Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kinn: Vestkyst IPA – Remarkably accessible and harmonious

As Norway’s westernmost town, Florø’s coastal setting and lively atmosphere makes it one of most attractive places to visit in western Norway. With a population that barely breaches 10,000, Florø is the home to fish processing, shipbuilding, petroleum, and, with the 2009 opening of Kinn, brewing can now be added to that list. Congratulations Florø, for Vestkyst IPA is testament to Kinn’s attention to quality and perfection, and their ability to make beers that rival many of the brews from the more ‘matured’ breweries around.

The word Kinn (literally cheek) is the name given to one of the outermost islands that buffers Florø from the open sea (see map to the right), although it was also the name of an earlier municipality that was eventually merged into the surrounding municipalities. I can only speculate that the place name “Kinn” might be attributed to the fact that area forms the westernmost point, or “cheek”, of Norway’s coastline, although this again is only speculation on my part.

Kinn brewery makes about six different beers – all of which are remarkably wonderful concoctions. Kinn takes a rather traditional approach to beer-making by using open fermentation tanks and an English handpump to tap the beer. Brew master Espen Lothe also bares his grounded philosophy to brewing when commenting that “my job is not to make beer, but to help the yeast cells to produce beer” (Dagbladet). Lothe’s approach and philosophy are undoubtedly causes for Kinn’s remarkable brewing success.

Vestkyst (literally west coast) IPA is simply amazing, and is a must try for IPA lovers. Popping the cork immediately releases the sweet smells of a well-hopped ale that’s ambitious to please its drinker. Pouring Vestkyst into a glass reveals a hazy amber-colored body and fluffy off-white head, although I expected it to tower a bit more than what it did. Giving the glass a generous swirl yields a tight and sticky, web-like lacing matrix. Aroma? Think pineapple and resin, but with distinct tones from the malt, most notably caramel. 

Vestkyst’s mouthfeel is pleasant and pretty faithful to this particular style – smooth, well carbonated with a medium-light body. Taking a generous mouthful brings out a wonderful array of flavors, including the more prominent tastes of grapefruit, pine, and the deliciousness of mango. The malt support, especially the caramel flavor, is perhaps a bit too forward for an IPA, but it blends rather harmoniously with the surrounding flavors, giving is a level of accessibility that is surprisingly high for an IPA. But, not to be let down, Vestkyst delivers a powerfully dry and punchy bitter finish that speaks volumes to the quality of this IPA.

All-in-all, Vestkyst testifies to Kinn’s attention to quality and perfection, and their ability to make beers that rival some many of the brews from the more ‘matured’ breweries around – quite remarkable for such a young brewery. While the malt flavors are perhaps a bit too forward for an IPA, the complexity of flavors blends together with a remarkable level of harmony and accessibility. In fact, if I wanted to turn someone on to IPAs, Kinn’s Vestkyst might very well be the one I’d choose to use.


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