Shots from the Copenhagen beer festival

Friday afternoon session at th CPH beer festival with Winter Coat, Veje draft hopback, Italian Tenute Collesssi, and BrewDog. Next up

Copenhagen Beer Festival 2011 preview. Warning: Contains Marmite

Forgive me, any Marmite-loving readers, but I am flouting all calls to boycotts, and will be visiting the Copenhagen Beer Festival on Friday, as planned. In case you didn’t know, the Danish government has banned the sale of Marmite in Denmark because it has added vitamins and minerals. As much as I love Marmite, I am not going to miss this festival in some half-baked idea for a protest.

Along with the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival, this is a real jewel of a fest; I was there two years ago, and have been planning to be at the 2011 event ever since I failed to get to the 2009 version. It’s one of my planned “Round the year in beer festivals” tour, the previous one seeming long ago and far away in the darkest depths of Greater Manchester and the just as Great British Winter Ales festival.

Marmite_twibbon

Denmark is world-famous for Carlsberg, and like most places dominated by a single giant brewery, was a virtual monoculture of standard international lager. In recent years, Denmark, has sprouted a brilliant micro-brewery and craft beer scene, led by Mikkeller, with international reputations growing for the likes of Amager Bryghus, Norrebro Bryghus, and Hornbeer

All of the above and 100 or so others will be there too, with five or six Swedish micros, BrewDog from Scotland, Three Floyds from the US, and…. Carlsberg.

I don’t have time to prepare a t-shirt in protest, so I’ve done the next best thing: a “Marmite for Everyone”  twibbon on my Twitter icon (See pic). I may yet turn into a Marmite soldier.

Get your Marmite twibbon here: http://twibbon.com/join/Marmite-for-everyone

Get your Marmite vs. Little Mermaid pic here: Facebook fan page

Get your Copenhagen Beer Festival list here: http://www.ale.dk/index.php?id=3039

In bed with Jeff Evans; inspiring a year of beers

It all started when I met Jeff Evans, author and beer writer on August 9th 2010 at the Great British Beer Festival at the signing of his book “A Beer A Day: 366 beers to help you through the year”. I bought his book, and from the very next night I started what is looking like turning into a year-long relationship by reading about Saint Lawrence Day and Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier.

Jeff_evans_beer_a_day_cover

The book is my bedtime reading, and because the content takes the form of a diary, recommending, well, a beer for every day of the year. There is one entry to read every night. But rather than a mere random selection of a beer from a list, Jeff’s entry for each day is based on an event in history from that date. He gives a concise report of the significance of the anniversary and then chooses a beer that could be linked to that anniversary.

The events are picked from a wide variety of subjects; saints days, in the case of 10 August, Saint Lawrence – a patron saint of brewers especially those in Bamberg, the origin of this choice of smoked beer. Or the subject matter could be national days, sporting events, historical anniversaries, or something from popular culture or the arts. And his choice of beer covers the gamut of beer styles. Today (21 May), celebrates the birth in 1780 of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, inspiring the choice of beer Princetown Breweries’ Jail Ale.

I can’t say I’ve been faithful to Jeff’s book every night, but I always catch up. Very, very occasionally, I have the beer of the day in my “cellar”, and it’s nice to compare Jeff’s tasting notes with my own experience. The beer chocies are also a great way of getting ideas for your beer shopping alongside a gentle way of brushing up on your beer and general history. If only it was as easy to get hold of the beers as it is to read about them.

A Beer A Day didn’t make the recent issue of BEER magazine’s Top 10 list of books for beer lovers, but I think it would have had not Michael Jackson bagged three of the places. It’s much more than a beer list book; it’s a companion, and I’m going to feel a little lost when August 9th comes around again. 

A Beer A Day by Jeff Evans on Amazon

 

Gimme, Gimme, Gimme a Dram after Midnight. #Mackmyra Swedish Malt Whisky

I know, there must be a way of writing about Swedish things that doesn’t involve mentioning flat packing or the Fab Fyra. I mean, after all this time you’d have thought I would be tired of them. But how about Swedish malt whisky? Something new to balance things up. And brought live to you on Twitter.

Live tastings on Twitter – Twastings, in the vernacular (Twernacular?) are becoming a bit of a thing. This tasting of four Mackmyra malts is the fourth I’ve taken part in after Balblair, Old Putleney, and anCnoc. It’s good for the distiller; it gets the brand name out there, and it’s good for those taking part; it’s really good to interact in the Twasting with people in the Twasting, across the world and exchange notes and views. Must be dull as hell for anybody not taking part.

Here’s a potted recent history of whisky in relation to Sweden:

  • Small population, massive interest in whisky.The average person’s knowledge about whisky is far greater than in the UK.
  • Sweden has loads of private whisky clubs and a whisky festival that has been going for more than 15 years.
  • Mackmyra Distillery was founded as the first single malt distillery in Sweden, in 1999, in Gävle, a couple of hours drive north of Stockholm. Distilling began in earnest, a few years later.
  • The first Mackmyra whisky went on sale in 2006. They do an “elegant” recipe, which is unpeated, and a smokey one, and use ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and Swedish new oak casks.

Mackmyra bottlings sell out fast in Sweden, and get very good ratings by Whisky Bible author Jim Murray and others, yet I still come across an odd attitude of snootiness among the normally knowledgeable Swedes. But with whisky there is still a heav bias to Scotch. The Japanese are doing serious damage to the received wisdom too. There’s a world of whisky out there, and these four Mackmyra releases add to the reputation.

This is what we tried. More potting and condensing… Perhaps I should have limited my summaries to 140 characters each.

Mackmyra Brukswhisky 41.4% ABV
The aforementioned Jim Murray awarded this the prize of Top European Whisky in 2011 in his Whisky Bible. On Twitter, we thought it rich and citrus fruity, with cherries, pears and vanilla, and a definite hint of coconut, perhaps coconut suntan lotion. Peppery, warming. I thought it was a nice all-rounder: “Best after-breakfast whisky” I said. (With a heavy wink.)
Not available outside Sweden, yet (495 SEK).

Mackmyra Special 06: Sommaräng (Summer Meadow) 46.8% ABV
Fruit and flowers, as you might expect from the name. I also thought it had a mixture of fudges, some vanilla, some rum & raisin. Marzipan-topped sponge cake (Princess tårta). Very good balance, rich and elegant.
Limited edition released on May 02, and possibly available from specialist shops outside Sweden. Expect to pay about £60*.

Mackmyra Moment Jord (Earth) 55.1% ABV
This is a “very limited” edition release of 1470 bottles made from their unpeated (elegant) recipe, with some whiskies matured in cask that had once held Bordeaux wines. There are some vinous, perhaps port tinges. A complex, layered whisky that gets better if you let it sit in the glass a while. Teasing it apart, you might find “liqueur chocolates”, “berry balsamic” according to my Twitter chums, and a luscious fruitiness balanced by a drying finish, if you are me.
If you ever find it, after it’s August release, it will probably set you back about £100*.

Mackmyra Moment Drivved (Driftwood) 55.5% ABV
Another “very limited” release, containing the widest range of casks in any of these whiskies: some 7 year-old ex-bourbon refill casks, some smokey recipe casks, also ex-bourbon, and a “touch” of Swedish new oak matured whisky. Intense, dense fruitiness, luscious and stunningly smooth, even neat. The bourbon influence gives vanilla like some posh ice cream mixed with fruit compote and a slug of liqueur, sipped by the barbecue (for balance). “A few drops of water lessens the fruit and brings out the pepper”, someone tweeted.
Also to be released in August, and the best whisky (for me) has the highest price: around £130*.

So, these are not cheap whiskies. Even the “everyday” Brukswhisky costs the equivalent of the Lagavulin 16 year-old. But I think it’s a mistake to compare the prices to that of Scotch malts, or even Japanese whiskies. Remember too that limited editions that will always command a premium. If you compare to say, Scotch Malt Whisky Society or other independent bottlings, the price comparison makes more sense.

They are all very good whiskies, and the Drivved is one of the most enjoyable I’ve tasted in a good while. They’re not about to turn up on the shelves at Waitrose, but Royal Mile Whiskies stocks Mackmyra. Or you could just book yourself a midsummer trip to Sweden, pop in to the nearest Bishops Arms and try a few. Your dram after midnight could be in the sunshine.

If only we’d thought a bit harder on Twitter and found some wild strawberries in the Special 06 and I could  have baulked the trend and finished on a Bergman reference!

* These prices are estimates based on the price quoted in Sweden

Links
The English version of the Mackmyra Website
Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2011 award winners

    How Beer Can Help You Find a Perfect Marriage

    Back to Wills and Kate. Yes, of course it’s a wedding; you have to have Champagne, don’t you? Most people expect and want Champagne at a reception, even I would. It’s part of the Great Champagne Conspiracy – the Champagne houses have done a number on us for years, coercing us into believing there is only one thing to drink when it comes to celebration, be it a wedding or a Formula 1 victory. How did they do that?

    So, what did the lucky guests get to not drink any beer with? To save you the bother – and possible Browsing History embarrassment of visiting the Happy Couple’s website, here’s the list:

    Guests will be served a selection of canapés, including:

    1. Cornish Crab Salad on Lemon Blini
    2. Pressed Duck Terrine with Fruit Chutney
    3. Roulade of Goats Cheese with Caramelised Walnuts 
    4. Assortment of Palmiers and Cheese Straws
    5. Scottish Smoked Salmon Rose on Beetroot Blini
    6. Miniature Watercress and Asparagus Tart
    7. Poached Asparagus spears with Hollandaise Sauce for Dipping
    8. Quails Eggs with Celery Salt
    9. Scottish Langoustines with Lemon Mayonnaise Pressed Confit of Pork Belly with Crayfish and Crackling
    10. Wild Mushroom and Celeriac Chausson
    11. Bubble and Squeak with Confit Shoulder of Lamb
    12. Grain Mustard and honey-glazed Chipolatas
    13. Smoked Haddock Fishcake with Pea Guacamole
    14. Miniature Yorkshire Pudding with Roast Fillet of Beef and Horseradish Mousse
    15. Gateau Opera
    16. Blood Orange Pate de Fruit
    17. Raspberry Financier
    18. Rhubarb Crème Brulee Tartlet
    19. Passion Fruit Praline
    20. White Chocolate Ganache Truffle
    21. Milk Chocolate Praline with Nuts
    22. Dark Chocolate Ganache Truffle

    To be fair, if you are going to have one wine and a range of canapés, a non-vintage Pol Roger is probably a decent bet. And maybe the Champagne would be a good palate cleanser in betweent nibbles. Even then, asking a brut to go straight down the list is stretching an already tall order. You might even say, not a sophisticated experience.

    Champagne with quite a few of these dishes is not a marriage made in heaven. And by the time you get to number 15: Gateau Opera, which for all I know might be made by Heston Blumenthal’s magic kitchen entirely from NV Pol Roger shavings, you’re going to want something from the list of unspecified “other alcoholic drinks”. And probably a tube of Sensodyne Pronamel.

    On a thought-experiment level, could one beer do any better? Maybe even one special, limited-edition beer? I don’t know, but I’d say if you were allowed free choice of beer styles, I’m certain beer would go better than Champagne with numbers: 1-7, 10-14, and would totally outclass most of the dessert choices from 16 onwards. Dish 17 looks interesting, though: “Raspberry Financier”. Has someone finally found something useful to do with all those redundant bankers?

    Even if we can’t forgive the snobbish slight on beer drinkers from the Court’s “insider”, maybe we can understand their choice. Catering for 650 guests is a massive logistical and culinary conundrum, and it would be made harder having to sort out a different drink with each few “courses”. It’d be fun to have a hypothetical beer list of pairings, so I will. Feel free to join in. I think we can come up with a rather sophisticated experience, and maybe even a perfect marriage.

    Links
    http://petebrown.blogspot.com/2011/04/beer-not-appropriate-for-royal-wedding.html
    http://www.officialroyalwedding2011.org/blog/2011/April/29/The-Lunchtime-Reception