Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Haandbryggeriet: Haandbic - Flavorful, aromatic and daring

Haandbic is Haandbryggeriet’s daring shot at making a lambic-styled beer, in this case an unblended (I suppose) fruit lambic. Haandbic, however, is not quite a lambic per se insofar as it is not produced through spontaneous fermentation. As Beer Chef Blog points out, Haandbic is instead a “wild” ale, “which means the brewers have intentionally introduced [italics my own] rogue bacteria into the beer…” – most likely from yeasts like Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, Pediococcus, and/or Lactobacillus.

Haandbic’s unique flavors clearly come from being aged in oak barrels for nearly 18 months and being brewed with red currents and lingonberry (otherwise known as cowberry). These berries impart a rather tart taste, which blends well with the sourness that comes from wild yeasts. Overall, Haandbryggeriet’s Haandbic is a relatively flavorful and aromatic wild ale, although cellaring it for a few more years would probably give it a better balance and greater complexity.

Hailing from Drammen, Norway – about a half-hour drive to the south of Oslo, Haandbryggeriet is run by four guys that, according to their website, are “enthusiastic about beer”. Indeed, they have to be: Their brewery is essentially run in their spare time and on a volunteer basis. This enthusiasm shows in the rather long list of 24 different brews they make. While some of their products have not been big hits with me personally, Haandbryggeriet demonstrates a tremendous interest in experimentation, as exemplified by Haandbic’s daring side.

Haandbic starts off with a rather timid head in that it had virtually none – a characteristic that is not necessarily a bad thing for unblended lambics or wild ales. Hence, it should be no surprise when finding the side of the glass almost completely devoid of lacing. With a translucent reddish-orange color in the context of a dimly lit room, Haandbic’s body to me did not look fundamentally different than red wine.

The aroma is potent and relatively complex, characterized by the predominance of oak accompanied by the smells of berries, vinegar, and a touch of vanilla perhaps. When compared to all the other qualities had by Haandbic, the aroma is definitely the most enjoyable, although the berry note was not as prominent as what I would have expected from a fruit lambic. While we differ a bit on the various smells, Beer Chef Blog’s description is very thorough: “The aroma reminds me of a hospital…autoclaved this and that mixed with some antiseptic and rubbery notes all swirled into [the] smells of peaches, wet wood, damp forest and black peppercorn spiciness”. Well said!

The aroma accurately predicts the taste. It starts off with a strong, but brief semi-sweet berry flavor that quickly descends into the more familiar wild ale flavors. However, the strong oak and smoky flavors seem to moderate the sourness a bit. Vinegar notes are present, along with the tell-tale funk from the Brettanomyces yeast. Again, flavors from the berries – which should have been a feature flavor – were a bit weak on my palate at least. The finish is relatively tart and dry, and the mouthfeel is medium with little to no carbonation – again, it feels a bit like wine really.

All in all, I expected more berries on the nose and the palate. That said, the oak note is obvious and interesting when juxtaposed on the tart and moderately funky background. The appearance is nothing exciting, although consistent with what might be expected from some unblended lambics or wild ales. I certainly recommend trying Haandbryggeriet’s Haandbic if for no other reason than to experience its originality and daring side.


Haandbryggeriet Haandbic on Beer Chef Blog

Haandbic at Haandbryggeriet

Haandbryggeriet Haandbic on BeerAdvocate

Haandbryggeriet Haandbic on

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Bernt Rostad

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mikkeller: USAlive – An even more sensational synthesis

After raving to my friends and writing a blog post about the “sensational synthesis” of Chouffe’s Dobbelen IPA Tripel, quite a few folks recommended Mikkeller’s USAlive as an even better synthesis of the finest traditions of Belgian strong ales and the intensity of American-styled IPA. To those of you who recommended USAlive, your recommendations were spot on: Mikkeller’s USAlive is without a doubt an even better synthesis and one of the best beers I’ve had over the past few months.

While Mikkeller officially hails from Copenhagen, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, Mikkeller’s brewmaster, manager, et al., brews beer in a variety of locations throughout Europe and the United States. Mikkeller’s USAlive is brewed at De Proefbrouwerij, which lies in a small rural village just a few kilometers northeast of Ghent. What makes USAlive most interesting is Mikkeller’s choice of using Brettanomyces yeast, which imparts a bit of a funky or rough taste. For those of you familiar with different beer brands and styles, but less familiar with yeast strains, Brettanomyces, or “Brett” as it is sometimes called, is commonly found in lambics, and features in other tasty treats like Orval, Liefmans Brown Ale, and Rodenbach Grand Cru.

When tapping USAlive into a glass, the hazy copper color, medium-sized and resilient creamy off-white head, and incredibly dense and sticky lacing are signs of the remarkable level of quality that’s about to come. The aroma has a rather light footprint, but is well-balanced and relatively complex. It’s pretty much what one would expect from a Trappist and an IPA: The piney and slightly florally hop notes from the IPA style and the fruity-sweet notes from the Trappist style battle it out for the drinker’s attention. However, the faint horse blanket note from Brettanomyces delivers a decisive victory for the Trappist style.

USAlive’s aroma more or less predicts the range of tastes to come. It starts out on the sweet side, where the fruity tastes of the Trappist genre play out. Brett makes its appearance about halfway through by bringing in a hint of barnyard funkiness accompanied by a strong grapefruit taste undoubtedly from the hops. The finish is distinctly IPA: intensely bitter and dry, although in this case the bitterness is not nearly as biting as I expected. The mouthfeel is medium and comes with an average amount of carbonation.

Overall, this is a complex and well-balanced synthesis. The various flavors battle it out, but in a way that brings a lot of harmony to the aroma and flavor structure. Both styles – Trappist and IPA – are well represented, with the overall balance favoring the Belgian tradition. Mikkeller’s USAlive certainly reflects Mikkel’s ceaseless capacity to make some of the most interesting, innovative, and complex brews around.


Mikkeller USAlive on Ratebeer

Mikkeller USAlive on BeerAdvocate

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ringnes: Julebokk 9% - There, I've said it!

Finally! By the middle of January, 2012, I am finally getting around to writing a review on what I consider to be a very tasty 9 percent julebokk (Christmas Bock) brewed by Ringnes – the largest brewery operating in Norway. So there, I’ve said it! I am quite fond of a beer that is produced by a macro-brewery – one owned by Carlsberg no less. I know that might be taboo for some, but reviewing beer is just that: trying to, as objectively as possible, write a few words on how the beer lives up to its style aspirations and, as subjectively as possible, write a few words about how the beer suited one’s particular tastes. I’ll leave the politics of macro- versus micro-breweries and craft versus industrial brewing to other blog posts.

Let me start with a bit of background. Ringnes brewery is located in Oslo, Norway’s capital and largest city. Bought out by the Carlsberg Group starting in 1997, Ringnes manufactures and bottles products like beer, soda, and bottled water, including well-known names like Solo, Farris, Pepsi, and 7Up, along with a variety of different beer consisting of a wide range of quality levels. Ringnes also partially or fully owns a number of other breweries, including Arendals in Arendal and Dahls in Trondheim, and produces beer under the Frydenlund label.

Now let me say a few words about Ringnes Julebokk 9 percent. For starters, Julebokk’s appearance is very impressive: The light-brown head is robust and resilient, the lacing is reasonably dense and sticky, and the body is a super-dark brown surrounded by medium-brown edges. As for the nose, a slightly burned coffee aroma is definitely prominent, but it leaves space for caramel, raisins, and a hint of booze. On a slightly negative note, the burned aromatics are unsuitable for what is essentially a doppelbock.

The mouthfeel is pleasant and pretty faithful to this particular style – smooth, medium, and only moderately carbonated. Taking a generous mouthful reveals a wonderful array of flavors, including, raisins, caramel, and malt. Once again, burned coffee is prominent, making it very tasty, but a bit off the mark for a doppelbock. The finish is slightly bitter and delivers a reasonably strong alcohol punch, especially at higher temperatures.

All-in-all, I find Ringnes Julebokk to be a wonderful tasting beer with some very noble qualities. I look forward to buying up a few of these brews next year. That said, it’s burned aromatics and flavor is a bit off the mark for this particular style, although it is a Christmas beer, so considerable latitude should be given. On a similar note, there’s nothing truly Christmassy about this julebokk. While the label lays claim to some spices, none were detectable in the aroma or the taste. But Ringnes Julebokk is still great treat during the holiday season.


Ringnes Julebokk 9% on

Ringnes Julebokk 9% StoreMys Lille Øl-Blogg (Norwegian only)

Image Credits


Friday, January 13, 2012

Mikkeller: Festival Special Edition 2011 (Stella 2) – A festival of funk

While Mikkeller officially hails from Copenhagen, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, Mikkeller’s brewmaster, manager, et al., brews beer in a variety of locations throughout Europe and the United States. Mikkeller’s 2011 Festival Special Edition, AKA Stella 2, is brewed at De Proefbrouwerij, which lies in a small rural village just a few kilometers northeast of Ghent. The 2011 version of Festival is a sour, or wild ale, where Mikkeller deliberately introduces a Brettanomyces yeast to impart a rather funky, sour taste, which in most ales would be seen as an undesirable quality produced by an undesirable and pesky (and potentially costly) contaminant. For those of you familiar with different beer brands and styles, but less familiar with yeast strains, Brettanomyces, or “Brett” as it is sometimes called, is commonly found in Lambics, and features in other tasty treats like Orval, Liefmans Brown Ale, and Rodenbach Grand Cru. Aside from the rather unique qualities imparted by Brett, Mikkeller brews their 2011 Festival Special Edition by using cranberries and conditioning it in white-wine casks, all of which make the ale a very well-balanced and complex treat.

My particular encounter with the 2011 Festival Special Edition was shared among a group well-versed beer connoisseurs who convened at Henrik in Bergen, Norway. Indeed, going solo with Festival is probably not a rational option for most folks: At 600 Norwegian crowns (about 100 USD) per bottle, Festival 2011 is a lot of money for a peasant like myself to spend on a bottle of beer regardless of the beer’s quality and scarcity. And at 1.75 liters a bottle, Festival just the right volume for sharing among a group of six or so friends. Okay, enough with the context; what about the sample?

Let me start with a brief caveat: While I did not find Festival to be particularly appealing, largely because of my slight aversion to many white wines, the 2011 Festival Special Edition is a wild ale with outstanding qualities. The body appears as a hazy copper color with a medium-sized and resilient creamy white head. The lacing is a bit thin and runny, which seems to be the case with most wild ales I’ve tried. The aroma is very potent, but well-balanced and relatively complex: It’s largely a barnyard funk that’s reminiscent of, although strikingly different from, notes commonly found in lambics. The funk is accompanied by a distinct white-wine nose, and a subtle berry note lingers in the background – undoubtedly from the cranberries.

Festival’s aroma accurately predicts the “festival” of tastes to come. It starts out with a sweet berry complex, but quickly moves on to other business. Brett makes its appearance about halfway through the show by bringing in the signature sourness and barnyard funkiness that one would expect to find in any worthy wild ale. The climax, in my view, comes with the dry and potent white-wine taste that characterizes the finish. Again, the white wine was a bit too much for me, but that by no means undermines Festival’s superior qualities. The mouthfeel is medium and comes with a low to average amount of carbonation.

Overall, this is a complex and well-balanced wild ale. The various flavors cooperate with a reasonable amount of harmony, although a slightly weaker white wine reference would perhaps make it more palatable for some. Mikkeller’s 2011 Festival Special Edition certainly reflects Mikkel’s ceaseless capacity to make some of the most interesting, innovative, and complex brews around.

Image credits

Bernt Rostad


Mikkeller's Festival Special Edition 2011 on

Mikkeller's Festival Special Edition 2011 on Beer Advocate


Monday, January 9, 2012

Nørrebro: New York Lager – Would really love to like it. Maybe next time

Nørrebro is one of the 10 districts that constitute the city of Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital and largest urban center. Nørrebro is also the name of a brewery and restaurant located within that district in what seems to be an almost one-block long and somewhat statist looking red brick building on Ryesgade (Ryes street). Since the brewery first opened in 2003, they have turned out some 28 different beer varieties covering an impressive assortment of different tastes (see Nørrebro's website).

Nørrebro’s New York Lager is a beer that I would really love to like, but find it hard to actually do so. For starters, the timidity of its slightly off-white head was rather disappointing, although it was still well-retained. The translucent copper color is gives Nørrebro’s New York Lager an inviting and refreshing look. The lacing, however, was a bit weak, although sufficient enough to paint the inside of the glass with some sticky suds.

This particular sample is the second time I’ve tried Nørrebro’s New York Lager, and as I remember it, the first sample (taken approximately a year ago) was substantially more aromatic, tasty, and well-balanced. In this second round, the aroma is somewhat weak, but spending a bit of time sniffing it does pay off. Grassy and malty tones are definitely there, along some citrus references most likely from the Cascade hops. 

The overall taste is much like the nose, with hints of malt, vegetables, and citrus fruits, although the malt note should have been a bit more focused for what is essentially a Vienna lager. The mouth feel is watery, and the carbonation is mild. What I found most interesting was that Nørrebro was thoughtful enough to use a Cascade hop, but disciplined enough to use it in moderation. The Cascade’s aromas and flavors were there, but way in the background. Vienna lagers should not have the hoppy bite that sometimes comes with an overly ambitious use of Cascade hops.

However, the finish is way off the mark. What I expected was a sweet malty character that dried out into a soft bitter finish. What I got instead was a weaker than expected malt character that transitioned into a strange, somewhat tangy acidic finish. Given the timidity of its appearance, the rather weak malt character, and the less than appealing finish, I found this particular sample of Nørrebro’s New York Lager to be a bit of a disappointment. That said, I will not suggest avoiding it. I’ve had Nørrebro’s products before and found them to be respectable, including their New York Lager. In fact, I look forward to reviewing it again and hope it performs better than this particular sample.


Nørrebro New York Lager on

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Lost Abbey (Port Brewing): 10 Commandments – God versus Satan, or Conventionalism versus Reformation?

Founded in 2006, The Lost Abbey or Port Brewing is located San Marcos, California – a medium-sized city located about 20 miles (32 km) north of San Diego. The brewery offers about six regular beers, another six seasonal variants, and four of what they refer to as “non-denominational ales” since they do not comport with any known beer style. Hence, not only does The Lost Abbey clearly value a good sense of humor, but their product line appears to reflect a blend of conventionalism and innovation, or perhaps “reformation” of conventional beer styles (see my reviews of Avant Garde and Judgment Day for examples of this point).

The 10 Commandments certainly reflects a duality of conventionalism on one hand and reformation on the other, along with some of the tribulations that come with being innovative. The Lost Abbey brews 10 Commandments by using raisins and sets its sights on producing a Belgian Strong Ale – something akin to Chimay’s Grand Réserve, and The Lost Abbey certainly hits the mark pretty closely with this aspiration. Popping the cork immediately releases the sweet smell of dark fruit. When pouring 10 Commandments into a glass, the dark and slightly reddish-brown body and fluffy beige head are signs of what’s to come: an enticingly sweet beverage with lots to offer its “disciple”. Swirling the glass a bit reveals a decent amount of lacing, but lacing that is slightly less sticky than a Chimay blue. Aroma? Think raisins, plums, spices, booze (lots of it in fact), and maybe a hint of coffee.

The mouthfeel is pleasant and pretty faithful to this particular style – medium and fairly well-carbonated. Taking a generous mouthful reveals a wonderful array of flavors, ranging from raisins, plums, and spices. Once again, I’m finding a slight coffee reference here, but I’m not sure if my palate is really being truthful with this reference. Part of the deceit is perhaps due to the relatively strong alcohol note, which is a bit distracting and somewhat diminishes the overall harmony of the flavors. This is especially true as 10 Commandments warms up, in which case I placed the bottle back in the refrigerator just to tame the devilish alcohol taste a bit. The finish is slightly bitter and really delivers a punch of alcohol, almost like taking a shot of something strong (I rarely do this, so don’t ask me what that something is).

All-in-all, the Chimay Grand Réserve is a decidedly better beer largely because its strong alcohol note blends harmonious with the overall flavor milieu. With the 10 Commandments, it’s kind of like Satan himself is using alcohol to mess with what is otherwise God’s beautiful and harmonious plan for what Belgian strong ales are all about. Indeed, with a 9 percent ABV, I am surprised to find that 10 Commandments is considerably more boozy than The Lost Abbey's 10.4 percent ABV Judgment Day.

That said, The Lost Abbey’s 10 Commandments is still an excellent beer, and considering how young The Lost Abbey is, this ale is absolutely impressive and certainly worth exploring. It’s flavorful, complex, potent, and while the alcohol finish is indeed punchy, it’s also warming and rather enjoyable at lower temperatures. In an alternative to the God versus Satan analogy, the 10 Commandments is perhaps a slight reformation of what Belgian strong ales are all about – a shift from conventional sweetness and complexity into a more aggressive, but still enjoyable alcohol punch at the expense of some harmony.


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Anchor: Humming Ale - Nothing else like it, really

Established in San Francisco, Anchor has a long history of beer making, where its name was received as early as 1886 during the heart of California’s legendary Gold Rush. After years of financial hardships and shutdowns during the 1950s and 60s in the face of the large market for light lagers, today Anchor leads the way as one of America’s – and perhaps the world’s – benchmarks for first-class craft brew production (see for example my previous post on Anchor's 2011 Christmas Ale).
In the distant past, the term “humming” was used to describe strong, active ale, and was sometimes attributed to ales using freshly harvested hops. Since humming is a term that describes sounds made by bees or “humming” birds, the use of the word is most likely a reference to the hissing or fizzling sound that the froth may sometimes give off.

Humming ale is effectively based in Anchor’s Liberty Ale, but with some notable differences in the hops. According to Anchor, the Humming Ale’s distinctive flavor comes from New Zealand’s Nelson Sauvin hop, which is known for imparting an intense fruit flavor. And a fruity and distinctive ale this is. But it’s distinctiveness seems to come from the yeast rather than the hops, although it could be from the combination of the two.

Life in the glass begins with a pale golden color, producing a solid standing and an amazingly well-retained “humming” white head and a dense and sticky lacing matrix. The nose of Anchor’s Humming Ale is certainly fruity, but juxtaposed on a background aroma that took some time to place. I eventually concluded with the nose of well-aged cheese – something like Port Salut.  Indeed, no other beer I’ve had produces a nose quite like this one – kind of rough, slightly pungent, but just so wonderfully curious at the same time. Other aromas include grapefruit, lemon, spruce, as well as some florally notes as the Humming Ale warms a bit.

Like the nose, the taste again reveals both potency and complexity. On the palate, that aged-cheese background feels a bit more like a bready background perhaps, peppered with citrus fruits, herbs, and spruce. Humming has plenty of carbonation and a medium body. The surprise comes with the finish, which delivers a respectable dry and bitter “in your face” punch.

Overall, Anchor’s Humming Ale is well-balanced, complex, potent, and seriously dynamic from start to finish. As a bonus, I must say that I have yet to have a beer that smells and tastes quite like this one. To simply recommend the Hummer Ale sells it short; this one is a must try!


Anchor’s Humming Ale on Ratebeer

Anchor Brewing, Humming Ale

Image credits

Brasserie d’Achouffe: Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel – A sensational synthesis

Founded in 1982, Brasserie Achouffe is located in a small Walloon village also called Achouffe, which lies some 10 kilometers from the Luxembourg border. The brewery offers about eight regular beers, and if you’re a fan of Belgian tripels, then the Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel will taste somewhat familiar to you, but with a well-hopped and dry finish. The particular sample I had was in draft form at Baran Café in Bergen, Norway.

When tapping Achouffe’s Houblon into a glass, the semi-translucent gold body and huge rocky white head are signs of what’s to come: an enticingly sweet and slightly thick beverage with lots to offer its client. Tilting the glass slightly reveals the impressively dense and long-lasting lacing. Aroma? Think sweet ripe bananas that smells a bit more like bubble gum as the temperature warms a bit. Milder aromas are also present: Think sweet malts and citrus notes accompanied by an unidentifiable (at least by me) spice. BeerAvocate’s TheBeerAlmanac mentions “clove” and, when juxtaposed with the other aromas, perhaps that accounts for the very subtle spice

Houblon’s mouth feel and taste(s) are just as sensational as the aroma and appearance. The texture is somewhat thick, with very active carbonation. Taking a generous mouthful reveals a sensational flavor matrix, starting with ripe bananas that transitions into what seems to be more of a candyish flavor as the temperature of the beer rises, which also comes with a more distinct boozy finish. Again, citrus and spicy notes are also present in Houblon’s taste. Malty tastes are clearly present, along with flavors from yeast and hops. The finish delivers a dry and powerful bitter punch that reminded me that this is far from a normal Belgian tripel.

All-in-all, Achouffe’s Houblon Dobbelen IPA Tripel is a very well balanced brew, but probably too much malt and not enough hops in the aroma for DIPA. That said, this ale is sensational synthesis and brings some additional aroma and taste combinations into the Belgian Tripel and/or DIPA genres – indeed, I have no idea how to classify this one, but it’s definitely balanced more toward the former. Moreover, while Achouffe is a relatively new addition to the Belgium brewing scene, Houblon demonstrates the brewery’s ability to make a fine tripel on par with some of the country’s oldest establishments. Indeed, Houblon embodies big time flavors from a small town brewery, just as so many of the world’s craft brews do. I will certainly be looking to sample more of their other products (see my previous rating for Achouffe’s N’Ice Chouffe).


Achouffe Houblon on

Achouffe Houblon on  BeerAdvocate

Brasserie Achouffe

Image credits

COED Magazine

My own very crappy picture taken at Baran. Can you see the Hansa glass? 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Christmas gifts worth drinking

Finally, after several weeks in the mail, including an unusually long stint in customs in Oslo, the Christmas package from my parents has arrived. And full of holiday cheer it was! Mom’s homemade Christmas cookies (which truly are the world’s best), some of America’s best junk food – e.g. Twizzlers and an assortment of other goodnes), some warm cloths (aka survival gear for the Norwegian winter), and last but not least, beer and beer paraphernalia (which is survival gear of other sorts, I suppose).

First up is the rather intimidating 2 liter growler from Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport PA that my Dad picked up a few weeks ago while on a holiday. This thing is, by itself, a wonderful addition to my collection of beer-related glassware. But, it might be nice to have some beer in it! If any of my Norwegian readers knows of any relatively nearby breweries – e.g. Kinn, Ægir, Nøgne, Lervig, Haandbryggeriet – that can fill growlers, please drop me a comment.

Second up were four Founders brews that are all just amazing (see my earlier posts on the Founders Porter and the Centennial IPA). The two others are Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch ale and Red Rye pale ale. The rest of the variety pack awaits me in back in the States – that’s another 20 that I so much look forward to. Thanks Dad! And that packing job was serious stuff! Thanks Mom!

So, first up for tonight will be that Founders Porter. Bottoms up!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Anchor: 2011 Christmas Ale - A benchmark that other’s should aspire to

Established in San Francisco, Anchor has a long history of beer making, where its name was received as early as 1886 during the heart of California’s legendary Gold Rush. After years of financial hardships and shutdowns during the 1950s and 60s in the face of the large market for light lagers, today Anchor leads the way as one of America’s – and perhaps the world’s – benchmarks for first-class craft brew production.

Anchor has been making a Christmas line since 1975, although each year beer drinkers are graced with a new and well-guarded recipe and a totally new label. In 2011, the label’s centerpiece is a bristlecone pine, which was, according to Anchor, chosen because these trees “are among the oldest living things on the planet,” dating back to “the dawn of the ancient art of brewing.” With its zesty holiday spiciness and elegantly balanced qualities, Anchor’s 2011 Christmas Ale is emblematic of Anchor’s leading position among craft brewing and a benchmark by which other Christmas beers should aspire to.

Life in the glass begins with a dark amber color, producing a solid standing and an amazingly well-retained beige head and a dense and sticky lacing matrix. The nose of Anchor’s Christmas Ale indeed speaks of Christmas: A bready background is juxtaposed with a powerful raisin note, along with licorice, plums, and a touch of ginger and cinnamon just to round out the holiday feel. Like the nose, the taste again reveals Anchor’s Christmas ale as beer with a distinct holiday feel. The bready background is accompanied by raisins, plums, a touch of licorice, and a nice roasted taste. Cinnamon and ginger tastes are also discernable and perhaps a hint of clove as well. There is a wealth of carbonation in this Christmas ale, and the mouth feel is a bit on the heavy side, which again gives it a pleasant wintery feel.

Overall, Anchor’s Christmas for 2011 is well-balanced, relatively complex, and an attractive sight as it sits in the glass. Unfortunately, if you have not had it, you’ll probably just have to take my word for it. But, I’m sure Anchor’s 2012 variant will be as much of a benchmark as this one. Just a little less than a year to wait.


Anchor Christmas Ale on Ratebeer:

Anchor Brewing, Christmas Ale:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Haandbryggeriet: Fyr og Flamme – A nearly perfect resinous and piney IPA

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. But Fyr og Flamme (to be excited, lit. fire and flame) is an awesome brew – one that captures a lot of the essence of what an IPA should be. For starters, the head nearly explodes out of the glass when pouring Fyr og Flamme, although the head level is totally controllable with a delicate pour (unlike their Nissemor that I recently reviewed). The creamy white head quickly settles to a drinkable level, leaving a beautiful lacing matrix and a translucent amber body topped by a well retained white cap. Overall, the appearance predicts a top-notch, highly refreshing IPA.

The aroma is all business, mostly hops, and totally awesome: Smells of pine and resin dominate, but are also accompanied by a grapefruit-like context. Malt references are present, but difficult to discern, which perhaps detracts just a bit from Fyr og Flamme’s overall appeal, at least for me. It’s also perhaps a bit less florally when compared to other IPAs, but bouquet notes are definitely present. The aroma accurately predicts the taste: The assertive piney and resinous taste is supported by a lighter citrusy background and some spicy notes. Again, malt references are difficult to pin down. The finish is sufficiently bitter and somewhat dry. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied, with generous amounts of carbonation. 

Overall, Fyr og Flamme does a remarkable job when presenting itself. It’s a near perfect representation of what a resinous and piney IPA should be like and exemplifies Haandbryggeriet’s capacity to turnout some amazingly complex and well-balanced brews. If you like IPAs, I can promise you that Fyr og Flamme will not disappoint you.


Image credits

Bernt Rostad

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