Norrkoping: Bastarden (Sweden: American Strong Ale: 7.1% ABV)

Visual: Deep black cherry red. Thin off white head.

Nose: Red wine and glacier cherries. Chocolate liqueur. Brandy cream. Port and fruitcake. Treacle.

Body: Very smooth. Malt chocolate. Rye crackers. Light paprika. Treacle. Black cherry. Light chalk. Red grapes. Oatmeal biscuits. Red wine.

Finish: Light chocolate. Quite clean. Rye crackers and pepper. Light charring. Roasted nuts. Red grapes. Oatmeal. Red wine.

Conclusion: Wow, what a nose on this one. It promises a very full, spicy, spirity and red wine influenced beer. I had to look up the abv while I was drinking this as from the aroma it felt like a dangerous 10% abv monster. Thankfully, it turned out to be the mildly safer 7.1%.

The body doesn’t quite follow through with that weight, especially when chilled. Then again, if it delivered a 10% abv of full on flavour at 7.1% then it would be setting new levels of awesome and I would be praising it to high heaven.

Chilled it is definitely a bit weak, and kind of thin, but as is oft the case a bit of heat can do a world of good. It becomes, well, not heavy, but definitely much more complex. Not quite full force, but a lot of those influences shown in the aroma finally get some play – even better it is backed by a slight rye style spice and leads out into a roasted nut finish. Definite improvement.

While still not quite full in flavour the body does gain a good oatmeal style heft to it – with the lack of evidence of the alcohol in the body (as opposed to the very obvious nose) a bit of extra texture to remind you of what you are drinking is a good idea.

For a quick sum up – it is kind of like a fruitcake influenced English Strong Ale, meets a Rye Red Ale, with a barley-wine styled heavy nose. It needs a touch more body I would say, but overall, while not as good as the nose suggests, it is a spicier take on the English Strong Ale and so a reasonable hit with me. Not great, but enjoyable and a nice style mash up.

Background: Described by the label as an Imperial Red Ale, this was found in Norrkoping at the Saliga Munken bar, which google tells me translates as Blessed Monk. Norrkoping is referred to as the Manchester of Sweden and the bar seemed to go out of its way to meet that image, playing mid 90s Britpop pretty much the entire night. Some real cool tunes from my childhood came out there which I had not heard for years. My friend and drinking buddy was happy – he is a coaster nut and after hitting Wildfire at Kolmården Wildlife Park during the day, on the way to the pub we found a temporary fair in town with two more coasters for him to add to his list. All in all a good set up for a beer. Yes I did order this one just because it was called bastarden.

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