An epiphany before Christmas

16th December: Oppigårds Bryggeri, Coast To Coast. 4.7% ABV
From: Sweden. Type: American-style pale ale. keg (fresh). Source: Akkurat bar, Stockholm

It could have been almost any beer – this being Akkurat and so candy-shop-full of great beer you hardly know where to start. But my young niece took one sip of my Oppigårds Coast To Coast Pale Ale, and her mind was made up.

Oppigards_coast_to_coast

Coast To Coast pump clip showing the four pubs it was brewed for

It was one of those beerpiphany moments. They taste, you see a flicker of surprised appreciation. They look at you, and there seems to be an understanding that wasn’t there before. (“He’s not as mad as I thought…”)

Coast To Coast was specially brewed by one of my favourite Swedish craft breweries, released to just four influential pubs in Sweden: two in Stockholm – the east coast, and two in Gothenberg – the west coast. That it was an exclusive appealed to Nina, too. Even if it was only the second time she’d tasted craft beer.

Five pubs, if you count the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival, where the judges liked it too. It won a silver medal in the Draught Ale, Max. 4.7 %, and a gold in the equivalent bottled ale categories. You can see why. It’s a very quaffable and approachable beer that doesn’t bombard you with hop astringency, but just beautifully perfumed American hops. And at a socialble, sessionable strength.

Neither you nor my niece will find Coast To Coast again, but I’m sure she’ll look out for Oppigårds. I recommend you do too.

Oppigårds Bryggeri (in Swedish) List of beers
Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival 2012 beer competition list of winners.
Don’t you wish your local was hot like Akkurat, Stockholm?
Here is Akkurat’s Beer Info page

See all of the Maltjerry 2012 Advent Calendar entries in one post.

15th Dec. Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: Driven to abstraktion

15th December: BrewDog, Abstrakt series. various ABV
From: Scotland. Type: From Cranachan Imperial Stout to beyond. Source: BrewDog online

“Woah! Intense!” I seem to have written in my tasting notes for the BrewDog Abstrakt AB:09. Oh dear… Thankfully, I refrained from “Epic”, but this adjective could almost be justified to describe many of this series of prototype/experimental limited edition BrewDog beers.

AB:09, the aforementioned cranachan imperial stout at 17.1% came out in April and AB:12 is out before the end of the year. And in 2012, I’ve caught up with earlier Abstrakt series, tasting AB:03 to AB10 for the first time this year. It’s been fascinating.

Abstrakt-bottles

AB:05 was a Belgian imperial stout of 12.5%, aged on toasted coconut and cacao. AB:10, an imperial brown ale, aged in Spanish red wine barrels, comes in at 11.5%, and AB:11, is a 12.8% black barley wine spiced with ginger, black raspberries and chipotles.

You can see they’re not beers you just reach for and sit in front of the footie. Some are almost an evening’s entertainment in itself. I drink mine with an Abstrakt buddy. He’s actually quite real, and not at all Mondrian-looking, Not even after half a bottle of AB:06 triple dry-hopped imperial black IPA (11.2%).

We sit and sip and deliberate over whether the latest AB is Turner-prize standard, or back to the drawing board. Or something in-between. AB:09, despite the raspberry association is oaty, and faintly fruity and so savoury that it might better accompany Stilton than xmas pud.

Each release is limited to a few thousand bottles, but you can buy them from BrewDog’s online shop if you’re quick enough. Just follow the abstrakt.com website, which is quite Mondrian-looking.

14th Dec. Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: Bishops got me drinking cans

14th December: Ska Brewing, Modus Hoperandi. 6.8% ABV
From: Colorado, USA. Type: American India pale ale. Source: Bishops Arms, Lund, Sweden

Quite a few Swedish people I know believe that all the Red Lions in the UK belong the the Red Lion pub chain. I don’t know if this stems from the fact that all the Bishops Arms pubs in Sweden do belong to the eponymous pub company.

Whereas Red Lions have existed in England since probably just after the Vikings became settled. The Bishops Arms have only been around since about the late 1990s. Each “Bishops” is modelled on the Swedes’ idea of an ideal British pub. Which means they have way more whisky than most pubs in England put together.

They’re also really good at American craft beer. I drank my first Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter here, over 6 years ago. Where The Bishops lead, so have the UK craft pubs lagged behind. This has also been true of properly good beer out of cans, of which, Modus Hoperandi has been a prime example. It’s been a go-to beer whenever I’ve had the fortune to be in town.

Ska_modus_hoperandi_sm

If you’re not used to it, the can jars at first, but technology is such that the these days, cans’ contents don’t. Modus Hoperandi is a properly bitter, American IPA (annoyingly pronounced “eepa”, in Swedish). I’m not convinced Ska Brewing’s tag line of “Old-man bitter” conveys quite the image they intend, but boy does this IPA wake your taste buds up: grapefruit and lime zestiness, resiny, oily aromas and a juicy citrus sharpness.

I’d be very happy to see the Bishops Arms empire spread across the North Sea, they’re a lot more friendly than the Viking hordes.

Modus Hoperandi on the Ska Brewing website.

The Bishops Arms online in Sweden

 

13th Dec. Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: Transported to a Swedish Summer forest.

13th December: Mackmyra, Special 09: Wild Raspberry. 46.1% ABV
From: Sweden. Type: Swedish malt whisky. Source: Distillery sample

It’s not wild and there are no raspberries in it. Apart from that, the name is spot on. It is special, though, and it is the 9th in the Special series. And be sure: Mackmyra Swedish whisky is on the map. And one person, who happens to be a friend of mine, has been instrumental in this. Angela d’Orazio.

It’s not just me saying this, Jim Murray, he of the Whisky Bible, one man’s annual assessment of all the whiskies anyone can humanly lay there hands on, says so in the dedication to the Whisky Bible 2013. So if you haven’t already tried Swedish malt whisky, get with the programme!

Mackmyra_special09_frilagd

Why wild raspberry, if this is a “straight” malt whisky? Well, forest berries are dear to the hearts of most Swedes, to whom foraging comes as second nature. In Sweden, in the late Summer, when going out to the woods to find and pick your own fruit, you will find blueberries, lingonberries, and if you’re lucky, wild strawberries, and if you’re very lucky: wild raspberries.

And there is a forest berry character to this elegant whisky. Raspberries? yes, but I couldn’t say wild or tame. The 09 is also delicately sweet with aromatic spices from the cask. Perhaps with Winter revealing its claws, your hand reaches for a muscular, peaty Islay, but your thoughts turn to Summer. And this is the whisky to transport you there without fear of being fogbound at Gatwick.

All the whiskies in the Special seriess are worth trying, which is my roundabout way of saying, the Wild Raspberry seems particularly hard to find in the UK. But if you find one, I’m sure you’ll thank Angela.

Mackmyra’s own page for Wild Raspberry (in English)

Master of Malt’s selection of Mackmyra whiskies

Jim Murray’s Whisky Biblel 2013 on Amazon

Sweden makes Oktoberfest modern.

12th December: Mohawk, Unfiltered October. 5.9% ABV
From: Sweden – at least in thought. Type: Oktoberfest lager +. Source: Systembolaget

As Swedish as Wallander, but even more of a cult. Sorry, but you are unlikely to find Mohawk beer outside Sweden. It has to be said, you are also unlikely to find any decent Oktoberfest beer inside Germany. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but today’s champions of the style are Americans  – as usual, and Scandinavia’s modern breweries have followed their lead. Sweden’s Mohawk brewed one of the best I tried this year.

Rotation_of_mohawk_october-label_rot

Mohawk is essentially, Stefan Gustavsson and his haircut. He brews after the Mikkeller style, that is, without his own brewery, renting brewery time and brewing to his palate’s content. Some people call it gypsy brewing. But since 2010, I’ve called it cuckoo brewing (c) maltjerry 2010, so there!

The point of Mohawk is to take traditional styles and add the 21st century. Of course there are others that do this, but why I champion this beer and this brewer is what he has achieved in the face of not only the Swedish alcohol retail monopoly that is Systembolaget, but also his countryfolk’s distrust in the quality of their own brewers. Even the ones that are searching for the new can’t quite believe it.

The Unfiltered has grassiness that you might expert from a German style, backed up with a digestive biscuity palate that also gives the impression of a bite of a lemon cheesecake, albeit with most of the topping missing. The slipping away from tradition is obvious in the tropical fruits that slide into across the palate: New Zealand and American hops. Rheinheitsgebot, but not as we know it.

If only some beer tent in Munich would serve this alongside a slow-cooked shoulder of pork, perhaps the Mohawk name would establish in Sweden and beyond, and claim the plaudits it deserves. And then you’d be able to try it.

11th Dec. Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: Stouts: Bristol-fashion.

11th December: Bristol Beer Factory, The 12 Stouts of Christmas. 4.5% to 10.5% ABV
From: Bristol, England. Type: Variations on the theme of Stout. Source: The Bristol Beer Factory online shop
I feel like I’m peeping inside the wrapping of a present under the Christmas Tree. This entry is a bit of a cheat, because I haven’t drunk them yet. I did, though, drink some of last year’s 12 stouts, and they did sell out quickly, as this year’s batch is bound to. Especially as The Guardian beer tasting panel has just recommended it.
Bristol_beer_factory_12_stouts_lk

Bristol Stout is a regular at craft beer bars like Euston Tap, and the reason I sought out the full range. I hesitate to describe it as the “vanilla” of the range, because with the names of the others, you might be surprised that vanilla is not an ingredient. And besides, it has a rich,  roasted-bitter full flavour, like a stout should.

Blackcurant and liquorice, chipotle, port, and mocha, contribute flavour at the lower end of the ABV scale. Crème brulée (from oak-ageing) and raspberry are on the “ultimate” scale, which is one below the whisk(e)y barrel-aged versions of the imperial stouts.
There are beers to drink on their own, some with hearty stews and festive dishes, others to accompany or be dessert, and at the top end beers as after-dinner noggin.
I’m not so much of a cheat as to put one of each down for the rest of my Advent Calendar windows, but the thing is, I’m not sure I can wait until the first day. And even if I do, will they last the 12 days of Christmas?

Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: 25 choices from 2012. 10th Dec.

10th December: Suntory, Hibiki 12-year old. 43% ABV.
From: Japan. Type: Blended whisky. Source: The Whisky Shop

Wandering through Guildford one Saturday afternoon, whiling away the time, trying to get maximum value from my parking ticket, I spotted The Whisky Shop. I didn’t even know of its existence – the whisky retailer that is. I’ve been aware of Guildford for some years. What could I do but walk in.

It’s a very nice place, the Whisky Shop. Perfect for striking up conversations with the knowledgeable staff, sampling a dram, and well, buying whisky. I’d known about Hibiki for some while, having tasted the 17-year old and the 12-year old at the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival. These are great blends.

Hibiki-12-big

In fact, the 17 had recently been voted in Whisky Magazine as best blend since Jim Murray made it OK to like blends. But I was after the 12. It’s not a blend for drowning in mixers, even if you could afford to. You’d lose the subtle Umeshu cask (plum liqueur) finish – and all the other fruity loveliness too. This is not a wacky tasting note; Umeshu casks are used!

The Hibiki 12-year old is sooo, smooth, not a word I like using while describing whiskies, conjuring up images of bland, dinner jazz. This, however, is like listening to Miles through speakers made entirely of satin.

My parking time approaching its maximum value, I make my purchase, join the Whisky Shop club, get my discount, and I’m off. No doubt I’ll be back.

The Whisky Shop

Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: 25 choices from 2012. 9th Dec.

9th December: Stone Brewing, 15th Anniversary Escondidian. 10.8% ABV.
From: California, USA. Type: Bottle-conditioned Imperial Black IPA. Source: Systembolaget, Sweden

“Drink Fresh” it says on this beautifully screen-printed bottle. But the bottle is 2 fluid ounces over an imperial pint, and its imperial-strength contents are 8 percentage points over 10% ABV. It also says August 2011 and a best-before date that had zoomed past two months previously when I eventually opened it. Would the verdict be over the hill, over the top or over the moon?

Stone_15_escondidian_med_crop

I can’t say what it tasted like fresh out of the brewery, but age has not withered it beyond drinkability. There’s a treacly, aroma with a faint zestiness. Perhaps this was more pronounced in its youth. That grilled grapefruit and brown sugar is there too. We’ve seen it before. I was fresh when I drank it, at least.

This is an imperial black IPA: dense, concentrated. it feels rich and smooth, with a nice prickle of carbonation. It’s tastes almost like an aged Japanese whisky: slightly resinous like floor polish. It’s peppery spicy too, and this adds to the warmth in the mouth that lingers and lingers. Chocolate and sweet grapefruit fight to the finish.

2012 has been a year for dark beers to make a bit of a headway in the UK. Whatever you think of the oxymoronic name, have I believe, been a gateway drug for the Guinness-averse. If this beer, brewed to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Stone Brewing (from Escondido, California – hence the name) falls into that category for you, there may be no going back.

Perhaps I should try the 16th Anniversary brew.
Read my full post about black IPAs

Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: 25 choices from 2012. 8th Dec.

8th December: Highland Park, Thor/18-year old. 52.1% ABV.
From: Orkney, Scotland. Type: Scotch malt whisky. Source: Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival

I’ve picked a pair of Highland Park whiskies for today’s entry to celebrate and honour Jonas – I sometimes refer to him as “Malt-Brother-In-Law”. Just about the time these words are posted, he will receive a bottle of the 18-year old, as a small measure of my thanks. This year’s bottle. I buy him a different whisky every year on this date because in 2004, Jonas donated a kidney to his sister “MaltCim”. Today is eight years.

I was going to buy him the Thor – it’s an impressive whisky in an extravagant package. A symbol of Norse heroics – could it be more appropriate? But hey! he and I drink whisky for the liquid contents, not the box it comes in, so while we were at the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival together in September, we got a chance to taste them both together. A chance for me to sneakily work out which he would like. He preferred the 18.

Highland_park_18Highland_park_thor

HP 18 is a great whisky. Richer, fuller, softer, slightly spicier, slightly peatier than its 12-year old brother. Perhaps the Thor is more complex, but it is also wilder, with more spices, a touch fiery – as befits the god for whom it is named (apart from the “more spices” bit).

Jonas:
I’m doing this thing on my blog. It’s a sort of Advent calendar of 25 beers or whiskies that I’ve enjoyed during 2012. Hope you don’t mind. Thanks for these eight, health-filled years. Enjoy your dram. Skål!

You can get the 18-year old from the Highland Park online shop.
Thor is under Special Bottlings.

 

Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: 25 choices from 2012. 7th Dec.

7th December: Thornbridge Brewery, Tzara. 4.8% ABV.
From: Derbyshire, England. Type: Köln-style, bottle (fresh). Source: www.beersofeurope.co.uk

Something is missing in this beer, and very glad I am for that. You know, I’ve never been very keen on Kölsch beers. It’s one of those endagered styles, so I’ve often felt obliged to drink it. I could understand why it was dying out, in all honesty. The samples I had – even the famous ones seemed rather characterless and a touch bland.

Here is the Thornbridge take. Well, Bracia* it ain’t! Nor even Jaipur IPA, but it is an honest, not-messed-about with version from a favourite, modern English brewery. Not jazzed up, not modified, just straightforward, German ingredients, that would go in a German Kölsch. No Sorachi Ace hop weirdness, no doubling the strength, just subtle charms that are the signs of a class brewer.

Thornbridge_tzara_med_crop

So what’s the difference? Why do I like it? (Puts on Ali G voice) “Is it cos I is Thornbridge?” Well, bias could be influencing me, but I rather think it’s the complete lack of filtration and pasteurisation that means that its delicate nature is preserved rather than neutered, as is what I suspect is the case for most of the Kölscher I’ve tasted.

Drink as socially, or with equally light foods, such as scrabled egg and chantarelles, or smoked salmon if your foraging came up short.

*Thornbridge have an online shop now, where you can get Tzara and also get the wonderful but much more stonking Bracia, a “rich, dark ale with chestnut honey. And you should!