Category Archives: Swedish Beer

Lågerböy Speaks – Brutal

Lagerboy’s Swedish cousin – Lars Lågerböy – has had a couple of run-outs before, casting his deep, limpid blue eyes over Nils Oscar God Lager (god) and Norrlands Guld (not god at all). After a lengthy break indulging in crayfish parties and scanning the shelves of H&M, he returns with not one, but two canned Swedish lagers to occupy his attention.

Having taken the BeerCast kitty to his local Systembolaget, Lågerböy came up with two Spendrups beers (each hopefully better than the Norrlands) – Beervana Summer Edition, and Pistonhead Kustom Lager. Both fall under the banner of Brutal Brewing – Spendrups’ edgy, tattoo-loving persona.

Beervana is 4.5% and comes in a can that seems to pay homage to the Happy Mondays. It promises ‘clear tones of grapefruit and citrus’ and, almost, that is what you get. Sharp and crisp, definitely, there’s some vague citrus element there, combining with the cereally malt. It’s right down the pipe for Lågerböy, a decent effort indeed.

Kustom Lager is even better. A 4.9% offering that’s been dry-hopped with Amarillo and Cascade, then stuffed into a glow in the dark can. What’s not to like? Lågerböy would decorate his cave with them, if he could. With more hops in evidence than the Beervana, it pushes his gas-pleasured tastebuds to the limit. Lots of citrusy grapefruit, highly surprising. Skål!!

The 2012 Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival

Let me get this out of the way right at the start – the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival is simply awesome. There are several reasons why, the first of which being the most obvious – the sheer amount of unfamiliar beer on offer. Wandering around the lower hall – one wasn’t large enough for this festival – I spied a few logos from the UK (Harviestoun, Innis & Gunn, Summer Wine). But this trip was all about Swedish breweries – such as the Gotlands Bryggeri from Visby. Owned by the giant Spendrups, they are something of an experimental arm (located on an island, presumably in case things get out of hand).

I spent a few minutes chatting to the people behind the bar – discovering that Gotland is a Baltic island renowned for its churches. The long row of pump clips certainly reflected that, even though the beer styles were very different to the local brew, which apparently is often some form of smoked beer. Gotlands do produce one of these, but only at Christmas. Any disappointment that registered on my face quickly vanished with a sample of their Jubileum V, aged in brand new barrels. You can tell – it’s so young and green, fresh oak from start to finish.

The scale of the event is pretty astonishing. Two cavernous halls, held over two weekends, with dozens of exhibitors and thousands of people. It’s a trade show really, in all but name. Certainly, completely different from the UK-style beer festivals I normally attend (which is not meant as a slight at any other organisation). The most important distinction was that each producer had their own stand, and were pouring the beers (or, sometimes, their representatives were). It makes such a change – wandering around, chatting to all the various beer people.

For example, after leaving the Gotlands bar I ended up at the one for the Malmö Brygghus, and spoke with them for a while – in, of course, perfect English. This is a common occurrence in Stockholm, a faltering request in broken Swedish being followed by a ten-minute conversation regarding the minutiae of Scandinavian brewpub legislation. Interestingly, the Malmö Brygghus is also a fully operational chocolate factory, resulting in beers such as the lovely Cacaoporter Criollo. Beer, food and chocolate, in one location. Perfect!

Literally next door to Malmö were the Mohawk Brewing Company, based in Gothenburg. After failing to goad a bit of Glasgow/Edinburgh style enmity from the Mohawk rep (he was from Stockholm, and loved Gothenburg), we talked for a while about their unfiltered lager. It was really something, as good as any I’ve had in Germany. The main man at Mohawk, Stefan Gustavvson (who’s hair is pictured here) was busy demolishing a reindeer burger, so after discovering their beer is brewed under licence in Sweden and at De Proef in Belgium, I moved on…

…another twenty paces to Stronzo Brewing. They were directly opposite Mohawk (next in line was de Struise, and as much as I love a touch of the old Panneput, I was after local Swedish producers on this visit). It came as a mild surprise when the quietly spoken, bearded man behind the Stronzo desk almost whispered that they were actually from Denmark. Close enough – they sell plenty of beer around the tightly-knit countries of Scandinavia, although their name is actually Italian (Stronzo = asshole).

Their beer names were scrawled onto a large boxy counter that the two Stronzans were standing behind, and one beer jumped out immediately – ‘Fruit Cake Brett’. As it turned out, there was no actual cake in there – but the soured raspberry and grape saison certainly tasted fantastic. They seemed pretty nonchalant about the idea of letting Brettanomyces into their brewery – although I later found out they too brew under licence. It seems there are plenty of small breweries who do, just as is happening here in Scotland.

By this point, I was well and truly warming to the festival. Speaking with the people involved was a real pleasure – highlighted by a lengthy visit to the Brutal Brewing stand. Another Spendrups concern, their rep Sofia led us through six of the Brutal beers, including a rare draft version of the wonderfully (if optimistically) named Sir Taste A Lot, a 3.5% offering designed to evade the clutches of Systembolaget – which, to be fair, is certainly a reasonably-priced place to buy beer, if a tad inconvenient. Why can you never find one when you need a carry-out?

Brutal are also an experimental arm of Spendrups – although they seem to be aimed more at the younger, cult market compared to Gotlands. They also know how to involve the public, as five new Brutal beers were on offer to be sampled and voted on, with the most popular going on to be served in a number of restaurants. All were really interesting – the ‘kebab’ beer (i.e. cumin) got my vote, if only because it was the most brutal. Unless you tried to pronounce their liqourice beer Glyzyrrhiza Glabra, of course.

Sweden is a rock nation, despite the history of bubblegum pop and ABBA. Where better, then, for epic metal legends Motörhead to launch their own lager. It was back in June that the beer actually came out, but as a rider to Slayer’s Reign In Blood wine (sold in a coffin-shaped box), it’s a natural fit. As to the taste…well, it tastes pretty much like you’d expect. Drink it cold, turn up that metal, and rock out.*

* I have no idea what I’m talking about, as you can probably tell

Finally, it was the turn of Södra Maltfabriken. To me, this summed up the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival – a new brewery (in their first year), a long chat, forward-thinking beer, some complete honesty (problems with their bottling line), and a great-looking stand. Magnus from Södra spoke with me for a while, talking me through the beers they produce – the ESB was very good, and the 7% IPA an oily, pithy, multiple hop-laden bomb.

As you may have noticed, there’s no whisky notes in here – to be honest, there was so much beer on offer there was no point. I did manage to speak with some gin and wine producers – the festival was enormous – and in the end, spent six hours there. Huge thanks to Marianne for the press tickets, and to everyone that I spoke with. If you’re lucky enough to be in the area, the festival will be running again from the 4th of October. Visit the official website for more details!

RateBeer Roundup II

Back in November we brought you the summary of a tasting hosted by the UK’s leading exponent, Craig Garvie. Having powered through 6,200 beers and sakes, Craig decided to get a regular group together to taste unusual beers and have a social occasion at the same time. Like a book group, except with less Jane Austen. Anyway, mid-January seemed like a good time to do it again, so the BeerCast descended on Craig’s house with a few beers – the infamous Garlic Beer amongst them (which amazingly he liked).

To give you an idea of what was to come, the warmup beer was one of the ‘100 Belgian beers to try before you die’ (from the book of the same name) – Fantôme Black Ghost (8%), an unusually spiced farmhouse ale. Sour and yeasty, it set the tone for the evening, as rare and expensive beers appeared left right and centre. Not to mention beers that score in the uppermost percentiles on the ticker websites. Bells Java Stout (7.5%) and Goose Island Fleur (7%) were up next, both fascinatingly interesting.

There was no time to rest, however, as we moved on to the big guns – possibly the biggest of all American craft beer guns – Three Floyds Darklord (15%). Such is the mystique that surrounds this particular beer, it deserves it’s own individual review – so check back for our thoughts later. In Ratebeer’s recently announced Top 50 global beers, Darklord placed fourth. Just as I was thinking how impressive that was – the next beer up was even higher on that list.

Hailing from Örebro in Sweden, Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter (9.5%) is currently joint top of Ratebeer’s rankings. Out of the many tens of thousands of beers listed, it sits atop the pile with an aggregate score of 4.48 out of 5. Only the peerless Westvleteren 12 stands shoulder to shoulder with this Scandinavian imperial porter, having currently achieved the same score. Whether you consider it to be the joint best beer in the world or not, that’s a pretty impressive achievement.

As expected, it pours a thick, gloopy black with no head. The aromas and flavours of Kaggen Stormaktsporter are almost hard to put into words – it’s extremely viscous, with an oaky, slightly smoked finish. Big alcohol backbone reminiscent of Madeira or sherry, with a sweetness that gives way to alcohol burn. What else is there to say? These beers are so complex everyone has a different opinion – I’m just glad that I got to sample them to add mine to the mix (my score being 4.1, by the way).

From there, the big beers kept on coming. Another astonishingly rare bottle came out next – Lost Abbey’s now-retired Veritas Ale 003 (8.0%) – a blend of three of their other beers, which apparently fetches up to $300 a bottle on eBay. Only sour fans would contemplate that kind of outlay – incredibly tart, sharp and puckering – pickled onions, gooseberries and balsamic vinegar was what I wrote down. Just too sour for me.

We then whizzed through a few more – Mikkeller Funk(e)* or fung’ke e’st r (9.4%), a Brettanomyces aged, yet quite honeylike Belgian-style beer with a bizarre name (apparently it reads as funky easter), then De Molen Stoombier Gedrooghopt Safir (5.6%), and from Australia the 5.8% Cascade Stout. We still had time for more rareness – Firestone Walker Eleven (11%) and Thirteen (12%), two more retired barrel-aged imperials full of sweet syrupyness.

I had time for a nip of one of the few BrewDog beers I’ve not tried – Sink the Bismarck (41%) – the massively hopped IPA slipped me by when it was released, and having tried all the other abv war ‘beers’, I gave it a go. It’s quite something on the nose – enormous alcohol aroma, combined with a massive hop presence. It tastes of burning heather honey, pine air freshner and Dettol. Extremely oily and astringent, more liqueur than beer – it’s incredibly fascinating.

Anyway, time was drawing to a close, and we powered on to yet another limited edition beer – Goose Island Bourbon Country Rare (13.5%), which comes in a single malt-style presentation box. Big pruney bourbon aromas dominate this one, with a massive whisky taste combined with a dark sweetness. It’s so astringent that there’s actually a kick to the back of the throat at the moment of swallowing – a challenging brew, no doubt.

Time to wrap up this post – as ever it could be almost three times in length. Finishing with the strangest beer on the agenda – Baladin’s Xyauyù (13.5%), and not just for the spellcheck-challenging name. I’ll replicate here my tasting notes, written at the time, to try and sum up this Italian monster… Thin viscous browny-red. Grain whiskyish sake aroma. Flavours of raisins? Whisky/cognac palate. Cloyingly sweet. Marzipan. Brown sugar – Demerara.

Massive thanks to Craig for the tasting, and to all those who brought these spectacular beers along.

BeerCast #57 – London Calling

The London contingent returns once again to test the beery waters with Andy, Jess, Andrew, Marc and newcomer Kath. We chose a random selection of beers which intrigued us and tried not to veer off into unrelated and surreal topics too frequently. First up, Thwaites Very Nutty Black (3.9%) from Blackburn, then we moved down to the South West and sampled Skinners Cornish Knocker (4.5%). The third beer on the podcast is from Sweden – Nils Oscar God Ale (5.3%), before we finished on a stronger note with Ringwood Old Thumper (5.6%)…

1. Very Nutty Black (3.9%abv) 500ml glass bottle
Daniel Thwaites Brewery, Blackburn, Lancashire

Nutty Black is one of the core beers produced by Blackburn’s Thwaites Brewery – and is an award winning mild, having twice been named Champion Beer of Britain. At 3.3%, when the brewery decided to launch a bottle-conditioned version they upped the alcohol to 3.9% (jokingly referring to it as export strength) and christened it Very Nutty Black.

What They Say“Normally brewed solely for the home market, Daniel Thwaites has broken all the rules with an export strength version of its award winning ale. The same great well rounded flavours and nuttiness lie within.” []

What We Say
Jess – Quite light, not too bitter. Some lovely fruity berry flavours 8
Andrew – Bit fizzier than a stout. I could drink 1000 pints of it 8
Andy – A bit bitter and acidic. Not as nice as Sam Smith’s
Kath – It tastes like beer
Marc – Smells like Dandelion & Burdock. Tastes like it too 6

2. Cornish Knocker (4.5%abv) 500ml glass bottle
Skinners Brewery, Truro, Cornwall.

Steve Skinner cut his brewing teeth on the island of Jersey, before moving to Cornwall and going into larger scale production. That was 1998, and his beers have won plenty of plaudits since – possibly due to the local ingredients used in production – all components of their beers are sourced from within ten miles of the brewery. This local pride also extends to the names of the beers – Cornish Knocker is inspired by the elfin fairies who inhabited Cornish tin mines, said to be spirits of old miners.

What They Say“A strong, clean tasting golden Ale, not too sweet with a fresh flowery aroma” []

What We Say
Andrew – It might not be nice but it has flavours at least 8
Marc – Makes me think of the washing up bowl 7
Jess – I’m a bit disappointed by it. It’s a bit watery 5
Andy – Similar taste to just before you’re going to be sick 4
Kath – Bit of a metal flavour at the back of the mouth 3

3. God Lager (5.3%abv) 330ml glass bottle
Nils Oscar, Nyköping, Sweden.

Nils Oscar were founded in 1996 and named after a distant relative Nils Oscar Sunderberg, who was born in 1865 and has his picture proudly displayed on each bottle. They put out a huge and varied range of different beers, such as IPA’s, dark porters, barley wines and a festive Kalasjulöl. Back in early 2008 we featured their India Ale on our Swedish special podcast, BeerCast 28. Will our panel similarly enjoy their God Ale?

What They Say“The end product is a hoppyaromatic all-malt brew where the special malt brings a remarkably pleasant malt character. It is fresh tasting and smooth as becomes a Dortmunder Export style beer.” []

What We Say
Marc – There’s definitely something milky going on
Andrew – A touch of Whiskey-ness and citrus toilet duck
Jess – It’s like someone chucked loads of fags in this. Tastes like gooseberries and mold 4
Kath – Tastes like cheese and ash and dust 4
Andy – It tastes like unpasteurised yak’s milk  3

4. Old Thumper (5.6%abv) 500ml glass bottle
Ringwood Brewery, Ringwood, Hampshire.

On the edge of the New Forest between Hampshire and Dorset sits the market town of Ringwood, home to the Ringwood Brewery. They were founded in 1978 by Peter Austin – one of the pioneers of British microbrewing (see here for an article on Peter written by the legendary Beer Hunter Michael Jackson). One of Peter’s more famous sayings is “a brewery shouldn’t sell beer farther from its door than a horse can walk in a day” – Ringwood were established with this belief, and still have a major presence in the New Forest, despite having been bought out by Marston’s plc in 2007.

What They Say“Luscious balance of grain and hop in the mouth, bitter sweet finish with delicate fruit notes [Official Website]

What We Say
Jess – I really like it. It tastes like crème brulée
Marc – Couldn’t drink a lot of it 8
Orangery, doesn’t have that soapiness Cornish Knocker had
Lots of body, the ‘christmassiest’ 7
Good in a different way to Nutty Black 

Panellists – (clockwise from top left) Andy, Jess, Marc, Kath, Andrew

BeerCast panel verdict
Ringwood Old Thumper 37½/50
Thwaites Very Nutty Black 35/50
Skinner Cornish Knocker 27/50
Nils Oscar God Ale 26/50

  • Listen to the episode here: BeerCast #56 – Beer of the Year 2010
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  • That’s it from our London panel for now. Edinburgh, it’s back over to you.

    BeerCast #44 – Beer of the Year 2009

    The first podcast of any year is always one to look forward to – as tradition dictates it’s our BeerCast Beer of the Year show. As highlighted in our recent preview, the four highest scoring beers from the podcasts recorded in 2009 are re-sampled, and a winner picked. Previous winners are Anchor Christmas Ale 2006 (2007) and Hop Back Summer Lightning (last year), so whichever beer came out on top this time, it would be in good company. Re-tasting is always an interesting experience, as a second go often brings a different result from last time – and so it was to prove. The four beers in our BOTY show were St Austell Tribute (4.2%), Carnegie Baltic Porter (5.5%), Stone Ruination IPA (7.7%), and Goose Island Christmas Ale 2009 (7.0%). On the extended panel – Shovels, MrB, Andy, Richard, Jess and Grooben, all of whom were seconded to a remote and snowy location to sharpen the tastebuds…

    1. St Austell Tribute (4.2%abv) 500ml glass bottle
    St Austell Brewery, St Austell, Cornwall.
    BeerCast#33 scored 40½/50 (81%) 28th May 2009
    Originally tasted by Steve 9; Richard 9; Grooben 8; Shovels ; Stu 7

    What They Say“Tribute is a magnificent example of a bronze coloured English bitter, with a rich aroma of biscuity malt and tart citrus fruit from the Willamette hops. Juicy malt, hop resins and tangy fruit coat the tongue, while the finish is long and lingering, with a fine balance between malt, hops and fruit, finally becoming dry and bitter.” [Roger Protz]

    What We Say
    Grooben – Much nicer than your standard session beers
    Richard – As an English bitter you can’t get a better example
    MrB – I don’t like it, it’s too watery and too biscuity
    Shovels – It’s very subtle but very nice
    Jess – There’s some kind of citrus in there, it’s very drinkable
    Andy – It reminds me of drinking Tennents in working men’s clubs around Edinburgh

    2. Carnegie Starkporter 2008 (5.5%abv) 500ml glass bottle
    Carlsberg Sverige AB, Gothenburg, Sweden.
    BeerCast#28 scored 32½/40 (81%) 1st January 2009
    Originally tasted by Jess 9; Shovels ; Andy 8; Richard 7

    What They Say“Carnegie Starkporter är Sveriges äldsta ännu använda varumärke. Smakrik, fruktig och med en tydligt rostad ton och stor beska. Inslag av karamelliserat socker, kaffe och choklad. Carnegie Starkporter kan lagras upp till 10 år. När den lagras mjuknar smaken och aromenens komplexitet ökar.” [Official Website]

    What We Say
    MrB – I like porters a lot, but that’s far too sweet
    Shovels – I think we’d had a lot of mediocre beers that night
    Grooben – It’s a half-pint beer – although it is smooth
    Richard – Sweet and it’ll get sweeter, I’m not that keen on it
    Andy – I’m not sure it deserves to be in the BOTY Show
    Jess – Can’t believe I gave it a 9, I think we were maybe too happy because we were on holiday

    3. Ruination IPA (7.7%abv) 355ml glass bottle
    Stone Brewery, Escondido, California.
    BeerCast#36 scored 38/40 (95%) 13th July 2009
    Originally tasted by MrB 10; Shovels ; Steve ; Richard 9

    What They Say“So called because of the ‘ruinous’ effect on your palate! This massive hop monster has a wonderfully delicious and intensely bitter flavour on a refreshing malt base. One taste and you can easily see why we call this brew ‘a liquid poem to the glory of the hop!’” [Official Website]

    What We Say
    MrB – I stand by my 10
    Richard – Love that piney resinous hop aftertaste
    Jess – I can see why everybody go excited about it
    Grooben – Expertly balanced, I’d give it 9½ too
    Shovels – It’s the single malt whisky of IPA’s
    Andy – They’ve managed to get the perfect balance point so you don’t taste furry-teeth sugary-ness

    4. Goose Island Christmas 2009 (7.0%abv) 750ml glass bottle
    Goose Island Brewing Company, Chicago, Illinois.
    BeerCast#43 scored 25/30 (83%) 16th December 2009
    Originally tasted by MrB 9; Grooben 8; Richard 8

    What They Say“Specialty Belgian malts create a deep garnet color and a truly rich old European flavour in our classic Christmas Ale. And the generous amount of crystal hops adds that extra spicy aroma to your pint, perfect for a wintry night.” [Official Website]

    What We Say
    Jess – It’s smoky but not as interesting as the Ruination
    Richard – This one makes good use of it’s brown ale base
    MrB – Not Christmassy, tastes like a nicer Goose Island IPA
    Grooben – I think Ruination would blow away anything
    Shovels – Gets high praise from me, it’s easy to drink
    Andy – Pretends to be smooth but leaves you with a sharpness I don’t like

  • Listen to the episode here: BeerCast #44 Beer of the Year 2009
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  • So that was the thoughts – or re-thoughts – of the panel during the tasting of the four beers that had made it through to the final. The next thing to do was go round the table and mark down a first and second choice for beer of the year. Given the comments about one of the beers above, it wasn’t really a surprise when the slip of paper had circumnavigated the table. Stone’s Ruination IPA was a resounding choice for BeerCast Beer of the Year 2009. Fitting, given that it debuted with a record score of 95% that will struggle to be beaten. There was a tie for second between the Goose Island Christmas and St Austell Tribute – despite certain comments on both it seems festive warmers and English bitters always seem to do well in our BOTY shows. But there was really only ever going to be one winner – the fantastic balance of massive hops and punchy alcohol really came through in Stone’s strong India Pale Ale. It was a deserved winner.

    Our panel also tasted a fifth beer – a surprise bought by Richard and smuggled to the podcasting under the strictest secrecy. BrewDog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32%), the strongest beer in the world. Listen to our tasting after the BOTY voting, and check back to the website in a few days for a full review post on what’s becoming the most infamous beer in Britain…