24 September 2008

Pale ale parade

I mentioned yesterday how Danish craft brewing seems to have followed, to begin with, an American model. The number of Danish pale ales and IPAs at the European Beer Festival reflects this to a considerable extent. And yet it's not like they were all grapefruit-laden hops bombs. Take Gl. Skagen, for instance -- despite claiming American ancestry, this is full of floral peachy flavours on top of a tannic body and puts me in mind of the finer kind of English bitter. The peach blossom continued in Lund Teknik's APA which was so packed with soft fruit flavours as to be almost juicy. And again in the very floral notes of Randers Pale Ale, which is only let down by a slightly off-putting dry carbonic character. Only when we come to Amager Festival IPA do those peach flavours build to the point of tipping over into grapefruit. This is despite Amager's claim that there are no American hops in here and that the main grain is basmati rice. Are they having a laugh? Still superb beer though.

The bitterness levels start to go up here, starting with India Gold by Wintercoat. All their beers were served from casks, which left a wonderful smoothness to the IPA, still with English blossomy notes, but with a sharp orange zing to it as well. Their Double Hop offered the same only more so: the warming alcohol and zesty hops making me think of spiced Fanta. In a good way. Hantverks IPA (the only Swede in this lot) adds bitter raspberry notes to its citrus kick making for one of the more refreshing IPAs on offer.

Stensbogaarde IPA was among the more complex IPAs I tried, starting with toffee malt and running the full gamut of fruit flavours. Every sip produced a different bitter sensation. Conversely, Hornbeer Imperial IPA concentrates on strong orange flavours and holds back on the bitter spice to make a no-nonsense drinkable strong beer. I wasn't so thrilled with the simplicity of Midtyfyns Double IPA, which started off with promising grapefruit aromas but the flavour was dominated by an unfortunate earthy character that buried any complexity there may have been.

And the best of the pale ales? Believe it or not, it's one from Carlsberg (well not really, see comments). Slejpner is 10.5% ABV and begins with an innocent orangey aroma. On tasting, however, it builds this into a huge bitter fruit flavour that simply will not stop. Leaving aside your super-strong barrel-aged ales, I don't think I've ever encountered a beer with this much legs. No wonder they named it after a horse with double the usual number.