04 February 2013

Skálduggery

I smelled a bit of a rat when I first encountered the Einstök range up north. Icelandic beer, in the supermarket, with an English language label? It screams inauthenticity (a difficult word to scream, in fairness). But it's only sort-of inauthentic: the beers are actually brewed in Iceland, albeit under contract at a large industrial brewery. The brand itself is American-owned and the beers are barely available in Iceland: they're certainly not typical of the place.

Missing the seasonal Doppelbock, I got three from the range and the first I opened was Einstök White Ale, brewed with coriander and orange peel. So, a witbier then. Well, not really. They've got some lovely juicy citrus fruit and a hint of the herbal spice, but it's totally clear: a wan yellow-gold. And I think the spicing you get from suspended witbier yeast is an important part of making this sort of beer worth drinking. But witbier isn't a style to get precious over: it's intended as quaffable summery refreshment and that's exactly what you get with this. Drinking closer to the source, Icelandic blogger Haukur had similar thoughts, though his beer was properly hazy.

Next I tried the Einstök Pale Ale. At 5.6% ABV and a deep orange colour, this started me thinking immediately of English-style IPA. It has a bit of the marmalade too, but not nearly enough hops. In fact, it's a bit sticky, with more burnt sugar than fruit or bitterness. The bottle had been sitting about for a few months so I may have missed the best of the hop flavour and aroma, but it's hard to believe they disappeared leaving so little trace. I'm not about to run out for a fresh one anyway.

Dessert in this puffin-free Icelandic feast is the Toasted Porter, 6% ABV and quite thick with it, forming a long-lasting ivory head over a black body tinged with red at the edges. The aroma certainly lives up to the "Toasted" moniker, exuding an intense burnt roasty dryness. It's not all toast in the flavour, however, and there's a generous dose of dark chocolate and coffee to lighten the load. Not to add weight to this particular style argument, but this porter reminds me more of many an English mild, what with the roast, and then a vaguely fruity finish suggesting damsons and plum jam.

Icelandic dark mild: could be a winner.

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