Tuesday, 28 June 2011

To Aberdeen and beyond… (Part I)

This is not just another beer blog, not just another travel blog and not just another beer-travel blog, whatever that is? Or is it? Hopefully this little story will make you interested enough to visit the places I’ve visited, or try some of the beers I drank, but where to begin? First let’s set an atmosphere for the story. So please turn off your TV, it’s only a distraction anyway. Pour yourself a beer you really like, or another cup of coffee if you can’t drink alcohol right now. Sit back in your favorite chair, or at your favorite spot in the coach. Find a nice reading position, and turn on some chill music you dig that makes you relax, be it Mozart, Nick Cave or Lady “f**king” Gaga, I don’t care! The point here is that you're relaxed and feel good. I'm on a mission to inspire you, not only to have your attention for a little while, but I also want to have an effect on you. And I believe that’s easier if you’re comfortable. I want you to feel like you’re in Aberdeen with me, drinking the best beers in the world with me, or to make you wish you were. I want to share my experience with you and to get you exited about craft beer. Because craft beer f**king rocks! So look deep into my eyes, you are feeling sleepy. Your eyes feel heavy, so heavy. Now you’re under my power, and when I snap my fingers you will wake up and be extremely interested in craft beer! * snap *

First some propaganda!

Ladies and Gentlemen: “There’s a revolution going on, it's worldwide and you the consumer is both the victim and the battlefield.”

Friday at 7am, I dragged my corpse out of bed. It was beer-drinking time again and I had to get my ass to the airport. My traveling companion and buddy Bongo was waiting outside my house, honking the horn of his car. So I grabbed my bags and ran down the stairs and jumped in the car. Pedal to the metal and not long after we’re at the airport. We were excited, because our destination was the Brewdog Pub in Aberdeen, one of the best goddamn beer bars in the whole wide world. And as a bonus, we found out after ordering our tickets, that there’s a festival: “The alternative Aberdeen beer festival!” We passed the Security control and all that stuff, and put our asses down at the "Bar-O-Meter" bar at Sola Airport. And I just knew it in my heart, that this would be the worst beer of the whole trip. I asked for a Leffe Brun, which I know they’ve had before at this place and I like it, but no they’re out! So the chick behind the bar recommended a bottle of Carlsberg "Jakobsen Dark Lager".

I am a hop-head, I won't settle for anything less...

Carlsberg, just the name sends cold shivers down my spine! Carlsberg is the enemy. Tasteless crap here we go, and Carlsberg are the kings of making tasteless crap. Cheap tasteless beer + Massive marketing budget + Wide availability = Success! Let me explain… Tasteless beer use as little as they can and the cheapest ingredients (Cheating on the malts and using corn, rice or wheat instead, and almost no hops and never dry hopping.) they can find to save money, lots of preservatives to speed up the brewing process, and then they über pasteurize & filter the shit out of it to ensure a longer expiry date, and everything is of course made at a centralized facility. Massive marketing and over the top commercials is used to brainwash the consumers. Probably the best beer… Yeah that’s why it’s so fucking cheap! Trying to charm us with beautiful women with huge tits and dudes with six packs, no not six packs of beer, ok, ok, six packs of beers also. Knocking in the same message at any opportunity, our beer is the coolest and the best and will get you laid, and blah blah blah... So basically the large breweries control the marked with their cheap, low cost, tasteless beer. So you might think yeah, but maybe people want only the cheapest beer? And you’re probably right, at least until they know better! But you don’t ask a deaf person about music do you? Yeah they can feel the beat but they don’t really know what’s going on. Anyway the last ten years there’s been a revolution, craft breweries have been popping up all over the world, especially in America, and there have been an explosion in sales for craft breweries. Oh, you say? I haven’t seen them in any stores? And that’s just it, the large breweries control that to, and they also control where their beers are placed in the shelves at the stores, and how much space they need/want. That’s why you see many different sizes of the same products, so they can occupy more space, leaving less and only low profile space for their competitors. So what happens with the small craft breweries or the local breweries then? If they can survive on their own, they sell small scale and locally, fighting for every inch on the shelves at the stores. But love alone don’t pay the bills baby. And many of them get in deep debt and end up in deep shit, and if they're lucky and have done good maybe "Mr. Big Boss" from the "Big Brewery" buy them out. Next step is to lay off the employees and centralize the brewery, which means closing the brewery and moving the production to more efficient facilities to save money. The more power these giga-breweries get, the less chance there is for local or independent breweries to succeed. The macro brewing industry is just too powerful, and run the business like a monopoly. How many stores or chains can say no to a brand like Carlsberg or Budweiser when they want something? They own 99% of the marked and have no interest in letting the micro-brewers into "their marked", into “their stores”. So who do you think is shown the door? Who’s the looser? For the consumer this means fewer options. And all we’re left with is the same product only with different names and labels. Ignorance is not bliss, and I will no longer drink their mass-produced fizzy yellow piss! Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to rise up and demand quality products. Just think about it, drinking beer after a hard week at work is probably your favorite thing in the world, it keep you going, your source for release and pleasure! It’s time to wake up, march down to your local store and tell them what you want, write letters, send e-mail, speak up! You will be heard! UGH!

“Life’s too short to drink cheap beer”

The view from my room...

All right, back to the story! The flight goes smoothly and after a short drive in a cab we check in at a downtown hotel. We get a nice big apartment with two big bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen, not that we planned to hang around at the hotel. But, it was cheap, probably because it’s in the top floor and there’s no fucking elevator. In Aberdeen there’s a lot of fat and handicapped people with crutches and wheelchairs that probably don’t love stairs. So that might be the reason for the "nice price". Anyways Aberdeen is a beautiful city, and downtown there’s a medieval church or a castle at practically every corner, and huge powerful statues of Scottish hero’s like “Robert The Bruce” and “William Wallace”. I think they loved “Braveheart” even more than me… So before hitting the pub we needed some food, so we sit down at this huge Scottish restaurant (The Archibald Simpson), in this amazing room, that looks like it used to be a ballroom for royal banquets or something. (Actually it used to be the HQ for Bank of Scotland) They had 20 types of beer all from old school hand pumped casks, all of them with less than 4,2% of alcohol, WTF!?! We get a large portion of Scottish breakfast and two really crappy Scottish ales, juck. Couldn’t even drink it up, had an IPA but couldn’t even taste the hops. At least the breakfast wasn’t bad… Then we spend the last minutes before noon at Starbucks just around the corner from the Brewdog pub, they served us coffee that’s sweeter that sugar and tastes less like a coffee than a stout does! On our way to the pub we walked past “The City Council of Aberdeen”, it’s a huge building that could have been the Parliament of England by the looks of it. Apparently it’s the second largest granite structure in the world and its some 225 years old, it’s a nice view for beer drinking!

It's easy to find the pub from here!

12:00: The Brewdog Pub opens. Two cool bartenders were on their posts, Mark and Neil. The sitting area of the pub looked like it’s been created from a scrap marked, different sizes on the stools, one of the tables is just an euro palette with some standard Ikea table legs screwed on to it. One of the walls looked like it used to be the floor of an old gym, another wall is decorated with large stones, and in the bar area the walls are made of materials similar to chalkboards. There’s text written on the walls with different colored charcoals. The place looked nice and trendy. We glued our asses to the coaches by the window. We wanted a to sit well in the room we planned to spend the next twelve hours. Then we walked over to the bar to get some beers and to have a chat with the bartenders, we ended up with an in depth info on the various Brewdog products and on the guest brews they kept in stock. We got excellent service from the bartenders, they were polite and showed interest in their costumers and really knew their stuff. First two beers we bought were Brewdog’s own "Alice Porter" and "Dogma".

Drinking "Alice Porter"

Let’s start with the "Alice Porter" from Brewdog. Matt Gorecki runs the “North Bar” in Leeds, where the beer selections is extremely vast, with more than 600 different beers to choose from. Anyways, last year he got married and went up to Aberdeen for his stag party and to brew with the Brewdog guy’s, sounds nice right? Brewdog accepted his offer of “free labor” and did what they could to help him out to make his wedding brew, his beer of love! Yeah! And what better name for the beer than the name of his wife: Alice Porter. Combine hops from Japan & England and mix in dark malts and vanilla, ta-dah. The Porter was on sale for a limited period only at Matt’s pub in Leeds and in the Aberdeen Brewdog pub, but due to popular demand there’s been brewed a couple of extra batches. Lucky for me! Back at Brewdog: The bartenders walked rounds in the bar with cheese and beer, offering taste samples to all their guests, and as the good Norwegian I am, I accept all free stuff! The “Alice Porter” was excellent with a piece of Gouda cheese, and the intense taste of the cheese and the beer really kicked ass and complement each other. I never thought when I started this blog that I would write about beers and cheese, but now I apparently am! FML! The “Alice Porter” is smooth as hell, and the taste of chocolate and coffee and malts really made an impression on me. Excellently balanced and incredibly sexy! Maybe the best porter I’ve ever tried? One of the bartenders said that every time they connect a new keg of this one, it disappears in matter of hours, and I can understand why. During my two day visit I think I had three little tastes of this amazing treat, I wish I had more but there was just too many other beers to taste, but if you ever get a chance to try this one, do it, just do it!

The Brewdog Bar

History lesson: Back in the days a porter was aged (6-18 months) and then mixed with a younger porter, sent to the pubs and ready to drink straight from the brewery. In those days, 18th century London, brewers usually sent their beers very young to the beer dealers. And it was the dealer or the pub owner’s responsibility to store the beer for maturing before selling it. So a porter meant quality. But due to the war with France and Mr. Napoleon Bonaparte, then later the First World War, malts were taxed to fund the war efforts. Brown malts was the main ingredients of Porter and taxes made it expensive to brew the porter as intended, and the brewers started cheating on the ingredients and the storing, and then the story and definitions gets really complicated, so we’re not gonna go more detailed into that. Anyway this is a Baltic Porter, and a Baltic Porter is traditionally stored like in the old days and stronger than the “newer” British porters, so there should be no confusion, this is the real shit! Malt heaven for everyone who can find it…

Bongo taking picture of me taking picture of him.

Since we visited Brewdog’s own pub, of course we had to try all the Brewdog beers we hadn’t tried before, we considered that just being polite you know, not only to Brewdog but also to ourselves. So next one up is Brewdog’s very own “Dogma”, the beer formerly known as “Speed ball”. "Dogma" is a red/amber ale brewed with honey, herbs & spices, pretty good. I tried a glass from the end of the keg, and at the end of the keg you could see the sediments, large black flakes unlike any sediment I’ve ever seen before in the bottom of the glass before. 7,8% of alcohol, something you would never guess while drinking it, this beer is not to be disputed or doubted, for it is divine! Hallelujah brothers and sisters! I promise you it does not taste like some crappy Irish red ale you might have tried before! And while I’m at it: Fuck Murphy’s!

Bombs away!

So I walked over to the bar again, with only my socks on, no not naked, (Not yet) just without my shoes. Still not many people at the bar, typically Norwegians at holiday, drinking from early morning till the late, late night… Anyways we were having a good time, sitting in each our soft leather coach, like we where at home chilling or something. Legs in the couch or on the table… Where was I, yeah I was walking over to the bar in my socks. And what did I see? Ahh, one of my favorite breweries: Port Brewing! So there I was in front of the bar, considering the "Wipeout IPA" or the "Hop-15" (double IPA), when Bongo came sneaking from behind, “we’ll take both of them.” Both bottles sized up at 0,65 liters. "Hop-15 has" 9,7% of alcohol and Wipeout IPA is at 7,0%. “Oh no, here we go again on a 747,” I though. The bartenders looked at us strangely, “you sure”? “They’re 15 pounds a bottle.” At Cardinal pub in Stavanger where we usually go we wouldn’t even get one of the bottles for that price, so money, sure no problem. But are we headed for hop heaven or hop hell? Could this be a hophead’s last and fatal fix? How do you kill more than overkill? Is there such a thing as too much? Am I not the one who said “too much is never enough?” But the bombers bombing the beer glass on the etiquette of the “Hop-15” makes me think different, 15 types of hops, wow, that’s just sick man! Of course it tasted awesome, but goddamn it, that bottle could easily be shared between four guys. So I had to use the fantastic "Wipeout IPA" to chill down my taste buds, yeah that one’s intensely hopped too, but to be honest, they were from different dimensions. "Hop-15" is a quantum leap away, it’s just on a whole different level, it was radiating with hops. Only fresh hops are used, and since they use 15 different hops, Port Brewing don’t even bother to tell us what types they are using, they just use them all! For the "Wipeout IPA" they use the American hops: Simcoe, Amarillo & Centennial. So you get that American trademark IPA taste, citrusy, fruity, bitter taste, mmmm, lovely. I love American IPA’s, so I’m really sad to hear that Goose Island Brewery has sold out to InBev. (Budweiser owners)

Everyone needs X, get some!

We didn’t go to Aberdeen to drink mainstream beer, and next one up was definitively not mainstream: Brewdog’s “Avery Brown Dredge”, a collaboration brew between three beer bloggers named: Avery, Brown & Dredge. Anyway we just chilled out with a 7,5% ABV Imperial Pilsner. Cool! At 3 p.m. we had ourselves a “5 a.m. saint” and a “77 lager”, both from Brewdog. “5 a.m. saint” is the holy grail of Amber ale according to Brewdog’s homepage. The “77 Lager” might be the best pilsner I’ve ever tasted, hoppy and malty and just great. Even the emo kids liked it, to bad we don’t like them, but we liked all the other people we met at the Brewdog bar! So we continued with Flying Dog “Doggie style” American Pale Ale, and “AleSmith X” Extra Pale Ale. But I still tasted the Port Brewing IPA in the back of my mouth so I don’t feel fit to write about these beers. (Det blir som å hoppe etter Wirkola!)

Brewdog Burger

I’m a big fan of the “Punk IPA”, but I’ve had it plenty of times back in good old Norway, so I didn’t see any reason to buy it in Aberdeen. But the Brewdog crew had plenty of cheese and beer rounds with tastings, so I tried the "Punk IPA" with Brie Cheese, and the taste of the cheese really complimented the taste of the beer, so I really recommend you guys to try that out. The hour’s fly by, and we got hungry, luckily Brewdog had thought about that too. The smells from the BBQ in the back yard had teased my nose for a while when I got up and ordered some burgers. So I bought two Chili Burgers with “Beer & Hops Ketchup” & “5 a.m. chutney” packed between the buns, mmm. After food what’s better than some schnapps? The closest thing we found was Brewdog’s very own “Sink the Bismarck”, a quadruple IPA at 41%. A crazy experience! The burgers were f**king awesome and the Bismarck rocked too, but beware, 2 cl. of this one is enough… At this point we’re joined by a Scottish home brewer, dreaming of getting his chance to brew for one of the larger breweries. But “The alternative Aberdeen beer festival” is just to sweet for a beer geek not to check out, even though his mission for the night was to meet with a brewer at the mainstream beer festival that’s in town. He tells us a story of how the beer industry has a choke hold on all the pubs and bars in the Aberdeen area, how Brewdog is the only resistance. As I have understood it, if you want to serve beer in a pub in the Aberdeen area you need a deal with a brewery. And then the brewery decides what beers your pub gets to serve. The most popular brewery in Scotland is Wellpark Brewery who brews the "Tennent" beer. And who owns them? InBev of course, funny how that name keeps popping up! Anyway, that’s what I’m told.

Chuck Norris Chili Beer!

So what to do, what to do? Yeah, let’s drink some more beer, whoo-hoo, and so we did! Brewdog’s “Royal Virility Performance” was made to mark the wedding of little prince “Willy”. This IPA is bottled in super rare 1.000 bottles, and contains herbal Viagra, chocolate & goats weed. All the shit you need to make your “Willy” hard(er), hehe… It tasted “super sweet”, and this is one of those times when I can say, ha ha, you will never get to try this one, na-nana-na-na! And I can say the same about Brewdog’s Abstrakt AB:06, a super rare triple hopped Imperial IPA. It will kick your ass with its 11,5% of alco-holocaustic powers! We followed up with a Mikkeller “Texas Ranger Barrel Aged”, and this one rocked like hell. Stored in Bourbon Casks with added chipotle chili, basically the smoked chili that makes Cartman shit blood. Can’t wait till next time I’ll try this one again, soon going to Mikkeller bar in Copenhagen hopefully they have it there also. We continued with a Brewdog “Zeitgeist”, their black lager. Then we drank a bottle of the amazing Stone IPA. Mmmm, American IPA, always a hit! Mikkellers brothers brewery Evil Twin was next, “Disco Beer” was the name of the brew, a 10% IPA, mixed with 1/10 of a Chardonnay white wine. We continue with the awesome brewery Southern Tier’s “Imperial Chocolate Stout”, a fucking dessert on it’s own, and another 11%. In between that I also tried one of the festival beer drinks “Black Star”, like the name of the Minbari flagship from the earth-minbari war in Babylon 5. Anyway “Black Star” was crazy, just a crazy as the Minbari’s got when they went to war. A mix between Coke, Vodka, "Alice Porter", "Tactical Nuclear Penguin" & the "Tokyo" stout, I don’t have words, but it makes you drunk…

The death of me!

The clock stroked 22:00 and it was time for a new beer to be presented, Evil Twin’s “Yin & Yang”. “Yin” is an Imperial Stout, “Yang” an Imperial IPA, mixed together they turn into “Taiji” an "Imperial black & tan". Both excellent on it’s own, and great together, 10% volume. But around this time my memories starts to fade away. We’d met two young Scottish beer drinkers, totally interested in drinking like the Vikings, I mean like us. So I pick up a bottle of Mikkeller’s “Black Hole”, a 13% coffee stout, I remember it tasted good, next thing I remember is waking up at the coach in the hotel early morning…

Yup, I'm the drunkest one...

So I had to check out my pictures and videos to see what more we had been drinking, and there I see Great Divide “Yeti” Russian Imperial Stout at 9%. Mikkellers “Beer Geek Brunch Weasel”, Port Brewing “Older Viscosity”, I also see pictures of Nøgne Ø’s “Imperial Dunkelwit” & The Lost Abbey’s “Ten commandments”. Our new found friends brings beer after beer for our table and it’s shared brotherly. We still look human in the videos and we discuss the beers we drink. Bongo thought that “The Lost Abbey” tasted like Lervik's “Barley Wine” or a “box of dry raisins”, “I love it” he said. And at “Imperial Dunkelwit” the beer smelled like pot apparently. When Bongo and me leave, the bartenders tell us that they’ve had bets weather or not we would make it through the night. Nuff said they were very impressed that we could still walk & talk after all those beers! At closing time I took a picture of the bartender and myself, my eyes are hazy to say the least. But whatever, I woke up, no hangover, ready to do it all over again… …just needed a couple of hours more in a bed first!

Impressed bartender, drunk Haffy!

While I was sleeping, Bongo decided to make some food for himself. Using the toaster while being shitfaced isn’t a very good idea. Forgetting about it is even worse. The apartment got filled up with Black-Mordor smoke before Bongo noticed. It wouldn’t have been the first time a toaster was to blame for a house burning down in Great Britain. Me being in a coma at this time couldn’t have done anything about this. But Lorelei wouldn’t have me just yet, drowning in beer but dying from smoke, it’s just not poetic. And there are oceans of beers to be drank ahead of me. The siren swimming in my beers will quite simply just have to wait! So I live to speak with my muse another day, she swims in my beers and lures me to drink more…

Part II coming soon...

Friday, 3 June 2011

The beer revolution continues...

BEER! What do you think is acceptable ingredients in a beer? Do you think that the "German Beer Purity Law" should still be followed? (German purity law, I get a foul taste in my mouth by just thinking those words!) Barley, hops and water huh? Is that beer for you? What about chocolate? Or what about coffee? Or hmm let's say, what about chili? Is it OK to put chili in a beer? Or what about bacon, bacon's good with everything right? Let's take this even further, what about snuff in a beer? Yeah now we're getting somewhere, and while we're at it let's add some bladderwrack (seaweed) to make it interesting! What do you think about that???

Put it under your lip!

Anyways, put your hands together and let's welcome...

"Midtfyns Rough Snuff":

Rough Snuff was brewed by a crazy Danish craft beer brewer called Erik Nielsen, he managed to catch Midtfyns attention and was invited to brew one of his own homemade brews at Midtfyns Brewhouse. This was the second ale in Midtfyns series where they invite Danish amateur craft beer brewers to brew for them. And they won the fucking first price for "Best new Danish beer" by the Danish Beer Drinkes Association for it. What a feeling that must be, to win a price for a beer brewed by a guest brewer... On the bottle you can read that this is a fisherman's ale, and I can just imagine some bearded old Danish man (Probably Erik Nielsen) standing on the deck of his little boat, with waves higher than his mast, with this bottle in his hand. He takes a sip before going "ahhh" and then "arhh", stares out on the angry sea, before blabbering something that must be a swearword only locals can understand. But as refreshing as that might sound I still prefer to drink it at the pub...

I have been so lucky to drink three or four bottles of this lovely delight, lucky you say? Yeah, lucky, you see it's an illegal ale, and your probably never gonna get to try it. (HA-HA while pointing like Nelson) And putting snuff in your Ale at home is not going to be the same. Why illegal? Because of the added snuff off corse, Midtfyns Brygghus have been prohibited by law not to brew more of this tasty treat. So you can't buy Denmark's best beer anymore! Sad story indeed. On the etiquette it says: "This beer is highly addictive", before they claimed that snuff is good for the blood circulation! Legalize it I say, legalize it! I need it, I want it...

Midtfyns Rough Snuff & Dirty Haffy.

Anyway "Rough Snuff" is a strong Belgian ale, 9,5% in volume no less. Seven different kinds of malt, raisin syrup and spices. When you pour it in your glass you easily get a good head! :) And the foam both smells and tastes like "Guran Bananas" from the "Fantomet" (The phantom) candy bag I ate as a kid. Mmmm that really brought back memories. The taste of the beer is very sweet, and it's easily identified as an Belgian ale. I'm not really a fan of Belgian ales, but I let myself fall for this incredible special beer. It's just that good! The banana taste is the strongest, but you also really taste the snuff, and it tastes good! Other than that there's a hint of the sea, dark chocolate and some licorice. Very complexed beer. Me and my bandmate Eddie bought the last two they had at Cardinal last Saturday. But if you should be so lucky to find this anywhere, go get it! Or steal it, whatever! Mmmm...

Me very impressed with the foam of the worlds first non alcoholic stout!

So since this is a beer blog (mainly), and I was just at a world premier, I think I should mentions Nøgne Ø's "Stuten". Stuten is a word play on "Stout" & "Uten", "Uten" being the Norwegian word for without. Yeah, it's a non-alcoholic Stout, the first ever made. It's been a month or so, and that means I don't remember too many details. I just remember it had a pretty impressive head, though it didn't taste like I'm used to with stouts, it was still tasty, but thinner. And instead of tasting better and better the more room tempered it got and the more I drank of it, this one worked the other way around. This version was unpasteurized and had a very limited holding time: 32 of June 2011 it said on the bottle. :) But anyway it didn't really do it for me. At the same day, because it was in the daytime this tasting session, I also tried Brewdog's "Nanny State", and that was much more true to what the Brewery stands for that with the stout. Nanny State was hoppy as hell and much more likable. But sorry y'all, beer without alcohol just doesn't taste right...  But these "alternatives" that I have mentioned here is much much better that the traditional convenient store alcohol free beer! But my advice is still, leave your car at home and drink real beer!

-Dirty Haffy