29 November 2017

International flavour

I was excited to find Hanscraft exhibiting at the Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival in September. This German beer brand crossed my path in Bamberg a few years ago and I was very impressed with the Backbone Splitter IPA. I hadn't had the chance to try anything else of theirs since, but here they had their own bar and several beers pouring. In theory, anyway: I suspect that Hans was as excited as I was and spent his days going around the stalls instead of manning his own. Eventually the Festival stationed one of its staff members there to do the serving.

To begin, the Single Hop Kellerpils brewed with Hallertau Blanc. It's a clear golden colour and has a bold and interesting flavour of honeydew melon with white pepper. That would be superb if it were allowed to stay there, but there's a building floral character too, starting out on lavender and violet but growing as it goes until it becomes like sticking your head in a medicine cabinet. This is almost excellent but I think the dependence on one hop lets it down.

The other Hanscraft I tried was Black Nizza Motor Øl , a 9% ABV imperial stout. Huge liquorice in this one, then lots of rich and bitter dark chocolate. Maybe it's the Germanic thing but I was strongly reminded of Baltic porter by the way it goes about its business: there's a similar sort of rich fullness while also staying clean and sharp. It gets creamier as it warms though never becomes sweet or heavy. Classy stuff.

Just one Czech beer passed my way: HopBit 13 from Medvěd. It's broadly a pilsner, brewed with a selection of typically Germanic hops from New Zealand. Fresh ones too, judging by the smell of it. There's a very full-on noble hop bitterness with only a slight twang of the plastic off flavour I often get in beers like this. Fortunately, that's gone completely by the time the best feature, the aftertaste, arrives bringing lovely long grassy meadow vapours. The carbonation is pleasingly low as well, so an all round quality offering.

Belgium next, and Wadesda #7, a saison produced by Brasserie de la Senne but with added lambic supplied by Cantillon. This should be special, and it is too. The aroma offers up a luscious ripe stonefruit juiciness while the flavour genuinely mixes the best of saison and lambic: succulent Sauvignon Blanc grapes and spicy nitric gunpowder. If the other beers in this experimental series are as good, it would be well worth exploring.

Curiosity led me to order a Duvel Single Fermented from their distributor's bar. This is a draught variant of the classic golden ale, taken out of the maturation process early and kegged when it's just 6.8% ABV. I guess it's answering a market demand for beer that is actually lighter and doesn't merely taste it, like Duvel does. After my recent Chouffe Soleil experience in Brussels I wasn't expecting much here, other than a watered-down version of Duvel. But it's beautiful! The peach and pineapple fruit is somehow fresher and brighter; the bittering hops sharp and invigorating. There's a much lower ester factor than is found in normal Duvel, and perhaps that's the secret: the other flavours have more room to manoeuvre. This really does offer everything that's great about the taste of Duvel in a lighter and more approachable package.

To Denmark next and there were a few from Warpigs in Copenhagen on one of the big bars. I couldn't resist Bad Pun IPA. It's a pale yellow west-coast-style one, though only 6.1% ABV and a little watery as a result. There's a tropical thing going on at the centre of the flavour but it's rather muted, like it's just the pith and fibrous matter of the fruits, rather than the juicy flesh. I could see what it was trying to be but it needs a flavour boost all round.

I'm throwing the last beer in with the Danes even though it's brewed by Carlsberg's Swedish outpost. Eriksberg is a ubiquitous macrolager and came my way at dinner on the Saturday. BrewDog had arranged for a meal in the festival restaurant which, despite being surrounded by many of the world's best beers that weekend, had the worst drink selection in the neighbourhood. It's typical of the in-house catering at large event venues, I guess. So anyway: a half litre of Eriksberg with my reindeer carpaccio. It's an amber colour and smooth and sweet. And that's about all there is to say about it. It's OK; maybe a little syrupy, but bland and inoffensive.

And that brings us neatly, at long last, to the Swedish beers, starting tomorrow.

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