Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Recap: Scandinavian craft beer at the first Office Hours.

There were nine of us for last evening's inaugural Office Hours with the Publican. I'll be thinking about next week's topic. Meanwhile, here are the Scandinavian craft beers we tasted:

Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch -- 10.9%
Nøgne Ø Tyttabaer -- 8%
Ølfabrikken Kloster Jul -- 9.0%
Ølfabrikken Winter Porter -- 11.0%

It's hard to pick a "winner" from this stellar group, although Beer Geek Brunch and Kloster Jul probably led the consensus. The Tyttabaer tasted last night was much better since my last bottle in early December, when phenols seemed too high. This time, the brettanomyces sourness seemed just right, with a tasty berry tang absent before. Outstanding.

I compiled the following notes as background.

Craft/specialty beer explosion in Scandinavia

From the aftermath of WWII until the current time, a familiar story in Scandinavia: Big brewery growth, consolidation and the subsequent disappearance of smaller breweries.

Result: Narrowing of product lines, which tended to be organized predictably along the lines of tax brackets (based on strength) and golden lagers. Some exceptions, including a few surviving Porters and low-gravity beers like Hvidtøl.

Some regional breweries survived, especially in Denmark: Thisted (Thys), Hancock, etc.

Also: Considerable governmental interference. There was a version of Prohibition in Finland, and state-run liquor stores in all the countries. Liberalized now to an extent, perhaps more in Denmark than the others. Taxes and prices high.

Periphery of Europe: Denmark joined the European Union in 1973, but Sweden and Finland not until after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Norway still not a member today. Implications for trade, in the sense that trade between European nations becomes more free as the EU grows.

Small domestic markets = common understanding of the importance of the export trade. Might have influenced the later generation of export-minded craft brewers.

Educated and affluent societies and countries already in the “grain belt” with brewing traditions. Craft brewing appreciation almost always is fed by education, travel and income levels, all of which apply to Scandinavia.

Homebrewing a viable tradition (sahti, etc). Also, homebrewing generally thrives anywhere where prices are high, and there is an absence of choice.

Internet and telecommunications savvy Finland spawns a crop of early brewpubs (went to half a dozen during my visit in 1999) and beer appreciation movements, followed closely by the rest. Current success of micro- and craft- brewers owes much to reputations gained on-line: Rate Beer, Beer Advocate.

In America: B United and Shelton Brothers the go-to importers.

Previously, an essay: Scandinavian beer on my mind.

1 comment:

Iamhoosier said...

Thanks for making the time to do "Office Hours". I really enjoyed the time--and the beer.