27 November 2017

Up and away

Over the summer BrewDog ran its first ever Beer Geek Awards, setting out seven types of geeky behaviour for each of which a package of prizes were up for grabs. I was delighted to be the recipient of the Beer Review Geek for my musings here, and at the end of September BrewDog arranged for me and the wife to go to Stockholm for four days and attend the Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival. I had never been to the Swedish capital, and had been given several recommendations for the festival over the years, so it was brilliant to have this opportunity handed to me.

I was extra pleased when the plane tickets were from SAS. A couple of years ago Mikkeller began producing beers especially for the airline and only available on their flights. You can watch (incredulously or otherwise) a video on their creation and the sensory challenges around getting beer to taste right under aeronautical conditions.

Northern Trails was what they had on my flight, a bright yellow hazy IPA brewed with Citra, Amarillo, Polaris, Simcoe and Mosaic. The aroma, even 12,000 metres up, is freshly peachy with a light dankness and a touch of pepper too. It's quite savoury at first, throwing out lots of caraway in the foretaste. The fruit comes later: bitter green kiwifruit and softer white plum, finishing on a greenly acidic bite. It certainly tasted like a proper, uncompromised, IPA to me, if a little too bitter. Maybe that's just the altitude.

Stockholm airport, or at least the wing of it we departed from a few days later, doesn't have the best of beer offers but there were a couple of likely looking bottles at one of the concourse cafés. I picked The Avenyn Ale from well-reputed Swedish brewery Dugges. It's an American-style pale ale, 5% ABV and a mucky yellow colour. It smells zesty but tastes rather plainer, with mild jaffa and mandarin. The texture is light, to the point of watery, and while it's decently refreshing there's not much to it. I wonder if freshness was an issue: the place wasn't exactly pushing it.

For herself, Coppersmith's Queen's Pale Ale. Nice label but a very amateurish beer. It fizzed massively, taking ages to pour, and therefore not suited to airport drinking. The body is a murky orange colour, the suspended yeast adding a spice to the aroma. The flavour is rough, with hot esters and a hard metallic hop bitterness, set on a thick texture with surprising dark roasted elements. This recipe is just confusing, and the whole package far from pleasant.

Most of the trip was spent at the festival though we did manage to squeeze in a couple of pub visits. High on the agenda was Akkurat, possibly the most famous beer bar in the city. The prize package was supposed to include dinner here but for whatever reason that was changed. We popped in on the first evening to find quite a large and rangey pub fitted out in dark wood in a vaguely American style.

I took the sour option with Monstrosity by Tempel Brygghus. I don't get the name: it's only 4.9% ABV and quite a simple beer. The sourness level is no higher than tangy candy while the billed hoppiness is mildly lemony, along the lines of a witbier. And that's pretty much it. It's fine, but I expected more.

Herself went smoky with Rököl by Helsinge, which is Swedish, not Finnish. This is a handsome clear dark garnet colour, like a proper Bavarian rauchbier. The aroma exudes a subtle yet alluring smokiness and the texture is smooth, just begging for big gulps. It almost achieves Franconian perfection in the flavour, which is deliciously bacony but there's a very slight TCP twang at the very end which wrongfoots it a little. It's still very nice, though, balancing its sweet malt side with the rasp of smoke. I could have