Friday, September 16, 2005


Norwegian Beer: Nøgne Ø #100 and Berentsens Rav Amber Ale

It had been a week since I returned from my ten days vacation in Beer Heaven, for others best know as the Kingdom of Belgium. As usual, I had brought back a small share of the goodies for Norwegian weekend nights ahead this autumn.

Still, maybe because I felt lucky to secure a bottle of the one-off brew #100 from Nøgne Ø, I wanted to start my first weekend back on Norwegian earth with a tasting of some of this country's new (and most welcome) quality brews.

So I went for the extremes- grandpa versus the baby. On the Norwegian quality beer scene Nøgne Ø brewery is almost a grandpa figure already, inspiring others to follow its uncompromising quest for quality.

For its 100th batch celebration they made a one-off brew, simply called #100. At 10% it cost an amazing 100 NOK (about 16 USD) at the state liquor store, most of it made up of alcohol (sin) taxes, I suspect, and maybe the reason why it was still available. It turned out that grandpa really decided to kick for his celebration, going for an Imperial IPA:

A rich, creamy tan head that leaves laces tops this dark reddish-brown beer. Powerful grapefruit hop aroma. Oily, full body. Despite the smoothing presence of caramel, the flavour emphasis is definitely on (slightly harsh) hop bitterness. Grandpa doesn´t like compromises.

The baby in this meeting was the latest attempt from the Berentsens brewery in the province of Rogaland, more specifically in the town of Egersund, a hotbed for Christian fundamentalists who see beer drinking as the first step to hell. With the bland lagers produced by Berentsen and most other Norwegian brewers maybe they have a point. Or had, rather. Deeply rooted in this province myself, I really looked forward to a quality brew from this brewer.

It came copper-coloured with a creamy head that reduces to a film. Aroma is dominated by caramel with fresh citrus in the background. From this good start the flavour was a bit disappointing. The harsh bitterness really left most of the malty caramel flavours somewhat in the background, which is not quite what you may expect from an amber ale. The body is slightly watery.

Lack of perfection as there may still be, do we finally see the greening of Europe's northern beer desert?

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