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P1040512

Well, that has been a hell of a few days to round this off. Found a bar that almost felt like home at Norrkoping as it seemed intent on matching the city’s reputation of the Manchester of Sweden by blasting out britpop tunes all night. Starting to see more of the different Swedish breweries’ beers on tap now. It feels like Sweden takes full advantage of its placement to get in lots of imported beers, but seems to have a very solid batch of local brews

Now in Stockholm where we had the most surprising alcohol experience of the trip. Grona Lund theme park has a restaurant nestled away in the walkways that has a great whisky selection that includes Octomore, 21 year Balvenie and more. Pretty much the last thing I expected in the park. Actually the last thing I expected was the sushi and sashimi starters they served at that place, but the whisky came a close second.

Also hit the legendary Akkurat in Stockholm. Stockholm seems packed with bars, and I wish I had more time to explore them all. Akkurat more than lived up to its reputation. Packed to the gills even on a Sunday night, great tap selection that really showed off the Sweden scene, including some real ale hand pumps. Plus some very rare (and very expensive) vintage ales. Some of which will be showing up in the tasting notes over the next few weeks, so keep an eye on the blog. Was a packed night with a great band playing, a Swedish guy buying us beer to try as he enjoyed it so much, discussions with Russian teachers beside us . Fantastic times. Doing a bit more culture stuff today before heading home.

Until next time, enjoy your drink!

P1040533

P1040486

Blask is a new word I have found in Sweden, and one that google keeps trying to auto-correct to “black” leading to some accidentally hideously racist search phrases.

“Blask”, as it has been explained to us, is boring, fizzy, generic, bad beer. A useful term. Especially today, where I bring you from Kolmarden Wildlife Park (home of the awesome Wildfire Wood Roller-coaster, a ride that only disappointed in that they did not play the Crossfaith/Skindred collaboration “Wildfire” while you waited.) a beer that is definitely blask.

No full notes, just a quick set of imagery. It was free at an all you can eat buffet, with free refills. Surely a good sign, no? At a powerful 2.1% they definitely wanted to go all out to make a good session beer, yes?

A whiff of rubber on approach, light to the eye, a sip of chalk and soda streams, leading out into painful, tongue scraping cardboard and chalk mix.

This beer is Grängesbergs Lättöl. It is Blask. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.

Hopefully better beer news tonight. Out to sample some more local beers. Seems to be more of a range of beers here now, with the lacklustre but not terrible Brutal Brewing’s: A Ship Full of IPA which seems to be the faux craft mainstream beer that pops up everywhere, and few more other similar choices. Will have to see what high quality Sweden brewers I can find.

Until next time, enjoy your drink!

P1040371

Another short update. Wish I could have had more time on Gothenburg. Someone described it as the beer capital of Sweden, and unless I run into some serious great beer later on, I can see that. Lots of what look like great pubs – I only got to hit a few, but high quality from what I have seen.

Seems to be the usual divide between specialist and non specialist pubs. A lot of pubs have just generic Carlsberg and Heineken, but the specialist pubs have a solid set. What I find interesting in that even the specialist pubs don’t seem to have a huge range of different Swedish brewers. Brewpubs obviously have their own beers, and a couple of others sometimes, but often at least half the selection is taken up by imports. It seems so far that there is very high quality Swedish beer available, but the range of different breweries doesn’t seem as wide as other places. So far. This may change as I travel.

Saying that, I was surprised that the restaurants in the local Liseberg Amusement Park had a reasonable selection of beers including even a barley wine. A dangerous thing to have near roller-coasters. On the topic of coasters, their ride Helix is fucking amazing. Smooth, great airtime, intense speed, very little dead time, great Deus Ex/Mass Effect style music and visuals. Well worth it

Currently in Norrkoping – a quieter city for beer, if not for anything else– spent time in the local Museum of Work which helped explain the cities turbulent history – very interesting. Also they have their own brewpub which has done the job very well with a nice, super fresh, selection of ales and awesome steak.

So, continuing along, until next time – enjoy your drink!

P1040363
Just a short update. Having a short little holiday in Sweden – Currently in Gothenburg. So far the beer experience is “Holy shit beer is expensive here”. Found a nice pub called 3 Sma Rum, which brews its own beer. Very friendly, very good beer, very good atmosphere. I will do my usual notes on beers tried when I get back. I may not do the usual article on the beer scene when I get back as this is a mixed holiday – beer, culture, and roller-coasters! My mate Roller MouseAT knows coasters like I know beer, and is showing me around the scene. Been on an awesome one called Helix at the local park today and feeling worse the wear for many , highly enjoyed, trips around it.

Anyway, until I get the next chance to update, enjoy your drink!

Kettlesmith: Outline (England: Amber Ale: 3.8% ABV)

Visual: Caramel to amber. Clear, just slightly hazy body. Creamy middling sized brown froth for a head that leaves suds.

Nose: Peach and peach syrup. Dried apricot. Love heart sweets. Crushed nachos. Caramel. Buttery shortbread.

Body: Light bitterness. Toffee. Orange chocolate malt drinks. Buttery shortbread. Strawberry. Hop prickle. Lime jelly. Cake sponge and light sugar dusting. Apricot.

Finish: Nutty. Light hop character. Slight sugared almonds. Lightly roasted. Light peach. Lime jelly. Pine needles and slightly resinous.

Conclusion: Ok, we have here a beer of 3.8% – the ABV of generic boredom! Or so it was years back, and for decades before that. In recent years though, well that is now pretty much out of the window. In recent times 3.8% seems to be having a resurgence as the abv used for craft brewers looking to make their perfect session ale. Just strong enough that they can can pull some weight with it. Low enough to drink easily if you get it right. Which is the important part, if it is done right. It not you end up back at bland and generic.

So is this well done? Yep, this is very well done indeed. Ok, you can skip the rest of the notes now I’ve said that. Still here? Ok, cool. What makes this even better is that, unlike a lot of the 3.8%ers, they don’t use a huge mass of hops to get around the lighter malt load. Nope this is a malt driven session ale. Now I have nothing against hops, quite the opposite, I love the damn things. However I do like something that goes against the grain and that is what this does.

It is lightly fruity on the nose, fresh peach and other bright fruit, but even then the malt shows its hand with a sense of the caramel malt sweetness to come. The body is gentle, like a malt drink, with carefully used hop prickle and rounding fruit to back it up. Late on it feels like a soothing chocolate drink, but without the weight that would put it into nightcap beer territory. Finally it goes out with a lightly roasted character, filled with hints of everything that came before. Satisfying and long lasting, but gentle so not to become wearing over a session.

While not quite at the level to earn the “my favourite” tag, it isn’t far off it. It is not just that it is well made, but also that it is creatively made, without needing to resort to special or unusual ingredients. There is so much in there, nothing heavy, but fruit, sweetness, toffee, roasted notes, all gently balanced in a beer to kick back and relax with.

Big malt flavour without needing a big malt load. Bloody amazing.

Background: Another fairly local brewery that seems to have popped up recently – I have been drinking many odd and unusual beers recently, so decided to make a concerted effort to go for something with just the yeast, water, malt and hops. So, yeah, grabbed this from Independent Spirit for drinking. Drank while listening to B. Dolan – House Of Bees volume 2. Worth it just for the back to back two of “Film The Police” and “Which Side Are You On?”. Never was into rap/hip hop when I was younger, but the whole socially conscientious hip hop I’ve been introduced to is awesome.


Wild Beer Co: Gazillionaire (England: Amber Ale: 4.7% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow. Thin white bubbled head.

Nose: Hot cross buns and butter. Lime cordial. Sulphur. Ginger. Lightly sour. Lactose. Orange zest. Toasted tea cakes. Shredded wheat.

Body: Cinnamon bun. Vanilla pods. Very ripe bananas. Toast. Slightly watery mouthfeel. Buttery. Strawberry. Butterscotch. Toffee. Thicker as it warms, and brings out condensed cream and orange crème.

Finish: Buttery. Cinnamon. Toasted teacakes. Light cloves and coriander. Carrot. Butterscotch.

Conclusion: It is odd when you encounter a flavour that is normally viewed as the result of a flaw in the brewing process, but you are fairly sure that, in this case, it is being used deliberately.

In this case I am talking about the buttery and butterscotch flavour encountered. Often a flaw, here it is used alongside the bready notes in a way that matches with their stated inspiration of a Swedish Bun concept beer.

This is a very non standard beer, by look to the eye, and by texture on sipping it seems like a very hand pumped real ale. It has those sulphur notes and that slightly thin mouthfeel that can come with the lighter end of the real ale abv scale.

The flavours are very sweet, with buttery and toffee notes, mixing fruity crème with cinnamon. However due to that slightly thinner texture, and the savoury, bready base. It doesn’t feel super sweet. In fact there is a slightly tart lime cordial like note, quite watered down cordial, but still there. In fact it is very hard to tie this to any one style or set of expectations. A creamy, sweet, yet real ale and sulphur beer.

It is hard to know where I stand on this. People call stout the liquid bread of beer, but, while this is not as filling as a stout, it definitely has more of that bread, nay toast, character. With the spice it is basically cinnabon – the beer. That breadiness is another element that means it is easy to drink despite the sweetness.

It feels to be a good beer to have with pastry food or similar. I don’t love it as a beer, but I certainly don’t hate it. It feels like a beer I never demanded, or would have thought to do so, and I probably will not return to, but have enjoyed this odd moment with.

Background: Normally I try to make up my own mind on beer style, using how the beer identifies itself as a solid guideline, altered by my own impressions. I had no idea for this one, so just looked up what ratebeer said, as fucked if I know. The bottle calls it a “Non-imperial milk not-stout”, which is not helpful in the slightest. The beer was apparently inspired by a Swedish bun, and results in a beer made with lactose, cardamom and vanilla. Because of course. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to Leftover Crack, in preparation of seeing them live the next night. A fun gig, with lots of warm up bands resulting in a huge mash up of varied punk styles.

Stone: Mocha IPA (USA: IIPA: 9% ABV)

Visual: Pale caramel. Inch of browned bubbles and froth. Clear main body and good carbonation.

Nose: Distinctly milky mocha coffee. Crushed hazelnuts. Cocoa dust. Crushed coffee beans. Choc orange.

Body: Chocolate toffee malt drink. Vanilla toffee backing. A hop feel but little hop flavour. Pine needles and resin. Chocolate limes.

Finish: Big fudge and big chocolate. Choc orange. Hop prickle and popcorn hop feel. Light neutral hop flavour. Hop oils and resin. Chocolate limes.

Conclusion: This actually reminds me of Brewdog’s blond stout Abstrakt they did, number … AB 08 I think it was. Similar concept, only, oddly, this one – despite being a self declared IPA – actually feels closer to archiving the bright coloured yet imperial stout tasting goal. Albeit this is a roasted, hopped up stout, but , since hopped stouts is a familiar enough style these days that shouldn’t disqualify it.

Very big on the coffee, very big on the chocolate on the nose – The amazingly well expressed sheer clarity and complexity of the coffee on that first contact damn near blew my socks off. The level of toffee chocolate on first sip then burned those socks to ash so I could never put them on again. Wow.

Early on it is very stout, so much so that, while I enjoyed it, a small nagging part of me felt that it did not match its declared IPA name. As time passed that worry also passed. It was still very coffee, very stout, but the hop character rose, especially in the long lasting finish. It enters life as a stout, but it leaves as an IPA.

The only flaw then is that the flavours don’t really reflect the range of an IPA, just the hop character. Ok, it does make some concessions – the character of the chocolate can tend choc orange and choc lime, which I guess may be the hops. Generally though the flavour is stout, the feel is IPA.

A minor nitpick though. In concept, in how it matches its concept, and in general quality this is amazing. I can’t recommend it enough. A mind-blowing creation.

Background: Stone Brewing. IPA. Stone Brewing. IPA. I was fairly sure we were onto a good one here. This is an odd one though, an IPA (Or in this case IIPA) made with cocoa and coffee beans. Not your standard IPA addition. Anyway this was grabbed from Brewdog’s guest beer selection. Drunk while listening to Killswitch Engage: Alive or Just Breathing. It seemed a nice blend of melodic and heavy metal for the time

Tasting Notes: Beerd: Ego Saison (England: Saison: 7.4% ABV)

Visual: Caramel brown murky body. Massive browned mound of froth.

Nose: Apricot. Lemongrass. Bubblegum. Wheat. Malt chocolate. Kaffir lime. Honeyed shredded wheat. Orange. Cheese puffs.

Body: Sherbet fizzy. Malt chocolate. Bubblegum. Kaffir lime. Malt toffee. Kiwi. Light pepper. Cheesy puffs. Light orange juice.

Finish: Lemongrass. Malt chocolate. Dried apricot. Lemon sorbet. Toffee. Pepper and wheat. Funky yeast character. Mature cheese. Brown bread.

Conclusion: This is an unusual saison, and by unusual I mean above and beyond just the fact that it is a sorachi ace saison and that would make it odd enough by itself. Sorachi Ace is always odd. And usually awesome.

One point that makes it seem unusual is that it is more malt led than most and that malt body is more towards the darker, toffyish side than I am used to. The dark cloudy body on the eye comes through with malt flavours on the tongue to match. It means that less of that wheaty and peppery character, or the more rustic notes, show themselves. They are present but those rustic saison characteristics are having to compete more with the malt for your attention.

Then, yes, on top of that we have my beloved sorachi ace hop. Lots of bubblegum, lemongrass and lime notes – all the odd savoury hop notes are here on full show. Again, the malt levels means that they are not as clearly defined in other beers, but you still can’t mistake its unique presence in this beer.

Does it work? Opinions are varied. But for me, and me alone I would say yes, albeit with some qualifications. When it is super chilled it does lose most of that saison character, but at just slightly cool the malt and saison style balance nicely and the sorachi flavours have their room to play. Not the best beer for pure sorachi – it needs a more neutral base for that, but a fun mix. The aforementioned qualifications on the recommendation though. Share this beer. I had this myself and by the second half of the beer it was getting very wearing. Also, as I may have indicated it is pretty much only for Sorachi Ace fans, if you don’t like the hop, this wont change your mind.

To make it a better beer it would need better defined notes – the heavy malt base means they can get muddy. However for for of the odd hop, and odd beers, this is fun enough

Background: Beerd is the craft beer arm of Bath Ales, I don’t think I have done notes on any of theirs yet. I’ve tried a whole bunch locally. This is a sorachi ace and brewers gold hopped saison. I had tried a sample of this before at Independent Spirit, which I hugely enjoyed, and being a Sorachi Ace fan I had to grab this for full notes. Drunk while listening to a bit of the heavy tunes of Feed The Rhino. Hoping to see them live later this year. I was hoping to do a big up of the amazing wrestling tag team Project Ego which this beer made me think of. However on googling them just before drinking I found out Kris Travis, one of the two members passed away earlier this year. So raise a glass please to his memory and all the joys he gave us in the ring.

Thornbridge Days of Creation

Thornbridge: Days of Creation (England: Sour Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Deep caramel brown to red. Thin burgundy to white bubbled head.

Nose: Red wine. Big juicy red grapes and dry white grapes. Tangerine. Mild sulphur. Wet wood. Cake sponge. Nettles. Cherries. Grapefruit juice.

Body: Raspberries. White tart grapes. Juicy red grapes. Brown sticky gummed envelopes. Strawberry. Dry white wine. Acidic at back of the throat. Tart pineapple juice.

Finish: Cherries, strawberries and raspberry. Cherry-aid. Dry white wine. Lightly tart. Tangerines and mandarin orange. Gummed brown envelopes. Cider. Pineapple. Tropical fruit tins.

Conclusion: Ok, I was expecting this to be ok, but nowhere near its rep. Thornbidge do solid beers, but it has been a while since one of them really shook my world. I nearly didn’t buy this due to that, and its high cost.

Frickin’ love this beer. Tart without being harsh, with the only real acidic showing being as it hits the back of your throat. It shows that traditional slight gummy brown envelope red ale base, but with a bursting level of fruitiness – not just raspberry but a whole range of red fruit and orange variants amongst them. It really nails the easy drinking tartness level, making it refreshing while still distinctly showing the beer characteristics that separates it from just seeming like an alcoholic fruit drunk, then leads out into a tropical fruit finish.

It is delightfully full, smooth, and, while I’m sure it benefited from the wine barrel ageing, it is too well integrated to say where the beer ends and the ageing begins. That is a compliment by the way. The beer moves from what feels like fruity hop character, to booming kind of Flemish red sourness, to dry wine complexity, to raspberry fruitiness, and never lets an element dominate or even stand in a way where it is not intertwined with at least two other characteristics.

It can be drunk easily to refresh you, it can be sipped slowly to be appreciated. It is welcome at first taste, or after it has built up over the entire beer. This is probably one of the best UK sours I have ever had, and in fact, while it is different – smoother and fruitier, emphasising different notes – it still stands up amazing well against the best Belgian red sour beers.

I take my hand off to it*, it is bloody lovely.

Background: Ok, this is a sour red ale, aged in red burgundy barrels with raspberries, and also the silver medal winner for wood and barrel ages sour beers at the world beer cup 2016. I have to admit I tend to be a bit sceptical on awards, I have seen so many beers I don’t rate or find good but not great, win big awards. There is such a difference in peoples tastes that is to be expected though. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, at the same time as its sister beer “Love Among The Ruins”. Drunk while listening to the excellent electro-metal mashup Crossfaith again. Awesome energy live band.

* this is not a typo, only an in joke that about three people will get.

Good Chemistry: Morello Theory (England: Fruit Beer: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark brown with dark red edges. Moderate brown bubbled head.

Nose: Black cherries. Malt chocolate. Toffee. Red grapes. Slightly tart, but mainly sweet. Cream.

Body: Malt drinks and malt chocolate. Black cherry yogurt. Cherry aid. Light tomato.

Finish: Red grapes. Cherries. Toffee and malt chocolate. Cherry tomatoes.

Conclusion: Ok, I swear there is something about morello cherries in beer that make me think of tomatoes. I don’t know why. Admittedly it is far, far lighter here than the La Luna Rossa I had a short while back, but it still does have those very light tomato notes for me. Other people don’t seem to get them, just me.

However, that said, considering it is such a light note I think we should get straight on with it and look at the rest of the beer. The aroma promises pretty much what the base gives – a malt led beer, all toffee and malt chocolate drinks. If it wasn’t for the extra ingredient this would be an unassuming malt sipper that you would find hanging around on the cask tap. However we do have that second string for the bow – the cherries!

The cherries are a backing note, but not far behind, just settling in behind the malt, slipstreaming it as is washes down your throat. It opens with a slight tart grape to black cherry style, yet in the body goes from sweet yogurt to sparkling cherry-aid in emphasis. A bit artificial feeling in that last note, but it is generally very nice and natural styled.

Oh, and tomato notes, but I don’t want to dwell on them, they just add a slight savoury air to the thing.

That seems to be what you get from the beer throughout, I started chilled and let it warm up and, yep, pretty much the same notes at all times. Slightly easier drinking chilled but that is about it.

I would generally like a bit more play from a 6% and up beer, but the comparative simple malt led front does create a very good environment for the cherry play to work well. It is a far gentle sippable beer. At a lower abv I would call it a very good session fruit to beer balanced mix. As is it is a bit strong abv for its best use, but is still a gentle soother. While not the most complex base beer, this is still very evidently a beer, not just a fruit drink.

So, overall , the abv doesn’t quite match the flavour for usage, but generally uses the fruit well.

Background: This was recommended to me by Real Ale Tony, so despite the mediocre experience with the last Good Chemistry beer I had tried, I decided to give this a go. Grabbed from Independent Spirit this is a malt heavy beer, brewed with 60kg of Morello cherries in the batch, and fermented with Belgian yeasts. I last encountered Morello cherries in La Luna Rossa Cuvee, a beer which didn’t quite sit well with me. Drunk while listening to the funky Jet Set Radio OST,a fun blast of joy.

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