Saturday, December 24, 2011

Haandbryggeriet: Nissemor – Tasty, but flawed

Scandinavia is home to the origins of Christmas beer, and thankfully, the Vikings that settled in England took that tradition with them. While the origins of “juleøl” are not specifically tied to Christmas, today we associate Christmas beer with darker lagers and stouts, along with the smells and tastes of ginger and cinnamon, to name a few. And there’s just something so cozy about drinking strong, dark Scandinavian beers while in Scandinavia during the holiday season. 

Hailing from Drammen, Norway, about a half-hour drive south of Oslo, Haandbryggeriet brews a very creative line of products, although not all of them have been big hits with me personally. Nissemor (literally mother Santa) indeed captures some of the essence of juleøl and the holiday spirit generally. It also captures some of Haandbryggeriet’s creative side as well some of the flaws that sometime come with experimentation. For starters, it was nearly impossible to pour Nissemor without an explosion of foam breaching the rim of the glass. Needless to say, the beige and brown-edged head almost exceeded the boundaries of the “finger” measuring system – certainly a sight to see. It took about five minutes of settling before it was fit to drink. The color is very dark brown. The lacing is as sticky, just as it should be, especially considering the amount of head this thing produces.

The aroma is largely roasted malts accompanied by some yeast references and some Christmassy spices. However, roasted malts seem to be the predominant aroma to the point where some of the underlying nuances of the brew (like the dark fruit additives) are largely masked. As far as the taste is concerned, I found Nissemor to be particularly unbalanced even after it warms up. Again, roasted malts seem to dominate to a fault. It took forever to find any hints of the dark fruit additives to the point where I began to wonder if my brain was just filling in some of the flavors that should have been there. At the same time, some of the dry ginger spiciness comes through in the finish, which really helped to balance out the Nissemor to some extent. The mouth feel is thick with medium carbonation and a distinctively dry finish that really complements the ginger aftertaste. 

Overall, Nissemor is a very unbalanced and overly active brew. That said, I did thoroughly enjoy drinking it largely because I love the taste of roasted malts and ginger. The finish was particular enjoyable. Unfortunately, it is difficult for me to recommend this, given the price and the lack of balance. 


Haandbryggeriet, Nissemor:

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