18 May 2010

A beer and a chat

We're coming towards the end of the festival beers from Copenhagen now, though we still have a pub crawl to do before normal programming resumes.

One of the things I loved about the festival was how chatty and interested (and anglophone!) most of the staffers were. This meant more than one instance of going to a stall for a particular beer and ending up trying a few while talking to the brewer. I'm very susceptible to the hard sell when it comes to Scandinavian beer...

Ørbæk was a case in point. On the Friday I fancied kicking off with their gentle elderflower wheat beer Fynsk Forår. It has a lovely delicate floral aroma but is a little less subtle to taste: sugary and perfumey. Still, a solid refresher for summer drinking. It's certainly much better than the Ørbæk Weissbier which had a strange malt-vinegar sort of thing going on. It didn't quite ruin the beer so much as confuse it -- nice, but not what you want from a weiss. On then to Nutty which should be done under the Danish Trades Descriptions Act: it's a soft, sweet and slightly floral amber ale with mild toffee notes but did not contain traces of nuts as far as I could taste. And finally, before moving along, their Pingus imperial stout had to be tried. This is another sweet one, with slightly out-of-character caramel notes rather than the roasted barley and chocolate one might expect. A confusing lot, the Ørbæk beers, but made by nice people, so that's OK.

Séan and I also had a long discussion with the proprietress of the Skovlyst stand who was keen to impress on us their Havre Eisbock, a 20% ABV (-ish -- don't tell the taxman!) version of the 7% ABV oatmeal stout. It works rather well, being sticky and warming with loads of dry roasted flavour and even a concentrated green hops kick too. Their Kaffee Stout was pretty distinctive as well, in a good way: the coffee notes perked up further by a tasty sour sharpness.

There wasn't so much talk to be had at Mikkeller, or not from us at any rate. The large stall was mobbed by Danish beer geeks, even when the rest of the hall was close to empty. While eavesdropping on the conversations of others I tried the Brettanomyces (yes, that again) from the Yeast Series, purely on the basis that it'd be the most distinctive. And distinctive it was: raw sewage and lots of it. A little brett character I can handle; a beer that tastes like fifteen people just took a dump in it -- I'll pass, thanks. Early on the first day, all the buzz was around the Texas Ranger chilli stout, and I jumped on the bandwagon too. It pours with a promising dark tan foam and has a dry foretaste with just a slight metallic edge. The chilli delivers a short sharp peppery piquancy but is really quite subtle, playing second fiddle to the roastiness. I know I should be praising the balance, but my taste in chilli beer is fairly unsophisticated, as anyone who's tasted the one I made will tell you.

Svaneke had a promisingly boorish one called Red Hot Chili Ale, a lovely warm shade of amber. It's a bit pedestrian on the chilli front, however, gently easing the spice over the palate. Their surprisingly brown Double Black is another mild one, in both beery senses of the term. It was one of the few beers I tried which I could merrily drink a pint of, which probably puts it in the "boring" category for some of the other festival attendees.

I mentioned the maple-laden beers of Schoune last week, but they weren't the only ones fermenting sap. Stensbogaarde had one on their long list called, imaginatively, Canadian Maple. The maple character has almost completely gone from this, gobbled up by the voracious yeast, I assume. What's left is dry to the point of sourness though remarkably full-bodied for something that seems so highly attenuated. Anyone looking for a sweet beer wouldn't be happy with it. Fynsk Bock might suit them better: a stereotypical strong, sweet lager of the sort I abhor. I'm sorry but it just tastes like tramp's brew to me.

The BrewPub brewpub guys were a friendly bunch, with several new beers available. I tried to stay affable while drinking the all-Styrian-Goldings Doonesbury, and not mention how it tastes of orange cordial mixed with sticking plasters. But it's OK, I don't think they could read my scrawlings upside down. Nor did I enjoy their Amarillo Pale Ale -- it had a stale oxidised taste which I thought might have been from a bad keg, but I had it again at the pub itself (the food is superb, btw) and the same thing happened. A shame to bury what were presumably once lovely orangey hop flavours. Redemption comes in the form of Fitzgerald, an American-style barley wine with 10.4% ABV but no hot or boozy characteristics. Instead it's sharp and spicy in a slightly citric way. Very enjoyable.

You'll often hear a certain sort of beer enthusiast insist that drinking beer at a festival is no match for the more civilised confines of the pub. For this drinker, getting some face-to-face time with the brewers of what I'm drinking enhances the enjoyment much more than a comfy seat and a fireplace.


  1. Yeah, I'm with you -- beer should only smell a *bit* like poo, if at all.