19 May 2010

Ain't you got no pubs to go to?

OK, time to finish up at the Copenhagen Beer Festival and start some proper drinking.

The stragglers are a mixed bunch, including Braunstein's Viking IPA -- a cold and rather dull amber ale showing touches of caramel but no real hop oomph -- and the disconcerting Black Ale from Thisted which I would swear had a meaty liver-and-kidney iron flavour in with the dry roasted grains. I enjoyed Black Bird, a sweet and sticky stout made under the Nimbus brand by Lund Teknik, and also the Smoke Chili (big surprise there, right?) by Det Lille which has the peaty malt in the driving seat, taking occasional piquant directions from the chilli peppers.

From the Eye-Catching Name file, there's Hoppy Sundown from the Randers brewery: another malt-heavy IPA but this one provides a satisfying warmth from 8.7% ABV while also packing a citric punch from lots of US C-hops. Little Korkny is Nørrebro's six-year-old barley wine, having a wonderful porty vinosity and deserving of a much more dignified handle. Then there's Skt. Bendt, a light and pleasant chocolatey porter by Dagmar.

And as things drew to a close on Saturday night, while we were discarding our final tokens, I felt the sudden onset of palate fatigue and the need for something cleansing. So Fuglsang Pilsner was called upon and did the job rather well: though a very pale shade of yellow, it's full-bodied, sweet and bready -- refreshing without being in the least bit dull.

And that was it. Many thanks to all the brewery reps who took the time to talk to me, and a massive massive thank-you to Anne-Mette of the Danske Ølentusiaster who, despite a huge organisational workload, looked after us and made us feel more like guests than punters. It was great also to meet Søren, founding chair of the group, to discuss campaign tactics.

But it goes without saying that the festival was merely a temporary focal point in what is, every day, one of Europe's great beer drinking cities. I managed to squeeze in a bit of pub time between the sessions, ticking off a couple of bars on my must-visit list.

Even though it only opened its doors a few weeks ago, the Mikkeller bar was top of that list. I visited at opening time on Saturday afternoon so managed to catch it on one of the rare occasions during the festival where it wasn't packed to the rafters with beer geeks: when I went there was only a sober smattering of them. The bar itself is situated in a small multi-room basement and beautifully appointed in minimalist Scandinavian style (the less charitable might use the phrase "like boozing in an Ikea", but not me). Very pleasant for a civilised tipple though I doubt it's much fun when jammed.

Having just come from Ølbutikken where it was fresh on the shelves, the first thing that caught my eye on the draught blackboard was Nøgne Ø's Red Horizon. I was quite surprised to learn that the ingredients list has nothing more exotic than malt and hops since it tastes bizarre: big and boozy (17% ABV) with raspberry and cranberry notes plus oodles of zesty pink peppercorns. How do you get malt and hops to do that? You use sake yeast, apparently. They'll all be at it next year, mark my words. Anyway, Red Horizon is a definite win.

The assembled RateBeerians had brought a bottle of imperial stout in with them and were kind enough to share some with me (I can't imagine a bar with a list as impressive as this gets many punters asking to open their own, or maybe that's all part of the super-specialist market). Black Damnation is a 50-50 blend of Struise Black Albert (reviewed here) and De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis (reviewed here) -- two absolute corkers. But how do they play together? I think Albert is wearing the trousers, which is a shame because it's the inferior beer in my opinion. The dominant aroma is dry and slightly sour, with mild wood notes coming out on the flavour plus more than a hint of nuttiness. The Dutch beer adds a silky smoothness to this, and there are no bum notes to it anywhere. Enjoyable, certainly, but I think I prefer my Hel & Verdoemenis straight. Before leaving I got a quick taste of Mikkeller Sour Nine, another WTF beer, being dark, strong and incredibly sour, plus lots of serious vanilla oak and more legs than a bag of centipedes. Much later I figured out what it is: an Imperial Flemish Red. Get me the BJCP on the horn, now!

The other super-classy joint I was in was Pegasus, not far from the festival hall. A hand-picked beer list is chalked up in this slightly formal restaurant-bar and I opted for the Centennial IPA by Herslev, a lovely rich and fruity American-style beer with just the balance of toffee and oranges I like. We didn't stay to eat, though Knut Albert tells me the food is excellent.

More pubs next. Then you can go home.

1 comment:

  1. You're gonna have to come out to the states and go to the Great American Beerfest here in Denver.