17 May 2010

In the land of long names

Now, I'm not the most detailed writer of notes when it comes to beer festivals. Unless something really strikes me about a new beer, I'll just take down some indicators to remind me of what sort of beer this is and whether or not I'm likely to want to drink it again. Even allowing for this brevity, there's something wrong when the beer names are longer than the things you can write about them. Lengthy nomenclature seems to be in fashion at the moment, partly because of the whole blending, barrel-ageing and general tweaking that the more geek-focused craft breweries so love to do to their beers: you've got to give the full pedigree. But even before the brewery telescopes the badge into something impossible to put on a pumpclip without using a nanofont, there were some pretty damn long beer names at the Copenhagen Festival.

Håndbryg were prime offenders. This appears to be little more than a home brewers' collective, in the enviable position of being able to sell the many and varied beers from the members' plastic buckets. So for instance there was the pin-in-the-dictionary fun of Alice Wild Spring Forest, a surprisingly drinkable 11% ABV sour beer with lovely floral overtones. Another brewer produced a spicy and earthy saison enlivened with super fruity American hops and named We Say Hop! You Say How High? I say just give me the damn beer. Thankfully not all the team are so verbose: the chap who came up with the beautifully balanced smoked imperial stout, one with just the right amount of woody phenols, saw no reason to call it anything more challenging than Bastard. It certainly got this punter's attention.

No such economical tendency at the Hornbeer stand: not content with any old bastard, they had an Oak-Aged Cranberry Bastard, a strong mahogany-red ale where the fruit gets kinda lost in the alcohol (8.2%) and wood. Their Funky Monk is another palate-pounder: sugary-sour, 9.4% ABV, with an overpowering farmyard aroma. Wisely I left it until kicking-out time on the last day. A little saner, and more literally named, was their smoked beer Røgøl. This is strong and powerfully dry, with a little touch of smoked fish in the mix.

It looks like Black Rooster attempted to resist the long-name tendency, indeed the any-name tendency, when they called their own strong stout "No Name". But the barrel temption was too powerful and what I ended up drinking was the oxymoronic No Name Oak n' Islay Edition. It's smoky without having much by way of vanilla wood character, which works well, and is overall rather dry and easy drinking. It looks like the same thing happened when the soberly-titled Mr Wheat became Mr Smokey Dark Wheat, which has a lovely balance between the banana esters typical of a weizen and again the gentle smokiness: much more subtle than the Schlenkerla alternative.

And the smoke continues (yeah, OK, I was actively seeking it out) at new Danish brewery Croocked [sic] Moon. Their 6.1% ABV Stone To The Bone porter has a major peated Scotch vibe going on and yet remains very light and drinkable with it. They also had a pale ale brewed with New Zealand hops called All Blacks which had that typically kiwi cheesey funk to it and which I'm not yet sure if I like or not. I did enjoy the beer overall, though.

And then there was Bøgedal who have decided it's not the length of your name that counts and just give everything numbers. I tried their imperial stout and found it oddly enjoyable: warming and full of sweet-and-sour lactic sugary notes. Imperial milk stout, anyone? Its name a simple, dignified, No. 161.



  1. I had similar issues with Goedecke Döllnitzer Ritterguts Gose last weekend. Goe-Gose woulda worked better...

  2. "Oooooh, I've a fierce dose of the ritterguts today."

  3. Language assistance (since the festival programme is only in Danish):
    Håndbryg is indeed just a collection of homebrewers. We don't have an organisation in Denmark, but a big national mailing list. Home brewers have been invited to the festivals for as long as I remember, and the stand is losely organised through that mailing list.

    The No Name stout is actually not that, but a yet-to-be-named stout.

  4. Thanks Christian! I think most of us Irish homebrewers are insanely jealous of your laws that allow you to just set up a festival stand selling homemade beer.