27 January 2017


Since we're all sick to the back teeth of hygge at this stage, I went looking for the Norwegian equivalent for the title of this post. Now you know. The subject is a couple of beers that were kindly gifted to me by Tom from Nøgne Ø, who visited Dublin last summer. I knew then that these were beers to be kept for colder days and the chilly afternoons of last weekend seemed the perfect time to tackle them.

SunturnBlend is definitely one for winter, based as it is on the smoked barley wine that Nøgne Ø produces annually at the December equinox. This version is a mixture of different Sunturnbrew vintages, subsequently given 16 months in an oak barrel and coming out at 11% ABV. It looks the part of a strong winter brew: ebony brown in colour, pouring viscously with no real effort at forming a head. There's a smack of woody booze in the aroma, all cream sherry, hot fudge sauce and a meatier Bovril twang. On tasting, however, the first impression is bitter herbal hops, adding eucalyptus and aniseed. After this there's a slightly acrid rubbery smokiness but thankfully it doesn't last long, leaving just a warming density in its wake, a syrupy sweetness that develops a fun salted caramel note as it warms. Not too heavy and nicely balanced, it definitely passes the koselig test.

Nøgne Ø Quadrupel reminds me of that simpler time when all of the brewery's beers were named bluntly for their style. For a quadrupel is what it is, 15.5% ABV, dark brown again and a little muddy with it. The aroma doesn't have Bovril this time but there's a bit of a soy sauce autolytic note in its place. I was expecting savoury but it's lovely and sweet from the first sip: a creamy crème brûlée mix of vanilla and brown sugar. The fruity Belgian esters characteristic of the style are largely missing from this, and while a bit of fig and plum would be nice, I also enjoyed the cleanness here. Blackcurrant jelly is about as fruity as it gets after it's warmed a little. There's a crispness to it which is unusual in such a strong and dark beer but which really helps offset the massive strength and makes it, if not exactly easy drinking, then at least pleasantly manageable.

Both beers are excellent after-dinner candidates, but I think that the iconoclastic quadrupel really has the edge over the barrel job. It may be old-school craft at this stage, with the supposed taint of macrobrewing firmly upon it, but Nøgne Ø is still turning out quality.

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