This is a story in three parts, written by three different people!
Part 1: The festival in the eyes of Haffy!
Part 2: A little e-mail interview with Mr. Krog!
Part 3: Kjetil's supersexy swingin' version on the Bergen Beer Experience!
Part 1: The festival in the eyes of Haffy!
We met Stian Krog and Hanne Frosta for the first time at a beer festival in Copenhagen back in May this year. Little did we know that they only months later would give Bergen it's first beer festival. The last month before the festival, we got daily updates on facebook on what was new with the festival, new breweries, other info, but we didn't really know what to expect when we got there, well except beer, lots of beer. Stian was kind enough to let these two hard rocking beer bloggers from Stavanger crash at his couch... (us) ...for two days while running the festival. So as we walked up the hill to the festival entrance with our entire luggage Hanne met us, and before even getting in we're hugged and escorted backstage to a place we can leave our luggage. What hosts is my first thought. I've only met these people like once! A lot is said about people from Bergen around Norway, but after 48 hours in Bergen, my first visit in years, I got to give it to them, "Bergensere" and Bergen isn’t that fucking bad! They're warmer, more honest and way more real than most Stavanger and Oslo people. Yes I know that's a pretty huge generalization, but what I'm trying to say is; Bergen is cool, so quit that bullshit talk!
|A historic festival in an historic area gave a great atmosphere!
Bergen Ølfestival (BØ from now on) ran over two days, the 7th & 8th of September in the year of the Dragon 2012. All the best breweries of Norway showed up;
· Nøgne Ø
Newcomers on the scene were Balder Brygg from Leikanger deep in the Sognefjord, deep into no mans land, Balder had their festival debut at BØ. Waldemars Mikrobryggeri from HansaBorg was also there but I have no intentions on giving them any good review. Since we're already on the subject, let's start with them, so you can find out why!
If there's something you expect to be served at a beer festival other than beer its knowledge from the brewers or the persons serving the beers. I was apparently the first one to inquire at the Waldemars stand, and when I asked about the yeast type used in their German Wheat Beer, desperation struck the face of the presenter. (Edit: I've been told later that he was one of the brewers.) He started fumbling around with envelopes before one word came out of his face: Weihenstephaner. The beer wasn't bad, but again it's nothing special. WM also brought the Export, basically just a stronger version of the Hansa Pilsner, but with 20% more hops and malt as the presenter said, probably extract! But when they choose to call themselves a microbrewery at least fucking pretend! Ringnes have never been a favorite of mine, but even Ringnes "macro" brewery manages to make interesting beers so why can't Hansa? Ehhh I mean Waldemars! Ringnes, Norway's biggest brewery are these days releasing the Imperial Polaris, a double bock in the style of their Christmas bock as collaboration with Brooklyn Brewery, that's taking initiative. A 10% bock made with honey, coffee, orange peel & simcoe hops. And did I mention that it tastes great? Apparently WM brought out an IPA the second day, but after the disappointment of the conversation I had with them the first day I didn't bother to talk with them any more. I expected more, even from WM.
|Haandbryggeriet Sur Megge
At the Haandbryggeriet stand I met Rune Eriksen one of the owners, he knew how to answer questions. HB brought some really great beers I hadn’t tried before:
· Haandbryggeriet/Närke Unionöl (Traditional ale brewed with Swedish malt, cranberries, honey & juniper.)
· Sur Megge (Sour ale: Rare beer, being brewed again due to popular demand, I heard...)
· Sundvolden Porter (A great porter brewed for Sundvolden Hotel.)
As time flies I've forgot what else they had, but I remember the Fatlagret Porter, Costa Rica Porter & Sundland Kreosot. I really liked the beers HB make, they make good beers while not being afraid to Xbeeriment! (He-He) We confronted the HB guys on why the carbonation levels and wild yeast problems of the past and were ensured these problems will not haunt the present since they've changed brewery. No equipment used for the sour/wild ales will be in contact with anything used for the other beers, these are good news indeed, and will help HB produce higher quality ales. If you're new to Haandbryggeriet I recommend that you go and buy the 8,5% Imperial Wheat Stout "Dark Force". HB was the first brewery at the festival to run out of beer. So I'm glad I got to taste what I wanted to. But I hope they bring more beer for future festivals, cause their beers really deserves to be tasted by bigger crowds.
Never been a huge fan of Kinn, but I respect them a lot, and I think it's really cool how they ferment their beers in open fermenters. I got a few words with Espen Lothe, head brewer and owner of Kinn before he ran off to a phone call. Kinn had only two beers I can't remember trying before and that was a blonde ale called "Alden" that they brew for some place around where they come from. And a porter called "Prestesonen", which means "The son of the priest", it's funny cause Espen kind of have this "blessed/holy" look upon him, anyways one of the other guys in the Kinn tent confirmed that he is the son of a priest. My favorite beer from Kinn is easily their IPA "Vestkyst", that beer is just amazing, lots of aroma hops, all hops added the last 30 minutes of the boil, then dry hopped. Espen is kind of conservative as a brewer, especially the English inspired beers, but it's the beers he dares to go crazy with and take chances Kinn really shines. Another example is "Svartekunst" a "Forgein Extra Double Imperial Russian Export Stout Porter". Yes it's a parody, but the beer is great, sure not my favorite Imp. Stout, but I'm looking forward to the second edition of it. I wish Kinn all the best and hope I will have time to visit them some time in the future! Other than that, I hope they've made enough Christmas beer this year so people don't have to walk over copses to get a hold of them this year! Last year only Sandnes (Near me!) got the Kinn beer Julefred, reminds me I still have some bottles of that! Now I can leave you wondering on where I buried the copses or did I do the really horrible thing? Went to Sandnes?
Balder was as earlier mentioned the newcomers from no mans land. They brought the "Sognepils", "Sognelager" & "Bergen Pale Ale". If I remember correctly they brewed 200-liter batches and their goal were to brew around 70.000 liters a year. The Balder guys were interested in carrying on the Norwegian farmhouse brewing tradition, back in the days when beer was brewed all across the country. Local beer for local people! All their beers were good and clean, well tasting brews, but not really to my taste, unless I was up for a binge! But definitively something I would recommend to new self proclaimed "born again" beer lovers, that still hold their favorite industrial pilsner close to their hearts. Balder got plenty of new fans at the festival anyways, and they brought enough beer, something all the breweries attending didn't. They answered all my questions and did a good impression to be a first timer. I heard the promo material for their stand was delivered by a delivery boy only minutes before the festival opened, thats timing man! Good luck guys and don't be afraid of those hops! Hops are sexy!
I'm grumping over the ridiculous price for the "Lynchburg Natt" at The Wine Monopoly (230NOK) and different pubs around Norway. I fucking love it, and that’s why I bother to write this, but screw it, I'm not paying that much for this kind of beer. At the festival it was also the only beer costing two drinking coupons. I had one, it was awesome, but come on guys! I have and can get better beers for a much better price! Fun fact I was told about this beer is that when these casks that come from the Jack Daniels distillery usually still have some Whisky left in the casks. And then they just pour the "Natt Porter" on top of the whisky and voilà you have a JD/Ægir collab brew. Ægir brought nothing new to Bergen, well except a very fresh version of this year's Harvest Ale, yummy by the way!. A brew that where one of my top favourites last year. Ægir is a great brewery and I recommend you to try out their beers "Tors Hammer" & "Ratatosk". Pure greatness, a symphony for your taste buds. Pay no mind to my little rant on the price for the Lynchburg, it's probably not cheap to produce, maybe it should be made available in smaller bottles?
|The Lervig guys!
|Mike Murphy & Kjetil Jikiun
Easily the best brewery in Norway, well in my eyes anyway! NØ brought a couple of new treats Imperial Python Pilsner & Pumpkin Ale. They also brought the Citrus Hystrix IPA & Imperial Rye Porter. The Python Pilsner were nothing less than a 9% Pilsner brewed with champagne yeast and tasty hops from New Zealand. Dry, tasty, fruity, a good beer nothing less, had to try it twice! This year's version of the Pumpkin Ale wasn't really my "glass" of beer, so to say! None of the spices I like in these kinds of beers, it was just pale ale with pumpkin. It also turned out weaker than last years "super stuck" batch due to a brewers mistake. More on Nøgne Ø will come in an article of it's own. At the end of the last day I was lucky enough to get some words with Kjetil Jikiun.
More about the festival:
|Fucking rain man!
What more happened?
As Stian were our host we hanged out in his apartment, after the first day of the festival we had a tasting with the Bergen Beer Geek Tasting Crew. We went through the Mikkeller Festival Special Edition Series, the last one, the 2012 version was an Imperial Stout limited to 170 hand numbered 1,5 liters bottles at 20,1%, best before 2062 it read on the bottle. Would have been a perfect suicide beer for when I was old and tired of life, but nope, we drank it up in the middle of the night! And what a wonderful beer it was. The Danish food blogger Mogens, who also stayed at Stian's was smart enough to go to bed before all this went down. Check out his blog here: Madkultur
After the festival was over we were invited to the after party at Hanne på Høyden. What can I say? That place has really great food, I had a hard time fitting all I wanted on the plate. A great ending to a great weekend! Before leaving I thanked Hanne for the food, then we left home for a early night. When we got there Stian was already in bed, he came out shortly to say goodbye the morning after when we leftt, before going back to bed again. Festival arranging is indeed hard work, but you did a great job Stian! Cheers!
More words on Bergen:
We also checked out a bunch of bars, the best without doubt "Henrik Øl & Vinstue". 44 beers on tap almost none of them crap. We had a great time and we met a bunch of beer geeks here, like Kjetil & Sean from Nøgne, Bo & Mike from Lervig, Gahr the "famous" home brewer, Erik from VANØ Kristiansand and others. We had a great time, a place with no music and lots of great beer, oh and with great company can you ask for more? We will return! Oh yes we will, Bergen you haven't seen the last of us!
Part 2: A little e-mail interview with Mr. Krog!
|Stian Krog looking for beer!
The timeline for Bergen Ølfestival from idea to reality?
Well, I think it was in the middle of January that Hanne called me and asked me if I wanted to make a beer festival in Bergen. It took me about 2,1 nanoseconds to say "YES!!" Then followed a long period of considering pros and cons of all kinds of things, all throughout the spring. In addition to discussing the actual concept for the festival (Profile, competitions, stands, location, etc.) we considered private investors, sponsors, public funds of various sorts and other ways of securing the financial backbone of the festival. Finally, we opted for an alliance with Bryggen Tracteursted, a restaurant in the middle of the festival area, which already had a serving permit for alcohol, so it would be fairly easy to expand this instead of getting an all-new. All we needed to do was convince the owner that this project was viable, and there was a bit back and forth with that decision. In the end, Eric Saudan (the owner) settled on supporting the festival by basically being the middleman financially. To achieve this, we had to give him a deal in where Bryggen Tracteursted got a significant part of the income and since the
festival was a great success he's all smiles now, despite being kinda cautious from the outset. In late June, we got the green light from Saudan and started compiling the rest of the crew for the festival committee. But by then, summer holidays started settling in so we had to wait another month to get things properly running. At last, the ball started running in mid-July and we found ourselves knee deep in work all the way through the festival, actually.
The people: Who, what & why?
The original committee was Hanne Frosta, me, Gunnar Nagell-Dahl and Erik Aarebrot, a home brewer that had helped Hanne with her early brewing projects for the restaurant. After some time, Erik had to throw in the towel and leave the committee because he had too much to do at work and was offshore half the time. Gunnar was our connection to the food festival ("Bergen Matfestival", on the front side of Bryggen.) and helped with guidance to how their festival worked but really didn't know much about the world of beer or brewing, so Hanne and me was pretty much on our own from around March up until June. Then I got our designer, Geir Goosen on the ball. He proved to be a great partner; not only in terms of making our fonts, logo and overall design but also as a guy to play ideas off in our creative and organizational efforts. A short while after, Hanne recruited Jonathan Krzywinski, another homebrewer friend of hers (and a brewing buddy with Erik Aarebrot) who both knew the Bryggen area from work and also had experience with festival organizations. Hans Ole Benonisen, with a similar background but more experienced in security concerns, also joined in around the same time (late July or so) and Jonatan recruited more of his brewing friends to be our web group; this was headed by Arve Solli but Jonatan's cousin Christoffer Krzywinski was also a major contributor here, as far as I know. The last member of the committee was Martinus Fjeldstad, daily manager of Hanne’s restaurant Hanne På Høyden, who came in as a "controller" regarding not only our budget and the deal with Bryggen Tracteursted, but also concerning rules and regulations around alcohol. (in Norway, this can be a mine field!) Martinus quickly got the role of "the Devil’s Advocate", and brought us down to the ground with crude reality checks whenever the rest of us got carried away by lofty ideas and beer visions… He was completely indispensable in so many ways, particularly right before and during the festival. They all played very important parts but of course I think Hanne was a key player – she's a great motivator, diplomat and hostess (in the very broadest sense of the term) who ultimately made everyone feel good during the whole process. And that's damn important.
|Hanne with the DBTB boys in some old house!
Why was this such a successful festival?
It was successful festival because everyone put their hearts and souls into it. I think the reason for this is that Bergen people are very proud of their town and this was Bergen’s first beer festival. In addition, one of the requirements for recruiting people – from committee members to volunteers – was that they had to be genuine beer enthusiasts. That's very important when doing things like this; everyone must be ready to help out with virtually anything, at any given time. Our problems were all related to the fact that the festival was "maxed out" in every way: the breweries ran out of beer, about 4-5 times as many people showed up as we thought and of course that meant that both we and the volunteers had a lot of pressure – which was handled superbly by everyone involved. Like I said: motivation is the key. Also, the festivalgoers contributed a lot by being in a great mood and not getting too drunk, which basically was our intention all along. Glad it worked out that way.
What was the motivation for doing the festival? Future plans?
The motivation for doing the festival was putting Bergen on the beer map, for real. And making the beer scene in Bergen grow. Personally, meeting all the brewers and brewery associates personally, at the same time, was absolutely amazing. My face hurt from smiling during the whole festival. We're gonna get bigger and better organized next year. Area-wise, we need at least double the space – both for the stands and also for more seating areas and space for people to move around. We’re also gonna need probably twice as many volunteers, and we need to organize the festival space better. The volunteers will also be organized differently now that we know how to utilize our staff best and how the festival takes form from hour to hour. We're gonna have more competitions and lectures (they were very popular). One of the great things was that even the "geeky" brews were sold out and there was an unexpected demand for those – so next year, we'll ask the breweries to bring as many different beers as possible; Bergen is ready for anything when it comes to beer!
I'd like to give a shout out to all the volunteers at BØ who basically worked their asses off during that weekend. Without the amazing efforts of so many people, the festival would have crumbled under its own weight. Major thanks to all of you, and hope to see you next year at Bergen Ølfestival!
Part 3: Kjetil's supersexy swingin' version on the Bergen Beer Experience!
Iggy is screaming "I wanna be your dog" through my headphone speakers, but Haffy is on the other end of the line screaming "Damn, Hey ho, let's go to Bergen."
"Bergen???" I answer. "Why the funk do I wanna go to Bergen of all places? I'm fine right where I am!"
"Because they're having a party and we're invited dude! Now put your pants back on and lets slide out of here"
And so begins yet another adventure of Bill & Ted go to hell…. eh ...Bergen. We're excited. It's "ON" and we're on our way to the first real craft beer festival in Bergen (Bergen Ølfestival), four hours by car or five hours by boat north of our hometown Stavanger. Our friend, Stian Krog, internationally known for being one of the wackiest beer fanatics north of the South Pole, is one of the founders and drive forces behind the festival and our host for the weekend. He has a shed full of rare brews of mystic and magical power, we've heard. He collects beers no one else knows about, not even the brewer who made it. He might even have a golden Michal Jackson statue stacked in the back of that shed, and we all know which Michael we're talking about! (Don't we??) We might not survive this! This might be our final journey. This is it baby!
The festival came together when national celebrity Chef Hanne Frosta, and the head of the Bergen Food Festival, Gunnar Nagell-Dahl with Stian Krog decided to create a beer festival that ran alongside the annual food festival that was held down town at the old quarters in the harbor of Bergen. They wanted to create a relationship between beer and local food that would be appealing to the people of Bergen. Since Stian had contacts with breweries and homer brewers through a wide network of people through the Internet and his beer club (of fanatics), they quickly came in contact with some of the most interesting and hardcore people in the business throughout Norway. Nøgne Ø: Check, Ægir: Check, Lervik: Check, Kinn: Check, Haanbryggeriet: Check baby! Local brew supply stores, old ladies making fried sardines (awesome by the way) home brewers and the famous weather of Bergen. All showed up for this amazing even that took place at this fantastic site that has building that goes back over 400 years. Not to mention the people of Bergen who finally got to drink some real beer for a change.
The first thing that hit you in the face when you get of the boat in down town harbor Bergen is the smell of fish. Everywhere! No wonder since the famous fish market is located there. After spending 4 ½ hours in a rocking boat, swallowing huge waves and fighting of the Kraken, the smell of fish was not what we had bargained for. "Give me beer or give me death" yelled Haffy, and off we went. Luckily for us the festival was just a 5 minutes walk away. Passing the food festival, we entered the site as one of the first, if not the first festival beer geeks. We hadn't even bothered to get rid of our luggage. "Beer" yelled Haffy again as the froth was spewing out of his mouth. We had really looked forward to some of the new releases, especially from Nøgne Ø, who had brought their new Python pilsner, "Citrus Hystrix IPA" and Pumpkin ale, and Haandbryggeriet who had brought some really specialties like the "Sur Megge" sour ale, "Sundvolden Porter" and new version of "Aquavit Porter". (Barrel aged Porter) There was also a New Norwegian brewery called Balder who has just started up two months before, and I was interested in tasting some of their beers. But first we hooked up with Stian Krog, who was very busy with all the things that can go wrong, has gone wrong and will go wrong on a newly started festival. His head was already lighting up like a light bulb, but he took his time with us, and was very kind in letting us use the backstage for dropping off our luggage. "Go buy some beer bongs and get the fuck out of here and get some nice beers dudes". And off we went.
First stop was of course at the mother off all Norwegian breweries (that make good beer) and that was Nøgne Ø's stand. The festival had just opened and there weren't a lot of people yet, considering it was noon Friday, so we basically had the lads to ourselves. We had the awesome Python Pilsner raging at 9% abv. "This is a pilsner?" I asked main man Kjetil Jikiun, as there was hardly any resemblance to the Bohemian beer style. "We're gonna call it whatever we want" he responded cheerfully. This was truly an amazing lager. Fruity, citrus with a nice marmalade taste and sweet, even though at the end of fermentation they have added champagne yeast to dry it out. A very interesting beer I am looking forward to tasting again. We went then straight for the pumpkin ale, which in my eyes is just an ok ale, not bad, but not great. The Citrus Hysterix needs no introduction, as the name says, it is a lot of citrus flavor in it. A fantastic IPA with lots of body, (due to rye and oats) tangerine and fruit. Lovely on a hot summer night. Too bad we were in quasi summer Bergen, but the sun came out once in a while just to tease us. In between the rain showers of course, but the day started out great, and we finished off with an Imperial Rye Porter in collaboration with Terrapin. This beer is just insane. Can you get more rye in a porter? I think not! This beer is so awesome I can't even begin to describe it. Actually, as I write this, I'm going down in the basement to get myself one right now!
|Before it got busy...
And as I sit here drinking my Nøgne Ø/ Terrapin Imperial Rye Porter holding in on 9 ABV on a working day in mid-September, I drift back to Bergen. The next brewery on our list was Balder, who as I said was fairly new to the game, but they brought some interesting beers, even though two of them were lagers. For those who have read my story on Prague you know that lager is not my favorite style of beer, even though there are some exceptions to the rule. But I must honestly say that the beers they brought were good. They had a refreshing lager, an export and an APA. I am really looking forward to taste more from this brewery. They are small scale, and their intention is to get the ordinary man in the street to drink better lagers and pale ales, instead of the ordinary industrial crap you get on tap, an honest motive! They were not going to compete with the more experimental and hardcore craft breweries, but rather be a very good alternative to what the mainstream drink. Deals with restaurants and stores in the Bergen area are already made, and I wish these guys all the luck in the future.
We moved over to Haanbryggeriet and Kinn, where we had some crazy brews. Sur Megge, Krekling, Sundvolden Porter and Barrel Aged Porter were awesome. We talked a bit about the new brewery they now have, the ridiculously large wooden barrels they mature some of their beers in, and some of the problems they had with some of their beers in the past. They have definitely been corrected and all problems are solved, and I am proud to say that Haanbryggeriet makes some of the most interesting en experimental beers in the world. I am happy that I got a Sur Megge (Sour Old Hag) back home with me, since this is a rare and very limited beer they make. A sour/wild ale with brett, super refreshing and dry, with a nice sourness/vinegar taste to it with hints of berries. I Love it! At this point I'm getting a bit fuzzy in the head, and as I know we had some awesome beers with Kinn as well, I'm kind of lost in a haze here. Especially since I believe I had two glasses (or more) of their Foreign Extra Double Imperial Russian Export Stout Porter (Svartekunst) holding in at a tolerant vitamin content of 10% ABV.
|Kjetil, dude from Henrik & Erik Dahl.
Now I'm screwed, but luckily the first day of boot camp is coming to an end, and we retreat to one of Norway's finest craft beer bars, Henrik, located in down town Bergen. This was my first visit to this waterhole, and what a nice place in deed. They had 44 beers on draught, and lots of bottles in the back. We hook up with some friends of us coming in from Kristiansand and some other beer geeks from Bergen and hit the bar. Hard! This is where things start to go wrong. I ask the bartender what he recommends on the menu. He says he recommends everything. Thanks dude!! So I start ordering beers like there is no tomorrow, and what do you know, things get funky all over the place. I order Amager, I order Mikkeller, I order Lervig, I order Nøgne Ø! To quote Dio; "And it goes on and on and on, it's heaven & hell!" At this point everybody is getting in the mood, and we take the metro up to Stians Krog's place for some more midnight boogie. Not that kind of boogie, but as he has for a long time bragged about his beer cellar we took it as our holy mission to drink some of his best. And we did, and when things really got crazy, the dude brings out all four available Mikkeller Festival beers. (2009/2010/2011/2012 edition) There is only made from 170 to 1300 magnum bottles of each series and a new one comes out every year. They range from strong ale, sour ale, strong porter and imperial stout. I hardly remember anything, but I remember they were insane. Here we are sitting drinking extremely limited edition beers, and I'm lost in space with Matt LeBlanc. What a waste! What awesome beers! What a waste! These should have been saved for more sober hours, but no one has ever claimed that beer geeks are smart people. After these four behemoth beers we are stupid enough to bring out our own homebrewed spiced barley wine hitting hard at 15% ABV, and if I was screw half a chapter ago, I'm fucked now. The other guys leave, and I'm ready for bed 2 hours ago. Too bad Haffy and me have to share the couch together. How nice. I finally got a date after wearing my beer goggles all day and night. A snoring, vulgar raging bitch (Flying Dog) with an attitude that smells of farts and alcohol! Just like my girlfriend. I fall discomfortable asleep waiting the horrible hangover too come. It was massive, I should have known. I lived through it to fight the next day. Mogens, a Danish beer and food blogger who was lucky enough to get the only spare bed in the apartment, only laughed at us following Saturday morning...
|Bergen Beer Geek Tastin Crew with guests!
The famous "Die By The Beer" dudes, reduced to whining wimps! Can't handle your alcohol, eyh?”
Cheers and drink responsibly, getting intoxicate is an occupational hazard/risk for beer bloggers! It's never the goal of the session when we're in contact with rare masterpieces and quality hand crafted brews! But we just like you, (whoever you are) also enjoy a real party once in a while! "Bergen Ølfestival" was a blast and some of the head-brewers were bold enough to say it was the best beer festival they've been to. If you live in the Bergen area it's mandatory attendance next year!
- Haffy & Kjetil