Monday, 29 July 2013


The train from Oslo takes a leisurely 8 hours to meander down the coast of Norway, giving you plenty of opportunity to check out countless waterfalls and lakes along the way. Once there, the star attraction is of course not the fjords, but instead the Cardinal.
Henry VIII's fat friend Cardinal Wolsey, we can be fairly sure, owed his impressive girth to drinking wine rather than beer, so it's slightly odd that Norway's most well stocked beer bar should be named after him, but so it is.

The numerous banks of taps that confront you is challenging enough, but the bottled beer menu is on a par with War & Peace.

Neatly divided up by beer styles, I spotted a firm favourite; Danish brewer Midtfyns' Barley Wine.

As soon as the top came off this joker, you could whiff it from a mile off; woooooooof.
There seem to be two ways a beer can be sweet; the disgusting revolting way, like the vile 'Leffe', or the delicate subtle way like a strong Barley Wine. No doubt which camp this one was in.
I noticed that the 'best before' date was distinctly in the past...

Actually, what does a 'best before' date mean on a 10% Barley Wine? It's going to get better, or at least different, the longer you leave it - it might make more sense to call it a 'best after' date. Why put one on, other than regulations? It's not like bottles of wine have a 'best before' date (do they?).
Such depth did this reprobate have that a Hoptilicus seemed ever so one dimensional compared to it.
Pretty decent trade for a pub where you can pay the best part of 20 quid for one beer.

Once you can drag yourself out of this place to check out the fjords, a splendid beer to drink whilst doing so is the locally brewed 'Johnny Low' 2.5% IPA. These come from Stavanger's 'Lervig Aktiebryggeri', who also do a range which includes a red and a brown ale. These others cunningly come in at 4.7% to allow them to be sold in supermarkets.
Quaffing these 2.5% comedians whilst on the boat will give you a much better chance of swimming to the shore should it capsize, compared to if you'd downed 5 or so Barley Wines. Except there isn't a shore, just a vertical rock face, but you can cross that bridge when you come to it.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Oslo Beer

Norway, like Sweden, has the strange policy of only allowing alcoholic drinks below a certain strength to be sold in supermarkets - anything above has to be sold in state owned booze shops. The Norwegian equivalent of the Swedish 'Systembolaget' are the altogether more user-friendly named 'Vinmonopolet' - you don't have to be an expert in Nordic languages to be able to summon up a guess as to what that might mean.
From the outside this one near the Bislett stadium could pass for the Bates Motel...

Once inside though you realise you won't be in any danger of being knifed in the shower, although you could well do yourself a nasty turn when you see some of the prices.

The choice at this branch was way better than the Systembolagets I visited in Sweden. There's oodles of top-notch craft beer from all over Europe, including some great stuff from Italy.

Corrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, look at them lot.
These scrimshankers all together cost me north of 75 quid...

There is quite a significant difference, though, between Norway's policy and Sweden's - in Sweden, the cut-off level for supermarket booze is a very restrictive 3.5% whereas in Norway (as far as I can tell) it's 4.7%. A difference of 1.2% might not seem much, but it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to beer. A good chunk of traditional beers come in around the 4.5% mark, which means that you can still get a perfectly reasonable selection from supermarkets, including some Nøgne and Ægir brews.

These jokers can all be bought away from the government's beady eye. Yes, that one on the left is called 'Aass' - it's not up to much though.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Stockholm beers

As Sweden has the curious approach of not allowing any alcoholic drinks over 3.5% to be sold in supermarkets, a predictable result of this is that brewers, both Swedish and foreign, brew special 3.5% versions of beers which would normally be of regular strength.

3.5%, the lot of them.

"Celt" by "Iron Age" is a beer I've had before in its normal form, and this one suffered a fair bit in comparison - something thin and watery about it.
Some of the Swedish 3.5% dudes were actually pretty good, but of course their brewers will take it a lot more seriously.

This groovy place on Södermalm specialises in mixing craft beer and sausages...

A bottle of "Brother Thelonious" and a sausage will set you back about £17, but this is Stockholm.