14 November 2017

In from the cold

Sweden, Norway and Estonia provide the beers for today's post from the 2017 Borefts Beer Festival. Närke Kulturbryggeriet attends pretty much every year and has never once, to my knowledge, supplied an advance list of what they're bringing. The flagship on their bar, or at least the one writ largest, was Oktober Märzen, not a style one would expect to compel this sort of crowd.

It's the orange-pink colour of freshly polished copper and has a wholesome bread and biscuit aroma. The taste is perfectly clean and to-style, if maybe a little low on bready malt, replacing it with a hard liquorice bitterness at the back of the throat, plus a touch of green spinach further forward. Simple and decent, it would definitely work well in larger measures, even at 6% ABV.

Närke isn't known (to me anyway) for such clean classics, going more instead for crazy recipes and way-out local ingredients. I figured Midgård Rödmölska, described as a "red Nordic braggot", was one such, although I haven't been able to find out exactly what it's made from. Though 7.6% ABV it's light and sweet and spicy, a little like a very good Irish red ale, with even a touch of roast, suggesting it owes its colour to dark malts rather than anything foraged from a Swedish hillside. There's a certain honey flavour, but it's quite subtle and there's definitely no stickiness. This is another solidly simple and enjoyable offering, and all the more surprising for that.

I haven't had a decent hemp beer in ages so made a point of getting Hello! My Name Is Hampus. I was glad I did: it absolutely nails the style, with a beautifully strong peppery flavour, as well as a real marijuana dankness in both the aroma and the finish. There's an almost burning acidity, yet it stays smooth, aided by a brown-sugar malt base and a light 5.3% ABV. But mostly it's about that white pepper. Perfect.

One beer each from two Norwegians next, both relative veterans of the scene there. Ægir were pouring Lærdøl, a sour cherry rye ale. This arrived a happy clear rosé colour but tasted of sickly cherry jam tacked crudely onto harsh malt vinegar. There's a big hit of marker-pen phenols too, resulting in the diesel flavour from headache-inducing cheap rosé wine. It's only 5.5% ABV but was still an absolute chore to drink.

Less offensive but still not brilliant was VarangerFjord, a blueberry imperial stout brought by Bakunin (see yesterday's post for more of theirs), fitting in here having been brewed as a collaboration with HaandBryggeriet. It doesn't really taste of blueberries yet is still quite desserty, smelling like a cream cake and resolving to Black Forest gateau on tasting. It's OK, but rather plain and understated. The absence of the billed fruit is a bit of a let down.

To Estonia, finally, represented by the only Estonian microbrewery that ever seems to get out and about, Põhjala. Their flower power festival special was called Power Flower and is the third one in a row to feature hibiscus. It's a Berliner weisse aged in gin barrels and also includes rose petals. All of the added features serve to remove its sour qualities leaving a candy concoction behind. Cherry sherbet dips sprang to mind, as well as Lockets throat lozenges and those wax lips sweets that have probably long since been banned. Despite the sweetness it's still quite refreshing, and enjoyable in an extremely silly way.

For something altogether more serious, Talveöö, a Baltic porter. Well okay, semi-serious, as to this stolid strong dark lager they've added coconut, cardamom and vanilla. The coconut really stands out, forming the entirety of the aroma. It's a big part of the flavour too, where there's chocolate as well. I found myself hankering a little after the c