Gothenburg, Sweden. 19 Feb. 2017. Woke up to the media aftermath of the latest Trump outburst: the astonishing claim that implied there had been a terror attack in Sweden the night before. It is not for this blog to go into detail about that utter nonsense, but I can admit to indulging in at least one Alternative Fact in Sweden, on the Saturday, while visiting Swedish craft brewery Beerbliotek’s tap room.
The American woman next to me in the tap room was desperate to avoid talk of That Man. “I’m sick of being asked about it”, she protested to her Swedish friends. Understandably. It was as if to assure us “I didn’t vote for him!”. I suspect there is no let-up for her, following Sunday morning’s “revelation”.
This was not how I was going to begin this blog post. As I wrote my notes in the understated “tap room” adjacent to the brewery itself, I was thinking Lincoln City’s shock win in the FA Cup would have the required ring of unbelievability . The beer I was drinking on THAT Saturday was called Alternative Fact.
A quaffable gose? Surely an alternative fact
More accurately reported, and after all, that’s the point here, the full name of the beer was Alternative Fact: Beetroot Is The New Hops. As I sipped and pondered the salty, delicately spicy sweetness of this deeply not-beer-coloured gose, the style of beer to which Alternive Fact… is brewed, little did I know of the impending surprise “news” about Sweden – SWEDEN!
Recently, it seems as if Philip K Dick’s The Man in the High Castle has broken its Netflix fantasy world. On the other hand, we live in a world in which a gose beer; correction: an imperial gose, has been flavoured with beetroots and spiced with lemon peel and coriander and is hugely quaffable, even at 6.6% ABV.
Gose (pronounced “go-zuh“) is a traditional German wheat beer style, supposedly from Goslar in Saxony, but which became popular in Leipzig in the 19th century. It is made with the addition of salt (or water that is salty), is tart-tasting from fermentation with lactobacillus, and is usually of a modest strength; 4% ABV or so. It can be quite challenging, if you’re not expecting it, but also very refreshing. Related tart beers (I hate calling them “sour beers”), such as Berlinerweisse, are often sweetened when served, supposedly to make them more palatable. In Alternative Fact…, the beetroot adds a balancing sweetness.
More facts about Alternative Fact…
- Alternative Fact… is a collaboration between Beerbliotek and AF Brew from Russia.
- The style Imperial Gose was originally brewed at a higher strength than normal gose beers to ensure it would survive the long sea voyage from Gothenburg to the Imperial Court in Stockholm.
- Beetroot is the New Hops is brewed with wheat (normal), coriander seeds (normal), lemon peel (not unusual), beetroot (definitely not normal), and Swedish delicacy: salt-liquorice (possibly, but there is salt and that’s the point.).
- The Beerbliotek brew designation number for Alternative Fact is #184 but is written as #1984, after George Orwell’s novel about totalitarianism and “alternative facts”.
- Gose and other similar German beers don’t have to conform to the Reinheitsgebot “purity” law.
- It is compulsory to give punning names to all non-German Gose beers, such as “Anything Gose”, even though you don’t pronounce it “goes“.
Note: One or more of the preceding facts might be wholly or partly alternative
Match beetroot with… beetroot
I was thinking about the Finnish cookery programme I’d seen the night before (as you do), which extolled the beauty of the beets in various guises, from warm salad of roasted beetroot and herbs with fresh cheese, to beetroot ice cream accompanied by chocolate mousse (or was that moose?). Alternative Fact would have made a fitting accompaniment.
Sweden, would you believe, SWEDEN! has an erupting beer scene
Beerbliotek celebrated their fourth birthday in February. They are from the near southern suburbs of Gothenburg, on the west coast of Sweden, just under Norway’s bulge into the North Sea. Their modest, but modern-looking brewery is in a small industrial estate otherwise populated by car repair workshops and air con installer firms. Every other weekend they open the tap room – essentially the working space next to the brewery room. I happened to be in town and took the 15-minute tram ride from the town centre. The hook for this weekend’s open days was the imminent release of Alternative Fact.
Beerbliotek have made a big impact on the Swedish beer scene in a short time. Identifying their brews by number, their first release, #01, was a Black Ale Chilli at 7.6% ABV, daring for a debut. Alternative Fact… will be #184, so you can see they are not afraid of putting out a disparate range. My experience, on the open day and at visits to Swedish craft beer bars, is that they know what they are doing, and where they add ingredients that might seem odd, they do it with a deep knowledge of how flavours work.
This Trump Saturday’s tasting included Spoiler Alert (pictured), an American Pale Ale – or APA, a style whose name causes no end of mirth with Swedish beer lovers, as it means “ape”. Ho ho. Sabotage, a Black IPA collab with O|O brewery (pron. oh oh) had fresh, tropical fruitiness and bitter chocolate, while Eternal Dankness, a double IPA, was resinous and bitter with the counteracting depth of sweetness of a barley wine. Ah yes, “dank”… deserves a post on its own.
Trump later blathered all kinds of get-outs to explain away the fake terror attack claim. And as it turned out, it was meant to have been Friday night – Saturday morning, which somewhat detracts from the premise of this post, but not Lincoln City’s achievement. But despite the tastiness of this unusual beer, I promise beetroot is not the new hops.
Some proper facts about Swedish breweries
Have a look for yourself at Beerbliotek’s own write-up of Alternative Fact… (in English)
And use it as a jumping off point to explore their range and archive. You might even find yourself drawn to visit them for the Release Party for A moment of Clarity session IPA. Me, I’m not so sure about the concept “session IPA”, but it will mark the start of Gothenburg Beer Week (Swedish but with lots of pics).
Other players from the Gothenburg and the Swedish west coast you might have a chance of finding in the UK include Stigbergets (in Swedish), Dugges, and Ocean (in Swedish), but there are plenty more, like West Coast, who I have less experience of, but whose owner is an English guy with a physics background (like me). If you have trouble deciphering the language, feel free to contact me, I’m fluent.
Where to find Swedish beers in the UK. It’s not always easy, but some of the breweries mentioned here can be found in the UK at such places as: The Bottle Shop and The Craft Beer Co. You may also want to try Magic Rock’s lovely Salty Kiss, or Wild Beer’s Sleeping Lemons.