske.
Why a monster you may say. Well, the reason I used the Morrissey tinged paragraph is the size of the place, and not that it demands toll as you cross its bridge or anything like that.

Lets start at the sorry beginning. In Oslo (Norway in case you were wondering) we have had and still have, right in the center of town, some streets and neighborhoods that have for years and years just, well, been there. No one really goes there, or they do, just to get to other places. An odd such street is the quite long Storgata.  One part, near the cathedral and central station had nothing, and the other end had lots, but its lots of what you don’t want.

Now there is a movement to ‘Make Storgata Great Again!’ and Brygg is the first part of this, at least in this end of the street.

Occupying a lovely building from 1901, Brygg has set its sights not just on the beer geeks and burgeoning brewer but the more casual beer drinker, the Friday night crowds and even the coffee drinker.

 

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Outside seating facing Storgata.

Walking up towards the building, I cross the street and right away, you can tell that this is serious business. They have taken advantage of the quite broad sidewalk in front to establish a nice outside seating erea. Currently there are not a lot of traffic, the tramlines are rarely used these days, and mostly function as a short-cut when there is need to divert trams elsewhere, so the traffic in this end of Storgata isn’t too bad.

 

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A handy guide on an handsome wall.
Entering through the doors, you see a big open space, which on the left is occupied by the coffee bar. This part of Brygg is the reason why it opens as early as 8 in the morning on weekdays. The design makes me think of several modern beer bars in Bruxelles. I love the exposed brick walls, and above both the coffee bar and the nearby downstairs beer bar are two halves of on massive brewery copper kettle donated by Ringnes Brewery. If this isn’t enough to convince you about the nature of this place, just walk up a couple of steps, or use the wheelchair friendly ramp, and on the right is the craft beer dominated bar, with the other half of the copper kettle and 30 odd tap lines.

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Insert some joke about pot, kettle…
The rest of the downstairs have seating groups, open spaces where you can stand next to small tables to keep our  beer steady and a big set of stairs going up to the next level of this beer palace.

Before heading up this first time I was lucky to meet the general manager who I know from the Brewdog Bar and who told me about some of the features of this impressive place. Among these features are the artwork. It is consistent and all done by one artist, Lars Fiske, a Norwegian cartoonist and illustrator, who among many other things, draw for Aftenpostens weekend magazine.

Walking upstairs, you will see a lot more of what the place is about. There are two food counters right in front of you as you walk the last steps. These are not to be held by any one particular, it is going to be pop-ups. different types of food “stalls” getting to hold the place for some weeks or months, and then move on to someone else. Currently its Korean Hamburgers.

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These doors lead to where the magic of brewing will be happening.
Moving further in you will see some glass doors. These lead to the Brewery rooms. Yes, Brygg is not just the name, it is what it is. You can rent rooms with brewing equipment, go to brewery classes, make your beer, they will store it until it is finished, and then they will even can it for you. So if you ever wanted to have a go at brewing but worried about throwing money away on brewing equipment that ends up in the basement along that bike you bought to “turn things around”, then this is the place for you!

 

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The bottle bar.
Pass the doors, and the fridge with bottles of great beers, and you’ll reach the bottle bar. Here the idea is that you can buy things that are a bit more special perhaps, and it looks great, it really does. Mind you, I still can’t get passed the downstairs bar, so this is something for another day.

Rest of the upstairs area are set aside for people to sit and drink their beers, and to play. Here you have table tennis and petanque! Yes, pits where you can drink beer and throw heavy balls into sand. Ooo, as they say, la la!

 

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Why I might not go upstairs very often.
I am at awe at this place. It is obviously a heaven on earth for beer geeks, and there are more and more of us, but it is all the other stuff. I can already tell it attracts the after work crowd, you really see all kinds of people here. Young, middle-aged, older, tourist already, and women. Not just your cool tattooed hipster or rockabilly chicks but regular girls out on a regular night out, and with enough wine and drinks here so the girls, and guys, who are scared of beer in general or anything other than lager in particular, can get their fill.

Several of the great people I have had beers with and or have talked about beers with over the past 6 or 7 years are working here, and it is really close to my job. So, chances are I’ll end up here more often than I should. And perhaps I will finally try my hand at brewing?

Brygg offers many an opportunity for a person who wants, somehow, to quench a thirst.

 

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Cheers to amazing beer, people and times ahead!

Toot Toot!

Toot Toot!

Time to toot my own horn.

A while back a local craft beer brewery with some very talented people, asked yours truly if I would like to have a go at drawing a beer label for them.

The beer in question, a Imperial India Pale Ale, was going to be ready for sale in September and they wanted me to submit some ideas.

I was told the beer was made with Cryo Hops, which gave me the idea of a hop character being experimented on by another, demented Doctor Frankenstein type hop character, sucking every drop of essence and flavour from the poor hop.

 

Buying a beer with something I drew… A special experience!

So said, so done. Couple of weeks ago the  beer hit the shelves at Vinmonopolet here in Norway, and I am so happy and proud. It is the first time a design of mine is out there for everyone to see in a shop, and it is the first time I am involved in Craft Beer as something other than a drinker or onlooker.

Brewed by Little Brother Brewery, it is a wonderful beer. I could drink it again and again. It is just the style of beer I really love.

Hope it isn’t the last time I do something like this, but in any case, this has been a great moment in my life!

Thank you to Little Brother Brewery and everyone who have given me kind feedback.

Cheers everyone!